A New Toy

I’ve been reading David Coffin’s brand new book, The Shirtmaking Workbook: Pattern, Design, and Construction Resources. It’s a wonderful book, and it’s best described as the “yang” to the “ying” of his classic book, Shirtmaking: Developing Skills For Fine Sewing. While Shirtmaking centered mostly on skills and technique in construction, this new book concentrates on design inspiration and pointers to helpful resources.

I’ll probably post a detailed review here soon, but if you’re reading this blog you should just go out and buy it.  It has a ton of content, and it’s more than worth the price.

Coffin discusses digital pattern drafting in the early portion of the book, and describes his workflow using a large-format office printer/scanner to scan patterns and garments, edit the patterns in Adobe illustrator, and print on large format paper (13×19 inches).  With a machine that can gulp in scans that large (11×17 inches), you can scan large pattern pieces and even whole garments into the computer fairly easily.  And printing out patterns is a lot easier because there’s a lot less cutting and taping involved.

I’ve shied away from print-at-home patterns for the most part, as well as using a computer to do my own pattern work. I don’t like cutting and taping letter-sized sheets a whole lot.  And I simply don’t have the space for a large-format plotter, like many digital pattern junkies have.

Following his recommendation in the book, I recently purchased an Epson Workforce WF-7610 printer.


I got it from my local Office Depot, because the price was comparable with Amazon (it was on sale) and I didn’t have to worry about having a bulky item shipped.  It cost less than $200.

This machine can scan (and copy) at 11×17, and is also an inkjet printer that can print on 13×19 inch paper.  I bought a package of 11×17 inch paper from Office Depot since it seems to be a better “bang for the buck” than 13×19, and is easier to find.

I’ve already started using the Epson to “archive” my revisions to the pants pattern I’ve been fitting by scanning the front and back pieces in to the computer as chunks, and using Inkscape software to combine the scans into a full-sized scan in the computer.  Here’s a tutorial video that shows you the process.

I’ve also been examining Wild Ginger pattern-making software to use to create and alter my own patterns, then print them out on the printer.  Wild Ginger’s CAD editor also allows you to take a scan or a photograph of a paper pattern and digitize it, so you can alter it onscreen.

Wild Ginger’s Pattern Master Tailor Made software is geared specifically for menswear. It sells for $125, but for 2015 they offer 20% off many of their products if you purchase on the 20th of the month.  I’ve downloaded their free demo edition (which doesn’t save or print) and am checking it out.  It requires Windows, so that might be an issue for some.  More on this in future articles.

Next Time

More on pants fitting.

Vogue 8940 Pants Fitting, Round 5

My quest to find the perfect fitting pair of pants continues, but work-related drama has been consuming my time and energy.  So apologies for the slowdown here on the blog, and I hope this is only a temporary state of affairs.

I thought this round of alterations was going to take me very close to something ideal, or at least something I would move to a test pair with.  Instead, I was very disappointed with the changes I’ve made and I feel like I’ve taken some steps backwards.

But first, let’s go over what I did to the pattern after Muslin D, before we talk about what didn’t work out.

Muslin E

Here’s Muslin D deconstructed, pressed, and laid out on my work table.  The front piece (to the right) has two different front crotch curves I experimented with, and the back piece has a  back crotch curve that has been scooped a little bit more.  You can also just see see the purple markings where I added to the back crotch by letting out at the inseam.  The side seams are also marked where I pinned out excess curvature at the hip.


Front Crotch Curve

I took the innermost of the two front crotch curves and traced out a seam line in pencil to approximate the muslin.


Here’s the new front crotch curve.  Pencil line is seam line, red line is cut line.


Back Crotch Curve

I scooped out yet more of the back seam.  Again, pencil line is the new seam line and the red line is the new cut line.


Here’s a closeup of the additional length I’m adding to the back crotch right at the inseam.  Again, pencil is the seam line, red line is the cut line.


