Tuesday 30 June 2015

Please HELP! Trouser Fitting Knowledge Required...

(slinky red capris: from Stop Staring)

So I kind of ear-marked the second half of 2015 for nailing trouser making and fitting. I can't help but notice that June is on it's way out, so it's time to get schooled. The thing is, I don't just want to make a couple of passable/wearable pairs for myself; ideally I'd like to go deep so I can really understand them to help other people with fit and figure issues that may be different to my own. Sewing bloggers of the world, PUH-LEASE can you direct me towards some knowledge?! I want to know everything, but in the meantime these are my specific areas of confusion:

(sailor skinnies: from La Redoute)

The Long and Short of it 

When making for myself, I've realised that there's one pattern alterations I will definitely need to make. My main fit issue seems to be my shortwaisted-ness (my natural waist line is a bit higher up than 'average'). To accommodate that I know I need to slash and spread the front and back trouser pattern pieces like this, but how much to spread? Presumably I'd need to know my rise measurement, however an evening (well, hour or so, I don't get much time to myself these days!) spent on Google and YouTube failed to unearth an accurate method to do so. Any ideas?

(epic 70's style denim flares: image source)

All Rise

Also, how do you know what rise shape you need? There seems to be such a variety of rise curves, in sewing patterns, particularly the back rise, surely they won't all fit your specific figure straight out the packet? I've read a couple of times on blogs and Instagram about sewers 'scooping out' more from the rise and things like that. WHY are they doing that?! How do they how much to scoop out? Plus, I've seen some jeans patterns that have a back rise that is not very curved at all, more a diagonal line than a classic 'J' shape. What's that all about? Is it related to how wide the legs are? Are the rise shapes of skinny-legged jeans and trousers different to the rise shapes of wide-legged trousers? Agh! My mind is close to explosion.

(galloon print slim legged trousers: from Orla Kiely)


That Coletterie 'Pant Fitting Cheat Sheet' and enclosed links are a nice opener, but they don't really have the depth of explanation or detailed illustrations that I'm looking for. The cheat sheet post does recommend three books for further reading: 'Fitting and Pattern Alteration''Pants for Real People' and 'Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns'. Do you own any of these, or any other fit/pattern alteration book, and could you recommend it for trousers? Or have you found a particularly useful blog post, YouTube clip or something else that you think could start shedding some light on the baffling world of making well fitting trousers? Enormo-thanks in advance.

(why don't I own red sailor flares yet? image source)


Denise said...

I have Pants for Real People. It is really REALLY helpful, with one caveat. They have you tissue-fit the pattern itself, and that drives me nuts. What I usually do is make a muslin of one pants leg and fit that using the methods that they describe in the book.

Anonymous said...

Sewing Pants That Fit (Singer Reference Book) will answer all your questions and more. Plus the dated trouser styles are a giggle - while clearly demonstrating fitting issues and good fit.

Minnado said...

I wish I had the technical knowledge to tell you answers. But I do have a copy of "making trousers" by David Coffin that you are welcome.e to have as my flittering mind can't concentrate on too much technical info. Drop me an email if you want it. I'm clearing out my excess stuff! X

Scruffybadger said...

And as for the shape of your rise you've pinged a memory that sigrid from analogue me used, I think she had one of those flexible ruler/ curves to use for taking her rise/ crotch shape and tracing onto the pattern.....my memory is flaky but that one stuck.ive pants for real people too and agree that the fitting tips are good and did try tissue fitting but I wouldn't do it each time, I'd make the trousers and go through the whole adventure of basting and trying on as many times as needed. I reckon I need a trouser block......

Jane said...

I believe Steph at Cake Patterns is going to be blogging a bit about pants fit with her new 'Endeavour' pattern release, and she seems to have a very thorough approach to getting a good custom fit. Might be helpful? (And, sailor style pants!)

tialys said...

I'm having the same issues myself at the moment. I made a pair for my youngest daughter and the muslin seemed to fit well so I went ahead with the actual fabric and then we realised we hadn't got her to sit down in the muslin - and she can't! - so now I have to make alterations to the actual garment and keep putting it off. I also have Pants for Real People but, once I'd managed to get past the front cover - which is not inspiring - I was put off by the tissue fitting faff. However, as somebody has suggested above, perhaps (next time) I'll make a muslin of one leg instead and use their instructions from there. I liked your grey sailor pants you had on when you were my teacher back in April and I assumed you had made those yourself. Good luck

Unknown said...

