Pants Drafting: At Last – A Finished Wearable Pair

 At Last – A Wearable Pair of Shorts!

Here they are.  I had my husband take the photos outside hoping for more light.  With more light you get more shadow so the pics are both good and bad.  I had been wearing them throughout the day and they are a bit wrinkled but overall this is the best fit I have achieved ever in sewing pants for myself.    

Final Pants Draft: Front View

Final Pants Draft: Side View

Final Pants Draft: Back View. This picture is all bum. I had to laugh. Believe it or not this is the most modest rendition as any other size crop left too much bare skin exposed.

These shorts are not perfect.  There is some seamstress-y stuff like a tiny pucker at my lapped zipper but overall I was very pleased.  They fit better than most store-bought. The photos show deeper folds than are apparent in real life.  (I am starting to understand why we look ten pounds heavier in a photo, every minor shadow in our clothing is magnified.)


I had remnant of navy gabardine.  I’m thankful that shorts take so little fabric as good quality gabardine can be pricey.  Alas, this was just JoAnn’s run of the mill stuff, but now that I have a working pants pattern my mind is opening up to new possibilities,  like the RTW-alike quality men’s trouserweight available at a nearby family-owned fabric store.

 Zero Waistband Wearing Ease

Who Knew!?

The waistband now fits as I took out the wearing ease.  Knowing how uncomfortable a too tight band is on a plus size torso, I was concerned about this adjustment.  In the past I have added to the waistband area, unconscious that I was ensuring a poor fit.  Contrary to my instincts less wearing ease is crucial in certain areas.

Sway Back or Back Chub

When I turn I can see a tiny gap in the pants at my sway back, but it is minimal and the pants no longer risk falling off.  I will warn you, pattern drafting will lay bare any body-type denial you may have previously entertained.  To my consternation, even though I made the proper sway back alteration, it isn’t only a sway back causing that little gap.  My back chub stand away from the spine, the swell of the chub creating a larger dip at the spine that isn’t technically part of my sway back issue. I will have to live with it or lose the chub. 

Any More Alterations?

My only future alteration is to slightly slant out the side seams as straight shorts are not as flattering to me as those with a flare. 

Anything else I do will not alter the pattern but simply add stylistic features such as pockets, or change up darts for pleats.   I am eager to pull out scraps to practice welt pockets excited that for the first time in my sewing experience I have a pattern that will allow me to make a custom pair of dress slacks.

The End of the Body Shots

A Sigh of Relief.

Seeing and posting for the world to see, such detailed close-ups of my torso has been hard for me.  In real life I deliberately choose clothing that allows me to selectively ignore this part of my body.  Undergoing the pattern drafting process has brought me more in touch with the realities of my figure.  I know other sewers struggle with pants fitting and I wanted my readers to see the reality, and that called for photos on a live model.  Putting delicacies aside I posted the real-life photos of my muffin-top, Buddha-belly and bubble-butt for the all world to see.  

—-And I promised myself I would stop when this was all over.—–

Those of you who post photos of yourselves wearing the outfits, I admire you and envy how put together you look.  But for me, I am returning to my favorite model – Millie Mannequin.  Her figure is so nice, make-up is never an issue, her time is at my disposal, and she is possessed of endless patience, standing for hours on end letting me poke pins into her.

Millie Mannequin: Sew Store-Bought Top Model.

It’s hard not to like her.  

She is a bit wobbly, (there’s been talk!), and her center bar is prone to collapse her torso to the floor without warning, (a condition seen as confirming all those salacious suspicions.)  But then what friend doesn’t have a few faults.  To my shame, I have occasionally cussed her out over these minor failings, but she has always forgiven me forthwith – and reminds me that it is probably a good time to take a break 🙂

When undertaking a personal pattern drafting shots of the live model are key for illustrating fit and alterations.  When there is no other way I will post photos of myself, but for now, Millie officially returns as top model for Sew Store-Bought.

Next Post: Tuesday, June 15, 2010; A Review of the Book I used for the Pants Pattern Drafting


Pants Drafting: My Not-So-Wearable Muslin

Guess what.  Real bottomweight fabric doesn’t behave like worn out sheet material.


A no-brainer you might think but this has been a stumbling block for me before and I was almost glad it came up during this pants drafting process because a lot of the causes behind past mistakes are becoming clearer to me.

