A Project that has Nothing To Do with Fitting

No, I’m not giving up on the pants fitting project.  But I did purchase a brand-new sewing machine over two months ago, and I’ve basically been using it to sew pants muslins with a basting stitch ever since I got it. It would be nice to have a project that doesn’t involve fitting at all, one where I can just sew.

My day job, for better for worse, has me taking the occasional 1 or 2-day business trip. Not being a traveler, I have little in the way of luggage. A bag that could accommodate necessities for an overnight trip would be a handy thing to have.

I spotted the Craftsy course, Sew Better Bags: The Weekend Duffel about a month ago.  When Craftsy had another $19.95 sale on all classes around Christmas, I went for it. The bag pattern, by instructor Betz White, is well thought-out and has lots of nice details that give it a professional appearance.  Here’s a model photo I stole from Craftsy’s website.


I initially thought it wouldn’t be too hard to round up the materials for the project, but I was wrong.  Probably the most frequently asked questions in the class forums are about where to get the fabric, hardware, and supplies, even though the instructor provides a list of suppliers.

Craftsy does sell a “kit” for the class, but it contains only fabric. It’s useful if you want to make a bag exactly like the ones modeled. But fabric is the easiest thing to find, so the kit isn’t very helpful.

So, for someone who wants to try to make this bag themselves, here’s where I got everything.


I’m making two bags. The bag pattern calls for a main color, an accent color for the outside, and a lining color.

The main fabric for each bag are two duck cloth remnants I found one day at JoAnn Fabrics. Each is just big enough to make the 18-inch wide variation of the bag. One is canary yellow, the other rocket blue.


For an accent color, I chose black duck cloth, and for the lining fabric I found some cotton-poly broadcloth.  Both were purchased at Discount Fabrics in San Francisco.

The rocket blue bag will have navy blue lining.


The yellow bag will have grey lining.



The project calls for several pieces of hardware: D-rings, rectangular rings, clips, magnetic closures, and so on.  This seems to be the hardest thing for people to find, but it’s also what makes the bag look polished and professional.

Every local place I tried had only some of the pieces, and the styles weren’t what I wanted.  I checked some online sources and could find individual pieces, but couldn’t find a set of hardware that all had a consistent look.

Eventually I found what I was looking for at Purse Supply Depot. They had all the required hardware for the project, and what’s more it had a consistent look.


The downside is that they have a minimum quantity of 10 per item; so I ended up ordering enough hardware to make five bags.  Even so, the prices are reasonable. I got nickel finish hardware, which looks odd in the photo above due to the interaction of the camera flash and the room lighting.


I was really surprised at how difficult the main zipper was to find. I needed an 18-inch, non-separating zipper with fairly heavy teeth.  Since the hardware was nickel finish, I wanted a zipper with nickel teeth to match. My normal source for zippers, Wawak, doesn’t carry anything like that. Nor did any of the local sources I checked, including Britex Fabrics who usually come through for me in situations like these.

The class instructor used a fancy, high-end Riri fashion zipper for the primary closure in her bag. The Riri zippers are really cool; they offer you several style choices for teeth as well as the zipper pulls.  But they also cost over $20 each.

Ultimately I found the right zipper from an Etsy seller, Zipperstop. I purchased five YKK zippers with nickel teeth, exactly what I wanted, for $2 apiece. It’s the black zipper in the photo.

IMG_1748The yellow and blue zippers (also YKK) came from Nancy’s Notions. I bought them to see if they might be suitable as the main zipper. The rocket blue zipper especially was a good color match to the fashion fabric, but they are a nylon coil and not heavy/durable enough for the main zipper opening. However, the bag does have an interior, zippered pocket and these zippers will be perfect for that.


The project gives you two options for the straps and handles; self-fabric, or use purchased webbing. I prefer the look of webbing and don’t want to deal with cutting fabric to stitch my own straps. So I found 12 yards of black cotton 1 1/4″ webbing locally at Discount Fabrics.  A single bag uses 5 yards of webbing, which sounds like an awful lot.


The project uses two types of interfacing; Pellon SF-101, and Pellon Fusible Fleece.

The Fusible Fleece is available at both Wawak and Nancy’s Notions; I ended up ordering it from Nancy’s Notions along with the colored zippers.

The Pellon SF-101 interfacing was obtained from JoAnn fabrics online.  I ordered a bolt of the stuff, which was drop-shipped directly from Pellon.  It took over a week and was the last item to arrive.  As always with JoAnn, watch out for opportunities to use discounts and coupons to save.  As I type, it’s selling for a good deal less than what I paid for it even with the promo discount I used.

