My Sew Sew Life: Adapting a Paperbag Pants Pattern

Hello everyone and welcome! Today, I’m going to talk about my latest make, which is a pair of grey Paperbag pants. I didn’t have a pair of dark grey pants of any sort and decided it was time to make some. Pantone’s 2021 colors of the year spurred me on to get it done.

I’ve been wanting to try them for a while. I had concerns if they would work for me because of my figure attributes: larger than normal bust, no real waist and a normal length torso. But with all that, I just still the look of Paperbags; there’s just something about that self fabric bow that most of them have.

Probably, making a pair before I actually knew how I was going to look in them was not the wisest. Oh well, Covid has turned a lot of things upside down. I decided to take my chances!

I used a pattern by Ellie & Mac, an Indie pattern company. Their patterns don’t have numbers, just names. This pattern is appropriately named Adult Paperbag Pants. The pattern comes sizes in XXS to 5XL. This pattern is for all body types and sizes.

Ellie and Mac’s patterns are in a PDF format. I printed my pattern home and taped the different pages together to make a complete pattern. It does take time, but I really don’t mind. I can think through my project as I am taping. I then trace my size onto freezer paper with all my adjustments. There’s probably better paper to use but freezer paper is easy to get and I like it’s sturdiness.

These patterns also come in what is called an AO pdf format, which you can send out to be printed if you don’t want to take the time to assemble and tape. I think most sewists use PDF Plotting . I’ve never bothered because as I mentioned, I like the taping process; just put some music on and start putting the pieces together. The pages are numbered for easy work.

What I Liked about Ellie & Mac’s Pattern and What I Wanted for My Pair.

Let’s start out with a comparison shot of me in my finished pair and the pattern model. Foremost, I wanted those pockets. I haven’t seen front pockets on normal pants for a while (maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places)? I also like how they used the elastic with the waistband making the pants easy and comfortable to wear.

After that, I had other wants which, the pattern just didn’t have. First of all, was the type of fabric used. Ellie & Mac calls for 4-way stretch knit fabric with a 30-50% stretch. That’s a lot of stretch! I had a grey woven poly rayon twill for Joanne’s which was soft with a slightly brushed nap. It’s fabric had 1% spandex which gave it about a 5% two-way stretch. That was the biggest problem (but easy) to solve and I did it by just cutting the sides of the legs one size larger. This was enough to give me the ease in the pants which I preferred.

There are other smaller changes I made for my pants but I will discuss them later. Let’s get on to the fun part of how I styled them once I got them off the sewing machine. Because, well, this is a hybrid blog. I like talking about it all; sewing and styling. Being a good dark neutral, they have a lot of possibilities of coordinating with a lot of colors and are a nice departure from black pants.

Using Over Layers to Camouflage

In my side by side photo, I’m just wearing a simple white knit top. Truthfully, it’s more than likely that I would not wear this look. It’s goes back to what I talked about in the beginning: not really thinking my particular figure is flattered by this style (although, again, I love this style of pants). My first three style show adding a jacket of some sort but still letting my bow shine and fringe waistband top shine through.

Pantone Grey and Yellow

My newly made pants let me experiment with Pantone’s new colors of year for 2021; grey and yellow. My cardi, although not bright yellow counts (IMO) because it is a very happy yellow. It also adds the vertical line that I like but also lets the waist details of my pants shine through.

The butter yellow cardi is relatively new (I bought it from Macy’s last summer). It’s a Macy’s essential but gets color tweaks each season (same cardi but in a brighter yellow). However for everything else, I’ve gone deep back into my closet, using some old but beloved accessories.

My grey suede and stud smoking loafers are by Rebecca Minkoff. I think she has closed the chapter on making shoes because they have disappeared from her website.

The bag, by Coach, has been hard to pair because of the yellow and grey color combination. I think it’s one of the most unique Coach bags I own and am always on the look out with things to wear it with. It’s right in for this year!

This knit top is an older Chico model (similar) that I wear a lot but usually untucked. You can’t have enough white tops!

Finally, the Bumblebee Jasper and Black Tourmaline necklace and earring set was created by Laura of Modern Sage Designs. I featured an interview with her three years ago HERE. I love Laura’s fresh but simple take on jewelry design and have quite a few pieces of hers.

Adding a Back Jacket or a Long Vest

Next up is one of my favorite looks of all that I’m doing today.

I added my black swing jacket by Norma Kamali which I found on Poshmark a couple of years ago.

Now, I am of the opinion that exciting textures are just as good as adding some color. For this take, I added a pair of snake printed leather mules (similar by Dolce Vita) by Rebecca Minkoff and a vintage Carlos Falchi hand-painted and appliquéd bag that I love to pull out once in a while for its artistic effect.

A longer vest would work too.

I added my black vest by Covered Perfectly, which now seems to be back under new ownership. I featured this vest twice on my blog HERE and HERE. It’s the only long vest I have and it keeps popping up on here. I think it is becoming an essential piece for me. Unfortunately, the style is discontinued but there are so many out there to consider.

I also brought out some dark grey metallic smoking loafers by Nine West (I REALLY like this pair from Macy’s) and a clutch by Religion that I picked up on eBay a couple of years ago.

My necklace is another one of my home made ones from a pendant that I picked up at Joanne’s Fabric.

Adding a Black Top and Accents of Color

One of the reasons that I like black is because bright colors look great contrasting against it.