I first made a quick shorts muslin to check my changes.  The second muslin had atrocious side seam drift and I made what I hoped were the correct alterations.  When I tried on the third muslin the side seams appeared corrected it was okay for take off, or so I thought.  You may notice some looseness at the back waist.  I thought that a stiffer fabric would require more wiggle room so I ignored this which later bit me in the butt, figuratively speaking.

Pants Drafting Third Muslin:They are a bit loose in the back but I don't notice.

My Not-So-Wearable Muslin

The photo is abominable.  It is the only one I have and I lightened it up in Photoshop so you could see it.  You can’t make out much.  But you can see the huge gap at my back. 

My Not-So-Wearable Muslin. The waistband does not fit and gaps at the back.

I made these shorts from some very lightweight denim given to me by my cousin, a quilter.  I choose it because it had more heft than the cotton sheeting yet wasn’t as stiff as a true bottomweight fabric.

Not entirely to my surprise actual bottomweight fabric does not respond like muslin.  The muslin had a soft cling to my figure while the denim had enough heft to stand away from my body, which it did.  The waistband floated around my waist, especially at the back.  Going through this drafting process has reminded me of all of my earlier sewing woes fitting pants.  I have had this problem before where a muslin fit well at the waist and then the fashion fabric stood too far away from my body. 

I had hoped the wearable muslin would be at least good enough for gardening but as the waistband is too large and they are prone to falling down I don’t believe they will withstand the stress of heavy labor.

I assumed that stiffer fabric would require greater wearing ease.  I was wrong. 

What the denim needed was for me to cinch it in even greater.  The previous muslins did not really show my sway back.  I was puzzled by this and I wondered if a custom fit somehow negated my usual alteration.  NOT!  

  1. I took a chunk out of the back seam. 
  2. Removed the one-inch wearing ease at the waist.  
  3. I kept the two-inch wearing ease at the hips. 

And with my once again retooled personal pants pattern – I started again.

This being my fourth rendition I was surprised by how even keel I felt about the whole thing.  In the past I would have given up, but then I was fighting a losing battle with commercial patterns that were not a good fit for my body type.  Additionally, I lacked the knowledge of how to alter those patterns to suit me.  It was a case of damned if I do (sew my own), and damned if I don’t (wanting to cry in store fitting rooms).

Though it is more involved, pattern drafting is calmer for me emotionally.  Getting a better fit than most RTW right at the beginning inspired a lot of hope in me.  Therefore I am continuing to finetune these pants muslins because they appear to have the most potential of any I have tried so far.

Next Post:  Saturday, June 12, 2010: An Actual Wearable Muslin – I Hope!

Pants Drafting:The Second Muslin – Wearing Ease and Correcting Side Seam Drift

The book I am using to draft this pants pattern says that your personal pattern will fit like a second skin.

The results lived up to the claim.

I needed to add ease.  This has always been a stumper for me.   I have seen charts that demonstrate the difference between wearing ease, (the bare mininum you need to move),  and designer ease, (how loose fitting the garment is on the wearer often determined by current fashion). 

The thing is I haven’t ever seen an illustration of how to add ease to an actual pattern piece.

Uncertain of my next step, I did what every modern woman with a burning question does – I Googled and went lurking on various message boards.  None showed exactly how to add ease and apparently I am not the only sewer troubled by the scanty information available.  Sewing manuals are filled with visuals, giving countless illustrations on how to alter patterns.  Whole books are devoted to pattern design, yet none I have seen so far clearly instruct the home sewer in where and how to specifically add various types of ease to a pattern.  It is unclear to me why the industry stops short of this one step.

Adding Wearing Ease to Trousers: How I Did It.

With no illustrations showing me how to add ease I was left to figure it out on my own.  Some of the message boards gave minimal wearing ease as one inch at the waistband and 2 inches at the hip.  

Since there are four pieces, 2 front and 2 back, I divided by four arriving at ¼ inch added to waist and ½ inch added to hips.  This small amount did make the pants wearable.  I can sit down comfortably. 

Here is the Second Muslin.

