Project Ginger Jeans – the fitting

Update: Since I first published this post on 21 January, I’ve made two sets of adjustments to the original fit. I’ve added pictures and info from the second and third fittings to this post, to keep all the fitting info together.

Earlier this week, I finally got around to cutting out my first ever pair of handmade jeans. I ended up crawling around on the floor underneath our dining table because I had to cut in a single layer, and that’s the only place I could lay the whole thing out. My knees haven’t forgiven me yet.

Then I almost ran out of fabric because I’ve already made a few flat alterations to the pattern. I used the tutorial in the Closet Case Files E-book on sewing jeans to convert the original skinny/stovepipe leg pattern into a flared version. (You can now buy the flared version as a pattern expansion, but I opted to save  $7+printing+sticking hassle and do it myself – it wasn’t tricky.)

I graded from a 16 at the hip to a 14 at the waist, and added 1″ to the crotch depth. Lastly, I enlarged the inseam and side seam allowances by a further 3/8″ to give me a full 1″ of wiggle room for adjusting everything.

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You can see here I’ve blended two sizes to use the larger one at the hip and the smaller one at the waist.

The fabric is a stretch denim I bought in Guthrie & Ghani last May. It’s a medium weight with roughly 2% spandex, as recommended for this pattern.

I cut everything out and basted the basic pieces together using a really long stitch length (5.0 on my Janome). Special thanks to Alex, who reminded me to staystitch first. This is mentioned in the pattern, but not in the part about basting/fitting, so I would definitely have forgotten otherwise.

First fitting

So, onto fitting. Jeez, this might turn out to be a long haul. (Front, side and back views in the picture right at the top – please excuse the poor lighting, it’s been so gloomy in Worcestershire recently!) I figured I might as well share the fitting process in all its gory detail.

Problem number one is that they’re too narrow through the thigh, so the crotch of the jeans can’t currently sit in the right place. In the back view you can see the horizontal wrinkles across the back of my thigh and knee area, showing it’s too tight here, so I’m going to let the inseams out from just below the knee up to the crotch seam. And from the side, you can see the side seam is pulling towards the front at mid-thigh level, which I *think* means I should let out the front thigh a little more than the back.

After this first fitting, I let out the front and back inseams by 1/8″ each. That wasn’t quite enough so I also let out the side seams by the same amount – just from crotch level down to the hem.

That gave me a better fit on the legs. However, the crotch seam still wasn’t sitting quite high enough and after some wriggling around I determined that the thing dragging it down was my bottom!

To fix that without liposuction, I lowered the back crotch only by 1/4″. This also increases the overall length of the back crotch seam so it’s sitting better all the way up to top hip level now. At the front there were some weird horizontal lines appearing, and there seemed to be too much room in the lower front crotch area, so I also straightened the front crotch seam – making it shorter in the process. (In one fitting guide, this is labelled a ‘receded pubis adjustment’ – which sounds like a really painful operation but it’s actually pretty easy to do if you left enough seam allowance.)

Second fitting

Here they are after those adjustments. Looking better, I hope you’ll agree.

I’m fairly happy with the fit through the crotch and the thighs now, although I’m debating whether to take the adjustments from the first fitting a teensy bit further to try to improve the fit even more.

What needs looking at now is the top hip and waistband area. The front crotch depth is still a smidgen too long, so I’m going to lop a little off the centre front at the top. To fix the gaping at the back, I need to take a wedge out of the yoke piece, maybe a little out of the side seams above the crotch, and then re-draft the waistband so it fits my contours better. Phew!

Third fitting

So since the second fitting I’ve lowered the back crotch by a further 1/4″, let out the back inseam by another 1/8″ and added darts in the back yoke and the waistband to fix the gaping at the back. I’ve taken 1/2″ off the centre of the front crotch depth and a smile-shaped horizontal wedge out across the back – effectively a flat seat adjustment. I also remembered to put shoes on for this fitting to see how they’ll really look.

The fit across the back waist is much better, it’s not gaping or standing away from my top hip area now. The bubble in the front crotch has gone, but it’s been replaced by some diagonal lines that I thought I’d got rid of after the first fitting indicating that the front crotch is too short. The back thigh actually looks tighter than it did at the last fitting, even though I’ve let it out so that needs to come out a bit more again (which might also fix the front diagonal wrinkes, too). And the back view now also reveals a problem I haven’t talked about until now, which is that my right hip is around 1″ lower than my left due to some differences in my leg length and pelvis size. I think I can correct this with a small adjustment to the outseam and the waistband height at the final fitting.

