Monday, 14 December 2015

Trouser Fitting Quest FAIL


At some point during the first half of 2015, I set myself the task of getting to grips with trouser fitting by the end of the year. No mean feat. In June I put a shout out for any suggestions of resources to help me with this and many of you left helpful comments. So, we now firmly into  December 2015, have I nailed trouser fitting? NO!!! Here's what's been going on....


I checked out most of the recommendations of books, websites and blog posts that were included in the comments of that post. I decided to buy Pants For Real People (pictured at the top of the post) and Sewing Pants That Fit (pictured above). When it arrived, the pleated front, super-loose 80s styles in the Sewing Pants That Fit seemed so far from the types of closer fitting trousers and jeans that I would like to make, that I questioned how much use the advice in that book would be to me so haven't given it much of a look yet. However, I did set about reading Pants For Real People pretty much cover to cover. 

Despite the Oprah-and-Ricki-Lake-era garment styles and photos, Pants For Real People seems to me like is contains most of what you'd need to be aware of when trying to fit trousers. Like it's equally fugly-but-useful sister, Fit For Real People, the authors are talking about tissue fitting a commercial sewing pattern to your body. I still believe that that is an insane waste of time, and cannot see why you wouldn't make a toile/muslin IN REAL FABRIC instead of trying to wear paper to find out what alterations you may need, but wharves. The advise about what fit issues to look for and how to adjust the pattern to avoid them is still put across really well.

So reading Pants For Real People may have led me to a false sense of security. I felt I was then left with two options of how to proceed. Do I, A) choose an existing sewing pattern that appears to be the kind of thing I'd like to wear, and then undergo a series of toile/muslin making and fittings? Or, B) do I draft my own pattern from scratch with my own specific measurements and then do the toile-making-and-fitting dance? I chose A).


Having recently delved into my copy of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (pictured above) for the knit pencil skirt pattern and been very impressed, I went back and traced out the cigarette trousers pattern (pictured below), omitting the front slant pockets. They are effectively the type of trousers I'd like to make over and over again in fabric with a slight stretch, with different leg lengths and pocket details, so it seemed like a reasonable place to start.


I toiled up this pattern in the kind of fabric I'd be likely to make them in in the future (some gorgeous light/medium weight grainy stretch denim kindly given to me by the Fabric Godmother a while back). I hoped this pair would end up as vaguely wearable and they would show me what tweaks I'd need for perfected future versions. Armed with the toile, some pins, the Pants For Real People book and my mum for technical and moral support, we went in. Oh my, what a cluster fuck! They looked horrendous, and we just couldn't figure out why exactly or what to do about it. My mum and I spent a whole Dolores-nap-time (about 2 hours) inspecting, evaluating, pinching, pinning, shifting and referring back to the book and at the end of it, neither of us had the slightest clue what could be done to make the pattern wearable. I declared defeat and aborted the mission. I'll attempt to squeeze a pair of Hosh pants out of the ashes to salvage some of the beautiful denim, but emotionally I'm still pretty scarred from the debacle!


After all that, I wasn't sure how to proceed, and option B) was looking increasingly likely. Then Minerva Crafts emailed offering me a choice of sewing pattern and fabric to make it up in in exchange for a review. Seeing as what my wardrobe is still lacking in is a pair of decent trousers, I managed to tear myself away from looking at beautiful vintage-repro dress patterns, and focussed on find a trouser-pattern-and fabric-combo to have one more whirl at option A). After a lot of hunting through their overwhelmingly well-stocked website, I picked and received Burda 6811 (pictured above) and a sufficient quantity of black stretch wool twill suiting (which isn't shiny in real life like the pictures suggest). I've only got two projects left in from my nippy weather sewing plans, so I'll crack on with these trousers once those are in the bag and report back in due course...

24 comments:

Lynn said...

Might I suggest trying a Simplicity pattern from the Amazing Fit line? They come with 3 different fits for different body types in each envelope and detailed information about how to determine your best fit and alterations to makexas you go along to get good fitting trousers. There are several styles to chose from and anything you learn from fitting them can be used to guide you in fitting other patterns going forward.

Frankie Carson said...

I was going to suggest an amazing fit pattern as well, I've heard a lot of good things about them! Hope you can salvage something from your denim x

vintagerockchick said...

Another coincidence Zoe, my friend Marian (textile snippets in my blog list) showed me a copy of that first book at our Christmas lunch on Sat. She, like you, has been on a quest for well fitting trousers, and a few months back I helped her make a block from her own measurements. She was pleased with the first pair from the block, and has gradually tweeted the pattern, using guidance from that book, (mostly taking out a dart from the pattern at the top of the back thigh) and the last pair was pretty much perfect - certainly better than anything she's ever bought apparently. So maybe the block IS the way to go. It only took a couple of hours to draw up, and we used my old Winifred Aldrich book for the method. If your new pair doesn't fit the way you want, I'm guessing a block from your measurements could be the way to go.

Linda Wilson said...

Best way for me...I had bought a great fitting pair of skinny jeans, and that's not an easy task either! I copied them and have remade them so many times. Because they are skinny I can also use them as a basic block. Perfect fit trousers are usually luck or very hard work!!

Linda Wilson said...

Best way for me...I had bought a great fitting pair of skinny jeans, and that's not an easy task either! I copied them and have remade them so many times. Because they are skinny I can also use them as a basic block. Perfect fit trousers are usually luck or very hard work!!

Wakeymakes said...

