Archives for category: Fitting

Many sport pants have zippers or other treatments at the hem line, making it very difficult to shorten the pants to fit – so much so, that many people don’t buy the pants they want. Here’s a simple method to shorten sports pants, which will work for men, women and children.

Here are running pants with far too much length.


To establish how much the pants need to be taken
up, find a spot above the zipper, and pinch the fabric until the hem is pulled
up to where you want it. Make sure you wear your sports shoes when you do this.


Mark the pinch with a pin that goes through both
layers of fabric.  The entire pinched
section of fabric is above the zipper, but still below your knee.  This is the section we’re going to sew out.


Here’s how the pant leg looks with the pinched fabric. I tried to keep it relatively low on the pant leg, just a couple of inches above the zipper, so about mid-calf.


I measured from the edge of the fold to the pin
position – it shows 1 ½” which means the total amount I’m taking up is 3”.


Then I measured from the existing hemline to the
pin mark, which measured at 11”.  That
means my stitching line will be at 11”, the fold line for stitching will be at
12 ½”.


With the pants now inside out, I mark 3 measurements from the existing hemline:

11”, which is where the stitching line will show on the outside

12 ½” which is where the fabric will be folded back on itself for stitching

14” which is the other stitching line once the fabric is folded. This identifies how much of the fabric is being taken up – in my case it is 3”.


The 3 lines – I marked them with tailor’s chalk
all around the leg.  This makes it easier
to ensure a straight seam line and consistent length of the pant leg.


Using the 12 ½” line as your guide, slide the
hemline end of the pant leg back inside the pant leg (remember your pants are
inside out), which puts the right sides of the pant together, folded at the 12 ½”
line.  The 14” and 11” lines will line up.  Stitch on the 14” line as shown.


Here’s the stitched line on the inside of the
pants.  It could be trimmed and serged or
zig-zagged to remove the bulk, or it can be left in case you think you’ll ever
pass the pants on to someone else.


Here’s how the seam looks on the outside.  Many sport pants have these vertical seams as
style lines.


You can apply this method of shortening to many sport pants, although you might need to think a bit more about where the seam should be on form-fitting running pants.  Keep it on your calf – if it’s above the knee there’s always a chance it will chafe your skin.

This same approach can also be used to shorten sleeves on sports jackets, or even shirts that have a shaped or fitted hem.


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…

I have been trying on and off for about the last 5 years to make a pair of pants that fit.  For me, fit means the front is smooth, and the back of the pants fits smoothly, then hangs straight off my derriere, with no wrinkles.  It was easy in my 20’s, but now that I’m in my 50’s, my shape has changed to the point where fitting is a much bigger challenge.

I always ended up with wrinkles in the back, horizontal wrinkles under my bumb, and sometimes angled wrinkles radiating from the top inside of my back leg, down towards my knee.  What I eventually learned was that I need a “dropped seat” adjustment, along with an adjustment for larger inner thighs.  I’ve spent about 8 hours over the past couple of days, and have drafted a pants pattern that’s the closest I’ve ever been – I’ll use it to sew up a pair of golf pants.

Here’s a list of the resources that I used to learn everything I could find about fitting:

CraftsyOne Pattern, Many Looks: Pants.  This class really did it for me – Kathy is an excellent teacher and she gave me hope that I’d get it.

Threads Magazine online:  I used Draft Your Own Pattern for Pants that Fit to create a pants pattern from scratch – it’s a bit easier for me to do it this way, than trying to modify an existing pattern with my measurements (although I’m doing that next).  Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat really helped me get my head around the concept of body “depth”.  We always look at length, plus width for measurements, but depth is a big factor.  It became key for me.  *Note, these were articles from previous issues of Threads Magazine that are available online for people who have an “Insider” subscription.  This subscription gives you access to a wealth of articles and video’s plus an electronic version of the magazine, and it not at all expensive.

Pants for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto also helped a lot, especially with larger thigh adjustment.

Peggy Sager’s video on The Ultimate Pant Fit also helped me look at wrinkles and figure out what they were telling me.

The message here is that we can all get pants that fit – it might take a big dose of frustration, and some time, but it does eventually come. For me, it was reading and watching everything I could get my hands on. I’m not completely there yet, but I’m very hopeful.  I’m booked into Achieve a Better Fit: Pants at the upcoming Creativ Festival in Toronto in October, which is a full-day workshop on pants fitting.  I’ll report back on that in another post.

In my first post, I lamented the fact that my blazer didn’t fit.  In addition to making a toile or muslin to fit the garment, I did learn a couple of other things:

1.  You need to take good measurements and compare them to the pattern – for instance, the shoulder extended a bit farther than I was comfortable with, which was just part of the pattern design.  Second, the pattern specified a 1″ shoulder pad.  On a 5’4″ frame, that could be a bit overwhelming when combined with the shoulder extension – it looked a little like a football outfit to me.  You should be armed with as many measurements as possible, including shoulder, full bust, high bust, bust point, back neck to waist and so on.  Compare these to the paper pattern as part of your decision about whether it’s the right pattern in the first place.

2.  You need to know what you want in a garment in terms of fit – how much height in the shoulder pad, how much extension in the shoulder, how long the garment should be.  What I should have done was look to a few ready-to-wear garments I have, and take some measurements from them to determine what I feel suits my eye.  Another good idea is to go shopping and look at the type of blazers that look best on you – are they a princess seam or just a waistline dart?  If a princess seam, does it go through the shoulder, or curve over to the armscythe?  How many buttons down the front of the blazer?  How long is the blazer?  What’s the shoulder length?  All of these elements then become the things you look for in a pattern.

3. You should know what suits you.  Study your body shape and investigate the best silhouettes. The shapeliness of the blazer and the 2-button stance were ok for my short & busty figure, but the shoulder made the top of the jacket a bit too big for me.  There are a lot of resources on the web and many great books written on developing your style, and understanding what clothes look best on your shape.  It’s well worth investigating (more on this in a future post).

Much as it’s painful, I’ll keep posting my failures, in the hopes that others can learn from them.  But along the way, there will also be some successes to celebrate as I continue learn from my mistakes, but more importantly from other people.

Happy sewing!


I was anxious to get started on my beautiful chartreuse stretch cotton sateen blazer – so anxious that I pattern fit and cut the fabric without a toile. My bad!
I used Simplicity 2446, which has princess seams that go up through the shoulder. This pattern fits everywhere except around the shoulder and arm (think big shoulder pads). The shoulder extends out quite a bit, and there are wrinkles all around the arm as well as the underarm. Plus the sleeve cap didn’t sit nicely in the arm. I couldn’t for the life of me adjust to my satisfaction, even though the pattern provides 1″ seam allowances. With a wool tweed I might have got away with some mis-fitting, but the cotton sateen just accentuates problems.

So I’ve decided to re-cut using Vogue 8087, which is a Claire Shaeffer pattern. When I measured the shoulders on the 2 patterns, the Simplicity shoulder measurement is 6 1/2 while the Vogue is about 5 3/4. Hopefully this pattern will fit better – before I re-cut, I will do a toile to ensure the fit.

Lesson? Always do a fitting shell on pieces that matter.


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