I signed up to a Craftsy class with Sandy Betzina over a year ago. I haven't done it yet... but she looks like she knows what she's talking about.

wendy said...

I agree with the Sandra Betziina Craftsy course, it's quite well done and comprehensive. I love being able to ask questions ( no matter how daft they sound)- Plus the courses are very often on sale.
It was lovely to see you on Saturday and meet the gorgeous Delores :)

vintagerockchick said...

I was going to leave the same advice as Scruffybadger, I believe the flexible curve is the best way of working out the rise shape.
Seems to me, trouser fitting is a lot of trial and error, but I think if you draft your own pattern(eg from the Winifred Aldrich book,) that would be a very good start. You'd be using your own measurements and not trying to work from someone else's. good luck! X

Tamsin said...

Hi Zoe, these are all the issues I have been fretting about regarding trouser fitting, but have been unable to articulate! Lladybird has done several posts about trouser fitting, but I can't remember if she goes into that depth of info. I made a trouser block to fit me at my pattern cutting class last summer and then made a pretty good pair of trousers from it, but there is still something slightly off about the front crotch length and I dont really know what to do to fix it for next time. Making the block and the muslin in class was great as I had my teacher and class mates there to assess fit etc - but trying to go about it on your own is mind boggling! I do thinks Winnies memory of the bendy ruler trick for the crotch curve is the way to go for that area!

loopylinda said...

I'm trying to master this too, so far with limited success, but I once read in 'Threads' something that altered my perspective on fitting, ie where you are bigger (in my case belly) enlarge the SPACE. I had been putting in more fabric in that area. Obviously you need more fabric to get around the bulgy bits but add it in somewhere else. And, of course, the converse is true.

Andrea F said...

I'll be following along here with interest. I have made my own custom pants block, but still can't get the front curve right, (and due to my overwhelming desire to keep my pants lower than my belly button, they always slip down my hips, no matter what I do). When I try it on as a calico version, it seems to fit perfectly. Go figure! Good luck finding the perfect fit for you.

eimear said...

I have just finished a pair of trousers and they turned out fine - FINALLY after a badly failed pair....so i went back to the 'drawing board' and i had to redraw an up-to-date-measurement jeans block which became the base sewed a toile to get the fit issues sorted and this time there was only one, too much fabric under back seat. (i have a high waist, and wide hips, and hollow back, and slim-ish thighs). I have the singer book also and these are great references but didnt include this issue, so i went with gut taking fabric in at mid thigh which consequently gave the perfect line just under the hip, so toile taken apart and pattern block line recut from there (photo on blog theupsew.com). i am happy with the fit. I subsequently used the block in conjuction with a vintage butterick pattern as i wanted a high waist and side zip, and worked it from there. i am pretty confident with the new block and will be able to use it as a base. trouser fitting is so difficult on yourself - you need to be a contortionist!

Sewing Princess said...

I followed Sandra Betzina's class and it was useful to some extent.

You can find info on crotch curve here too http://blog.mariadenmark.com/?p=1536
I remember seeing someone (maybe Maria herself) molding the crotch curve with an aluminum foil tube

Fabric Tragic said...

Was going to also suggest Maria Denmark as she has some pants fitting posts that use a flexible ruler or foil to work out your curve shape. It's so hard - my solution at this stage is sticking with style arc patterns, which seem to suit my bod, the front lady garden especially. Good luck with your quest.

ValMonnier said...

Maybe this link will be useful to you. The blog is bilingual english/french and this woman provides some great explanations:

Drafting the trouser pattern (part 1) :

Drafting the trouser pattern (part 2) :

How to adjust trousers (parts 1/2/3) :


Mother of Reinvention said...

I was going to recommend the bendy ruler thing too. I bought on for making trousers and despite stashing patterns have yet to get my act together. I have a couple of fit books too but never really paid much attention to the trouser sections. Will be following your progress with interest. Xx

Leila said...

The reason for the different back crotch curves in different types of trousers is the way they fit under your bum. Jeans have a straighter curve which makes them hug your body more closely; loosely fitted trousers have a J shape which allows them to hang straight down from hip level. The first thing you need to determine is WHAT TYPE of trousers you are fitting. The book Pants for Real People and the patternmaking book Patternmaking for Fashion Design have similar terminology for the different types of trousers (going from closely fitted to loosely fitted): leggings, jeans, fitted pants (or slacks), trousers, and culottes. Leggings have the straightest back crotch curve and culottes have the most curve. I recommend reading Pants for Real people to help you understand fitting concepts even if you don't want to use the tissue fitting method they recommend.

