Sewing Vloggers

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jeans or Pants Stay, Part One

Got my camera issues figured out, finally. Thanks to those who shared their helpful ideas. Photos are under control now, able to be edited, and I am smiling again. The really good news is that the camera shop my friend brought my cameras to says one is fixable and won't cost too much. Hooray! I am getting the big guy back! Wahoo!

I am going to show how I did this pants stay in two parts  as it is rather involved. It's not hard, just involved, very doable. The first part will be on making your pattern. Years ago I had a Vogue pants pattern that I got to fit  really nicely and it had this stay in it. I loved how it made the pants fit and feel and used the "stay" trick on any pants I could from then on. Why use a stay? Well, it keeps your pockets from poking out. It holds the shape of the front of the pants really nicely. Many, myself included, feel it has sort of a girdle effect helping the tummy to appear flatter. If you have seen jeans out in the marketplace that claim to make you look slimmer it is because it has a stay in the pants.

Here are my pants fronts. They will get a fly zipper. I am showing these to you as I went round and round on the pattern matching here. THERE IS NONE! I layed the entire piece of fabric out flat on the floor and the only design I saw was one very wide diagonal unit repeating down the straight of grain. The repeat was so large that it took two yards to go from left to right across the fabric. It was an uneven design so there was no mirror matching either. It was hopeless. I decided the best I could do was balance the positive and negative spaces and leave it at that. I am happy. This is how the fronts worked out:

To make your stays for the pants fronts you will first need your pants front pattern. You just need the top of the pants above the inseam. The legs can hang off the table. You will be tracing this  with several layers. You will need tracing paper and a pencil and eraser to deal with the inevitable glitches. 

Tape the top of the pants, above the inseam, to your work surface. You are going to make 4 more pattern pieces. 

 Tape another piece of tracing paper on top of the upper pants pattern. You don't want anything to move and there will be all those layers so the taping is important. First you will trace what will be called the Upper Pocket Lining. You will eventually cut two of those out of lining fabric, one for each side. . Trace the upper pants in pencil and then darken with a sharpie when you know it is all correct. Here you see the center front clearly marked, the red line for the grainline, a 5/8 inch seam allowance at the waistline and a one inch seam allowance at the side seam. The one inch side seam, also on the inseam, is my fit insurance. The bottom edge has some slight curving. . You will often see directions for this edge to have a more pronounced curve. I think a nearly straight edge eliminates any bias stretching on the bottom edge which will increase the tummy flattening factor of the stay. So do just a slight curve on the bottom edge of this piece. You can see the stay stops about a half inch below the zip, right where the crotch curve begins. 

Next, I measure 3 different pair of jeans to see how the pockets worked. I found four inches across the waist and three inches down was my preferred "look". I marked that with a red dot. 

Connect those dots with a curved ruler or shape. This will be the edge of your pocket when done.

Add in a 1/4 inch seam allowance to the edge of the pocket nearest the waistline. Your Upper Pocket Lining pattern is complete. Tape another fresh sheet of tracing paper on top of this one. 

Trace the pants again, this time without the pocket markings. this is the Under Pocket Lining and/or Stay. It will be cut from lining fabric. Again, make sure the straight of grain is marked as well as center front. 

Fourth layer:  This will be the Pocket Facing. It will be cut from your fashion fabric/denim.  You only need to tape down a piece of tracing paper the size of the upper right hand corner of the pants as you see here:
You need a piece large enough to trace the upper right corner of the pants and a deep bottom edge. Mark the pocket edge and seam in red. 

Measure down from the red pocket edge an inch and a half. This insures that no lining will be peeking out of your pockets, just more denim. Add your grainline to this pocket piece. Mine's not in yet on this pic. Here's what your completed piece for the Pocket Facing, layer four, should look like, minus the needed grainline. 

If you are going to have a coin pocket, which I think is so cute and authentic, you need to make one more layer. Pin a small piece of tracing paper over the pocket you just traced. Mark the grainline on the little  pocket and play until you get the placement you want. Mine came out a bit high but there is always a next time to make it better. 

So now you have five layers taped to the table. They are all traced and marked. Straight of grain is on each piece. Each piece will tell you what fabric and how many you need to cut. 

