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2/13/12: I’m Sewing Pants — Muslin Fitting

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I spent most of the chilly Sunday we had yesterday in my cozy, warm sewing nook, working busily on my Simplicity 2860 pants muslin. My two previous posts on the topic can be found here & here. I am happy to report that I have achieved the right fit (gasp!) and I haven’t resorted to pulling out all my hair. I spent only two days with this fitting and I’m rather happy with the results, which I am having a hard time digesting. I thought this whole muslin thing was going to drive me bonkers like its done before (enter my ol’ Crepe dress). Whatever the case may be, I’m not complaining.

A Little About 2860: Before I walk you through my pattern and muslin fitting, let me give you the finer details of the pattern I am using. Simplicity 2860 is a pants pattern that falls 1/2″ below the natural waist, has straight legs, a contoured waist band, and because it is part of their “Amazing Fit” collection, Simplicity has added 1″ seam allowances in certain places for ease in alterations. 2860 also includes three different pant patterns to fit three different body shapes, which have been titled Slim, Average, and Curvy. You select the right pants for you by measuring your crotch length (from center back waist through crotch and up to center front waist), and comparing your measurement to the chart that’s provided. (I gave this a go and wasn’t happy with the results. My measurement didn’t match anything on the chart–the result of being long waisted–so I just selected Average because it had a single dart and the hip was close to my hip. I wasn’t too worried about this for after examining all three pant patterns, the difference was only in the crotch length and dart placement and number. Nothing else was altered among the three.)

Altering the Tissue Pattern: Before cutting out the muslin I made a few initial modifications to the tissue pattern using the simple pivot and slide method for the width alterations and a few for the length. The book, Pattern Fitting with Confidence, was my sole guide in this step. See this YouTube video that demonstrates this method.

In the past, I’ve approached these pattern alterations with a sense of dread because I wasn’t sure I was doing anything correctly. But after some successes with the Audrey Hepburn skirt and finally swallowing the fact that I’m not a pattern drafting grad student, I felt much better about the whole process.

So this is how it panned out:

1. Lengthened the legs and side curve: I first went to a pair of ready-to-wear (RTW) pants I own that have a comfortable length, and measured from waist to hem along side seam. This pair, however, does not fall 1/2″ below my natural waist–like 2860 does–so I added necessary inches to this measurement to make it compatible with my pattern. The conclusion: 49″ side seam length.

I then measured myself to find my side curve length. The side curve is the distance between your finished pant waist (sometimes referred to as the “shelf”), and your crotchline. I needed to add 2-1/4″ to the pattern’s side length.

To determine how much to add to the pant legs, I measured from the waist seamline to the finished hemline, subtracted the side curve length, and figured how many inches must be added (or subtracted), to arrive at 49″–the anticipated side seam length. It came out to be 5″. You should note here how important it is to separate the side curve length from the leg length. The side curve needs to fit the unique shape of the hip and that cannot be achieved by injecting length into the leg area. So don’t just alter the leg when correcting the length of your pants, break it up into two sections: side curve and leg.

So I first altered the leg length then the side curve followed. I found it was easier to do it in this sequence.

2. Lengthened the crotch length: I measured myself to find my crotch length (which is the from center back waist through crotch and up to center front waist), and because the finished pants fall 1/2″ below my waist, I subtracted 1″ from this measurement (1/2″ on either side). Measured the crotch length on the pattern and found that I needed to add 5.25″. In Pattern Fitting with Confidence (PFC), the author gives three options for adding crotch length that is over 4″: Full Figure, Predominate Tummy, and Predominate Seat. All I have to say is, “Ho hum.” I don’t fall into these categories, I just needed to add length because I’m long-waisted. So I wound up choosing the Full Figure approach because the additions were balanced between the BACK and FRONT pieces. Didn’t have much of a choice!

3. Widened the waist, hip and thigh: After comparing my body measurements to the pattern’s finished waist, hip and thigh I determined that not much had to be changed. All in all, I added 3/4″ to waist, 1/2″ to hip, and 1/2″ to thigh. And I did this all on one worksheet. The hard part during this time was deciding on how much ease to include in these three areas. I mean, what is the right amount for a pair of pants? What helped me was Simplicity 2860’s instructions that state 4″ of wearing and design ease is included in the hip, seat, and upper thigh area. So that is what I based my hip and thigh measurements upon. The waist was kind of a guess on my part. I just decided to include 2″ of ease because I know that 1/2″ – 1″ of ease is the minimum for the waist area. I thought 2″ will keep me in the safe zone. After making the muslin, however, I noticed that I had to remove a lot of ease at the waist. Next time I think I would include only 1″ of ease when making pants.

Trying on the Muslin:

So I quickly whipped up my muslin. OK, maybe not so quick as you might think. I wanted to make sure my seams were spot on and I insert the fly zipper right, so it did take me some time!