Unknown said...

I am re-watching Sandra Betzina's Craftsy class on pants fitting. It's based on a 4-piece pattern: 2 part front leg and 2 part back leg. The princess seams allow for easy adjustments in leg width, and she also explains how to turn this pattern into a 2-piece pattern with one front and one back piece. I struggle with pants fitting as many sewists do, and with this pattern and this class, my muslin turned out pretty well. It is important to take accurate measurements of yourself and compare those to the finished measurement of the trouser.
Yes, the crotch curve is tricky, and you can use the foil method or flexible ruler. You will probably have to try a few muslins before getting it right.

Sarah said...

I second finding Singer Sewing Reference Library's Sewing Pants That Fit. It is an older book, but the pictures for fixing various fitting problems have been priceless for me in my quest for trousers that fit well. Jeans and close fitting pants will have a different block, because the fabric has to stretch over your hips. Best wishes and keep us updated!

French Toast Tasha said...

For fitting trousers on yourself, I recommend starting with a RTW pair that fits close to how you'd like around the seat/hips, and rubbing off a pattern. There are just so. many. variables that make every person's shape a little different in all the different dimensions, it's really hard to make generalizations, but once you start altering your test trousers various ways, and wearing your first couple of pairs around, you'll get a feel for what changes in various parts of the pattern do.

I drafted a block from my measurements once long ago, and maybe I chose the wrong style or I made a mistake, but they didn't fit how I wanted. And because I was just starting fitting pants then, I had no idea what to change first ... whereas starting with a rub-off pattern which I already know is pretty good except for one or two issues, I can see what I need to work on!

Also, whatever pattern you start with, use really wide seam allowance! I use 1", it gives me so much more room to change things without starting all over.

When I was first starting fitting mine, I found Sunni's trouser sew-along at A Fashionable Stitch really helpful. I agree Pants for Real People is a good resource, the drawings of fit issues are great (I would skip the tissue fitting and ignore the models). I've also gotten good info from Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, it's a hefty and expensive pattern-drafting textbook, but it might be worth looking to see if any libraries near you have a copy.

badmomgoodmom said...

I have Pants for Real People and highly recommend it. Do you have one of those bendable rulers? Shape it to fit the kind of crotch shape you need for your pant shape, try it on for fit, repeat. It really helps me visualize the shape I need.

Copy Cat Craziness said...

The trouserblock usually resolves around two crucial vertical measurements wich can mess up your pattern thoroughly. These are waist to hip and seat height. The first is pretty standard and should be adjusted above the hipline (where the fly starts), the second is taken while sitting on a hard flat surface from waist to this surface. It has to be adjusted between the hipline and the line at which the seat curve begins. This will influence the sort of curve you need. Problem is that to make these adjustments you also need to know where the waist of the pants are, since pants usually have a low rise, this can be pretty hard.

christina said...

I also have Pants for Real People and it helped a lot with the jeans I made for me a few years ago!

Heather said...

Have you seen this pattern? It's cher, but innovative and interesting: http://shop.sewingcake.com/products/endeavour-trousers

I have several pants fitting guides, and like Singer Sewing Reference Library's Sewing Pants That Fit and also like the ancient: The Sew/Fit Method with Ruth Oblander and Nancy Zieman

Basically - you need to get your head up your bum - and figure out your rise measurements - that's where to start. Grab a friend, Tie an elastic at your waist and measure from the centre back to your lady bits (that's the back seam length) and then do the same for the front. I started with a basic pant pattern (B6061 in my case) and made it over and over until I loved it (and it looked nothing like the original).

Lily said...

Do you know bunka?
I myself do not have their fitting books, but love their style. And there are books in English.
I believe they have three or four books about design of different garments.

Prawn said...

I'm on the Sandra Betzina craftsy course too - she shows you how to make the trousers and then turn them into a permanent pattern for your measurements at the end once you've tweaked them. It did help explain the various different measures on the body and where the materialise on the flat pattern, for me.

Anonymous said...