So, armed with the knowledge on what I need to do, and running out of seam allowance to make many more adjustments, I think it’s on to the actual sewing. The pockets, pocket stay and fly will take some of the room out of the front crotch, and I can tweak the leg seams a little along the way. So my plan is to sew them up very gradually, checking the fit several more times as I go. Wish me luck!

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What’s on my sewing table?

Pattern grading square, tape measure, french curve and pencil

I’ve finally decided to knuckle down to the Ginger jeans that have been on my list for 18 months, so I’m knee-deep in tracing paper, fitting guides, masking tape and pins.

New trouser patterns always bring out a few nerves because it can be a pretty tedious process running up two or three toiles/muslins to try to get the fit right. But here I’m working with stretch denim (2% elastane, decent quality, pre-washed twice – I’m being good). So how the heck do you successfully toile a pair of jeans without purchasing double, triple or quadruple the amount of fabric you actually need?

As far as I can tell, there are three options:

  1. Give tissue fitting a go. (This pattern has negative ease at the hips, so I’m not sure how this works in tissue…)
  2. Cut the seam allowances extra wide and try to pin fit the real thing
  3. Make up the real thing and just cross my fingers it comes out as a wearable muslin rather than a complete nightmare.

Which would you do?

How to make trousers that fit: part 4

It’s toile time! Bring on the muslin mania! (Seriously, who actually enjoys this part?) After part 3, where we made some basic fitting adjustments and sewed up the toile, you’re now ready to try it on and see how it looks.

Here’s how to go about it.

First, get the crotch in the right place. The central crotch seam – where you’ve got a cross-shape as the four key pieces meet – should be directly underneath you, and relatively close-fitting so that it can (but doesn’t always) touch whatever you’re wearing underneath. If you’re large of thigh like me, there’s a real chance you’ll have to rip open some seams to do this, so this is why those extra-deep seam allowances were a great idea. If you’re slim-waisted, you might need pins or elastic to hold your toile up.

Once you’ve got the crotch seam in the right place start by assessing the crotch depth – the vertical waist-crotch distance. It’ll be easier to assess this at the front than the back. If you checked and adjusted the crotch depth in part 3 it should be very close to perfect. If it needs fixing, do that, and if needed, make another muslin before you alter anything else.

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My first toile for the Thurlow trousers needed more length adding to the crotch depth.

Once you’re happy with the crotch depth, you can turn your attention to the crotch length. Look at the length of the seam that runs around the body from the centre front, between your legs and up to the centre back.

If the trousers look as though they’re trying to disappear up your bum, then you need more length in the back crotch. If you’ve got excess fabric top to bottom at the centre back seam but the crotch and waist are both sitting in the right place, then you need to reduce the back crotch length. If you have ‘smile wrinkles’ emanating from the front crotch area (!), but the hip and waist are in the right place at the side seams, then your front crotch length is too short. Again, if you need to make one of these adjustments do it before fiddling with anything else, and you might need to make another muslin before moving on. For more pictures and examples, I recommend this excellent post from A Fashionable Stitch on crotch length adjustments.

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My second toile needed more length in the back crotch seam.

Crotch depth and crotch length are the two critical fit issues for trousers. After that, it starts to feel similar to fitting a pencil skirt or a sheath dress. Your best strategy is to schedule a quiet hour in front of the mirror and play around with some pins, elastic and a willing fellow sewist or failing that, a camera. (That doesn’t sound so good written down, does it?). Fitting problems seem to show up more clearly in pictures than in the mirror.

To assess what’s wrong and learn how to fix it, you’ll need a good fitting book. There are tons of these out there and I haven’t found one yet that’s perfect: clear, intuitive and easy-to-follow. The main contenders are:

  • Fitting and Pattern Alteration – incredibly comprehensive, but I don’t find the diagrams and instructions in my second edition copy that easy to follow.
  • Pants for Real People – a real bible for a lot of people, and it uses real-life photos. But I don’t buy into the tissue fitting approach – no one wears paper clothes and I always tear the tissue when I try this.
  • Colette’s Pants Fitting Cheat Sheet – clear and short (!) but doesn’t come with diagrams
  • My current favourite, chapters 5 and 8 of Vogue Sewing (2006). The diagrams in this one are some of the clearest I’ve seen but it’s not as extensive as Fitting and Pattern Alteration.

Once you get into the process, you’re likely to end up making two or three toiles before you find the fit you want. Each one will be better than the last, and you’ll get there in the end, I promise.

