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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting ready to Pivot and Slide

My Sew/Fit Pivot and Slide manual is pretty old. Copyright 1978, fourth printing 1985. It has taken me this long to read it. 

I've been pretty busy.

But as I said when I started this adventure. It's time.

I know there are new versions of this available from Hipline and that Nancy Zeiman who was the gorgeous (and tiny) model in my edition has reprised this in her Fitting with Confidence book but I figure that if any book has been waiting beside my bed for 23 years for me to read it, it's going to be the one I am going to work from.

This is a very clear step-by-step method and has the elegance of having all the calculations and measurements written directly on the paper pattern pieces and all your altering is done while you cut right on the fabric, no fussy paper pieces to add or redraw, which sounds pretty good. 

If the duct tape method had a sort of backyard mechanic feel to it, then this method has a sort of clever do-it-yourselfness from a time when sewers figured out their own way of doing things that is very different from a lot of the more academic approaches of most of my other sewing references.

As today was a big cooking day for me for some reason, a massive borscht, hummus and baked fruit to have in the fridge over the next few days as husband and son come and go and do school work (DH is going his course work for a home inspection certification - sort of a pre-retirement idea he had) I am late in getting to this.

So what I have done tonight is take the six measurements required and prep the pattern for tomorrow's pivoting and sliding.

It's all been pretty interesting.

1. The basic premise of this technique for pants fitting is that commercial patterns are drafted too loose in the legs and thighs. The P&S method asks that you work from a pattern two sizes smaller than the pattern size that matches your measurements, according to the pattern envelope. With 39.5” hips I am closest to a size 16, drafted for a 40” hip. For the purposes of this test I am using and cutting out, unaltered, a size 12 pants pattern. Fine with me.

2. To be marked on the pattern:

a. The crotch line on the front pattern piece. My pattern, Simplicity 3539, has this. If yours doesn’t draw a line from the crotch point to the side seam, parallel to the hem.

b. The kneeline, fold the hem to the crotch point and crease the paper pattern. Unfold and draw a line at the crease, parallel to the hem.

c. Hip line. Parallel to the crotch line, 2.5” above it.

The six measurements to be taken for the P&S pant fitting method:

1. Waist. Bend side to side to identify waist and measure to the closest ½”. Write this number directly on the front and back paper pattern piece at the waistline seam allowance.
My waistline is 32.5”.

2. Hip. Fullest part. Write this number on front and back pattern pieces at marked hipline.  
Mine is 39.5"

3. Thigh. Fullest part. Write this number on front and back pattern pieces at crotch line.
Mine is 23"

4. Seat depth. Now this one is really crazy and is very different from the traditional sit on a chair and measure from your waist to the chair. In P&S this measurement is taken from the base of the waistline, at the side seam, over the hip bone and forward 2” (so it catches the widest part of the thigh) and then to the table you are sitting on. Yes, that’s right, you are supposed to sit on a stool or table so your feet don’t touch the ground to spread the weight of your thigh. This is a measurement that puts the tape forward on a angle not straight down your side. Using this method my seat depth is 11”, if I had done the old straight down my side while sitting on a chair method this measurement would have been a 12.5” Write this measurement on the back pattern piece at the top of the side seam near the waist.

5. Waist to waist – straddle the tape front to back, write this on the front and back pattern pieces at front and back crotch seams. Mine is 26”.

6. Waist to hem.
42”. Write this above the hem allowance on the front and back pattern pieces.

The next step is obviously to measure the flat pattern and, adding ease, compare this to personal measurements.

Length can then be added by sliding the pattern pieces up or down. Width can be added to key areas by pivoting the pattern out, and width can be reduced by pivoting the pattern in.

These maneuvers can be done on paper (quaintly my early edition suggests using waxed paper) or directly on the fabric as you cut (of course what I am going to do because it sounds easier as well as more daring).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Letting down the rear

As Robyn noted after my last post I was not in high spirits pants wise. It is time to come clean and say why. For some reason completely beyond me, my second pair from grey fabric was a disaster, or maybe it all showed more in the grey. The rear end puckered in unbelievably and after all my effort what I produced was a world class wadder. Pretty shocking as you can see. It has taken me a couple of days to recover.

Anyway regaining my composure I
started reading through my pivot and slide reference and came across a solution for a low, and I presume aging, rear which involved scooping out the seam not so much in as to drop it down, sort of scoop out the bottom right up to the inseam intersection. Really all this is, is sculpting out a shape only at the back out of the top of the inseam. Lowering the the bottom really down into the leg. Pulling these pants out of the corner where they landed the other night, I tried that and this, in a bad blurry photo is the result. Still a loose pull-on pair of pants but you can see what a difference this makes. I may of actually over done it but point is these pants no longer look like I am wearing Depends.

Definitely an educational experience if not a great pair of pants, but this whole process has moved me one step closer to understanding what works for me in one real area of fitting challenge,

Of course I debated the wisdom of posting such unflattering pictures but decided in the end that the whole purpose of this was to learn, and that someone else might find some fitting strategy that might help them too.

