Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pants Block 5 - Pattern Comparisons and Reference List

Dear Readers,

Now that I have made my own pants block apart from adding my own modifications I can use it to see if my existing patterns will fit.

I have been comparing my pants block to three cargo pants patterns that I own to see what alterations I have to make so I can figure out which one to choose.

Speaking of comparisons I have the meerkat jingle running through my head. If this eccentric character has not invaded your country yet see here No affiliation etc..

I have broken my three season fabric fast and bought this Japanese cotton from Spotlight for some casual cargos. It is just the right weight.

Here are the three patterns, compared.

Butterick 5504 This is a Connie Crawford pattern, nicely drafted but I can now see why the back never felt right even though the crotch length was almost the same and the width of the leg overwhelmed me.

The second is an oldie Vogue 7912 that I had made up long before the internet gave so much to my sewing. I had already made an adjustment to lengthen the back crotch curve but now I would need more.

The third is New Look 6251 that has nice details. I have never made it up. I really would have been in trouble with the back crotch but the front is pretty much perfect. I think I will be using this one.

In spite of what I said in a previous post about not wanting to sew pants the enthusiasm has returned. The pants journey has been worth it for a body that varies from the out-of-the-packet norm. I can feel a dress block coming and one day a jacket block..

Here is a list of books and magazine articles that are helpful when figuring out how to fit pants.

Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo.
Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina.
Pants for Any Body by Patti Palmer and Susan Pletsch (OOP but still available on Amazon)

Threads Magazine January 2008 no 134
The Best Fitting Pants Ever by Claudette Grant which mentions three different drafts for three different 'seats' and also the concept of shifting the hips.

Threads Magazine May 2009 no 142
Special Fitting Issue
Slash and Pivot for Bottoms by Kathleen Cheetham

Threads Magazine December 1989/January1990 no no26
Copy The Clothes You Love by Jann Jasper

Threads Magazine February/March 2003 no 105
Restyling Pants by Injoo Kim

Threads Magazine June/July 2005 no 119
To fit Pants, Start at the Waist by Joyce Murphy

Threads Magazine December 2005/January 2006 no 122
Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat by Joyce Murphy

Threads Magazine October/November 2008 no 139
For a Personalized Fit Grade It - Resize your patterns to make perfect pants by Joyce Murphy

Threads Magazine January 2007 no 128
The Seat of The Pants by Kathleen Cheetham.

I love those old Threads magazines. They seemed to pack so much information and creativity per issue back then. Fabulous stuff. One of these days I will buy it all on disk.

So that's it, the end of the series but by no means the end of the journey. I hope that some of it was helpful.

Happy sewing,


Friday, 27 September 2013

Pants Block Part 4 - Flat Butt Adjustment and Wrinkle Free Leg

Dear Sewing Friends,

I have done a lot of muslin sewing!  In my last post I had a break through moment of realizing I had to do what is essentially a flat butt adjustment. I had pinned out the extra folds across the behind but turning a few pins into a workable interpretation on paper was something else, but after a week of trial and error I got there! I am starting this post with the final product.. I got there!

A non saggy back leg. A smooth front. A Customized you think that would be a good title for a book?

A note on my stenciling experiment. I had some good quality but meh cotton, aqua with brown squiggles, that I had fun stenciling with Setacolor paint (made for fabrics) and a stencil from Spotlight. You paint it on, then set it with a hot iron. My results are a bit slapdash abstract..

I was adding water as an afterthought. Next time I will dilute it by about a third, carefully first.

*Edited to add I have washed these pants twice and they did color bleed but in a pleasingly artistic way fading more in some parts than others. I perhaps should have done more heat setting. Also I have since found out you have to let them dry completely before ironing them to heat set. I wish all this was in the instructions on the packaging!

Anyway, back to the block. I have photographed the messy one that shows what I did. It is still not completely finished.. I will redraw it with a lowered waist because in the above photos my waistband is completely folded over and that's where it wants to sit.

Here's what I did and what worked on my body.

I pinned out a wedge from side to almost-crotch seam to take out butt bagginess. The fold does not go all the way through. I did try that but it did not work. I then put that same amount back further up the side just below the back dart level to even up the side length of the pant. Once again, the fold does not go all the way through, it is identical to the folded out wedge.

I had already lowered both the front and back waistlines as per my markings with elastic on previous muslins. I ended up putting a wedge of length back at the centre back only. Now I had the right waist shape that I can, as already mentioned, put lower. *Edited to add On me the ideal waist is 3.5cm below the belly button and can be snug as long as the crotch curve is adequate.

But this is the most important thing I did.  I corrected the grain of the leg, which had been thrown out when I tilted the back torso for my sway back.

