Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Fitting Solution:

I have been sewing for a very long time. Not continuously, but in fits and starts. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I am currently in one of those "fits".

Pants fitting has always been a headache. I have the Vogue book of pattern alterations and fitting. I have all the Threads magazine articles on fitting pants (the fact that there are at least two articles per year on this topic is telling). I have made a fitting shell per Palmer and Pletsch. I have Sandra Betzina's book on fitting patterns and her "perfect jeans" pattern.

I have had only moderate success until this week.

In my closet were a favorite pair of pants. A pair that fit so well I have worn them until the bottom hem and top of the waistband were worn threadbare. They are made of a durable corded cotton and are very comfortable.

So it was quite a sacrifice to sit down and take those pants apart, seam by seam, and use them to create the perfect "Valerie-pants" pattern. The cording in the cotton was a bonus because the fabric structure provided obvious grainline markings.

This sacrifice was well worth it and taught me some things that should have been obvious, yet I have never seen in a fitting book or article.

Hips (on me at least) are curves...they are three dimensional curves. Most commercial pants patterns have 2 back darts, with the side seams of the front and back matching perfectly. When you consult all the fitting guru's, they have you play around with the crotch seam, the darts, and the waist seem. Occassionally they may have you add to the side seams, but they never talk about ease.

When I used my dissembled pants for a pattern I learned that the front and the back side seams did not match up perfectly from the waist to the first notch. In addition to a single modest dart, the back pattern piece had a larger curve, which necessitated putting in some ease between the front and back pieces when sewing. DUH!!! It's so obvious and yet it made all the difference in the way the pants fit.

See the drawing below...the back pattern piece is on the right. It is traced from a commercial pattern mock up...the outside curve line at the hip is from my dissembled pants pattern.

Also, the front waist on my favorite pants had a nice curve to it, with the front waist being just a bit lower than the back waist. Now this, I have seen in the fitting suggestions, but am not clear on the reason for its application.

With these changes at the waist and the hip...and no changes in crotch depth or inner thigh depth (which all of the fitting advisors were having me do), I have a beautifully fitted pair of black linen capri pants.

In the past, most of the pants I made had elephant legs because the fabric had to drop straight from the hips (my widest part) because there was no ease at the side hip seam. Every attempt at trying to taper the legs caused gaps and wrinkles higher up. Not so these new pants from old.

One might say that the ease in these pants came from the fabric stretching out over time. I don't think so because the fabric peices, with all of the stitching removed, lie flat. If the fabric had been stretched in that ease area, it wouldn't lie flat.

After this success I'm eyeing everything in my closet to see what other garment might teach me something by being dissembled!


  1. Congratulations on your sewing project, Valerie. What a fantastic discovery. It just goes to show that the end product does not reveal the entire story. An excellent lesson to keep in mind.

  2. How brave to take apart a favorite pair of pants, but it sure paid off! I think the higher waist on the back allows for one's butt. If you have a flat butt and a bigger tummy, you would reverse the height of the waist. Isn't that what's called crotch depth?

    So, did you put the corded pants back together?

  3. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to disassemble a favorite garment while it's still wearable, but I will definitely keep it in mind next time I am forced to retire a well worn favorite. I'm thinking back now to a couple of long gone pieces... (now if only I could do that with shoes!)

    Thanks for a wonderful post!

  4. Valerie, Valerie, Valerie... (as my mother might say)... aren't you supposed to be packing for Convergence? I have to admit pants were always a sewing dilemma for me as well. I found one pattern only once that required little to no alteration - and I used it over and over again. Now I have difficulty sewing straight hems on tea towels edges!


tie in the loose ends...