Polar vortex trousers

It was a Big Brothers Big Sisters group sleepover at the zoo.  The conversation between me and a younger mentor went like this:

Her:  Haven’t seen that pant style in awhile.
Me:  Yes, they were a favorite in a prior decade.  They’ve been too comfy to get rid of.
Her:  Um, I’m pretty sure it was more than one decade ago.
Me:  I did say “a” prior decade; not “the” prior decade.

To give you the right visual, they were black stirrup pants.  Super comfortable for a sleepover, but admittedly…

Stirrup pant intact aw RSR

…they haven’t been in style for decade(s).  Actually, it was the prior millennium.  And, they aren’t warm.  So, when I needed a pattern for some insulated warm pants, I broke down and cut the stirrup pants apart to make the pattern.  Turns out it was a good choice for a pattern, because:

  • It was only two pattern pieces, which made an easy-to-sew pattern.
  • The fit was loose (unlike leggings or skinny pants), which accommodated the bulk of the insulated layers.

Pants pieces aw RSR

The fit came out right on the first try, except for the lower legs, which had too much taper for the thickness of the fabric layers.  To fix the lower leg issue, I opened each side seam below the knee and inserted a long triangle.  This worked fine.

Insert2 aw RSR

For the fly closure, I used a strip of velcro, which was not strong enough by itself, but worked fine when I added a waistband and fastener.

(View before adding the waistband.)

Pants before waistband aw RSR

Tips and notes:

  • Reducing unnecessary bulk.  For the fly and waistband facing side, I removed the pile from between the layers.  Those spots don’t need double insulation, or bulk.
  • Walking foot recommended. The lazy, impatient me didn’t use the walking foot on the sewing machine, because it is slow, and I wanted to sew this first pair up quickly.  I got by, and the pants came together quickly and easily.  But with these layers and pile, a walking foot would be the better way to go.
  • The fabric was a surprise purchase from Joann.  While shopping for something else, I spotted this at 60% off, which made it $8/yd.  It appears to be an in-store only item, so I can’t provide a link to it.  But if you have a Joann store nearby, go check the bargain fabric section with the color-coded discount dots.

The fabric:

Insulated fabric a w RSR

Why insulated pants?  For comfort and productivity.  I’m cold all winter.  Besides how miserable that is, I feel like it takes much time out of my planned day to warm up, whether by situating myself near a space heater, or having a heated throw at my desk.  It slows my productivity and energy level, just getting and staying warm.  I want to try designing and making some simple, practical garments that I can wear any day, every day, all day, at home, and just feel warm.  The ultimate plan is to make garments I can wear wherever I go during the day–from the office to grocery shopping.

This is the first of the attempts.  Not bad for $8 in materials.  To be honest though, they look like simple insulated pants that don’t cost much to buy ready-to-wear.  Must try harder to make them look more stylish for every day wear.

Insulated pants mirror model a w RSR

The polar vortex of last week was my inspiration to make these warm pants a priority.  But as luck goes, on the day I finished the pants there was a drastic warmup.  It was a 60s-70sF weekend with sun.  Crocuses bloomed!

Crocuses 2019 RSR

Alas, the winter temperatures have made a rude return, with 30+mph wind gusts, a windchill temp of -11F, and an icy coating on everything.  The pants are doing their job of keeping me comfortable.

18 thoughts on “Polar vortex trousers

    1. Thanks to all of that! I’m in the midwest, so I’m not in the coldest place either, but man, I don’t like being cold. I want to stay warm, but have a little bit of pride in appearance, so I intend to keep working on the warm garment designs and features. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved this post – it’s so wonderful that you’re a Big Sister – and knowing you through the blog and what a sweet heart you are, it didn’t surprise me at all! 🙂

    I’m glad your fabulous pants are helping to keep you warm! So far 2019 has been brutally cold and having anything that can keep you nice and warm is a definite necessity!


    1. There you are! I had a feeling you were out there. Thanks, re the warm pants! I’m so tired of cold weather. Sounds like you are long overdue for a warm up, too. Hoping we both get one soon. I’m not officially a Big Sister anymore, because my ‘Little’ graduated from high school. She’s now a senior in college, and not letting anything stop her! (Proud big sis here.)

