Japanese old man trousers

There have been a few changes around BST since my last post:

  • I bought a new point-and-shoot camera (this might have happened shortly before the last post)
  • I bought a remote to use with said camera
  • the snow melted
  • *** my husband is back from the UK over the summer ***
  • I got a new laptop

The problem with the old laptop was that the monitor crapped out. I’m told that I can plug in an external monitor and do what I need to do, but I haven’t gotten to that yet, so my data move (including photos) is still incomplete. Nonetheless, I feel like I have what I need for blogging that is slightly less infrequent than it was.

I haven’t been completely idle sewing-wise in the interim. For one thing, I rediscovered my samue (a.k.a. samui) from my days of teaching in Japan. This is very much like a martial arts uniform with a few differences. Most obviously, the fabric is indigo rather than white. Mine also has a fine waffle weave, but I suspect this is not the norm. The jacket has a patch pocket on the front (which I imagine to be used most often for a pack of ciggies). The trousers have elastic at the waist (the uniforms traditionally tie but they seem mostly to be elastic too these days) and at the ankles, and side slant pockets. They also have an odd sort of fly: there is a front opening that doesn’t go all the way to the top, because the elastic goes all the way around, and the opening closes with a single button on a hidden button placket. (Kind of like men’s underwear with the escape hatch. Which, I am told, no one actually uses, so why do they even bother? Anyway.) The trousers actually rather resemble sweatpants (tracksuit bottoms) but made of a woven rather than a knit.

I associate this outfit with old Japanese men on the basis of a sample size of one: my former landlord. Who smokes.

Around the time that it ceased to be winter this year, I started wearing the jacket as a light housecoat in the mornings. One day when doing some gardening, I figured that the pants would be an improvement over anything else in the closet in terms of protecting me from mosquitoes. The only problem was that the rise was so long (low-rise these ain’t) that either the crotch dragged around my knees or I had to roll the waistband three times. I figured I would get more wear out of it if I altered it. Rather surprisingly, the inseam length was fine, so alterations were only required at the top.

samue pants before

samue pants before

(Fit photos reveal posture issues that are otherwise much less obvious.)

samue pants before: note super-long crotch length

samue pants before, with the waist about where I’d want it: note super-long crotch length

First I opened up the waist casing and removed the elastic. Then I stitched up the fly; I had considered removing some of the layers (all interfaced) but decided to leave it as is because I would have had to engage in significant surgery. I also stitched up the pockets and cut off the pocket bags, since not much of an opening would be left and they’d be unusable anyway. Then I put on the pants, held up with a length of elastic tied around my waist, to see about marking the new waistline. I ended up whacking off quite a lot; my waist is lower in the front, so it was about 5″ at the front and 4″ at the back.

One odd thing that I noticed was that, in addition to the elastic, there were also small pleats at the front: one on each side, with a depth of 1/2″ (take-up of 1″). If one can put pleats in an elastic waist, surely darts are no worse? And if you can do it on the front, why not the back?

Because of my shape (slim with booty), when I tried on the pants with the elastic, the back was a wrinkly mess. I decided to try putting in a couple of darts on each side, like regular dress pants. The waffle weave made it easy to follow the grain to transfer the darts on one side to the other side, which I did meticulously. But when I tried them on again, they didn’t look right. I had assumed that the pants were cut on grain. Uh, no. I made the darts relatively even by eyeballing them and called it good.

Rather than just fold over the bulky fabric to make the casing, I cut a separate piece from scrap broadcloth for the inside.

samue pants after

samue pants after

While taking the photos, I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before, which is that I probably took too much width out in the back darts to be in proportion to the bagginess of the rest of it, so the volume kinda puffs out at the bottom of the darts. I can live with the pants the way they are and am not going to make any further adjustments: they’re slouchy work/lounge pants that I don’t intend to wear anywhere more public than my front yard. However, I think I can use this darting technique on other drawstring pants, so I’ll file this bit of info for later. I also think I may have shortened the CB a smidge more than would have been ideal.

samue pants after: awkward amounts of volume

samue pants after: awkward treatment of volume in the back

The pants are great for gardening, sitting on the couch with a book on the weekend, and at some point when the weather gets cold again, I will probably try them out as thermal pantaloons (under a skirt) for dance.

I can’t say I’m big on mending, alteration and refashioning, but when confronted with an item that is unwearable because of fit or being worn out, it becomes a very low-risk project to my mind. If I had made these pants from scratch, I suspect I would have been rather disappointed by the final fit that I achieved. But I took an item that was unwearable and made it quite serviceable. (This attitude would probably serve me well for from-scratch sewing too – will have to try to remember this.)


About Zena

I sew sometimes.
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