Base Insert

The bag also requires some type of stiff material as an insert for the base. The instructor uses plastic canvas, a base material for needle work and cross-stitch.  I found this at JoAnn’s at the same time I ordered the interfacing.

Where Next

I plan to continue with the fitting project, but the bag project will be a nice distraction to keep me from going crazy with the fitting.  You’ll find articles on both projects here interspersed as I push forward with both.

The bag project has a lot of up-front cutting and fusing, for all the individual outer fabric and lining pieces.  So that will keep me busy for sure.

More on both projects as they develop.




Review: Fun with Fitting – Pants

Since my last article on the Vogue 8940 pants muslin, I’ve been taking an online course in pants fitting which has been really helpful.

Fun With Fitting: Pants

PatternReview.com was offering its online course “Fun with Fitting: Pants” on sale over the holidays. It’s taught by Sarah Veblen, a fitting expert who is author of the book The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect Fitting (Amazon link).  Reader David Coffin suggested it to me, and I’m glad I followed up on it.

What I really like about the class is that it takes a conceptual approach, rather than a “spot this problem, apply canned solution” approach. A big problem I’ve had with fitting is that I invariably wind up with a situation that doesn’t match anything depicted in the reference I’m working from.

In the course, Sarah urges you to watch through all the videos, and read through all the printed material, even for the models and fitting situations that don’t necessarily match yours. Over the course of the fitting examples, she explains the principles behind her fitting assessment and explains why she’s making the correction she’s chosen.  The idea is to enable you to visualize the problem and solution in your own head, so you can reason through fitting situations on your own.

Sarah Veblen’s personal philosophy in fitting is that the pattern, whether commercial or self-drafted, is merely a starting point.  Your body is “perfect” by definition and the point of the fitting process is to adapt the pattern to your body shape.  She generally does three or even four muslins to get pants fit right, and so sets expectations for how much work the fitting process should take.

Veblen provides a framework for analyzing and making fitting adjustments. Her system uses a fitting grid, a series of lines marked on the pattern and muslin.  This includes a grainline running up and down the center point of each leg, and horizontal lines (called “HBL” for “horizontal balance line”) running perpendicular to the grain line around the hip region in front and back.

The grid lines act as an aid to let you know how the fabric hangs on the body.  If the horizontal lines are out of balance, or the vertical grain lines are bowing outward or inward, that’s a clue there’s a fitting problem which needs to be resolved. When you pin a proposed alteration into the garment, the grid lines give you feedback if the alteration actually fixes the current problem, or creates a new one.

In addition to recognizing and solving fitting issues, the course also covers the basic skills of preparing a muslin, preparing the pattern, transferring markings from the muslin to the pattern, and altering the pattern. It’s a complete course in fitting and pattern alteration.

The printed materials come with a 16-page quick reference guide to the biggest issues in pants fitting and how to resolve them. The reference guide itself is actually a mini tutorial behind the basic principles in pants fitting, mostly having to do with the crotch curve and visualizing how problems with the crotch curve affect the fit of the pant.

Compared with other instructional materials I’ve come across, Veblen’s course is complete and comprehensive. I would say Joyce Murphy’s articles in Threads magazine compare with Veblen in terms of fitting concepts and quality of presentation. But there’s a lot more material in Veblen’s course and it is systematically presented.

You can also ask the instructor questions in the class forum. Veblen will answer only general fitting questions in the forum, but if you go to her website you can purchase online consulting sessions with her where she will provide advice for your specific fitting problem, either via online Skype video or by examining email photos of your muslin. I may follow this path if I decide I need the guidance; it’s nice to have this option available.

Another Go-around

All this said, there’s no substitute for learning than actually doing.  I prepared a second muslin of my Vogue 8940 pants with the following alterations:

  • Scooped out the crotch curve even more than last time.
  • Added width to the sides to add back the circumference taken by the crotch curve
  • Made a half-inch tuck across front and back to raise the crotch point (shorten the “rise”).  This made the pants feel more comfortable when I pinned it out on the first muslin.
  • Added a half-inch to the crotch point front and back to compensate for the tuck.

All this produced a pants muslin I wasn’t happy with. The pants were too wide on the side seam, and too baggy in the seat.  Plus, the alterations to the crotch curve also straightened the pants back; when walking I could now feel tightness along the center back seam. Adding to the crotch point front and back was also a mistake.

