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Weekend Sewing Project: Pull On Pants

I wanted to introduce you to an easy sewing project that you can complete in a weekend! I love simple sewing projects, but I want them to be something I will actually wear like these pull on paperbag pants! I had so much fun with McCalls pattern #M8057 that I made it four times in July and August. And these are pieces that I definitely wear!

This style of pant is a paperbag pant, but unlike most paperbag pants, this pattern has a triple elastic waistband and no tie or bow in the front. Earlier in the year, I had actually seen someone else at the grocery store wearing a similar style pant, and I realized how easy they would be to sew! So off I went to shop for a pattern.

I picked McCalls #M8057 because the cover model was wearing a pair of pants almost exactly like those I had seen on the woman at the grocery store. The bonus was that they also had a flowy style included in this pattern, and I had plans for that as well.

I had always wanted a flowy pant that had a pattern across the bottom of the legs. But when you have short legs like me, store-bought pants in this style is not really an option. They are supposed to be long and flowy so nobody makes them in a shorter leg length! And hemming long ones would just alter the decorative pattern.

Well…it just so happened that I had the cutest fabric with a definite edge pattern leftover from my wall hangings and throw pillow! I wasn’t sure if this pattern would fit me right, so testing it out on fabric I already owned appealed to my thrifty nature. So the first pair of pants I made was View C.

bright flowy pants

I measured very carefully to get the leg length exactly right on the pattern before I cut out the fabric. Patterns have a line where you can cut to lengthen a leg or fold over to shorten a leg, and this is how I was able to cut the right length. The pants went together super quick, but the waistband took as long as the rest of the pattern! More tips on that later.

Now I wanted to try the tapered look! But after sewing View C there were a few things I wanted to change. Even though I loved them and they were super comfy, I wanted to lengthen the waistband because View C sat below my belly button. And I wanted pockets. Plus, I had ideas on how to make an easier waistband.

waistband height of View C shown

This time I bought olive broadcloth that was fairly inexpensive at Hobby Lobby. And I was a little lazy about measuring the pant length. I assumed that I could just shorten my pattern by the same amount I had shortened View C. So I folded it over at the “shorten here” line and added two inches to the top of my waistband. So my finished green pants turned out to be very cute crop pants, but the waistband was crazy high – as though I wouldn’t have needed to add any crotch length at all! I had successfully decreased the time needed to thread elastic through all three elastic casings, but I knew I could do even better. Both pants were a win, because the crop length was cute, more like View E, but I really wanted a pair like View F. And I was loving the challenge of creating a better waistband method!

I decided I could use a nice pair of navy pants, so for my third experiment I purchased four yards of pre-cut dark navy fabric from Walmart for $10. (Apparently more expensive online, but here’s the link for 2 yards.) This time I didn’t mess with changing the crotch length, and again carefully measured the leg length before cutting. And I perfected the waistband. Win!

View F navy pant waistband

Now that I had navy fabric left, I decided to try the shorts, View A. This was just a shorter version of View C, so this time I added 1 inch to the crotch length. Another win.

View A navy shorts

So my suggestion for the long-waisted is to add crotch length to View A, B or C. But View D, E and F should be fine as is.

The weekend sewing project

My third pair of pants, the navy ones, took me 5 hours from start to finish. You could make this a weekend project, even as a beginner, by purchasing and pre-shrinking (just wet and run through the dryer) your fabric on Friday, cutting and sewing all seams on Saturday, and adding your elastic and finishing the hem on Sunday.

Why this is an easy pants pattern

There are really two reasons that this pattern is easier than others. One, there are no zippers, buttons or snaps. Two, you don’t sew in a separate waistband but just fold down the top edge of your fabric to make the elastic casings.

The easiest styles and alterations in order 

  • Views D, E, and F with a single elastic waistband (see pattern alteration below)
  • Views A, B, and C with a single elastic waistband (see pattern alteration below)
  • Views D, E, and F according to pattern instructions
  • Views A, B, and C according to pattern instructions
  • Views A, B, and C with lengthened crotch
  • Views D, E, and F with added side pocket
  • Any view, adding a tie through the middle elastic casing

Materials needed for sewing pull on pants

  • McCalls Pattern M8057 in your size, choose according to hip measurements
  • Non-knit fabric. See your pattern size for suggested amount. The pattern recommends challis, crepe, gauze or linen. For a full length pant you will need between 2 and 2 ¾ yards of material.
  • ⅜ inch elastic, about 4 yards (see pattern for your quantity which is different according to size
  • Thread
  • Tracing paper, if sewing pockets (not art tracing paper, sewing tracing paper)
  • Pinking Shears
  • Sewing machine with a sewing needle (obviously)
  • Sewing pins
  • Measuring tape
  • An iron and ironing board
  • Three shoe strings (for my waistband technique) or three safety pins

Waistband

I like the look of the triple waistband in this pattern. My hope was that having three would mean that there is less elastic rolling, but that isn’t actually the case. The best way to keep your elastic from rolling is to make your casing barely wider than your elastic. Which isn’t hard because the pattern doesn’t leave you a lot of room anyway. The pattern has your elastic casings (the path you insert your elastic into) marked as being ½ wide for a ⅜ inch elastic. I sew my casings just shy of ½ inch, starting with the upper edge casing and working down. Don’t forget to leave an opening to insert your elastic!

three elastic casings with opening. three elastics attached to safety pins

It is much easier to insert a single waistband elastic than to insert three. For instructions on how to adjust the pattern for a single elastic, check out this video by The Awl-Nighter.