See the purple arrow at the top of the picture? The purple arrow is the original grain line for the pants block and I thought the whole piece had to then follow this grain even when redrawn for a sway back. Not so. I had to go back and redraw the original crease line along the leg, then use this as my grain and the mid point for all alterations to the leg. This, dear friends was as big a 'Ah Ha!' moment as figuring out I need a flat butt adjustment.

The grain of the leg must fall from the centre of the butt or the leg will not hang right.  The crease lines  on the original frame (see Part 1) do matter as construction lines even if you never ever intend to iron in creases on your pants.

I had to take away some width from the inside of the leg and transfer it to the outside leg seam in order to redistribute width using the crease line. *Edited to add I later took off a tiny bit more (3mm) along the length of the inner leg line and curved inner thigh line a bit more.

I had, in effect, balanced the leg and then the back concertina knee wrinkles were gone. Relief!
I'd done it!

Should I tell you about the things that didn't work? They include:  
Taking out a wedge just under crotch point. Still had the leg issues.

Moving a portion of back crotch to front crotch. Nope. The under butt cats whiskers were back and the looser back leg didn't give the look I was after either.

I won't bore you with pictures of the other efforts  such as..
Widening the back leg, 
Narrowing the back leg  (all before I fixed the grain).  My epiphany came when I mistakenly put one of the baggier muslins on back to front and even though the torso was off the legs hung perfectly..

Once the leg was balanced I scooped out a bit of width at the inner thigh and finally came out with a decent fit.  I think I can now try working with different amounts of leg ease and different styles.

Here is my great wall of muslins.

The yellow dotty one will become pyjamas,  I am happy enough to wear the batik around the house. The plain calico will be recycled, maybe into bags. The floral sheets had already been used as drop sheets. 

I will do one more post about comparing the block to commercial patterns in my stash, and do the promised reference list.

Right now I need to do anything but sew pants! It's the weekend and the sun is shining.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Pants Block Part 3. More about The Crotch and Fixing the Seat of my Pants

Dear Sewing Friends,

Most of you know I have been drafting a pants block following instructions in the book Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo. In my previous two posts I  covered my journey in drafting a block and getting as far as a first muslin. I got to the the point where I had to deal with my own body's individual shape and that is where the book and I parted company.

The crotch is the crux of the matter. Pun intended. If the crotch curve, depth and angle are not right nothing will be right and it's that not quite right fit or baggy pantsville forever. No way! Crotch curve or die!

I had done one of two methods I had read about, the aluminum foil templates. This had limited results. I then went and bought myself the equipment for another method I had read about, using a flexible rule.

I bought this at Lincraft and had another go. The idea is you put an elastic band on it, mold the entire curve to your crotch from front to back then move the elatsic band to mark your mid line and somehow get that thing off while maintaining the complete curve.  Now unless you are Olga Korbut I suspect you need a sewing buddy to help get the bendy rule off you. I at least, could not seem to do it properly by myself. While it did give me a good idea of the crotch shape I wanted to be exact and I racked my brains for what I could do and the light bulb went on.

I would measure a favourtie pair of almost worn out jeans and transfer the markings. I don't know if you've ever really looked at a worn out garment before throwing it out but it will take on the shape of your body. If you have been lucky enough to find a perfectly fitting pair of RTW pants keep them when they are worn out to copy.


Previously, when I had done a front crotch template with the foil I suspected that I had to move the CF over a little but now I was sure.

I redrew my pants block. What I had taken away from the CF and CB I had to add to the sides and in terms of the back, maintain the angle of the tilt of the torso.

In the meantime I had also started to work on the legs trying to take in the back leg. Here I have taken out a narrow diagonal crease from low side hip to knee level.

You cannot have a back leg side seam that differs too drastically to side front leg side seam because they have to go together in a way that will not pull and the finished lengths of these seam lines have to be the same. (From Threads magazine articles that I will reference at the end of the series).

Also because of the slight curving at the waist and hip, the side seam will end up 1cm to 1.5 cm longer than the original frame measurement of waist to floor. (From Pattern Cutting).

Ok, now I had enough room around my waist and hips but still had a baggy under ass/thigh area. I fiddled, I put on high heels. It wasn't a lower leg propping things up issue. I tried narrowing the back leg by a 4mm at each side. This helped but my Ah Ha! moment came when I did this..


That's where I needed to take some out! It even made the front sit better.

Happy times! This has been  a long post. I will transfer the cross thigh reduction fold to my pants block and cut out a wearable muslin. 

The cotton is flapping in the breeze, drying.