Front View

Front View Second Muslin

Side View

Second Pants Drafting Muslin:Side View

Back View

Second Pants Drafting Muslin:Back View

The two fitting problems  

Small changes at the back waist.  I pinned down the correct amount with small safety pins, one of my favorite fitting tools as they don’t stick you or fall out when you take the garment off.

The first flush of success subsided it was apparent even to my rather forgiving eyes that I had some serious side seam drift.  I have had this happen in commercial patterns also.  Changes made to the crotch must alter the line of the side seams.   

I could have ripped out the entire leg seams and re-pinned but this process would be hampered by the fact that as I bent down I would alter the fall of the trouser leg.   I saw that the side seam was correct over the hip and only began its wayward journey at the point where my leg joined my hip.  I thought if I could correct the top portion of the pants leg I could carry that correction all the way down the leg in later muslins.

So I cut the leg off. 

Second Pants Drafting Muslin:Leg Cut off and seam ripped out so I could fix the side seam drift. As the initial photo was too dark to easily view I lightened up a bit in Photoshop.

Ripped out the outer leg seam and redrew a tentative seamline.  I did the same to the inside leg but I will spare you the photos!  Essentially it looked like I needed to add material to the outer back leg and add again at the inner front leg.   

That I still do not have the perfect pair of pants has not diminished my optimism.    I rarely got this far on commercial patterns.  Since the first muslin was superior in overall fit I decided to carry on because, unlike commercial patterns with so many issues I don’t know which end is up, this pattern was custom to my measurements and provided my best hope so far of achieving well-fitting slacks.   

But I am getting bored with shearing old sheets.  Next I made a quickie muslin of sheeting just to check my changes and then cut into some very cheap – shall I say free – fashion fabric in order to hopefully arrive at a wearable muslin.

Next Post: Thursday, June 10, 2010: Pants Drafting – The Wearable Muslin

P.S.  I am using a pattern drafting book which I will review – I promise!  I want to complete at least one entire section of the book so that I can give a fair take on the instructions.

Pants Fitting:Step Two – The First Muslin

Given my past what occurred next in my pants drafting adventure was quite a shock to the system.

The damn things actually fit!

I have never sewn a pair of pants that weren’t a heartbreaking mass of creases and bulges.   So many times I have tried to fix the fitting errors only to generate more.  Each pants-sewing attempt would leave me disheartened and I would give it up for months, only trying again after time’s passage had induced some forgetfulness of my earlier travails.

Having been burnt so many times, even though I looked forward to this next step in my sewing education, I felt it best to adopt an attidude of skeptical hopefulness, if there is such a thing. 

I might be a featherweight but I could have shouted hallelujah over the results.

The First Muslin

Front View First Pants Drafting Muslin

Appalling you might think, but this is the best fit I have ever achieved in any home-sewn trouser.  Overall the material flows smoothly over both my stomach and rump.  The crotch nor the waistband cut into me.  I don’t have those bulging, funky-looking smile lines in the front crotch.  “Crack is wack” as my husband’s high school students say, and for once I have on a pair of pants that aren’t displaying more of my seat configuration than I care to show.

Back View First Pants Drafting Muslin

I realize that this basic of a pattern might not be most flattering to my figure but it can be altered with varying the zipper insertion and adding pockets.  I don’t know which was worse, seeing the unbroken line of my rump, or viewing how tubby my tummy has grown.  Then I realized that strategic placement of pockets is what normally breaks up these areas in RTW and I could use the same when I sew up the wearable versions.

Side View First Pants Drafting Muslin

The Alterations

Lowered front dart but kept it much thinner than most standard patterns.   When I first drew the front darts per the drafting instructions I wondered how such a thin dart would look, but most of my attention was drawn to my thankfulness that I had only to draw one dart, instead of two, therefore I did not much question the draft instructor’s reasons. This is another instance where on my own I would not have varied much from what is typical in a standardized pattern.  Clearly those double sets of deep darts have not been working for me, yet I would not have thought to question their presence in the pattern construction.   They might have been affecting my fit for years in a way that I was previously unaware.  

Tucked out excess in front which significantly shortened crotch.  Again, on my own, I would have felt I was doing something “wrong” to shorten the front crotch by so much.  I’ll show you on the next post of the second muslin, when I shortened the front crotch it didn’t take out inches so much as deepen the curve almost to the point of looking like a typical back crotch curve for a curvy rump.  It made sense and I don’t know why I haven’t taken a hard look at my abdomen and realize that it is so curvy in front that it does resemble a rump curve a bit. (Though I won’t dismiss denial as a reason for my obtuseness.)

