For a while now, I’ve been wanting to create a modern version of the “sam-fu“, which is the traditional Chinese top-and-bottoms set. Sam-fu literally translates to “shirt-trousers”. The “sam” part of the outfit is the top with a mandarin collar; and the “fu” is usually a pair of baggy pants cinched in at the waist with a drawstring or elastic.
When I saw the Pietra Pants by Closet Core Patterns, I immediately thought the pants would make a more contemporary, streamlined and fitted version of the “fu“. I especially love how the back waistband is elasticated for a simple fuss-free pull-up, which also means that there are no closures to tackle in the making of it. Yay! The front of the pants in contrast have a more structured high-waisted flat-front, with a flattering wide front facing to help smooth out any belly rolls. Each front pant leg is made up of two panels which are joined together in a centre-leg seam that gives the illusion of super long legs. And the slanted front pockets are cleverly constructed into this seam, giving the pants a subtle but stylish geometric interest.
The Pietra Pants can look formal, but also have a casual feel, so they are pretty versatile. It comes in 3 views – wide-legged, tapered and shorts. For the long versions, there are options for the length to be cropped or regular. I made the wide-legged version with a cropped length. I wanted regular length pants, and the cropped length hits the ankles just where I want the hem to be. Yes, I am a shortie!
Sizes come in 0-20 and 14-30. I sewed up a size 2 for my first wearable muslin, and they turned out a little too snug around the waist to pull the pants up over my hips. I thought that since the back waistband is elasticated, I could get away with sizing down. Plus, there seems to be enough ease in the finished measurements chart for me at size 2. But I was wrong. It was a tight squeeze getting the pants on. The waistband of the pants at size 2 was too narrow to fit through my hips comfortably.
Once I got through the struggle of yanking and wiggling the pants over my hips, the size 2 fit fine on the waist and hips though. So it was kinda tricky understanding what to do to make a better fit the next time round. It wouldn’t help to grade from size 2 at the waist to a 4 at the hips because the problem is that I needed more circumference at the waist. Perhaps that is why some reviewers but in an invisible zipper in the side seam to address this problem. Definitely a viable and logical option, but I didn’t want to go through the hassle of putting in a zipper. My hip measurement is 35.5 inches and my waist measurement is 26 inches. According to the size chart, I am a 4 at the waist and in between 4 & 6 at the hips. To be on the safe side, I went for a size 6 thinking that if it gets too baggy, I can just take in a little more at the side seams. This felt a little strange because most of the time, I don’t ever make a size 6 for Closet Core Patterns. For example, my Charlie Caftan at size 0 is roomy for me.
So what you see in the images are a size 6, and I think they are just a tad oversized, but I don’t really mind the look of it, and besides, they give me room to eat a big dinner. But maybe I should make a size 4 for the next pair and narrow down the width of the side seam allowance. Even though there are a couple of snags with the sizing issue, I still consider these Pietras to be perfect for me mainly because of the very flattering high-waisted silhouette in the front waist and hip, and the pretty centre-leg seams.
To make these pants extra ultra special, I also embarked on a huge sashiko project on them. The basis of the design is hishi moyo (diamond pattern), and I chose this pattern because I thought that the lines would accentuate the slanted line of the hip pockets and the centre-leg seam. It is also a pattern that was new to me and it is always exciting to work on something new. This is the same pattern that I used to embellish my Ashton Top, which I reviewed a few weeks back. I actually worked on the pants first before the top, but I blogged about the Ashton (by Helen’s Closet) first.
The right side of the front pant has a hishi variation called hishi-seigaiha (diamond blue waves) and the left side of the pants has a variation called hishi-manji (diamond manji).
The most challenging aspect of this sashiko project was drawing in the grid lines on the pants. It was painstakingly time-consuming to draw out the 3/8 X 3/4 inch grid on the whole length of the panels on left and right sides of the pants. Thank goodness I am short and that meant less area to cover on the cropped version of the pants. Then after drawing out the grid, drawing out the actual pattern lines was tedious as well.
I am a little impatient with this aspect of the sashiko because I just want to get that needle and thread going. However, carefully planning out the grid is the most important step that enables trouble-free embroidering. There is no cutting of corners in this step. The preparation is all.
Embroidering the pattern on both leg panels took about a total of 12 hours. The fabric I used was a medium weight, blood-red linen-cotton blend. It was very easy to sashiko on it, so when I started stitching, the process was smooth and plain-sailing. This is the part that I enjoy the most. The brain moves into an alert but meditative mode and all systems are at cruise-control. It is very calming and focusing. While the hands move, I begin to observe many thoughts that come and go. Some of the best thoughts are flashes of inspiration. And within the 12 hours of embroidering, I endeavoured to make an Ashton Top (and give it an Asian twist with strategically placed sashiko), and also to self-draft an actual “sam” to go with the “fu“.
The Ashton Top was an easy make, but the self-drafted “sam” took about a month to accomplish. It involved making a bodice block from scratch and several muslins before I finally got it to a shape that I am happy with. So I’m really happy with the Pietra Pants because of the design, but also in the making of it, it inspired other makes.
I will end with a sneak peak of the “sam” as I will post about it next week. Watch this space! Or in Singapore, we say “Akan Datang” – meaning “Coming Soon”!