My Tip for Sewing the Triple Elastic Waistband

Like The Awl-Nighter, I have previously used a safety pin to help thread my elastic through casings. This works great for a single elastic, but when your casing is less than half an inch wide and you have three of them, the safety pins are a hindrance instead of a help! And threading the elastic through one casing at a time was so frustrating! What I found that worked better was to sew a shoelace to the end of each elastic, and then draw all three shoelaces through that tight space dragging the elastic through behind.

three shoelaces sewn to the ends of three pieces of elastic

I worked all three shoelaces/elastics through simultaneously, meaning I started the top elastic and fed it about 2 inches into the casing. Then I started the middle shoelace/elastic and fed it in about 2 inches. And then I followed with the bottom shoelace/elastic. I worked each shoelace a short distance and then caught the others up with my spot. The shoestring aglets worked as the safety pin would, giving me something firm to grab and guide through the casing. Once the shoelace was laced through to the opening, you can grab all three laces and pull all three elastics through behind them!

Prevent Rolling elastic

The best way to keep an elastic from rolling is to sew a tight casing that holds the elastic in place. But a tight casing is also harder to pull your elastic through. If you finish your waistband and have irritating elastic rolling, evenly space all your elastic, making sure it isn’t twisted, and then make vertical stitches through all the elastics and casings at the front, back and sides.

A note about basting before you sew your elastic casings!

Since you are working with very narrow channels for your elastic, be sure to avoid a headache by following the directions about basting down the top of your pocket and your opened and pressed vertical seams! Basting is simply a stitch that you can rip out later. So you set your sewing machine on the largest size stitch. And you don’t backstitch. Avoid another headache later when you have to rip the basting away – use a bright contrasting thread to stitch your basting stitches. They will be SO much easier to recognize this way, and you won’t be tugging on stitches that you wanted to keep.

picture of bright contrast basting stitches

Adding a drawstring

I didn’t actually do this, but here’s how it could be done using two buttonholes.

First you would have to mark a position for two ½ inch long buttonholes on the front of the waistband about ½ inch on either side of the center seam and ½ inch down from the top edge of the finished waistband. Sew the buttonholes. Complete the elastic casings. Thread the upper and lower elastics through their casings. Thread a shoestring or other thin tie through the middle casing. Be sure to tie before washing so that the tie doesn’t slide out.

Marking your fabric pieces

If you are adding pockets, you will need to mark where to sew the pocket pieces to the leg pieces. This can be done with the tracing paper. The pattern shows large dots that I mark with x’s on the inside of the fabric. (Don’t worry, these will wash out). Then I can simply match the x’s on the pockets to the x’s on the leg pieces to properly align them and leave room for the waistband. The top of the pocket will be sewn into the bottom of the waistband.

a package of tracing paper
using tracing paper to mark pockets

Adjusting the crotch length and adding a pocket

If you are lengthening the crotch, you will also have to raise the markings for the pocket and attach it correctly so that it will sew into your waistband! Simply cut out your piece with the length you want. Then when you mark your fabric with the tracing paper, slide your tissue fabric pattern piece to the top of your cut waistband edge. Mark the large dots according to the tissue pattern piece.

Finishing seams and Pressing

I’ve included pinking shears in my list of materials needed because they save time, energy and thread. To finish a seam, means to give attention to the raw edges inside the sewing so that the fabric doesn’t continue to unravel. The two ways to do this without a serger are to sew a zigzag stitch at the raw edge or trim the edges with pinking shears. I like to trim the inside seams with pinking shears after I sew them. And wherever possible, I iron the seams flat, usually opening the seam so that it falls on each side. BUT follow the pattern instructions and zig zag the fold-over edge of your waistband. They did not allow enough fabric for you to be cutting into it here.

trimming a seam edge with pinking shears

Hemming

The directions for this pattern call for you to hand-stitch the hem. Of course, I just machine-stitched it. Why make things harder than they need to be?

I apologize for all the belly pictures! Just trying to help you decide how high you’d like your pants! I’d love to hear if you spent the weekend sewing pull on pants! Or leave a comment about these sewing instructions and ideas. Now go enjoy something beautiful and creative!

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pinterest image featuring View C, E and F
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