      I just looked at your new site and started following it. I didn’t get to see the rest of your doll updates, either. Will go back and check those out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww! Yeah, things have gotten really busy! First I moved the blog and only wrote a quick update about it, then I found out that I’m finally moving to a new apartment at the end of the month! So life had gotten really hectic with packing and everything. I can’t wait for it to all be over so I can settle into my new place!

        I’m not surprised you’re proud of her, it sounds like she’s doing really well! That’s fantastic!! You did an awesome job and she sounds wonderful. 🙂

        I’ll definitely have to do another update on those dolls! I forgot to photograph one (or do a photo of them all together) before I gave them my sisters because I ended up working on them right up to the very last second! I do have photos of two of the dolls that I haven’t blogged about yet, though, so I’ll have to do that as soon as things calm down! 🙂


      2. You are indeed juggling a lot at the moment. I hope you get fully re-settled soon, and then you can start making it feel like your own home. The update on the dolls can wait. They were certainly a labor of love.


  2. Go go warm clothes! 🧣🧤🧥🧦 I’m all for it. Animals have fur to keep them warm but we humans have an over-developed frontal lobe instead, so we have to make do with that for covering our naked skin. 😉 Which is why we breed sheep and steal their wool. ☺️ But what happened to winter fashions? We are bombarded with short dresses, garments with short sleeves and sleeveless garments! It’s all right for those who are still in Africa where humans originate, but some of us have already moved out further afield – and still didn’t grow any fur! So I say if the fashions of today cater exclusively for the tropics, then you have no choice but to venture into more sensible decades for inspiration. 😁


    1. You understand my cold! If I’m outside and/or moving about, it’s not so bad. But sitting at my desk is misery. Such a true statement about animals vs humans, too. The insulated pants have made a drastic improvement in my comfort level. I definitely need more than one pair, and a top that is equally cozy.


      1. I have lots of woolen items, and fleece items too. This pants project was from my decision that the woolens and fleece don’t do a good enough job. I have an old pair of puffy down-filled pants, which is what gave me the idea. Something about that down insulation is instantly warm and cozy. The nylon shell might help to seal in the warmth. I wasn’t sure if the thin layer of polyester fiberfill in these pants would do the trick but the polyfil inside the two nylon layers does indeed make cozy pants.


      2. I love the Witness2fashion blog! It has fantastic information. I love that petticoat. That is the idea. The wool underwear layer would also have been very nice, if from a soft, not-itchy wool.


      3. That petticoat is like wearing a duvet all day. 😁 I must confess that I like itchy wool. 😲 Not overly itchy, mind you, just slightly itchy. I find this is what keeps me warm – it massages the skin and improves circulation. I don’t feel any discomfort – on the contrary, I feel warmth on my skin. But I know that a lot of people don’t like it.


      4. I can’t imagine liking itchy wool. It’s interesting how it works for you. You make it sound invigorating. It is pure discomfort for me, unless I have a protective layer between the wool and my skin. I do wear wool that way quite a bit.


      5. I have poor circulation at times, especially when sitting still all day, then the temperature of my skin can go down to 20C – room temperature. My core body temperature remains normal, I’m not hypothermic or anything, just poor circulation near the skin. So then wearing insulating layers only locks the cold in, it does not provide any warmth. To warm up, I need to undress and have a vigorous massage with one of those wooden massage belts – to get the blood flowing to the skin. I once bought a pair of “anti-cellulite massage pants” which turned out to be a pair knitted with a special textured knit which rubbed on the skin gently with movement. Exactly like my itchy wool. 😄 Wool that’s got little bumps that rub against the skin – not like itchy cotton which has little sharp sticks in it – I hate that! I also don’t like very soft and fluffy wool – it tickles!!! 😯 Go figure.


      6. That’s really insightful about what works for you. With me, it is overall circulation and especially in the extremities (fingers, toes, hands, feet). What comforts me is something insulated with heat trapping properties, and smooth to mold or conform to the skin.


      7. It’s interesting that different people use different techniques, even though on the face of it, it’s all the same problem – poor circulation. There’s clearly more to it than meets the eye.

        Liked by 1 person

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