To quote Mao (actually this is the only Maoist quote I know) the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Step one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

High hopes for pivot and slide

I put the back view of the black duct tape pants at the top because I am most disappointed in that view. I also see that somehow in this process I have acquired the bow legs of an old cow hand, a very old cow hand. Interesting. These pictures do not represent the 20 or so hours I have invested in this first experiment. Perhaps it was too much to expect a pair of pants made from a pattern from a pair of pants to look better or different than the original pair of pants, if you can follow that.

Oh well. 

They are elastic waist pants after all, actually I like my test pair better than the final. Test pair was woven fabric.

Anyway, next up this week in the middle of exams and the final US debate I am going to start work on pivot and slide. 

I am pretty interested in pivot and slide and I am going to try and get the instructions posted here this week. The basic premise is that most pants patterns are too big in the hips and leg so you buy a pattern two sized too small and add to the top if and where you need it, I will.

As I am currently going through a baggy leg crisis I am wondering if this will be IT, to start where you are skinnier and then work on up.

I am also beginning to wonder what will happen if I work my way through all these methods and end up with nothing but 15 pairs of weird pants all weird in different ways.

This is a possibility, a distinct possibility it seems tonight. What if I am actually incapable of fitting pants, what if I have to go and fly off to the States like some last ditch patient trying to find the specialist and my family has to send me off to the waiting room at the clinic of Joyce Murphy or someone or Karen at Wild Ginger and they will have to fit me.

Is that where this is going to end up?

Time for bed and bath I think.

And Pivot and Slide.

Final duct tape pants

In between Thanksgiving dinners making and other weekend activity like reading the online news and fretting about the markets, I did a bit of sewing. In fact I made two versions of my very loose duct tape pattern pull-on elastic waist pants, the black version pictured here.

I am moderately happy with them. Since this is mid-term week and I am making up and giving  exams for over a hundred students in the next few days this is what my evaluation of this particular version would be:

Interesting experiment Barbara, a good start and evidence of real effort. However not sure that you reached all the goals you set for yourself. Your difficulties with the duct tape method you have identified with the wrinkling may be partially responsible for some of the difficulties I see here, perhaps choice of fabric, and possibly the shape of the original pants you copied. The front and shorter crotch length certainly seems to work for you and this is a learning experience that you can carry forward into your next project. I can see however that the fit over your rear end continues to present some challenges. Despite excellent email advice from Katherine in Australia your vertical wrinkling still persists and crotch grab has not been as visually eliminated as it may in fact seem to you when you are actually wearing these pants.

Quite simply, these are pants that definitely look better coming than going.

That said I do recognize that these pants are elastic waist, wide, and casual and that it would perhaps be unfair to apply to them the same criterion that I would apply to say a tailored pair in a firmer fabric. On the subject of fabric I see from your own notes that you used a rayon/polyester/spandex blend and I wonder if the fact that your fabric has some stretch in it has been problematic and contributes somewhat to the droop factor.

My own advice is that for future projects with this pattern you stick to suitable drapey wovens and that in that context this pattern might make more sense for loose summer linen pants, much like the original you copied.

Good effort, considerable room for improvement, look forward to your next assignment.


Again more evidence I have lost it.

Happy Thanksgiving (in Canada that is)

Well a very nice Thanksgiving weekend is over now, two dinners, one at my in-laws in the country and one here for the city kids. I had the bright idea of doing a healthy dinner this year, prompted by two young men in the extended family who have at, 28 and 32, recently developed very serious heart conditions (not direct relatives these are related by marriage, but still very upsetting) which has made me think that I want to make sure I am feeding the family responsibly. I get ideas like this every now and then.

As a result my husband BBQ'd the turkey (video to follow with his instructions) and there was no gravy and no stuffing. Very moist, the turkey was and very heart smart. Also no pumpkin pie this year, a pear and apple crumble. Well the troops revolted, it was good they said but not the same, so Christmas will definitely be built around gravy, stuffing, pie, and tradition. I can cook fat free the rest of the year they said but not at the holidays. Someone said to me once that you should make sure that you start out your holiday traditions the way you want to keep them until the end of time because those expectations are permanent.

A poignant moment for me was a story my new son-in-law told me. The matron of honour at the wedding was an old school friend of my daughter's, from grade three on. This girl apparently told the group when I wasn't around, with tears in her eyes, that she could remember when they were growing up that my daughter never had the brand name clothes the other kids had because she always wore the funny clothes I made her but that my daughter was so loyal to me that she was proud of her clothes and wore them even though they weren't cool like everyone else's.

Only a sewer will understand how I felt when I heard that. Of course I had no idea that my daughter's clothes were anything but the envy of all her classmates with all the work I put into them. I actually always assumed that the other kids must be really be wishing their moms sewed too.  In fact if you asked me one of the things I miss the most now the kids are adults are the quiet afternoons I sometimes had when I sewed for them, and how good it felt to do something for them - to me it let me send a little bit of myself off with them when they went out into the world.

This is still a nice story anyway.