Monday, August 26, 2019

Clare Pants by StyleArc

I wanted to make a blog post about these Clare Pants from StyleArc because I figured out some sewing tips along the way that I wanted to share with you. Plus you'll want to read this post before deciding which size to make.

I made a pair in Blackbird Fabrics' 7 oz glorious linen. Black is sold out but there are a ton of other colors.

These are wide leg pants in a 7/8 length (in other words, slightly cropped) with my favorite kind of pockets (although in this style they caused me problems, but don't fret, I found a solution too), front pleats, smart elastic waist (smart because they are only gathered at the back), belt loops and a sewn tie belt.

When choosing size, I want you to pay very close attention to the numbers. When you, like me, have sewn lots of the same company's patterns, it's easy to switch on the auto pilot when choosing size. I'm a size 14 in body hip size for StyleArc patterns, which means that's the size pants I usually make, when hip is the size defining factor. And that is usually the case for all pants, unless we are talking very roomy styles like culottes, or e.g. the Bob Woven Pants. 
For the Clare Pants I was sure I needed size 14 but luckily I went to check the finished measurements as well. You can see them HERE (scroll down and click FABRIC ESTIMATE & MEASUREMENTS. The first chart Finished Pattern Measurements (cm) is what you need. Or the one below in inches.

Now the finished measurements for a size 14 hip is 120 cm. I thought that sounded big for a 108 cm actual hip. I know these are not tight fitting but 12 cm ease sounded like more than what I wanted for this style. 
I think it's reasonable to compare this style to the Thea Pants (also StyleArc), although they are obviously very different in the waist, but they seriously have the most perfect fit for me. (See HERE. And HERE, my most liked photo on IG ever, ha.).

 So I checked out the finished hip measurements for Thea and it's 114 cm for size 14. (This listing show StyleArc's previous way of showing finished measurements, and you have to use some simple math for other sizes than size 10. THIS blog post of mine explains how to do it, if you don't already know.)

SO... the Thea Pant has a 6 cm smaller finished hip measurement for size 14 than the Clare Pant, and I decided to size down to size 12. And I'm very happy with that decision, because at my first fitting, I still thought they were a bit big in the hips. I ended up sewing in each side seam over the hips 0.5 cm...which in total removes another 2 cm for the hip circumference. Not quite size 10 and a half, since they jump 5 cm between sizes, but almost.
Now remember fabric also plays a part. Lighter weight fabrics can handle more ease without making the garment look too big, and I used fairly heavy weight fabrics for both my pairs. So that might have played a part for the extra removal of fabric from the size 12. Just wanted to mention that.

I really think the fit is fantastic now. I also raised the rise 3 cm, both to accommodate my height (178 cm / 5'10") but also because I'm just obsessed with higher waisted pants at the moment. (I'm getting old, haha). Just FIY I raised the bottom of the pocket opening, so the opening is the same length as the original pattern, although my rise is higher. I hope that makes sense.

 I made the black ones first and every time I put them on, I end up wearing them 3 days straight, until I reluctantly put them in the washing bin. They go with everything. Both loose and tight fitting tops. Win-win!

I also ended up shortening the leg length of this striped version 4 cm, which I didn't do (nor intend to do) with the black pair. I only noticed it after taking a first round of photos. They just looked too long. I'm guessing it's the stripes and light colors, that makes them quite summery and therefor needs a more significant cropped length. The black pair is more year around.

Now the next is going to be a bit messy. Messy because I don't have a clear answer for you.

The short version is this: I made changes two places to fix, amongst other things, some gaping pockets, but because of the order I did the changes, I'm not sure if only one of those changes are necessary to fix the gaping pocket.

I'm just going to tell my story and how the sewing process went with these two pairs of pants and then you can try my main change first (because it also makes the sewing of the elastic waistband WAY easier) and then you can do the other change afterwards, if needed. There is no drafting mistake in this pattern. But I did improve the suggested sewing technique for the waistband, which in turn can affect the pockets. As you can see mine are fully fixed and fantastic at this point.

To explain how my small changes to the sewing process made a huge difference for me, we need to talk about the original way first. You use a wide elastic, which you sew to the top of the pants (minus the SA) and then you fold and stitch down the elastic. 
You can't really use my otherwise favorite way of doing elastic waistbands with casings and smaller elastics in this style. Or at least not in the heavier fabrics I used.

This is how I sewed the elastic on in the first round. This is the original recommendation.

First you stitch the elastic to the top of the pants and then you fold down and stitch again. But that second stitch was super hard for me to control. I guess I didn't make it easier for myself by also trying to fold in the seam allowance (SA from now on). And my heavier fabric made it harder too. But the waistband surprising turned out fine and looked and felt great. BUT then there was the pockets. They were gaping quite a lot. Which is not unusual for me with this type of pants (I blame my pear shape) but nevertheless I don't like the look of it because it accentuate the pear shape. I also made a mistake that made them gape more (more about that later).

So I unpicked part of my side seam and shortened the pocket opening by pulling it out like you see in the photo above, before re-sewing the side seam. It helped some but not fully.
And this is the step I'm not sure you actually need, because now see below what I did with my striped and second pair.