I’m going to spare you the photos of this muslin; instead, I’m going back to the crotch curve I used in my previous blog post, and will make a muslin with that curve plus the tuck to raise the crotch point.  I will also make less dramatic additions to the side seam.  I’ll report back on that muslin soon.

I can’t say I’m totally in control of my pants fitting skills yet, but I do feel like I’m digesting the material. Veblen recommends attempting a fitting session, then re-watching/re-reading the class materials to get a deeper appreciation of what’s presented.  I’ve also recognized that fitting is not completely a theoretical exercise: a big, big challenge is developing the skill to recognize and see fitting problems.

It’s not unlike when I started amateur astronomy.  I had to train my eye to see details on planets and in faint galaxies that most people would completely miss. When most people look through my telescope at the planet Mars, they generally see a small terra-cotta colored dot. When I see the same view, I recognize landform markings, polar caps, and sometimes even cloud markings. I’ve learned to train my brain to perceive things it would normally miss, and the exact same principle applies to fitting.  This is a point Sarah Veblen makes in her course, and it’s something I’ve discovered I have to develop myself.

I’m pretty pleased with “Fun with Fitting: Pants” so far.  Though the production values on PatternReview.com don’t compare with the courses on Craftsy, the content in this course is solid and there’s a lot of material here to digest.  I’m glad I purchased it and give it five stars out of five.


Vogue 8940 Trousers: The Muslin

Sunday, I traced out the trouser pattern from Vogue 8940 and made a muslin, and I’m back to report my first attempts at fitting them.

Pattern Details

Vogue 8940 is a contemporary styled, tapered trouser pattern.  Some things I noticed about it:

  • It has slant pockets in front. In back it does not have welt pockets, as I first guessed. The rear pockets are on-seam pockets, using the yoke seam. The rear pockets are covered with flaps.
  • Unlike the Jedediah pants, V8940 has a contoured waistband with overlap and underlap extensions across center front.
  • The pattern comes in two multisize editions: 34-36-38-40, and 40-42-44-46. I have both editions, so all bases are covered.

Constructing the Muslin

Following the instructions on Vogue’s website, I chose the size corresponding to my waist measurement – 36, according to my tape measure. I traced out front, back, yoke, front pocket facing, and waistband pieces. Then I cut out the muslin.

Following the advice in Roberto Cabrera’s book Classical Tailoring Techniques: Men’s Wear, I added a zipper and a waistband for the fitting. It was good to get that question settled, because I have heard and read conflicting advice from fitting experts as to whether a waistband is desirable for a fitting muslin. Peggy Sagers says you don’t need the waistband and it gets in the way; Joyce Murphy says it is essential so you can properly judge how the pants hang.

Also following advice from another pants fitting article in Threads, I drew grainline, crotch, hip and knee lines onto the muslin as guides to judge how the garment hangs.

After going through all that effort, I was rewarded with a pair of pants I couldn’t put on.  The waist was three inches too short, and there was no ease at all along the hipline.

Measuring the Pattern

So I did what I should have done from the start: took a tape measure to the pattern and directly measure the pattern sizes.


I measured the size 36 muslin I prepared, then used the tape measure to measure the waistband for the other pattern sizes.

Pattern Size Muslin measure WAISTBAND measure
36 32.5″ 33″
38 35″
40 37″

My current waist size, 36″, falls right between the 38 and 40 pattern sizes.

I also measured the pair of Levi 501 jeans I was wearing. The jeans, advertised as a size 33 waist, actually measure 36.5 inches and fit me well. Vanity sizing in action.


Following the instructions in Nancy Zieman’s Pattern Fitting With Confidence, I measured the pattern at the hip and compared with Vogue’s finished hip measurements printed on the pattern tissue.

My measurements consistently came out 2 inches more than Vogue. But I think Vogue might be more accurate, as I have a 39-inch hip measurement and I just fit into the size 36 pants.

Pattern Size MY Measurement Vogue’s Measurement
36 41″ 39″
38 43″ 41″
40 45″ 43″

Either the size 38 or size 40 patterns could possibly work.

Unsure of how much ease I wanted in the hip area, I consulted Don McCunn’s book How To Make Sewing Patterns and found this table for recommended hip ease:

Tight Snug Comfortable
Women 1″ 2″ 3″
Men 1″ 2-3″ 4″

I also measured the hip, as best I could, on two pairs of Levi’s pants in my closet. Docker Alphas are Levi’s slim and tapered take on their traditional Docker pants.  The City Khakis are a very similar silhouette.