Side Seams

I redrew the side seams with my metal hip curve ruler, which has less pronounced curves than my regular plastic pattern ruler.  Also, I took a longer taper to the knee, and added 1/4 to each piece near the waistband, again to keep the seam straight.



I also put the zipper in back rather than in front, because I wanted it out of the way for the front crotch fitting I wanted to do with this muslin.

First Tryout

How does Muslin E look? Not much better than Muslin D, to tell the truth.

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Adding the ease has introduced all kinds of wrinkles and drag lines along the back, and the front is still puffy.

Addressing the Excess Fabric in Front

I attempted to get rid of the fabric in front in what I thought the most straightforward way possible.  I pinched out the excess fabric along the center front crotch, and pinned it out (using safety pins, of course).


This got rid of a lot of fabric puddling in the area.  But it caused a new problem.  The action of “scooping out” the front crotch also lowered the entire crotch seam, so it now hangs an inch lower from my body.

Here’s what the new front crotch seam looked like, after I put a basting stitch in place of the pins.  The deeper curve takes fabric and puts it into the seam allowance, but also lowers the seam.


Even the back crotch was affected; the stitch line lowered the point where the back crotch meets the inseam.


I noticed the lowering of the crotch seam immediately – because I got a lot of pull on my front thighs when walking.

Piling One Mistake Onto Another

I decided to raise the crotch point by taking a 1-inch tuck at the hip all the way around, effectively pulling the crotch up so it would meet my body again.

Here’s the full set of photos of Muslin E after this alteration.

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The tuck did make the pants feel more comfortable and move more freely.  BUT, it caused new problems.  It shortened the back crotch seam, and now the back crotch is completely out of adjustment.

The vertical balance lines in back are bowed out once again, indicating insufficient front-to-back depth, and the horizontal lines distinctly show a downward “V”, indicating there is not enough back crotch length.  This is easy to tell, because if I make any movement other than standing still (bending, sitting, etc), the waistline wants to pull down in back.

What went wrong?

I think there’s a couple things I could have done differently.

  1. I ignored the front crotch seam until very late in the process.  I now realize I should have done this sooner, together with the back crotch seam.  I think I will now have to revisit/redo some parts of the fitting process once I get the crotch seam back in shape.
  2. I made changes without a clear idea of what the alteration was doing, and what the outcome would be.  I kind of winged it by just deciding to pin out the excess fabric in front. That got me into trouble.
  3. I made too many changes at once in this muslin.  Once I did try fixing the front crotch, that led me into changing the back crotch, which led me to taking a tuck.  All of them together makes it very difficult to fix the true problem.  Instead, I should have backed up once I realized that the front crotch change had unexpected effects.

Time for a Lifeline

On the gameshow “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, contestants could ask for a lifeline.

I’m choosing “Ask an Expert”.  I’ve sent this last set of photos to Sarah Veblen, who offers paid consulting via her website.  She’s already told me that I’ve made too many alterations, and at least one isn’t helping.  I’ll be working with her to get her suggestions for what to do next.

Another lifeline is “Ask the Audience.”  If you have any suggestions to make, I’d love to hear them!

Vogue 8940 Pants Fitting, Round 4

“If I learned anything from my shirtmaking years, it was that fitting is a huge challenge that can easily eat up all your available sewing time and block all further progress, if you let it.”

— David Page Coffin, “Making Trousers”

I got quite a lot of quality time in this weekend with my pants muslin, and I believe I’ve made some significant progress.

Muslin D

I’m not sure I can call this pattern Vogue 8940 any more; I’ve customized it so much that at this point it has become truly my own.  And once I dial in the fit, I will have to draft new facings, front fly, and waistband pieces to match the customized pattern pieces I’ve created.

Pattern Alterations

The changes that went into muslin D were:

  • Add roughly 1/2 inch to the front and back side seams of Muslin B. For Muslin D, I walked and trued front and back seams, and added about a half inch to both for a total of two inches extra circumference at the hip.

Front pattern piece. Blue line is the old side seam line, pencil is the new seam line, red is the new cut line.


Walking and truing the front and back side seams.