Pants fitting is hard, but ultimately rewarding I think! I found Pinterest to be a great source of help. I started this board: Http://pinterest.com/naomivdbroek/project-perfect-pants/ I have read as much as I can find, and did think the pants for the people info was good, but agree with many here that it's a drag to work on the tissue! Who's got the time?!
I've been focussing on the crotch seam as that's where I have difficultly. What I did recently is create a template for myself. I did this by creating a wire mould of my crotch front to back, and then tying a ribbon where the seam would meet. I then measured the two seams (I needed a sympathetic helper at this point!) and cross referenced that to the shaped wire curve. When I was happy with the result and the wire curve fit in a way that meant it sat on my body without falling off, then I traced the curve onto stiff cardboard and made a template for both front and back crotch curves. If I could upload a photo I would, but suffice to say the resulting curves looked very different to a standard pants pattern! Then I traced this onto a favourite pants pattern and made a
pair. Success!!! By far the best fitting crotch seam I have ever had and no riding down my back when they were on!
I think I will make a few more tweaks but I'm very happy with the result of the first try!

Mary said...

I'm in the same place with pants. I'd love to see your reviews of what gets sent your way, particularly the Sandra Betzina class. I took her other Craftsy class, pant construction, and found her wandering style to be slightly off-putting. I wonder if her other one is better?

I'm also afraid of putting on a fly. So much to learn!

Anonymous said...

so I see the bendy ruler has already been mentioned, if you don't have one you can roll up some tin foil and use it in the same way (be prepared for some side eye from your other half!)

I found Fashion Incubator's posts on 'camel toe' very useful for fitting the crotch.


MakeitAnyWear said...

Lots of great advise, but on a totally different approach you could make a muslin of a style you'd like to make multiple times and have an expert (bridal alteration person, tailor, sewing instructor) do the fitting and pattern alterations for you. Then you can use the adjusted pattern as check (sloper) for any other patterns you want to use. A small investment that will well pay itself off and you learn a lot watching some figure out what you need.

Helen said...

I have made precisely one pair of trousers. The waist seemed to be OK, but I had a lot of vertical wrinkles and excess fabric at the front crotch. I had no idea where to begin with "scooping out". I have to say I initially tried making the seam allowance smaller which seemed like the wrong thing to do, but I wanted to exclude it. I was right. it was the wrong thing to do, so I literally just chipped away at it (so to speak), bringing the seam line in about half a cm each time, making the crotch curve more and more pronounced, then trying on, then doing the same until most of the excess had gone. I won't say it's perfect but it's a lot better, and I was nervous about removing too much ease. You can see a photo of my various attempts on this post, if you are interested: http://www.grosgraingreen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/completed-ultimate-trousers.html

I did make the Ultimate Trousers with a side zip. I wouldn't know where to begin with a fly zip and making alterations!!!

If you find out more, I'd appreciate if you can share it. I'd love to learn about this much more too.

lindylinda said...

I haven't ventured into pants yet. I do read Victoria's blog: http://tenthousandsewinghours.blogspot.com/
And she is teaching a Burda Style class on pants fitting that was filmed recently. So you can check it out. When I'm ready to try pants that's the class I want to try.

Alison said...

I was on a bit of a trouser mission during Me Made May, my post about it is here: http://heavenlyhandmades.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/many-pairs-of-trousers.html

I found this post from cation designs helped hugely:

She also has loads of posts about inserting a fly front etc, I have done it on trousers for my son but not on any for me. Yet!

Scooter said...

To add on to what LeilaH said, the nearly straight diagonal line style crotch curve is what you'll see in selvedge style patterns, or other straight sided patterns. both the crotch space and "tilt" of the back has been transferred into that rear seam. It's usually used for men's jeans, and it gives a bit of a diaper butt, which is useful extra fabric if you're actually working/riding horses in a pair of pants without lycra. I have an old built by wendy pants pattern (that I love) that has this kind of crotch curve--it's a "boyfriend" fit.

Re: the long rise issue, I have the same problem. According to my research, the way to do it properly is to fit a pair of pants or trouser block that actually comes to your nautral waist, then use that to alter patterns that are intended to hit below. (if you have a pattern intended to be 1" below natural waist, and you have your block that hits natural waist, you can easily figure out how much to slash and spread). I am lazy, and never, never, never wear pants at my natural waist, because it looks awful, proportion-wise, so I cheat. :) YMMV!

