This “new” project is actually a continuation of the “Breakfast Club Wardrobe” project, though since it had gone on for so long I’m splitting it into two projects: the shirts (completed) and now the pants.
Given the amount of effort involved in producing a hand-made garment, I’ve come to realize that the effort is wasted if the fit and style aren’t also right. So I’m really trying to get the fit right before making three pairs of pants based on the pattern.
For readers new to the blog, this is not the first time I’ve wrestled with fitting this pattern. I’ve made several past attempts to fit these pants:
This latest round of fitting picks up where I left off.
One thing I learned from the previous rounds of muslins is that the choice of fabric does make a big difference in fit, as the pants drape and hang quite differently. The early muslins were in polyester, which fit quite differently from the shorts I made in cotton twill.
For a little better fidelity in fitting, I decided to experiment with actual muslin fabric. Fabric Outlet had a recent sale on muslin, so I purchased some in a weight as close to the twill as I could get. I’ve been cutting patterns out of muslin and joining them together by machine with a basting stitch – a regular straight stitch with a 5.0 stitch length. Oddly, the Juki doesn’t have a dedicated basting stitch in its repertoire of 625 stitches.
The Jedediah Pants pattern has a good amount of ease in the inseam between the crotch point, and the first notch around the knee. On my pattern, the front piece is somewhere around 3/4 inch longer than the back between those two points, which is really noticeable. I pinned the front and back pieces together at the crotch point and the midseam notch in this photo, to show off the extra ease.
When I made the grey shorts, I eased the front and back pieces together on the machine. But did I make a mistake with my pattern alterations, or is it supposed to be this way?
I wrote Thread Theory via their website, and got the following response from proprietor Morgan Meredith:
In regards to the length of the inseams on the Jedediah Pants, yes they were intentionally drafted this way. We’ve included a diagram and explanation for this on page 6 of the instruction booklet. The pant legs are designed to be stretched in certain areas using steam from the iron to create ease at the knees (to prevent bagging in the future) and at the thigh centre front. This stretching will end up creating inseams that are easier ease when stitching the seam.
So, that answers that question!
Wrinkles in the seat
The shorts I had made in the gray twill had some really unsightly wrinkles just underneath the seat.
Figuring out how to eliminate these wrinkles was enough to make me set the problem aside.
Since then, I’ve been watching a new program on public television called “Fit 2 Stitch”. The host, Peggy Sagers, focuses on garment construction, and especially on fitting. She demonstrates techniques for creating flat patterns, but she also shows how to use draping to correct fit issues and transfer the corrections back to the pattern.
There’s been a few episodes featuring pants fitting, and one of them is online. Though the entire show is worth watching, she does something interesting about 14 minutes into the show; she demonstrates how to create a dart to remove the excess fabric that pools underneath the seat.
Now, you don’t want a dart going across the back of your ass. But here’s the magic insight I got from Peggy Sagers: if you can make the dart start and end on a seamline, you don’t need to keep the dart in the pattern; you can simply subtract the fabric from the pattern. The easiest way is to simply fold the dart out of the pattern. The pattern still lays flat after the change, and you can move on with your life.
For the first attempt at removing this excess fabric, I pinned out a dart with the point at the inseam, and the wide part on the side seam. (I also attempted to pin out some fabric that was pooling right between the yoke and pockets). Pinning the excess fabric while looking at myself in the mirror was pretty challenging.
Next, I used a tip from Kenneth King’s “Smart Fitting” series of articles in Threads Magazine (issues 147 through 150). I drew across the edge of the pinned area with a pen to mark the region to remove.
Sadly, the region I pinned out (in red below) turned out to be a curved dart. This situation didn’t happen on Peggy Sagers’ TV show. I considered the situation for a while, then drew a straight dart (in blue) to try to approximate it as much as possible.
I stitched in the darts, and reassembled the muslin.
