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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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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brace yourself: pant thoughts and photos


I have worked through a pretty decent Wild Ginger PMB pant but the leg and style are frustrating me. I would like a sort of narrow leg slack a la Betty Draper, and like some I have seen in the Spring collections. Never mind that I am built like two Betty Drapers. That's not the point.

I would like to make pants that were slimmish and comfortable. I would also like to work out a protocol for standard pattern alterations for pants patterns like I have for upper body garments. You know a set of things I could wack onto any pattern I liked and have it work.

I decided to try all of this out on Simplicity 2261, despite the fact that you really can't tell from the photo what these pants look like.

I have also been thinking a lot about where most sewers, myself included, have trouble with pant fit and it seems to come most often down to two problems: 

1. a baggy front crotch with so-called "smiley lines" although no one is smiling about them
2. saggy stuff and the infamous diagonal wrinkles under the butt

The fixes for this are many. I decided however that for my body one of the problems and frustrations was a pant leg that was too large.

So this is what I decided to try.

I cut out a pants pattern for my thigh measurement ( flat pattern and about 2-3" ease) this gave me a size 14.

You need to know that if I had cut for my hips I would be a size 16 and for my waist a 18.

So I just added that to the pattern. I also tried the famous "clown butt" alteration to add to my centre back  length and to take in some of the extra fabric under my butt. You can find a good explanation of that here kindly posted on Patternreview by Karla Kiser.

Now about my body. That is, after all, what I was trying to fit. 

Some people have an hour glass figure, some of us have a glass tumbler figure. In my case with a large behind and a belly for which I make no apologies- the two of us celebrated Mother's Day together thanks.

These two realities meant that I had to add length to centre back (2" in total) and to the centre front (1").

Here are what the pattern pieces looked like after my alterations:

Now of course I didn't bring my sewing room with me so my trial pair is made in broadcloth, not a good fabric for pants, doesn't ease, but gave me an idea.

I also made one design change once I saw the waistband pieces really were a contoured almost yoke. I eliminated the fly front for this pair and just put in an invisible zipper that I inserted all the way up through the waistband.

Now truthfully, for reasons my belly makes obvious, I could do without such a prominent seam along my middle, and since the pattern says that these pants are meant to sit 1" below the waist, I would probably add that 1" in the pair I intend to make in a stretch cotton when I can get my hands on some.

So lousy test fabric taken into account, I am really pleased with the leg shape in these. I might take up a bit with a more pronounced Clown Butt alteration next time, but considering the shape I am trying to fit and considering I will never be wearing anything tucked in, I am quite happy with these.

You may of course look at this test photos and say "is she nuts" but listen this fit is just fine with me and with this body. I have no intention to drive myself crazy trying to get a perfectly smooth fit over a non perfect, not smooth, body. I am a realist.

However I definitely feel I am on to something with the smaller pattern thing and will try another Simplicity pattern with the exact same alterations and see what happens.

My test pants:

Pants front with top. Photographer did not notice tucked up top. Would get another photographer but this one is a damn good cook and kind to small children, animals, and me.

Butt with dog shot

Sad illustration of all my figure flaws. Nice pant leg though.
Revealing front shot at artistic angle, this time with the dog's butt. Some professional blog.


KayY said...

Your last photo caption made me laugh :D

The pants fit is looking really good, especially the back. In the side pic there are wrinkles from your hip to tummy area. You could consider straightening the CF seam even more (adding at CF waist) and taking the same amount out at the side seam. I think that would help.

BetsyV said...

I have to say, your blog is one of my favorites. I laugh out loud at something in nearly every post.

I think the pants are looking GREAT, allowing for KayY's valid point. And it seems you and I are built inside-out from each other. I fit my thighs, too, which starts me in a size 18 or 20, then I go down to a 16 at the hip and a 14 or 12 at the waist. If I don't allow for the thighs, I don't have a snowball's chance of fitting the crotch curve. Can't even pull them up that far.

The dog is a very attractive accessory, too. And mmmmmm, pickles.

shams said...

Looks very promising, Barbara! You put a lot more thought into this than I tend to do, but I always do focus on the fit of the hips/thighs, and then make it work with the waist. :)

It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. I also transfer my favorite crotch curve onto the pattern. Voila.

Susan said...

Thank-you!!! I have the same issues fitting pants. I read an article about fitting the legs first but it did not give me enough details (unlike your blog) to try the technique.

Connie said...


Loved your pictures & comments.

Still smiling.

Sharon said...

Very intersted in your pants fitting, my body shape is similar and you have given me plenty to think about on my journey for pants. Your last comment is gorgeous and your dog is mighty cute.

Karin said...

This seems like a really great start to fitting pants. They look good! You are much slimmer than me, and therefore have a whole different set of challenges, but I still look forward to following your progress. I am constantly trying to fiddle pants into fitting.

Bunny said...

These look really good. I agree with KayY's comments which is an easy fix.

I also am a big fan of your blog. It always makes me laugh and this was not exception!

Kathy said...

The pants are looking good, Barbara.

TE said...

My first visit, and I am cracking up! And learning, too. Love the idea of starting at the leg. I have "field hockey thighs" lo these 30+ years since actually playing the game.

And the various butt shots (yours, the dog's) are a hoot. Thanks for taking sewing seriously, but not being so serious about yourself that you can't post ALL about the sewing.

sdBev said...

Yes I'd definitely like to be able to pull out a pants patter and know that I can do a, b, then c and the pants are going to fit OK. It seem so odd that I can choose any top, shorten above the waist and do a narrow shoulder adjustment and voila, the blouse fits well - not OK but pretty d good. Why can't pants be like that?

Ruthie said...

I love reading you blog it always makes me smile or think :-) Ruthie