I realized that I should have been sewing the pleats shut instead of just folding them at the top (the tutorial does tells you this but as per usual I didn't read that. And I misunderstood the step in the illustrated tutorial which I did glance at.) So I got this step right from the start with the striped pair. And then I also decided to stitch the top of the pocket opening shut too. Both things helped control and keep everything in place, while sewing the elastic. Especially that second stitch after folding the elastic down. I think my pockets and pleats shifted when I made my first pair. In fact I knew they did, because I ended up unpicking the whole waistband on the black pair, after the success of the striped pair, and sew shut the pleats and top of pocket openings, and now there is absolutely no gaping with the black pair either.

After finishing the black pair, I changed the paper pattern to the smaller pocket opening, so the striped pair were automatically cut like that. But like I said earlier....maybe it isn't necessary.

My advice would be to do what I'm doing above first. And then, if there are any gaping left, unpick a bit of the side seam and shorten the pocket opening.

Another change that helped me tremendously in the sewing process, was to pre-press/fold down the 1 cm SA at the top and then stitch the elastic on top like you see above. It made the whole process SO much easier.

I just want to talk a bit more about what I call 'smart' elastic waist. Smart, because the elastic goes all the way around, it's a continuous loop, but it's only gathered mostly in the back. Or more precise it's not gathered at the front between the pocket openings. I've seen this done by just putting in elastic in part of the waistband, but I never considered simply not gathering the elastic at the front. Duh, genius.
The way I did it is this: I closed the elastic to a round loop, and then I divide it in half, placing a pin in each end, which is now CF (center front) and CB (center back). Now I place, and attach with a pin, the CF of the elastic to the CF of the pants (the SA pre-pressed/folded), and the same with the CB of the elastic to the CB of the pants. Then I place a pin at the pocket openings in each side, through the elastic, without the elastic being stretched from CF. I start sewing at the one pocket opening, with the elastic on top, continue over CF and to the other pocket opening, and now make sure your needle is down in the elastic and fabric, stretch out the elastic, so it fits the fabric to the CB, and keep sewing. Repeat when you pass CB and stretch the elastic out, until you are back at your starting point at the pocket opening.

It looks like this on the inside and outside after you fold down the elastic and stitch again.

The pattern tutorial suggest to make 4 visible stitches on top of the elastic, but I'm generally not a fan of topstitching on elastic. This is just my personal preference, but sometimes I find that it can change the size of the elastic too much. Sort of make it bigger. Not always though, but not a risk I'm willing to run, ha. I did make one topstitch though, 0.5 cm down from the top for a bit of structure.

I didn't sew the belt loops or tie belt in my black pants but again, after that first photo shoot, I decided these striped ones needed it. They looked slightly unfinished without it, which can happen in pants without a zip fly.

And that's the saga of my Clare Pants. I consider them classics in my wardrobe and I see many more in my future. I'm guessing my next pair will be a full length winter version maybe in some cool denim....uh, or some corduroy, eeeek.

Thank you!


  1. Great tutorial, thanks. I was wondering what patterns you used for the tops?

    1. It's the Tessa Top from Style Arc. Originally a pattern for woven fabrics. I have a post up on Instagram today with more info. :-)

  2. Thank you for the fantastic detail you have included in your blog, I am also a fan of Style Arc pants,your highlighting of the pattern size compared to finished size is a gem and one I have never taken enough notice of in the past, but will from now on, thanks to you!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write a really informative and helpful post. Both pants look great on you and well worth the effort. I especially love the blue striped pants.

  4. I've just found your blog ... thanks for taking the time to pass on your knowledge. I've made the Ckaire pants and picked the size based on finished pattern size. I've made Thea pants based on the size chart and they came out with insufficient ease for comfort, which mad me very sad. My Claires are made from a lovely black linen silk mix, cut full length as I'm not keen on 7/8ths length. Like you, I wear them for days on end, comfy and stylish. I stitched the pleat and has 1 gaping pocket, so I can't judge if your addition alteration is necessary!

    1. That's so strange about the Thea Pants because I actually still fit into a size 12 even though my hip measurement puts me in size 14 now. In other words they are roomy in size. Could something else have gone wrong? Do you mind sharing with me your hip measurement and what size you made? Also regarding the pocket in Clare, did you also stitch down the pocket at the top? Or only the pleat? I would think the pocket part is the most important of the two to avoid a gaping pocket. :-)

  5. Hmm interesting. My Theas were made before I started keeping detailed notes on projects. Sewing on hold until after xmas, but when I get back to it I'll dig out the pattern and see what I can glean from that.

  6. On the Claire's I just sewed the pleats down

  7. Hmm interesting. My Theas were made before I started keeping detailed notes on projects. Sewing on hold until after xmas, but when I get back to it I'll dig out the pattern and see what I can glean from that.

  8. Thank you so much for this! I got stuck with the original instructions for the elastic, and your pictures really helped!

  9. I had trouble with the elastic waist too! Thanks for this. Time to pick it apart and try again.

  10. Thank you for the detailed post - I'm trying to decide whether to buy this pattern and seeing your pics and advice has really helped (and I am going to buy it :))


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