The alteration was partially successful. Here, I’m modeling the original pattern on the left leg, and the darted version on the right. The right side looks a little better, but not by a whole lot.
After watching the episode above another time, and watching the other episodes (from season 1) where Peggy Sagers adjusts pants, I noticed that she always put the point of her darts on the side seam and the wide part towards the inseam, the reverse of the way I had done it.
So I tried doing that on the left leg. What I got was a straight dart (the lower one in the photo below), that had its apex on the side seam but took a good section (nearly 3 inches) out of the crotch curve on the center back seam. (The upper dart was yet another attempt to remove excess fabric between the yoke and pocket.)
This was a mixed bag. The wrinkles were alleviated.
I figured that the pant legs were now off grain as a result of the alteration. To illustrate what I mean, first look at how I removed the dart from the seat area, by folding it out of the paper pattern. Already you can see the grain line at top ends up on an angle.
Now, when you overlay that on the traced pattern piece after the foldout, it becomes obvious that if the waistline falls more less on grain, the legs end up seriously off grain after sewing out the dart in my muslin.
So I went ahead and cut a new muslin piece for the back pattern minus dart, with the grain line for the legs matching the fabric. I hoped this would solve the problem.
Here’s the pants resewn, with a newly cut muslin after the dart has been completely removed from the pattern. The good news is, the wrinkles under the seat are much improved.
The bad news is, the crazy twist lines from crotch point to knees still remain.
And I noticed a new problem, just as bad as the crazy twist lines. Removing the dart shortens the crotch curve considerably, by about 3 inches. The waist of the pants in back now fall substantially lower than they should. In the photo below, the underwear waistband indicates where my preferred waistline falls. In front, the pants line up right against the bottom of the underwear waistband. (The pants muslin has no waistband of its own).
In Kenneth King’s “Smart Fitting” series, he describes a pattern alteration he calls “no net change” – meaning fabric is removed from the pattern where it isn’t wanted, but added back somewhere else in order to keep the pattern pieces in alignment.
Using the “no net change” concept to fix the waistline, we can add the dart back in at the top of the pants back, right at the seam between pant back and yoke piece.
This is easily done by pivoting the original pattern piece up to add back in the missing wedge of fabric. I chose to pivot the original pattern to the point where the grainlines fall into alignment.
Next, I taped in some additional tracing paper, traced a new outline and smoothed out the crotch seam line. This adds the missing wedge back into the yoke.
How did this turn out? I have sewn a new muslin with the corrected back piece. The waistband is fixed, but the crazy twist from crotch to knees reamins. I haven’t yet taken photos, but I will share them with you next time.
The Self-Taught Sewist
As nerve-wracking as this whole process has been, it has been very, very educational for me. I’m learning pants fitting the hard way, by doing it, making mistakes, and learning how to fix them.
Over at the Cutter and Tailor forums, there’s a firmly held opinion that you can’t master a skill as deep and intricate as tailoring via self-tutelage; they liken it to trying to learn how to be a surgeon by reading a book.
To some extent, I think they have a point. But never before in human history has it been so easy for the home sewist to get live demonstration of techniques via the Internet, from Craftsy, YouTube (such as the Peggy Sagers video above), and other resources.
For another example, if you’d like like to learn to properly hold needle, thimble and thread for hand stitching, you need look no further than YouTube to find not one, but two Saville Row-trained tailors to demonstrate:
Sewists of previous eras never had this kind of amazing advantage. I think this ready access to information, live demonstrations, and online discussion broadens the scope of what people can hope to learn via self-teaching.
I do feel like there were spots in this process where I would have liked to have had a human instructor available to ask questions and get advice. Perhaps I could have gotten my advice by asking questions on discussion forums, but I definitely feel I could proceed quicker with an onsite mentor.
But I do feel as if I am learning.
Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear your suggestions for making the crazy twist go away.
Next time, we’ll try to bring pants-fitting to its conclusion.