Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pants or Trousers and Finding the Right Knits

Warning: This is going to be a long, rambling post with maybe a little bit of ranting.

First of all, before I get into the main subject I want to talk about what we call these things. I was born and have lived all my life in the U.S. so I mostly say "pants" but I understand that in the U.K. "pants" only means underwear. Is that correct? So, a while back I decided that, in order to be more international I should start saying "trousers". But I'm finding that I can't get comfortable with that. You see, in my mind "trousers" is an old-fashioned word for a male garment. That's not an official definition; it's just the definition I have in my head, right or wrong. It's stuck there and when I use it to talk about a modern women's garment I have the uncomfortable feeling that I'm using it wrong even if I'm not. I'm a little more comfortable with "slacks" but I think of those as a dressier garment. Again, not an official definition. But now I'm not even comfortable using the word "pants" on the Internet because I'm afraid someone will think I'm talking about my underwear. Of course, I'm probably just flattering myself to think that I have more than one reader. So anyway, I'm probably going to keep on calling them pants because that's what I am accustomed to.

I recently decided that I need more knit pants. A few years ago I decided that I was not going to wear knit pants anymore because "only old redneck women wear knit pants". (Hush! I am not! I'm listening to Bach's Cello Suites right now. Rednecks don't listen to Bach.) I started making pants out of stretch cotton twill, which looks really nice and is comfortable, though not "Am I still in my pajamas?" comfortable like knit pants. I still do have several pairs of cheap knit pants from Walmart and one good pair from L.L. Bean and I have been wearing them around the house when it's not too hot for pants. (I mostly wear dresses in the summer but this summer hasn't been ridiculously hot.) My problem is not that they're wearing out. Even the cheap ones are still in really good condition but the pockets are not big enough for my Galaxy S5. (Yes, I'm one of those people.) So, basically, I was down to one wearable pair of knit pants, the ones from L.L. Bean.

So of course I decided to sew a few pairs. My ultimate goal, more like my impossible dream, would be to find a fabric like or similar to the cotton/spandex fabric L.L. Bean uses to make their Perfect Fit pants. (I would buy more of those but they only come in a few dark, dull, and very uninteresting colors.) Ages ago I bought two pieces of cotton spandex knit from and made a couple of long sleeve t-shirts. It was a fairly hefty fabric, thicker than the average t-shirt but it would be just about right for pants so two or three months ago I ordered two pieces for pants. One, burgundy, was a little disappointing, too soft and lightweight, but acceptable. The other, a nice olive green color, was perfect - sturdy with a firm stretch. Just what I wanted. I sewed the burgundy fabric first and I'm working on the olive green right now, almost finished. Just a couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted more. I need a grey pair and they have a lot of other nice, tempting colors so I picked out one of those just because. Here's what I got:

That green is apparently very hard to photograph. It looks nothing at all like the photo on the website (They call it Jewel Jade.) and not much like my photo. It's a very bright green with just the slightest hint of blue. It's not the color I thought I was getting but I like it. I love it. I'm just not sure if I want pants that color. They describe it as "heavyweight" but it is lighter weight than the olive. (which they no longer have) The grey fabric is extremely lightweight and not suitable for pants at all. Maybe leggings but I don't wear leggings. I could but I'd have to make something to wear with them. I don't have any tunics with pockets. Must have pockets.

Anyway, this is my issue with Spandex World and buying knits over the Internet in general. The descriptions don't tell you what you need to know and are very often just completely wrong. The grey fabric ("gunmetal") is described as being 6 ounces per square yard. The burgundy that I bought last time is also 6 ounces per square yard and they are clearly not the same weight.* And that's just the weight. Fabrics with the same percentage of spandex can have very different stretch and recovery. Spandex World does offer swatches and yes I know I should have ordered swatches first. I would say that "I will always get swatches from now on," but a further issue is that their shipping charges have gone up and are outrageous. Really outRAGEous! Almost as much as the fabric itself. I almost didn't order when I saw the shipping cost. Because of that I am done with Spandex World!

(*By the way, I also bought some cotton/spandex knit from Girl Charlee what was supposed to be "12 ounces per yard" and it feels exactly like the 6 ounce per yard burgundy fabric.)

There was a time when I thought I would never order fabric over the Internet because I want to be able to touch it before I buy it. But then I looked at online fabric retailers and I was hooked. I live in a rural area. There are only two places to buy fabric that are fairly nearby: a small quilt shop and Walmart. The next nearest places are in Tulsa, about an hour away from me and when I am looking for something specific, more than half the time after taking the time to drive all the way there it turns out they don't have anything close to what I want. I am entirely confident about buying quilting cotton online. There are variations in weight, hand, etc. but I always know pretty much what I'm getting but with knits I feel like it's a complete crap-shoot.


  1. Feel exactly the same way about knits. They're all SO different in weight and stretch (and quality, for that matter--there is so much lousy quality knit fabric out there!) I wear a lot of knits, but I hesitate to sew them because it's so hard to find nice knit fabrics.

  2. I agree that descriptions we see in the internet can be a bit misleading and can leave us disappointed when we receive the items. I think I made a few returns a few times when I bought fabrics online but it is just so convenient, it is hard to completely avoid it.