  • Remove some of the dip in the lower crotch curve to make it come closer to my body.

Blue is the old seam line, pencil is the new seam line, red is the new cut line.


  • Transfer the darts I pinned out in Muslin C.

Blue and red are left and right side darts (can’t remember which is which).  Pencil is the average of the two.


First Tryout

Here is Muslin D looks like without any alterations. Truthfully, it doesn’t look like a step forward.

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Adjusting Muslin D

This time I made a lot of tweaks to Muslin D.  For some reason, I felt more comfortable about making changes to this muslin, even though I spent considerable time experimenting with it.

I pinned out several of my proposed changes, and the ones I was satisfied with I stitched into the muslin with a basting stitch on the machine. This is a little more work, but I get a better read of the changes I’m making when I baste in the changes rather than pin them.  I also get stuck by pins a whole lot less.

Side Seams

The side seams continue to vex. Widening them also added an unwanted curves at the hips.  I pinned out the curves and then restitched the side seams with a basting stitch.  The straighter hips look much nicer to me, but the extra ease I tried to add back in is now gone again.  On the next muslin (E) I’ll draw in the straighter side seams, then widen out from the new seam line.



I’m continuing work on the darts to shape the pants from waistline to hip.  I pinned out a single dart on left and right sides of the previous muslin. This time, I did a bakeoff of a single dart on the left side versus two smaller darts on the right hand side.  I pinned them out, then machine-basted them to get a better idea what they looked like.


Rear Crotch Seam

Most of my fitting work went into fine-tuning the rear crotch seam.

In Round 3, reader Nola suggested to me the rear crotch needed some more scooping, and judging from the vertical lines in back I think she is right.

I experimented with the scooping the back crotch in various ways.  To keep this article from exploding with photos, I’m just going to summarize the things I tried:

  1. Added a small amount to the crotch scoop in back (heavy light blue in photo).
  2. Adding some extra scoop higher up, right at the point the seat curves noticeably. (red dashes in photo)
  3. Drawing a curve similar to (2), but less exaggerated (blue pen line in photo).
  4. A curve that incorporates all of the above, but is simply a little less deep. (Rightmost basting line in photo.

I decided to go with curve (4) for now.


The horizontal balance lines still dip a bit in back, suggesting insufficient length in the rear crotch seam. I added 1/2 inch of ease to the rear inseam to try to extend the length of the rear crotch.  I undid the inseams, drew a new stitch line into the rear seam allowance near the crotch point, and restitched both inseams.  (I kept the same seam allowance on the front pattern piece).


Here’s what the muslin looks like after all these changes.


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Front Crotch Seam

Up to this point, I haven’t done much with the front crotch seam – there’s still quite a lot of fabric bunching up in front.

I tried scooping out the front crotch curve between the zipper endpoint and the inseam, to take in the seam and get rid of some of the excess fabric. (The rightmost basting line shows the new curve).


This improved the situation considerably.

Here’s a repeat of the “before” front shot for comparison.


So Where Are We At Now?

The next Muslin, Muslin E, will have a lot of changes:

  • Straighter side seams, and I’ll still try to widen them out by about 1/2 inch front and back to add a total of 2 inches ease at the hip.
  • A slightly deeper back crotch curve.
  • Let out the back crotch curve at the inseam by about 1/2 inch.
  • Scoop in the front crotch to reduce the fabric crumpling in front.
  • I like the look of the single large dart rather than two smaller darts, so I plan to stick with the single dart for the waist shaping.

Assuming that Muslin E reflects all these changes well, I’m almost ready to commit to an actual wearable garment.

But after all of this, there’s still one significant problem remaining. When I walk in the muslin, and especially if I climb stairs, I can feel some tightness running up and down through the seat area.  I’m pretty sure this is still pointing to a problem with the rear crotch seam.

I am likely to purchase an evaluation/assessment from Sarah Veblen with Muslin E to get some professional advice about what to do next.

Even so, Muslin D with tweaks fits me better than any pair of ready-to-wear pants currently in my closet.