Hot Patterns Fast & Fabulous Palazzo Pants

I set out to make a pair of linen palazzo pants. This linen has been in my stash and waiting to be made into palazzo pants for at least 5 years. I really love the look of the Hot Patterns palazzo pants waistband because it is above the natural waist. Right now there is a trend to wear bikini tops or crop tops with a high-waisted pant which pretty much covers all the yucky bits of one’s mid-section and leaves the nice, flat ribcage area. You can see what I mean. Below that waistband is the remnants of five pregnancies (two gorgeous kids out of that mess.)  No matter how you work out, and I do, your skin – once stretched – never returns to it’s previous shape.

One really important thing about sewing patterns is that you understand the designer’s intent with the shape of the garment before you sew. So, look at the picture, read the instructions and read the description. These palazzo pants are a semi-fitted palazzo pant, described in the sewing instructions as semi-fitted silhouette. The drawing has slight gathers below the stretch waistband (but only on the model, not in the technical drawing.)  This means that there will not be a ton of extra waste/room at the waist in this style. I  forgot this in my fitting process and although I needed a size 10 in the hips, I really needed to go down to a 6 in the waist to achieve this same fit.

The other thing I discovered, is that I have a little bit of body dysmorphia: I more or less think of myself as straight up and down, but that’s really not true. I have a much narrower waist than my hips even though I am fairly petite all over. So my thought that a 10 in a muslin would work for a 10 in linen all the way up my body from hip to waist just fell flat.

I made two muslin garments before making these pants and a muslin is worth it for sure with any new pattern. Get it right and you never have to second guess yourself the next time you make it.

My first boo boo was not grading the cutlines from a 10 at the hip to a 6 at the waist, because I ended up having to do this after the pants were constructed (more on that later.)

My second error was in sewing the front pockets. They are clever, and have a notch on the flat pattern. I couldn’t figure out what the notch was for when I was cutting it out (another reason to read the instructions first) but it was abundantly clear once I got to the instructions. I recommend, always, making a pair of pockets that mirror one another, as the two of the same facing direction just will not work!

So I picked off the pocket and sewed it again as the mirror to it’s mate. I used a clever trick to curve the pocket edges – I basted about 1/4″ away from the cut edge on each rounded corner from the flat side of the pocket to the flat bottom and then pulled the basted thread. It pulls in the curved edges in, and allows you to press the curved shape (the turned in edge is a little more than 3/8″ when I was done with it.) Neat and tidy on the pockets.

I varied from the pattern instructions by stitching the CF seam down and THEN pressing the faux fly to one side and topstitching. It probably looks better to have this open¬† – after all, your fly is open, if you think about it,¬† the zipper’s inside, all zipped up in a normal fly but the edge is open. In this version, the fly is sewn closed except for the front edge. I might pick this out.

I had chosen a very lightweight rayon lycra print for the waistband and it was just trouble from the beginning with this fabric. The instructions have you sew the folded tube of a waistband to the top of the pants, stretching it to fit the wider pant waist. My first attempt at this waistband (I took it out FIVE TIMES) I ended up missing some of the linen underneath while stretch-stitching and had to go back, pick out a big section and resew. But then, I realized the waistband was much, much too large. Oops, next mistake. Try it on first!

So I removed it (#2) and took another 1.5″ (two sizes, down to a 6) off the waistband on each side. It fit better –  not snug –  but better. Then, I sewed the extra row of casing stitches onto the rayon/lycra. The fine rayon lycra didn’t stitch well – I waggled all over the place (partly my fault, I should have used the sleeve arm on my sewing machine.)

So I took that out (#3). I tried the pants on to discover the size 10 from waist to hem is just not my size. so I had to remove the waistband (#4), and the pockets, and angle in the sideseam from about mid hip to the waist to the size 6. I had to pick out the topstitched front pockets and move them toward the center front. At this point, I’ve basically resewn the top of the pants – I took about 1/4″ off the Center Back (CB) seam at the waist, tapering to zero at the high hip. I sewed the waistband on again and it’s just a disaster (#5). I was mad, and I ripped it out – tearing the lycra but leaving the linen intact. I’ve determined this fine lycra just isn’t the right fabric. I attempt a striped jersey but it did not stretch enough. I finally settled on a chocolate brown cotton lycra with good snappy recovery and a heavy weight to match the linen.

When you sew and you’re trying on pants, or skirts, you are often trying them on over and over (especially fit-as-you-sew as I’ve been doing). And, frankly, your pants just get in the way. So I’m in my sewing room (with a giant window facing the street) in my underwear. Leopard print underwear. I did have on a turtleneck, so from the street, it looks like I’m dressed. And I had to go up and down my basement stairs (in my underwear – and my argyle ankle socks) looking for suitable knits for the waistband redo.

Right about now, I decided going for a run in the 53 degree sunshine is a smart idea. A run gives me the space to get out of my own head (and my own way).

When I returned, I pull up the CF up just a smidge to shorten the front crotch depth and baste (Lord have mercy, I have learned my lesson at last!) the waistband on.  After trying it on, and determined (crowdsourcing it on the Hotpatterns sewing group on Facebook) it’s a good fit, I finished sewing the casing, the elastic and the hems.

Despite my sewing challenges (5+ hours to sew a 2-hour or less pair of pants), I love these pants. The high waist on a slimmer fitting palazzo is definitely on trend right now. I’ve seen these in my fancy fashion magazines in beautiful floral prints worn with coordinating bandeau bikini tops. I plan to wear an aqua bikini top and a beachy choker necklace for a surfer-girl look. The high waist covers every squidgy bit of midsection, leaving only my smooth (and flat) ribcage exposed. With a crop top (yes, a 46 year old mother of two wearing a crop top!) this will be an awesome summer outfit. I can’t wait to hack a tee shirt pattern to create a crop top for summer to wear with these pants.

Make no mistake, these have a deliciously wide leg. I left  a 3″ stitched hem (in case the linen shrinks any more) and they look truly awesome with flat t-strap thong sandals. I’m very much looking forward to wearing these on an upcoming trip to Florida. I’ll replace the photo of me standing in my bedroom in front of a mirror with me at the pool wearing these wonderful palazzo pants.

What did I learn?

  • Make a muslin
  • Make two if needed
  • Fit as you sew
  • Read the description and look carefully at the technical drawing and the illustrated sketch
  • Make sure the fabrics you select will stand up to the task they’re assigned to (i.e. waistbands should be made of firmer knits, in this case)

Moving ahead, I’ll cut a 10 that is tapered to a 6 from mid hip to waist, with a size 6 waistband, making them in a floral challis, and probably next fall in a double knit for winter wear. The beauty of palazzo pants is they look incredible summer or winter – try them with a cropped capelet and a slim fitting top in the cooler months.