I paired my Vogue 1567 top that I made this summer with my new pants. If you missed it, you can read about that sewing experience here. For color, I added a vintage Perry Ellis scarf (eBay) and a fun bag by Izak. Shoes are kept simple; a pair of Marc Fisher’s Sunny D’orsay Flats. For me, a good pair of black flats is a necessity and this pair has been a staple in my closet (I even found a back up pair on Poshmark last year).

This finishes out my first ideas on ways to wear my new Paperbags so……

More About the Sewing

Just a Few Other Pattern Changes…

If you have followed my sewing stories, you know that I can’t resist a good selvage fringe. This twill had such a great one that I decided it had to be a focal point for the top of the waistband. I also carried out the fringed theme with the tied belt.
Having the tie belt a single thickness also solved something else that I was worried about; that the tied bow would stick out too much. I wanted it to lay down flat and this woven twill was so easy and quick to fringe.

After fringing, I sewed a stay stitch around the whole belt so it wouldn’t fringe anymore on its own.

Another change was that the pattern called for the elastic casing to be in the waistband. I decided to keep it in the pants area.

Wanting the fringe to be on the top of the waistband and wanting the casing to be in the pants rather than the waistband presented the problem of how to line the waistband and casing area. I hope that’s clear. Well, here’s a picture showing what I’m trying to explain.

This was solved by cutting a piece of black cotton that was wide enough to back the waistband and serve as the back for the elastic casing. I cut it on the selvage, alleviating any need to hem it at the bottom. This also made for less bulk around my middle which needs all the help it can get!

A very small change was my placement of the belt loops. Rather than having them 100% below the waistband as the pattern called for, I balanced them between the pant and waistband. I thought this might look better on me. As I said, minor adjustment.

Finally, because of my flat derriere, I added two darts in the back to take out fabric there.

Ellie & Mac Patterns

Ellie & Mac patterns have very easy and well documented instructions. Unlike printed traditional instructions, they come in full color using actual fashion fabric in the photos. I really like this.

The instructions and the pattern comes in one document. You can print off the instructions, but for me, it’s easier to read them off my most convenient device.

Every week they have a “Wacky Pattern” sale where they offer a few of their patterns for only $1 each! Needless to say, I’ve collected a lot. You have to be on their mailing list to get the notifications. It’s worth signing up for.

This is my second make using an Ellie & Mac, the first being a hoodie for Dylan, our Mountain Fiest Dog found HERE.

They also have some cute embroideries for embroidery machines and I’ve picked up a few of those.

I think that wraps this story up. Tomorrow, we will be at our two week mark after our second vaccine and will soon have a bit more freedom (still wearing our masks, of course), and these pants are going to see some wear!

So What Do I Think?

I don’t think I look great in them. For some reason, the long vest makes me look the best. This wants me to sew a long cardigan to go with them for the fall. I will probably always wear this pair with a jacket or cardigan and, of course, the long vest.

I have one more Vogue pattern I want to try in this style…so stay tuned.

So, until next time-Take care and stay creative!

Once last indulgence-everything second hand here except the top and pants that I made-just wanted to do it. The vintage second hand collection includes a Kate Spade bag (thrift shop in Florida), Silk Vera scarf (eBay), made in USA Juliana Collezione jacket (eBay), gold/black Liz Claiborne leopard pin, (eBay) and a pair of Manolo Blannik pointy toes sling back kitten heels (also eBay). Throughout the years, eBay has been essential to me when I have gone hunting for specific vintage brands and items, especially in the early 2000’s when there was no else to go.

24 thoughts on “My Sew Sew Life: Adapting a Paperbag Pants Pattern

  1. LOVE your paperbag pants. It’s a look I’ve always loved (even before they named them). I haven’t made any yet so enjoyed your ideas. I do have a couple of pair in my closet that I plan on wearing this spring/summer. And, you did a great job styling them with for so many different looks. That’s another skill I lack. Oh well, love pictures.
    Grace & Peace, Iris


    1. Thank you for the positive words. I think some of us might have some hangups about how we look in them. I do love this style and will be trying out some different patterns.


  2. IMHO, these paper bag pants look really cute on you! All outfits look good, but my favorites are the yellow and gray outfit, (and I’m shocked to say that, because I thought the combo of yellow and gray wouldn’t appeal to me at all when I imagined it), and the last one with the black blazer. You are a really talented seamstress, Terri! Well done!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michelle. Yellow and grey have always been one of favorite color combinations. I think it might have something to do with my love of vintage. If I ever get around to redoing my guest/sewing room, I want it to be in those colors.


    1. Mireille, I had a lot of fun going through my closets and drawers pulling out things to go with these. I think there are a lot of possibiities. I kept thinking that Paperbags were going to be a quick trend but they sure seem to have been around a while now. Have you had yours on your blog? Take care, Terri


    1. Thank you, Carmen. I thought the gray would go with a lot of stuff in my closet and I was right. They are a nice vacation from black. I’ll use those selvages anytime I can get away with it. They were very gratifying to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I bought a pair of paperbag trousers myself a few months ago and really like them! Yours are great and they do look very good on you especially with the yellow!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Terry,
    it sounds as if you are not 100% convinced about your paperbag pants. Why not? I really love them on you! And they are so versatile as you demonstrated. You did a great job with these pants, and with the post too.
    I love the combination of grey and yellow a lot. I’m also planning a post about grey and yellow, the Pantone colours, and I picked some pieces out of my cupboard this morning. But I must still think about it…
    Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Terri, these pants are so beautiful! I am only just now getting on board with the paper bag pants trend! I really like the way you have dressed them up some and the charcoal color is so pretty with the pale yellow. I also really like the frayed edges on the waistband and belt. You are so talented!


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.