Have a good day,


Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Pants Block Part 2 The Crotch and First Muslin

Readers, In this part I go up to making the first muslin.

Previously I had gone as far as measuring up and making my frames, crease lines and side seam marks.
It was time to have my first go at the crotch curve. I had measured my total front to back crotch distance. I already knew it was deeper than average, by 5cm as described in Part 1 when sitting down with a ruler and measuring from waist to chair. I know I have a sway back and a forward tilt to my pelvis when standing at my normal stance and also as you will see, a slight sideways tilt.

My highest thigh circumference is actually 3cm less than the 'average' in the book so my crotch curve did not need a longer extension between the legs - the pointy bits at the ends of the curve could be regular length. I have a roundish butt and would somehow need to take that into consideration. All this was going through my mind to try to visualize what my real crotch curve should look like. It made me wish I could get a life size MRI scan. The next best high tech instrument I had on hand was aluminum foil.

My text is Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo

I had read about making a foil rope and moulding it to the complete crotch curve, but it is very hard to prize off my body in the true shape so I did it in two parts, front then back and I folded the foil flat rather than make a twist.

I tried to translate these to paper..
The front.

This is the 'corrected' crotch curve because when I pulled it off my body it sloped outwards..

  I thought ''That can't be right can it?" Well it was, but not to that extent. More about that later.

I thought the back looked about right.
Hmm..I have a wider torso front to back than the text book. Now I had a working draft of the crotch.

The brown dash line is where the back crotch line would be according to the book. I kept the original angle but in effect did a deeper scoop.

The legs are drawn in, the purple line. I had two goes at the back darts, because I drew them in before I did the waist edge. Duh. I eliminated the front darts as per my measurements.

Time to cut out the calico. I added 2.5 cm to all seams except the leg hems. In other words one inch all around to add ease and to give me some room for error.

I sewed 1.5cm (5/8") seams in my largest straight machine stitch.

I sewed them up and tried them on, holding them up with a piece of elastic tied around the waist to determine the true waistline, something I read in the 'Fit' books mentioned in Part 1.

People I warned you there would be unflattering photos in the name of sewing research..

In all seriousness the result while it did not feel too bad on, it needs tweaking. The front is almost there but the back needs work. See the side hip cat's whiskers? I need more ease high up at the sides. Then there are the baggy drag lines from side hip to knee. What to do there? I know that pull lines and drag lines are pointers to problem areas. Tight ripples mean material needs to be added, usually to where they are pointing. If they hang and bag material needs to be taken away. I've got a classic case of both!

BTW I learnt this in a jacket fitting article in Threads. When I find which one I will reference it. As mentioned before I will do a full reference list at the end of the series.

Back to the drawing board. More to come in Part 3.

Val xx

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Pants Block Part 1

Dear Sewists,

As part of Beverly's challenge for Scary September I chose to face something I had been putting off for much of this year, doing a pants block. A pants block is a basic shell that fits the body without any features except darts. It is used for fitting purposes and as a base to add your details, amount of ease and styling later, if you are a professional. 

A sloper is a block with seams and some ease added that is used by sewists for fitting purposes. Slopers used to be put out by all the pattern companies but are hard to find now, except  Vogue and they call it a 'fitting shell'. For some reason they've always scared me and I have been reluctant to use them. Maybe because I know the Vogue crotch curve does not sit right on me. More about why and more about The Dreaded Crotch in Part 2.

Readers I am a longtime hobby seamstress, not a professional but I happened to stumble upon a clearly written professional book on pattern cutting at a craft fair which I bought and will use as my reference for my pants block.

My aim is to have a block that fits me and ultimately to make my own pants, adding features from purchased patterns to my base. I will share what I am doing, unflattering pictures and all, because I have received much inspiration from others who have done the same.
This series will take a few posts.

Ok, as mentioned before I am using the book Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo by Laurence King Publishing.

I am sure there are many resources out there that walk you through a block. If you know of a terrific one please tell me and I will list it in my resource list at the end of this series. 

I like how this author explains things and also that he gives some baseline measurements as a starting point as the book is aimed at students who will ultimately draft patterns for commercial garments. 

The frame
The first step is to draw two parallel frames, the centre back frame and the centre front frame 15 cm apart. There are detailed instructions on how to figure out the dimensions of your frames.
It all starts with measurements. Lots of measurements. I found it easiest to do my own measurements over my normal underwear and some long bike pants. I measured and recorded everything in a notebook then measured again to check. Is all of this confronting? Yes it is, but sewing has taught me you have to get real to ultimately get flattering results. It is hard to even write that sentence.  I missed out on supermodel stature. Deep breath. But I will work with what I've got and thank God for it. Exhale. Did I mention I am no psychologist either?

