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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Pant thoughts

As I have said here several times I am pretty pleased with my pants fit. I feel confident to go now and try to apply the same tactics to a new pants pattern. But that will have to wait a bit. This morning I am back to work and torn if what I should do next is finish two teaching worthy summer straight skirts or go on to some summer dresses. It has been a while since I have made a dress and I am in the mood.

The truth is that behind this latest version of decent fitting pants lies a heap of about 900 (literally) pants that didn't fit.

So what did I learn? What made a difference? This seems worth sharing.

First of all that old adage about not doing what you have done before if you want a different result is true. Because I was on vacation and feeling reckless, rather than careful, this is what I did differently. This is what you might want to consider in your own pants quest:

1.  Consider that you might not know your body as well as you thought you did. Our body images have to do with a lot of things other than fact. For instance because I am tall I have been told my whole life I have a "long pelvis like Grandma." So every single pair of pants I have ever made has started with at least an inch added all around the top. This invariably produced a droppy butt, extra fabric around the legs, all those baggy front crotch wrinkles. Also bodies change. Like a lot of women of a quality age my legs have actually gotten thinner as my waist has expanded. In actual fact my straight hips require zero extra at the top and in fact a slight lowering of the seam allowance at the sides. I only needed that one inch plus at centre back because of my large butt and at centre front for my belly. Don't start out doing all the standard flat pattern alterations you think you need before you cut out the pattern.

2. Make your first pair just right out of the envelope only make basic width adjustments that you are obviously going to need to get the fitting pair over your body. Choose the appropriate pattern size of course. In my case I bought for my thighs, a 14 and added to the waist width. When in doubt go with a smaller size and add. Taking in for most people is too hard - you can't take in fabric that has already been cut away, at the crotch curve for instance.

I also want to say that IMO pants patterns are better than they used to be, in my experience at least with Simplicity. After 20 years of scooping away at the that old crotch seam because of the big butt (please see earlier shots in earlier posts for dramatic illustration) I just sewed up the Simplicity pants as they were and the crotch seam was perfect. I nearly, actually, fainted as this violates everything I thought I had figured out.

3. Make only little changes and make only one change in each test pair. The famous "clown butt" alteration takes in only 1/2" at the back inseam and adds it to the back crotch seam and that worked very well for me. I needed to see and understand the power of this simple little alteration, without messing it up with 45 other ideas, to know that this is actually something I should be doing from now on. Taking out some of the outer side seam curve, adding a 1/2" more to centre back and front were all additions I made one at a time.

4. Wear a fitting pair for a day before you either sign off on them or start cutting out more pairs. The body moves and what you don't see right away you will feel after a bit. Doing this helped me zero in on the best waistband fit.

5. Speaking of waistbands if you find the top of the pants hard to fit try moving your waist up to your natural waistline. It's now fashionable anyway. Having a natural anchor for your pants smooths out a lot of issues.

6. Don't go nuts with the fitting. I am amazed when I read blog posts that detail lots of "I moved this seam over 1/8" etc. This may be fitting heresy but unless your figure in faultless in the conventional sense over-fitting my in fact articulate your fitting issues (you are so glad I didn't post the pictures of my attempts at skinny jeans) or even worse waste your sewing time.

Listen, you are sewing pants not finding the cure for a life threatening disease at the molecular level. What you want are decent pants that can serve as a backdrop for more interesting to sew tops and which are comfortable to wear.

Be realistic. If you find this hard to do go sit in an airport lounge for a couple of hours. Even your half way fitted pants are going to look better than 99% of the pants you see on most folks in their store boughts.

Also Shams and Betsy thanks for your great comments (everyone read them after my last post) on closures. In my different versions I tried zippers up through the facings, skirt hooks and buttons. In the end I feel better the more secure I am so I think a button and a hook (two extensions is a good idea) are best.

Something is bothering me though.

Somewhere in the back of my brain is an idea for not having a seam at the end of the extension so the buttonhole is easier to make, but I can't remember how that went.

Anyone have any ideas?


LinB said...

For the buttonhole thing -- you have to plan to make part of the extension too long, then fold it over and make the seam come behind the buttonhole. I guess that means you have to take away from the short end to compensate ... my brain boggles. You can probably figure it out standing on your head!
I have been making and wearing pants/slacks/trousers that come to my natural waist since I started wearing that sort of garment, in late 1960, when I was first out of diapers. HATED the lowered rise in the 1970s, as it accentuated my long torso and deep rise. Despised it when it came back into style in the 1990s. My body shape demands that skirts and slacks hang from my waist, to stay up over my hips. I agree that fitting issues are easier to solve when garments hang from one's natural waistline. Thank you for your marvelous, open, honest writing.

BetsyV said...

Lin is right. The long side of the waistband has to be extra long,4-6" longer, so that it folds back well past the buttonhole placement. You'll still have the waist seam, but not one at the short end. If you have Vogue 7881, a Claire Shaeffer trousers pattern, take out the waistband pieces and have a look. It's a contoured waistband, but she cuts the right side extra extra long to fold it back to the inside. Yes, her fly front opens toward the left, these are women's trousers after all and not jeans which open toward the right, as all men's pants/trousers do.

Lin we must be twins. I have the same small waist, long rise/torso etc. Low-rise pants are a horror on me. They fall down, belt notwithstanding.

TE said...

LOVE that you pointed out that we are "just sewing pants" not looking for a cure for a disease or for world peace.

My big brother (who could have used a cure) used to say "a day without a spinal tap is a good day." If a crinkly crotched muslin is the worst thing I've got to cope with - HOORAY.

I'm really enjoying myself here.

Bunny said...

I, too, have learned that the changes from what you call "quality aging" make me an easier fit. I know I am learning more but I don't have as large discrepancies in my figure idiosynchrasies now as I did 20 years ago. There are some good things about crossing the Big Meno! In my earliest years of sewing I was highly motivated by my difficulty in finding ready to wear that fit. Today I can find it easily, even in jeans. I weigh the same, it has just shifted around.

Really appreciate your honesty in dealing with this subject. You are spot on.