Yesterday, I was at day 1 of the Creativ Festival, taking the all-day class “Achieve a Better Fit:  Pants” with Robert Wylie.  Using Vogue 1003 fitting shell, we drafted a pants block based on our unique shapes – the class was all women, and all shapes and sizes.  The pattern size was chosen based on our hip measurements.  I’ve been trying to make a pair of pants that fit forever, so flat pattern adjustments aren’t new to me.  But there were some good learning points and interesting moments:

1.  Most of the pattern companies base their pants pattern on the same block, so if you get a good fit from the Vogue block pattern, you can apply it to all other pants patterns.  You’ll use the block to identify what to change on the pants pattern – you make the same changes to the pants pattern as you did to the block.

2. If you’re struggling to get pants to fit well, it’s really worth taking a class – not only will you have time to learn, but it’s a real learning experience to see what adjustments mean to different body shapes.

3.  Getting the grain line on the front and back are critical, as they allow you to line your block up with commercial patterns to adjust them to fit (these also equate to the fold line for ironing).  To get the grain line, fold the pattern piece in half – line up the bottom hem line right at the edges, while making sure that the crotch line (that stretches horizontal across the pattern piece) stays lined up on the horizontal line.  You won’t be folding each piece in half exactly – it’s in half at the bottom, but the top might vary, based on your unique shape.  The key is to create a grain line that’s perpendicular to the crotch line (or hip line), that bisects the pattern piece exactly in half at the hem line.  Think about what it’s like to iron slacks – the outside and inside seam never line up exactly, which should be a hint that the pieces don’t get folded exactly in half all the way up.  Of course, you’ll need to do this on the commercial pattern, as not all grainlines are marked in the correct place.

Once you have your grain line, you can see whether centre front and centre back is on the grain line – if not, and if you’re making slacks from stripes or plaids, you’ll have to do some pattern matching in these areas.

4.  If you need to increase your crotch length (A Fashionable Stitch has a good description) make sure you walk the seams on the inseam after you’ve made your changes – you might need to lengthen the front or back inseam length at the hemline.  This means your hemline might be uneven.  On my pants front, the hem was 1/2″ longer on the inseam side of the pattern. The extra length is taken up when the seams are sewn together.  This means that if you’re doing a plaid, it will be noticeable that the hem is not on the cross grain of the fabric and the plaid won’t line up at the seams.  Robert’s suggestion was to make a separate cuff, matching the plaids, then attach it.

(Walking a seam means lining up the pattern pieces all along the seam, as if you were pinning them to sew.  It’s a way of making sure that the length of each pattern piece is the same.  We all know what it’s like to sew a skirt or pants, and have one piece longer than the other…which one is right?  Walking the seam on the pattern usually lets you see that so you can adjust properly).

In a 6-hour session, we did all the mods to the pattern block, and tissue fitted – it’s not a trivial exercise, but if you can get pants that fit well, it’s certainly worth it.  After the festival is over, I’ll make a toile from the block and analyze the fit again. So, more to come…

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