As soon as the final pressing was done, I tried them on and boy oh boy, were they a mess. Bagginess everywhere you can see and the waistband was wonky. Yikes! What happened? That was around 9 o’clock in the evening, when I’m not really wide awake. So I postponed any further muslin criticism until the morrow.

Bright and early the next day, I pinpointed the problem right out of the gate. I inserted the left front waistband upside down. Yeah, one of those 9 PM moments of mine. After inserting the band correctly, I tried it on again and it was looking much better. Still some major bagging in the waist, hip and thigh area but those were easy fixes. It was time for the tucking and pinning.

1. Removed width from muslin waist, hip and thigh: To start with, I wrapped 1/4″ elastic cord around my waistline and pinned it in place. I used this waistline marker as a guide to where my pants needed to fall. Working at the waist first, I pinched out the excess material equally at both right and left side seams. I made sure to have the actual seam right in the middle of this “tuck” in order to remove width from both the BACK and FRONT pieces. Then I worked my way down to the hip and then onto the thigh.

But something wasn’t looking right. Whenever I pinched the excess width the back looked better but the pants FRONT–both right and left front–had stress wrinkles or pull wrinkles that radiated horizontally from the fly zipper. Hmm… What could be causing this? After fiddling around a bit more it soon dawned on me: pull wrinkles signify too little width, so why I am removing width from the FRONT? I’ll just remove it from the BACK!

And that is what I tried next. Instead of having the seamline right in the middle of my tuck, I pinched only the BACK fabric to form my tuck and didn’t touch the FRONT in most places. Once all the tucks were pinned into place, I slowly took off the pants, making sure the pins did not come out. I then used a chalk pencil and marked the fabric on both sides at the pin points. I then measured the distance between the two marks.

And because I’m lazy and didn’t want to cut out another muslin, I corrected the one and only muslin after every fitting.

2. Shortened the crotch: At the beginning, the crotch was too low for me and was creating bagginess in the FRONT more than the BACK. So how do you shorten the crotch? As I found out, it is rather easy. Simply make more of an abrupt curve at the crotch curve. This will raise the crotch seamline and add more length to the inseam. Sunni explains how to do this on her blog, A Fashionable Stitch.

3. Corrected the darts: My pants have two darts on the BACK, each situated in the middle of left back and right back. When I was examining the BACK of the pants, I noticed some issues. The first one that caught my eye were the strange fold wrinkle mess that was at the dart tips and in between the two darts. To me it sounded like these darts weren’t needed. So I first converted the darts to ease (by seam ripping the dart, sewing a line of gathering stitches, pulling the bobbin threads, and easing the BACK into the waistband), and tried them on. It still looked like there was too much ease near the center back. So that led me to completely remove the dart ease from the BACK. I measured the width of each dart (which was 1″), and removed a 1/2″ from the center back on both right and left pieces as well as the right and left side seams. And that, happily, solved the problem!

4. Shortened the crotch depth: The final problem that I spotted was horizontal and diagonal fold wrinkles on the BACK and above the hip. When I started pinching and tucking these horizontal folds out I knew that the crotch depth in the BACK area was too long. How do you shorten the crotch depth? As I learn from Sunni, it is very much like removing excess width (see #1 of Trying on Muslin above). You pinch, tuck, and pin the fold wrinkles out in a horizontal fashion, take off the pants, and using a pen or chalk, mark the pin placements. And the distance between these markings is how much you should shorten the crotch depth. You can remove this amount from the crotch depth by slashing the lengthen/shorten line located above the crotch on most tissue patterns and shortening or lengthening there. If no such line exists on your pattern, you can make your own by finding the approx. middle of the crotch depth and drawing a line that is perpendicular to the grainline at this mark.

The other way is to use the pivot and slide method. Let me give you a quick example. Fold the pant back in half with right sides together. Let’s say you want to shorten the crotch depth by 1″. Measure 1″ done from the waist cutting edge at the center back and mark it. Place the pant pattern piece over your muslin and slide the pattern down until the cutting line meets your marking. At the center back of the pattern, insert a pin at the point where the waist and crotch seamlines meet. Pivot the pattern to the waist cutting line at the side seam. Draw new waist cutting line and trim excess fabric away.

Since I didn’t want to make another muslin, I used the pivot and slide method and just redid the waistband insertion.

And here is the final muslin:

I know that there are still some flaws here and there (namely, the small diagonal folds at the back caused by two much width and length), but I am happy with where I’m at. As I said before, I didn’t aim to create pants that are 100% perfect and because I am active and need to bend, stoop, and stretch I am not looking for a fitted pair, either. I’m just extremely pleased that they fit at the waist, crotch, thighs, and the hem meets my shoes!

OK, onto the real fabric!

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