Tucked out excess in front lower belly.

You can see that shortening the front crotch has caused my leg seams to seriously drift but that is something I won’t catch until the next muslin, my attention being so enraptured by the lack of bulges and creases in the stomach and rump portions.

Lowered waistband from my natural waist.   You can see the mark I made with a sharpie on the front view photo above.  My natural waist is quite high and the drafting process uses that measurement. If pants ever reach these heights again I have something to help me adjust the pattern.   For now I am going with the waistband at the bellybutton.

Quite pleased with this pair I used a marker over my seamlines, seam ripped and used this muslin as the pattern for my next muslin, which it turns out presents some challenges of its own.

Next Post: Tuesday, June 8, 2010; Pants Drafting – The Second Muslin.

Pants Drafting: Step One – Measuring, Drawing and Cutting

For those who love to jump right in this part can take longer than you think.  If you are in a time of life where you typically endure a lot of interruptions during the day just taking measurements may take more than one sitting as might the actual drawing of the patterns.   And it isn’t simply time that might stand in your way.

What I Had to Contend With.

My cat Groucho. Most days he spends lounging on the bed. Apparently considering me some kind of squatter in his territory when I set up shop there for pattern drafting he felt forced to protest by plopping himself right down in the middle of things. I kept lifting either his tail end or head in order to make the next mark. I thought after so many offenses to his person he might abandon the scene, but in keeping with that notorious feline contrariness he seemed to enjoy the process.

Like every decent home-sewing manual this one instructs you to take a gazillion measurements.  I had no one to help me measure.  I could have asked my husband but when asked to attempt such things he gives me the “I am so out of my depth, please save me” look and I figured slightly wonky was going to be closer to my figure than any of the patterns I have ever bought.  

After taking my measurements I entered the chart into an excel spreadsheet so I could use the computer to help me calculate half and quarter measurements for each item.   Lazy I know but when you know a few simple formulas a drop-down in excel takes seconds what would take a half hour by hand.  Plus I lose paper but haven’t yet managed to misplace the computer terminal.

I enjoyed following the directions and drafting out the patterns.  Things that are sequential and methodical are soothing to me.  It also had some of the anticipation of a new adventure. 

Along with various rulers and markers, a yardstick would be nice. I lost mine. If you can't locate yours you can line up smaller rulers to make the longer lines.

The materials I used are: french curve, t-square, long straight ruler, calculator, sharpies, my measurement chart and paper.  I purchased two rolls of spare wallpaper from my local thrift store.  The first was terrific to work with because it was light gray with a one-inch grid drawn in white.  Its only flaw was that the glue was powdery on the paper back.  The second roll was better paper with clear glue that didn’t powder up the board.   It also had a white background and straight clear lines to work off of in lieu of a grid.

The Front Pants Draft.

I drafted the front pants piece first and all went well.   It resembled what I have used in store-bought patterns.

The Back Pants Draft. If you look at the lower hip area where most patterns arch out my custom pattern arches in. This gave me pause but I decided to go with it. After so many pants sewing failures under my belt I figured one more couldn't harm me.

Drafting the back gave me pause as the pattern become much thinner at the lower hip than any I have ever used from one of the Big4.  There appeared to be a typographical error at one step and I corrected my draft to look more like the figure illustration.  Things still didn’t look standard but then I remembered that what I was doing reflected my custom measurements. I checked my back end in a full length and confirmed that possibly I have been fooling myself all these years as to what it actually looks like.  My lower hip is smaller than my upper hip and my measurements reflect that.  I just haven’t ever possessed the temerity or the reflection to contradict every standard pattern.  That the Big4 place the greatest width at the lower hip has somehow convinced me that their way was the right way. 

Though I considered “correcting” the draft I resisted and sewed up the muslin using the wonkiest back pattern piece I have ever seen. 

Groucho checking my work. I used a spare wallpaper roll purchased at a thrift store. This particular paper had a one-inch grid as the design which was a huge help in drafting.

The results were quite a shock to the system!

 Next Post: Saturday, June 5, 2010; Pants Drafting: Step Two – The Muslins