Two Under Pocket Linings from lining fabric
Two Upper Pocket Linings from lining fabric. 
Two Pocket facings from fashion fabric
One Coin Pocket from fashion Fabric

Here are the pieces minus the original pants front pattern.
A word about the fabric. The Pocket Facing and Coin Pocket will match your pants fabric unless you are pursuing a more creative look. The Upper and Under Pocket linings need to be of a firm fabric, NO STRETCH! I kept picking fabric from the stash that stretched with lycra on the crossgrain. Not good. Only use a firmly woven fabric, a cotton a bit heavier than quilt cotton would be great. Make sure it is pre shrunk. 

Next post I will get into cutting and sewing. Please let me know if you have any questions. I am glad to help. This really looks more complicated than it really is. In the end, this gives really nice support to the pants and I urge you to try the technique. Questions?.....Bunny


  1. Bunny, thank you so much for this tutorial. I tried to figure this out on my own this past winter without success. I have one question: Which is the fabric that lies closest to the body, the upper or under pocket lining? Thanks again.

    1. It is the Under Pocket Lining, Sandra. You will see in the sewing post that the pocket facing is connected there. It sits next to the body and is the actual "stay."

  2. Bunny, I've been subscribing to your blog for several months, and appreciate your posts, because I learn so much from them. I began sewing many years ago about age 12, but other than one Singer class and what my mother showed me hit-and-miss, I am self-taught (with a lot of help from good sewing publications, as the internet was only a dream in the mind of Al Gore at the time). My mother sewed beautifully; she attended a needle arts trade school in NYC and worked for the designer Hattie Carnegie for a year before marrying and becoming a homemaker, but with six children, didn't have time to give me organized sewing instruction! I've been away from sewing for a number of years, and am trying to take it up again and hone my rusty skills.
    This tutorial is genius! I wonder if it could be used with other kinds of pockets? I usually eliminate side seam pockets from pants because they make me look wider (and I'm wide enough as it is), but then I miss not having a pocket at all. Perhaps I can use a jean pocket shape on dressier pants? RTW pants with angled welt pockets are more flattering on me, but I've never tried to sew them. I think some practice and experimentation are in my near future! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I have wide hips and really have to watch pocket shape. I find the classic slant pocket is not a good luck for wide hips. Is that the type of pocket you have been using? I looked at three different pair of jeans that I own and decided this pocket worked the best and then I just measured and shaped it with the ruler. Then this morning I wore chinos to work and I noticed the pocket and can't wait to try it on my next pair. It's hard to describe, pretty unobtrusive and has a WELT coin pocket which I think is pretty cool. So, stay posted for the next pair of jeans to see how that works out. Pockets can be a challenge for the wide of hip.

      So much has changed about sewing in the last ten years, different interfacings, threads, books to help. All to really help have more professional results. Enjoy the journey and welcome back!

    2. Just wanted to add that the stay can be used with most pockets, as far as I know. If someone knows otherwise please let us know. The first time I used this was in that pattern so many years ago. Sandra Betzina references it in her book Power Sewing as well. Might be worth a trip to the library for that one.

    3. Bunny, the pants patterns I have used most recently have the pockets inserted in the side seam, but there is no real facing, as the pockets are supposed to "disappear" into the side seam, like pockets in dresses do (does that make sense to you?). Hence, my eliminating them. I've worn RTW pants with the slant pocket I think you are referring to, and it's not a good look for me either--they always seem to gape open. What I was referring to was a welt pocket inserted into the pants fronts almost vertically, several inches in from the side seam (towards the fly). I have a pair of RTW (Anne Klein, I think) with this pocket placement, and it tricks the eye into thinking that's where the side seam is. Instant slimming! :-)
      I will try to find the Sandra Betzina book at the library. Thanks for the tip. Was browsing on the web this morning, and came across a review for Making Trousers for Men and Women by David Page Coffin. It's not a fitting book (I'll have to check out Betzina and Sure Fit for that), but rather gives lots of info about how to make your pants look very professional: different pocket types, waistbands, fly fronts, etc. It looks interesting, so it's now on my Amazon wishlist.

    4. David Page Coffin is a perfectionist and will show you how to do things in a perfectly tailored way. His shirt book is great. I haven't seen the pants one yet. I like the idea of that welt pocket, maybe on the next pair that is not jeans. I am always up for slimming my hips!


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