 

 

How to make trousers that fit: part 3

Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s time to get cracking on that pattern and make up your first toile (muslin).

Sizing

Whether you take a 2 or a 22, picking the right size can mean one fewer toile in your fitting process so it’s worth re-taking your hip measurement at this point. Make sure you’re measuring around the widest part, that the tape is horizontal and then compare your measurement with the chart.

For trousers (pants for our American cousins), it’s best to go by your hip measurement. We’re going to fit the trousers from the crotch outwards – in all directions – so the waist measurement isn’t as important as the hip.

This week (and it definitely varies during the year…), my hip measurement is 42″ so on this Simplicity chart (Amazing fit trousers 2860), I’d use the size 18.

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You might want to trace off the pattern you’re going to use before you start. We’re probably going to be hacking it about quite a bit…

Initial adjustments

There are three things I think you can safely adjust before you make up a toile: the crotch depth, leg length and any grading up or down between sizes at the waist. Each of these alterations can be done pretty accurately based on your measurements, and they’re independent of each other. If you do them now, you won’t have to do an extra toile to get them right later.

  1. Getting the crotch depth right

The crotch depth is the vertical distance between the waistline of the trousers and the crotch. On my Simplicity pattern envelope, it’s helpfully stated that the pattern uses a  waist to hip distance of 9″. I know that my waist to hip distance is 10″, so I’d lengthen the pattern by 1″ at this point.

If your pattern doesn’t state the waist to hip distance, you can measure the pattern pieces to work it out – just remember to subtract all the seam allowances at the waistband.

Most trousers patterns have a marked lengthen/shorten line you can use to adjust the pattern. If yours doesn’t, then pick a spot below the placket opening but above the crotch seam and draw in your own line  perpendicular to the grainline. Use the pattern’s notches to match up your front and back pieces so that you make the alteration in the same place on both.

Already sewn up your toile? Sunni from A Fashionable Stitch has written a great post on how to identify a crotch depth problem from your toile/muslin.

2. Getting the leg length right

This is an easy one to spot, and to alter later on, but you might as well get it right first time, especially for slim fit trousers.

Leg length in trousers is usually quoted in inches, and it’s measured along the inseam of the garment rather than on the body. So if a pair of trousers has a 33″ leg that means the finished garment will measure 33″ along the inseam from the crotch to the hem.

You can measure a pair of trousers from your existing wardrobe and compare these with the inseam of the pattern piece (remembering to take off the seam allowance at the crotch and the hem allowance).

Then lengthen or shorten the pattern pieces at the marked lines (usually at, or above and below, the knee) until it’s the length you want.

3. Grading between sizes

With your waist measurement to hand, go back to the pattern envelope and see if you’re the same pattern size at the waist as at the hip. If not, you might want to grade (taper) up or down a size to get a better fit. For the moment, I’d suggest you only alter the pattern at the side seams and the waistband, and by one size at most. There are other possible reasons for a large size difference here (a sway back or a large abdomen, for example ) and we need to leave ourselves scope to make these alterations if needed.

Tips for an easier fitting process

There are some other things you can try with your toile to make your fitting process easier:

  1. Transfer all the pattern markings, including things like the hip line and knee line, onto your toile. This’ll help you see not only whether those lines are in the right place, but also whether they’re lopsided.
  2. Enlarge the seam allowances from 1.5cm to 2cm or even more if you like so that you have room to try letting the seams out.
  3. Marking the seam allowances on the pattern pieces, and transferring these onto the toile fabric will make it easier to work out your fitting adjustments and to transfer these back to the pattern pieces.

Ready? Set your machine to a nice long basting stitch, thread it up with a contrasting thread, and let’s get to it and sew up the toile!

Missed parts 1 and 2? Catch up here

How to make trousers that fit: part 2

If you’ve chosen a terrific trouser pattern that suits your shape and figure type you’ll be casting your eye around for some suitable fabric. There are so many options – what should you go for?

Choosing fabric for trousers

Start with the fabric suggestions for your pattern. The designer will have put lots of thought into these, recommending fabrics with just the right qualities. If you’re still in a quandry, then as well as colour, print and feel, you’ll want to think about:

  • stretch: does your pattern call for a stretch fabric – if so, then if you stray from the recommended stretch factor then you might need to size up or down to get a good fit
  • thickness: if your fabric’s too thick then details like a fly front or pockets will be hard to sew and could distort the garment’s lines; too thin and you’ll be at risk of VPL!
  • creasing v pressing: linen makes beautiful trousers and it’s easy to press, but as soon as you sit down you’ll be covered in creases – an artificial fibre won’t crease much but it’ll be harder to press into shape.