I have a pair of trousers I am wearing now that I have had for years. They are so worn but perfect. After winter I am going to take them apart eek. They should make the perfect pattern. We will see K xXx

Mother of Reinvention said...

I am feeling your pain. I have never got trousers to work for me. I haven't heard good things about the patterns in that Gertie book. There are some so-so at best reviews. I have it too and I know that you had success with the pencil skirt but I made one, choosing a size according to the size chart, and it was horrendous. I had to take in 4 inches off the circumference and it is still huge. I have a pair of M&S cords that I love the fit, the length, everything. They are getting a bit worn through so as soon as they fall apart they are going to be used as a pattern. I am curious about the "Ultimate Trouser" pattern from Sew Over It as it seems to be a success for so many people but I have never seen anyone my size make up a pair. I have a very similar pattern in the last "Ottobre Woman" so I am going to give that a bash instead (cos' I am cheap). I will let you know how I get on. :) Xx

tialys said...

Interesting that people have found the Simplicity 'Amazing Fit' line useful. I have made a skirt and dress from the range and must admit I found the patterns very good.

I couldn't get past the tissue fitting palaver in the first book either and, as I appear to have the attention span of a gnat these days, gave up on it. I know this isn't what I should be saying but I'm going to revert to buying my trousers from a shop where, if they don't fit me I don't buy them!

Linda T said...

recommend you watch Peggy Sagers' free pant fitting videos. i find them extremely helpful and no cost to you incurred. silhouettepatterns.com click on past videos or webcasts.

Tasha said...

UGH. I feel your pain!! Going through something like 11 muslins on a different Gertie/Butterick cigarette pants last fall (B5895), I mean I really, really feel your pain. Also, I agree about the tissue fitting in Pants for Real People. While I feel there's some good info in that book, I prefer their books for sewing tips, not fitting tips. Tissue fitting in general seems crazy and I dislike that most of their advice for pants seems to be pull things up until they look better and then figure out how to transfer all that to the pattern. Whaaaa? Anyway, I second Linda T's advice about the pants videos at Silhouette Patterns-- I watched one (as recommended by a reader in my own pants saga!) and it was really helpful! I don't think what I ended up with was perfect by any means (low large butt means I will always have butt wrinkles) but I got them good enough to sew them up several times since and I happily wear all pairs. Good luck!!

French Toast Tasha said...

First of all, I too feel your pain! I have totally made that pair of trousers that left me standing in front of the mirror with no idea of how to fix the many things wrong with them.
Trouser fitting is so personal, and so complex, I think that if you don't want to draft a pattern or copy a pair that fits (my favorite method) you should at least compare the pattern pieces to trousers you like before you cut, to make sure you're in the ballpark. Once you can get somewhat close to the shape you need, by whatever method works for you, it gets much much easier to figure out what to change. Best of luck!

Robin said...

I know the frustration. Many tissue fittings, tracing old pants, muslins, books, and videos later, I gave in to making my own sloper. After three tries, it worked. I now have the best fitting pants I have ever owned. I wear them at least twice a week (really wearing them out)so my Christmas vacay project is to make at least two more pair.

karen christensen said...

I share your frustration, been trying to fit a pair a pants for me and my daughter this past year. Every time I think I have it something else is wrong. I just bought Nancy Ziemans book on fitting which I am hoping will help me. I have the Palmer Pletsch books and feel as you do that tissue fitting isn't going to work. I bought a pants sloper class on Craftsy and have a couple of other classes on my list. I am determined to figure this out. I'll try the simplicity pants patterns that was mention above. Maybe 2016 is my year.

Christals Creations said...

I have looked at trouser patterns but I have not attempted them, they look difficult! Good luck with the next attempt.

Roni Arbel said...

What about the Ultimate Trousers?

I think they look quite like the "school boy pants" you made (yes I remember your posts about pants, and yes, I followed your footsteps but failed miserably with this pattern).
My favorite part about the Ultimates is that they don't have a waistband piece, what makes them the perfect pair to use as a block.

BLD in MT said...

I am sure you'll get it--that said this makes me all the happier that I only wear skirts/dresses. Best of luck on the next attempt!

Anonymous said...

A Fashionable Stitch has a great serie about trousers fitting. She heartily recommands Burda patterns for trousers and so do I. I made straight leg ones and skinny jeans from their magazines and had good fit with minor tweaks.

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

Zoe, anytime you want another pair of hands to help pin you for a fitting sesh I'm there hun (+cake to soothe the soul too ;-)!). I personally have been hankering to try a combo of these 2 methods...
(1) Clingfilm wrap (kinda like a duct-tape dummy - but cut off and used to make a pattern) https://www.pinterest.com/pin/154318724705183439/

(2) Using a bendy, flexible ruler to get the shape of the crotch-curve accurately (I already have my super long ruler at home to do it with). https://www.pinterest.com/pin/154318724704591214/

Ronja said...

Oh dear! Good luck. THIS is why my goal of sewing a pair of jeans always seems perfectly impossible! I have only a few sewing friends and the whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies like a spider wishes it could.

Hazel_Myope said...

Are you going to show us a picture of the fail trousers? You never know, someone might see them and know exactly what to do. Crowdsource it! :-)

Frenie Agbayani said...

I love these sewing patterns. I am definitely giving your technique a try. And I do like the dress itself as well.

Janet Blackbourn said...

Argh. Trouser fitting can be the most frustrating thing in the world, but if you're prepared to make three toiles, I absolutely believe it can be done. Can Hazel and I persuade you to post a few pictures and hopefully someone can help? I'm still learning, so it would be a help to me too.

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