Pant Hip Size
Docker Alpha 43″
Docker City Khaki 43 1/2″

Considering that it’s easier to pin-fit a slightly oversized muslin, all signs pointed towards size 40.

The Muslin

Here’s what the size 40 muslin looks like, straight out of the envelope, no alterations.  I did pin up the legs at the knee so the hem would break nicely.





IMG_1689 IMG_1690

Already it looks better than the Jedediah Pants pattern; it can even pass ready-to-wear fit standards for a lot of people.

I thought there might be too much ease in the hips, but sitting takes up all that ease and I’m glad it’s there.

The problems I’m noticing with the muslin are:

  • Wrinkles under the seat from excess fabric.
  • Fullness in the back, vertical drag lines along the thighs.

Seat Wrinkles

The wrinkles under the seat seem to be a recurring theme with me. Previously, one of my readers suggested, “It’s not you, it’s the pattern”. Perhaps it is me, after all.

I consulted the many fit references I had on hand for the best match for the problem and advice for solving it.

Pants for Real People

I don’t want to turn this into a review of Pants for Real People, except to say this book gets on my nerves for the same reasons its companion volume Fit for Real People does: it’s insistence on tissue-fitting as part of its “secret sauce”, and its heavy emphasis on plus-sized women as the definition of “real” people. Also, roughly half the book deals with pants construction, not fitting, which I feel is a bit of a ripoff.

But I was pleased to discover that PFRP devotes three whole pages to pants for men, half of that actually devoted to fitting.  Here’s what it had to say:

pfrp_1 pfrp_2


I hope I haven’t broken any fair use laws; this is close to the extent of the fitting coverage for men in the book.

Fabulous Fit

Fabulous Fit, by Judith A. Rasband and Elizabeth L.G. Liechty, offered a similar diagnosis:


It also prescribed deepening the crotch curve, pointing out that this alteration is one of the few that can be done with ready-to-wear as it simply involves stitching a deeper curve below the original.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t really have a flat butt.  Yes, I’m over 40, and I’m sure my butt was rounder at age 25, but I don’t think I yet quality for the flat-butt club.

Trouser Draft

Kenneth D. King’s ebook Trouser Draft has an extensive section on fitting, using King’s own fitting methodology. Here’s King’s take on my issue:


And there’s a big insight: my hips/seat have always been a little large in relation to my thighs.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some readers (Laura and Shari) suggested a flat-butt adjustment back in the first article of this pants fitting series.  It just took a while for me to realize it too.

Fixing the Seat Wrinkles

I decided to follow the advice in PFRP and Fabulous Fit by stitching a new, deeper crotch curve in back.

First I tried deepening the curve about 3/8 inch, tracing out a curve formed by matching a flexible ruler to my body.  I marked it in yellow and just stitched over it on the machine.

IMG_1722And here’s the result.

IMG_1718 IMG_1719A little bit better, but not that much of a difference.

So I deepened the curve even more.


I think this change has made a noticeable improvement.  On the photos below, I also took in the right side seam both front and back by about 1/2 inch from the hip to knee, removing about 1 inch of ease in total.  This was to try to eliminate some of the vertical drag lines along the back thigh.

IMG_1723 IMG_1731 IMG_1724


So What Now?

Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should try more modifications before proceeding to an actual garment. The muslin is actually quite stiff and not as drapey as some fashion fabrics, so I’m curious how this will look as an actual garment.

Also, removing the excess along the side seams also makes the legs look straighter, so I’m mulling if I like that style choice.  (Though it just occurs to me I could remove the excess along the side via pivot/slide, and reduce circumference while retaining the style lines of the original pattern).  I could also consider taking a vertical tuck along the back as suggested by PFRP, but I really don’t want to mess with the pattern above the hipline.

Overall, though, Vogue 8940 seems like a nicely drafted pattern that looks like a viable path to a decent fitting pair of pants.

About Cloning

Several readers suggested I clone a garment.  I took some photos of myself in the Levi Docker Alpha City Khakis – the garment I had considered for doing a rub-off.

IMG_1709 IMG_1711 IMG_1714 IMG_1715

Ugh.  I thought I actually looked reasonably good in these pants. The V8940 muslin looks better than these pants do.  If I’m going to do a rub-off, I’m going to have to look for pants that fit better than these Levis.

Next Time

Maybe an actual test pair?  We’ll see.  As always, I value and appreciate your comments.