Once you’ve chosen your main fabric, you’ll also need fabric for making a toile (muslin) or potentially several. Grab something that has exactly the same stretch, and a similar weight and thickness to your main fabric. This is so that your final trousers fit the same as your toile.

Hubble, bubble, toile and trouble

Let’s face it, you’re probably making your own trousers because RTW trousers usually don’t fit you. So there’s no getting away from it: you are going to have to make a toile. Probably two. Possibly three. So load up on calico or scratch around for something else you can use – I made my first trouser toile from a gift wrapping bag.

Depending on your pattern, you might be able to leave out some pieces when you make your toile. You can probably forego the back pockets (although it helps to mark where they’ll go), and potentially the front pockets too, depending on the construction method.

I’d suggest you do put in the fly-front zip, side zip or whatever fastening is suggested. The fit won’t be exactly the same without it. And you should definitely plan to toile the waistband.

You could opt to save fabric by making a shorts toile instead, as Lauren did for the Thurlow sewalong, but this didn’t work out well for me. The Thurlow pattern uses different pieces for the shorts from those for the trousers – the shorts pieces are wider in the leg so my shorts toile didn’t show up that I needed to add extra width at the thigh. If your pattern only has one set of pieces, you could probably make a shorter version for your first toile (while you get the crotch to fit), but for slim fit trousers, you’ll probably want to make a full-length toile at some point to get the fit right around the knees and calves.

And when you cut out the pieces for your toile, you won’t need to worry about nap, pattern matching or even which is the right side of the fabric, so this should help to reduce the yardage you need to buy for your toile.

Next up (coming soon) in part 3: making your muslin

How to make trousers that fit: part 1

This is a huge topic, but it’s one I feel I can’t ignore. Well-fitting trousers (or pants for our American cousins) have been my holy grail ever since I started sewing. But it can be such a confusing world to launch yourself into that I thought this new series might help others grappling with the same problem.

I don’t pretend to know everything about the process, so I’d welcome your suggestions for improving and updating the posts in this series as I go along.

So where do we start? By choosing the right pattern.

If trying on trousers in a shop has ever brought you to tears, you’ll know that there are styles that do and don’t suit you. (You’ll also appreciate this awesome long read post by the Holistic Seamstress.)

Does the style suit you?

Being large of hip and thigh, I accepted long ago that skinny jeans are unlikely to ever feature in my wardrobe. I live in wide-leg, flared and (unfashionable horror of horrors) bootcut trousers. I’m tall but not all that leggy, so I avoid cropped trousers, side seam pockets, pleats in the front and anything too high or too low waisted.

You might be the opposite – petite, or very slim of leg and larger of tummy. Whatever your shape, find what suits you and avoid the heartbreak of finally making trousers that fit you perfectly but which don’t suit you. If you’re a confident sewist, you might want to alter a pattern to suit your style. Personally, I prefer to take an easier route and choose a flattering style to start with.

Another straightforward option is a flexi-fit pattern with different pieces for different styles. In my stash (but so far untested) is this Simplicity Amazing Fit trouser pattern 1696, which contains three different trouser shapes.

How closely does your shape match the basic measurements on the envelope?

When it comes to fitting, not all trouser patterns are created identical. Each pattern company uses its own fit model and if your proportions are the opposite of theirs then you’re just creating extra work for yourself blending different sizes.

For example, the Thurlow trousers by Sewaholic are designed for pear shapes like Tasia and aren’t recommended for non-pears. You can read Lauren Guthrie’s post about her (non pear-shaped) experience with the Thurlow pattern if you’re curious.

I suspect apple shapes would get on better with Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers or the Papercut Guise but I’d welcome your suggestions and experiences.

Not sure what shape you are? Try on different RTW trousers and study where they’re tight and where they’re loose. Or take your waist and hip measurements – if the difference is greater than 10″ you’re a pear; less than 10″ and you’re more of an apple. If the difference is exactly 10″, lucky you – you can choose a mainstream pattern and you’ll have one fewer alteration to do.

If you can’t find a pattern you like anywhere, there’s another route you can take – drafting your own. With the right instructions, it’s fairly simple to draft a basic trouser block using your own measurements. On the upside, you’ll then have only minimal fitting alterations to do. The downside? You’ll need to add in all the styling yourself (and it won’t come with instructions for sewing them up!). So this is a good option for confident drafters, or if you’re looking for a relatively simple trouser pattern.

See part 2: choosing the right fabric and why you’re going to have to make a toile