In regard to measurements and pants fitting generally there are two books that I have found very useful in the past. One is a book that may be out of print called Pants for Any Body by Pati Palmer and Susan Plestch.  Pants for Real People by Mario Alto which is also good. link

The other book I have found useful for pants and other fitting issues is Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina.

Anyway, armed with my multitude of measurements I got out my paper and rulers and drew my frames. In regard to the frame I found my measurements differed in two respects, the length from side waist to floor, which for me is104 cm instead of 108cm, and the body rise - where the crotch starts - which on me is 30.5cm rather than 27 cm, a significant difference already!

Luckily the width of the front and back blocks matched my measurements.

In regard to measuring 'body rise' or what I think of as crotch depth, there are three ways of measuring. 

1. sit on a chair and measure from side waist to chair
2. subtract the inner leg-to-floor measurement from the side waist-to-floor measurement (most commonly used for men)
3. measure from your front waist just above the belly button to mid way between your legs, to where a tight fitting jeans seam lands

There is probably more room for error with no 3, my method but I used it to check the accuracy of no 1. Guess what? It was.

The two frames are 15 cm apart. The next step was to mark 5cm in from the CF body rise and 10cm from the CB body rise. This is the crotch point.

Then I put the marks at waist level for the shaping of the side seams. I left out the one at CF that would have brought the CF seam inwards by 1 cm because from experience this does not suit my body and the book says that for slim fitting pants or jeans this mark is eliminated. I like a front zip to be on the straight grain of fabric and bringing the front crotch-to-waist seam inwards doesn't make sense to me unless you have a significant hip-to-waist difference and need to do it.

I don't have the 10 inch (25.5cm) hourglass ratio. Even during my teenage years when my measurements said that I did, I was really a skinny apple, not a true hourglass. My skeleton is balanced shoulder to hip but whatever weight I gain goes to just under the waist then proceeds to creep upwards. Not that I plan to let it...

Whoo! Is your head reeling yet? Mine is. 

In the next installment I tackle the crotch.

Happiness with whatever you are sewing,

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Stretch Lace Skirt

Dear Sewing Bloggers,

I want to announce the return of my enthusiasm for sewing. My 'mojo' has been missing for some months now, due to a number of factors. There were family illnesses and my own injury to a tendon in my hand that took forever to heal and made doing the scissor action of cutting out very difficult. There were a variety of other things that took my time and attention.
Well, all my family, I am glad to say, is well. My hand is better. Also I found that, while rotary cutters did nothing to help my situation, Fiskars spring loaded scissors help enourmously. That and the passage of time.

Anyway, enough. Life goes on and there are pretty patterns out there! I whipped up a little lace skirt on Saturday and today, in the midst of my photo shoot, my place is full of clothes that I am altering and projects I am planning to do and there is sewing stuff everywhere. Just like old times!

Here is the skirt with a top that is also me-made that works best with it.

I made the skirt to go with this top but I am not so sure it works .. I'll just wear it with pants!

I might have to make me another top with black trim..

Here is a better photo of the skirt, folded back to show the under layer and the deep cover stitched hem. Top layer stretch poly lace and under layer a mystery black knit, both from my stash.

The skirt how to: Take any straight skirt pattern, even a lining pattern for a skirt will do. Use that as your base. Make sure the finished circumference at hip level is your widest hip measurement plus 2" ease. The length is whatever length you want plus 2" hem. Cut the lining layer one inch shorter than the shell. If both your shell and lining are stretchy you can taper the skirt in for the waist as per your pattern, just don't sew the darts as you will be putting elastic in - half inch woven elastic two inches less than your waist circumference. Assemble your skirt and your lining. I serged mine. Put the skirt over the lining. The seams on the shell facing the lining layer, and the seams on the lining layer facing inwards, so they won't show through the lace when the skirt is worn. 

At the waist fold the top seam allowances in on themselves, place one or to pins. Flip the layers out so you can readjust the first two pins and finish pinning around the circle. This is how I figure out how to do my elastic casing. It will make sense when you do it. Serge the edge. Flip it out the right way and do a narrow zig zag 5/8" from the edge, leaving a little gap. Thread your elastic in from the inside of the garment and stitch. Try the skirt on for length. Cover stitch (or narrow zig zag) your hems. 

There it is, an in between season garment, up to date and as comfortable as a slip.

p.s. I needed thread and elastic to finish this on the weekend but when I went to my local Lincraft, which is ..umm.. poorly stocked at the best of times to get Gutterman thread I ended up trying Scanfil for the first time. My cantankerous cover stitcher loves that stuff. Bliss!

More to come soon,