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

I feel you hun - good fitting RTW trews have been the bane of my existence for many a year - and sewing my own has been a long-term goal! I've set aside time next week to complete my first proper pair of trousers (having attended SewOverIt's trouser class in June + made 2 Toiles so far... I feel that I'm 99.9% there *fingers-crossed*).

I have a spare copy of the book that clippedcurves mentioned above 'Sewing Pants That Fit'(Singer Reference Book) - it has great photos showing wrinkles/problems +how to fix them - I'd be happy to lend you it?

I also want to try these 2 methods to see how they work out:
(1) Flexible curve method - to determine Crotch Curve (I have a long ruler at home at the ready LOL!)
(2) Saran-Wrap/Cling-Film Method - for Drafting Trouser Pattern (this could be a short-cut to drafting a personal block https://www.pinterest.com/pin/154318724705183439/

If you fancy trying either of these ideas - give a shout and I'll whip myself down on the train to you :-)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here tried the Hipline Media DVD, Pants that Fit, Finally? I can't find any reviews but after what Heather said above, I did a search and thought it looked interesting.

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

P.S. I also have a spare copy of an earlier edition of 'Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns' (it's also from the Singer library) - that I can lend you too if you like :-)?

Dorothy said...

Check out Peggy Sagers' of Silhouette Patterns video clips on Youtube on pants and jeans fitting and her explanations on length, circumference and depth, and draping. You start with a muslin sewn with one inch seams, and pin out darts to adjust from there. You'll most likely need a helper with the pinning.

I've made a few of her patterns and been very happy with them, too.

There a more webcasts at her website too:


Debra said...

I have spent most of this year down the pants fitting rabbit hole and only just made my first pair of pants.They are wearable, the front is pretty good, the back needs work. They're on my IG account: a_slow_stitch.

After trying to work from a pattern using fit books (this was the best one - 'Fitting and Pattern Alteration 2nd edition'), blog tutorials (all mentioned by others above), the bendy ruler method (for funny ladies demonstrating this method, see here. Method also described in detail in 'Fitting and Pattern Alteration'), Sandra Betzina's Craftsy class, two other Craftsy Pants fitting classes (all useful), a Sew Over It course (fun but not particularly helpful as it didn't address the crotch curve, just side seams and darts) I finally got something usable from Kenneth D. King's Jean-ius Craftsy class by doing as French Toast Tasha suggests and copying the only vaguely well fitting jeans I own. There was still a fair bit of work to do but it's the closest so far.

I have the Palmer/Pletsch Craftsy class so will give that a go next but I haven't tried tissue fitting yet so can't comment on that approach.

I have made a lot of muslins this year, maybe twenty. The main things I learned are:

- There is no magic bullet, just lots of trial and error.

- For me the bendy ruler method produced something no doubt accurate but unsewable. It will give you an accurate crotch length overall and front and back that you can use to assess patterns, plus some idea of how your curve differs from 'standard', whatever that is.

- The order in which you make alterations is important as they affect each other. Roughly, work from the middle outwards.

- Pants fitting can make you crazy.

Given all of the above I think a custom pattern block is probably worth a try and I've also signed up for the Craftsy course on that topic. Craftsy gets a lot of my disposable income :)

Like you I am short-waisted. The alteration you linked to is for a long torso but not everyone who is short-waisted has a long torso. Just mentioning this because I've made many alterations that didn't apply to me in the last six months...

I've been on a couple of your courses (very good) so I know it's not going to be such a trial for you as for a less experienced sewer like me and I look forward to seeing how you get on.

Ticket to Ride said...

I did the same as Heather a year or two ago and started with a basic commercial pattern and cut it up. I first cut out the trousers from an old bed sheet, sewed them on a long stitch which was easy to pull out, then made adjustments, unpicked and tweaked the pattern by cutting the front and back pattern pieces centrally from waist to hem which allowed me to keep the shape of the pieces while adjusting the angles etc. It worked quite well and I've made four pairs of trousers from the resulting pattern which look great while standing but are a bit tight across the top of the leg when sitting. They'd be fine in a stretch fabric!

Hemstitch said...

Sorry if I'm a bit late but. .....:

I had similar requirements and wanted to make trousers that fit my pear shape so I Googled " how to make a trousers sloper"and got a youtube upload that talked me through it. It's " youtube.com/watch?v=Q43-0UTE " You need large sheets of paper ( 50p a metre at the fabric shop ), a pencil and a tape measure. Worked for me. Good luck!

Sorry I don't know how to attach a link!

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John said...

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