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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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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sewing intensive in Tennessee- lightbulb moment on pants fitting

I am back in Knoxville visiting my husband who is still working on a project here. I am having an excellent time but I realize for a normal person this is one nutty way to spend spring break.

I go for long walks and can't get over that the place is not covered in ice and snow.We eat out and just enjoy the people. Tomorrow we are going to Alabama and I am pretty happy about that because I have never been there.

But most of the time I am in my hotel room sewing.

My husband, displaying one of the reasons I married him, borrowed a nice machine from the girlfriend of one of the guys on site and it was set up for me when I arrived. And we know I have 13 boxes of fabric here so I am pretty much in my idea of an ideal situation:

No phones.
No cooking.
No errands.
No job.
No housework.
Nobody who needs me to do anything at all.

Just sewing.

I call this a vacation.

I brought my CD with Wild Ginger's Pattern Master Boutique software with me. I have used it a bit in the past but never really had complete success, particularly with the pants. You get out what you put in I suppose. So I decided, since there was no way I was going to get time to do this at home in my busy life, to just see what I could do for a pants pattern.

I have been wanting a nice simple slim legged pants with a waistband like I see in the collections and do not see in the pattern books. I figured they would go with my white shirts and whatever else I decide to make.

So I started my research and looked a pretty much every pants shot I could find in the blogs and Patternreview.

I was absolutely amazed to see that most people, whatever their shape, had the same problems:

1. Too tight across the butt but with baggy folds under the butt
2. A sort of pouchy thing going on under the stomach, like a handful of extra fabric, and some wrinkles at the top of the legs at the front.

I even saw in some Threads articles with their own patterns this extra fabric at the front crotch. I know those model girls wouldn't wear pants like that if they weren't getting paid for it.

I mean raise your hand if you haven't made 497 pairs of pants with this exact same problem.

So before I did anything else and started 498 I sat down in this hotel room and thought about it.

That's when it occurred to me that we forget about legs, as in we walk around in pants, we don't just stand in front of the digital camera for a picture. And then I thought about arms, which also move (mine have been heaving boxes of fabric around the hotel room) and it occurred to me that pants and a crotch are just a sort of another version of 3D drafting just like sleeves and armholes are.

So what do I know about armholes?

1. A higher tailored set-in sleeve armhole is more comfortable and gives more movement than a looser dropped armhole.
2. A closer armhole, in addition to giving more mobility, has less excess fabric and fewer wrinkles, than a dropped armhole.

When I thought about this some more I realized what pants do most people wear most often? Jeans. Now I know whatever your throw-on default garment is, it is that because it is comfortable. So jeans are comfortable and generally don't have a lot of that extra fabric at the front thing happening. They also have a crotch that is cut closer to the body than other pants.

In PMB there are four crotch styles from loose to close to the body - culottes, trousers, slacks and jeans. Because I was fooling around making slim pants and a looser pattern for linen wide legged pants I was using the slacks and trouser crotches.

I changed both patterns to the jeans crotch, even though neither pair were jeans, and presto the extra fabric at the front disappeared and the pants ( I made 6 muslins during this process) became a lot more comfortable.

I also rethought my crotch length measurement. In all my versions I was measuring my crotch length as specified but ending up with something too long. I then realized that when you add a waistband you want the top of that to be at your waist, and if you add a waistband onto pants that stop at your waist, well you are going to settle them in and give yourself a droopy crotch. So I subtracted my 1" waistband, total of 2" from my crotch measurements and that did the trick.

In addition I learned a few things about PMB that might be useful to other users of this program, understanding this works for my body which is essentially tall, with a butt that sticks out a lot, no real hip shape, as in straight up and down, and the kind of belly that comes with three babies, a section, and leaving the category of spring chicken.

1. I wanted less fabric in the thigh like the RTW slim pants I saw. You get this in PMB by reducing the knee width setting, this pulls in the thigh. I brought mine down to 0.

2. My front darts looked poofy at the bottom. I tried every configuration of dart placement and length with no improvement. Then I re-read the Help notes in the program and it said to release the darts at the fullest part. Since my abdomen is sort of a unit from waist to crotch there is no curve and no high point. I don't need dart shaping where there is no shape. So I set the program for three darts (this made them tiny and also moved the front crotch vertical giving me the fabric where I needed it) erased the dart lines in Pattern Editor and just sewed up my muslin without any front darts. Nice and smooth.

3. Being hip shapless I have always been annoyed by that jodphur thing which I could not get rid of in the PMB pattern. I then went back to the fine print in Help and realized that how the program works is to give you the widest fabric at the front where you have identified your hip depth (I located this not by anything happening at my hip but by my widest-measurement which really is created by the big rear end not anything happening hipwise). So to get rid of this curve I moved my hip depth measurement in Settings up, from 8" to 4.25". If you look at the slim pants pattern I have put here you can see that little curve is close to the top, giving me a little extra so the pants don't pull across my belly. I also lowered the side seams .75" and the front 1". All my RTW pants dip down at CF. You will notice that there is almost no shape to my front crotch, I took out -.02 of the crotch shape (first arrow).

4. The back crotch after all of this was easy since I knew what I would do on paper. I opted for round back crotch, wild cut (meaning extra at CB waist) increased the back crotch extension .25,  changed the back crotch break to -2.5 and moved in the crotch shape 1.8 (second arrow) ( this is the old lower and scoop out combo).

5. Finally I added 2" to length and choose a contoured waistband because they are more comfortable.

What I have ended up with are pants that I think fit pretty near as perfect as you get on an imperfect body, all this info saved into defaults and a program I can now use to draft different pant styles.

It took isolation in a hotel room to get here, and I hope some of this information might be useful to you too.

Pictures of some finished pants are forthcoming when DH comes back.