Fitting, Sewalongs


O ne more post before we get into actual construction folks! We’ve already discussed sourcing denim, gathering supplies, personalizing our pattern, and the best seam finishes for sewing jeans. Today we are going to break down fitting.

Pants fitting gets a bad rap. We’ve all read the horror stories. However, I think the Ginger jeans are pretty forgiving to fit and a great introduction to making pants. Because they are designed to sit close to the body, and because stretch denim is so forgiving, you can avoid dealing with some of the fitting issues you’ll encounter working with traditional non-stretch woven fabrics where every minor issue is a little more evident.

I think far too many of us are intimidated to make pants because we are focused on achieving “perfection”. Perfection is a dangerous goal. This is a lesson I am learning personally as well as in my sewing practice, since I am one of those type-A control-freaks who struggles with letting go. When you are only satisfied by perfection, you are bound to be disappointed again and again; perfection is so rarely achieved. Life, sewing, all of it, is a process. We learn something new along each step of the journey, and I truly believe that getting tripped up by the flaws, rather than celebrating the victories, takes the fun out of making. Too many of us beat ourselves up over minor issues that only we really see; a beautiful handmade garment that was made with love and care gets reduced to the sum of it’s flaws. Where is the joy in that? I think it is worthwhile to point out that we are much harder on the garments we make than those we buy. If you are really struggling with fitting something, take a clearer look at a RTW garment you already own and love, and see if you can’t find some of the same “problems” there. Chances are you will; we just don’t tend to view our store-bought garments with the same overly-critical eyes we use to see ourselves and the things we make. So, all of this to say: let us be kind to ourselves, and enjoy the fitting process for everything it teaches us about our bodies and about making. It’s not something to be scared of; it’s part of the journey. (Sorry if I’m getting a little philosophical in a fitting post, but I believe going into a new project with the right attitude is key.)

Moving on, I hemmed and hawed about where to place this post; before or after we’ve cut and basted our pants together? In the end, I thought we’d discuss it now so you have all the tools you need to analyze any potential issues at the basting stage. If you don’t have any crappy denim to muslin with, you may want to make your seam allowances 1″ at the front and back crotch and inseam just in case you want a little room to play with, but it’s not mandatory.

I will get started with some basic pattern modifications, and move on to addressing more specific fitting issues. This is not an exhaustive list of pants fitting adjustments; if you’d like more help I highly suggest picking up a copy of Pants for Real People and/or Fitting and Pattern Alteration (the first editions of this book is much cheaper!)


If you are high or low waisted, you may need to adjust the length of the rise. It’s a simple mod. At the “Lengthen & Shorten here” line, cut your pattern and spread or overlap the pieces the required amount. Smooth the curve to blend at the hip. Repeat for the back leg. You’ll also need to lengthen your fly shield and fly interfacing pieces the same length, but your pocket lining will stay the same.

lengthen and shorten pants rise

Left: Shorten rise, Right: Lengthen rise


It’s important to lengthen your legs at the knee and not at the ankle unless you want the ankle to be wider. It’s the same process as above – cut your pattern on the indicated line at the knee and spread or overlap the desired amount. True your lines after you’ve taped the pieces together.

lengthen and shorten pants legs

Left: Lengthen leg, Right: shorten leg


**edited: The most current Ginger Jeans file now has a pocket stay piece included for View B (as of June 2015).

I drafted a pocket stay for my last pair of high-waisted Gingers and the effect was pretty astonishing, to the point where I berated myself for not having included it in the final pattern. Thankfully it’s quite simple to do yourself. Basically, a pocket stay is a pocket lining that has been sewn into the fly front. When cut from a stable lining like quilting cotton, it sucks your tummy in so no one can tell that you ate a whole Toblerone for breakfast. I had my doubts that it would make much of a difference, but it really does! It makes your jeans more snug in front, but you get a nice smooth line. If you’re making version 2 and don’t have a 6-pack, I highly suggest you give it a try! All you have to do is fold your pocket piece in half and line it up with the front leg so the pocket shapes align and the notches meet. Then trace the shape of the pocket lining, but continue the bottom edge of the lining into a smooth upward curve so it dies into the fly extension.Trace the fly extension and top of the jeans, as well as the curved pocket shape.

drafting a pocket stay or tummy-tuck panel

Since this is now a two piece lining, you also need a mirrored piece with the pocket shape cut out. Your two lining pieces will now look something like this:

drafting a pocket stay or tummy tuck panel

If you choose to make a pocket stay, I’ll be showing you how to sew it into your jeans when we get to that point next week.


This is typically where people get all sweaty and nervous when making pants. Making slight changes to the crotch curve is a common adjustment, since all of our crotches are unique snowflakes (without a doubt the weirdest sentence I’ve ever written). The key is small, incremental steps. Try not to make changes greater than 1/4″ – you’d be surprised what happens with tiny adjustments.

The biggest thing to understand is depth versus length. Think of crotch depth as height or rise – it is the distance from the bottom of your crotch to the top of the pants. Crotch length is how long the total crotch is if you were to measure from the top of the center-front down to the bottom and back up to the top of the center-back. These two factors work together to determine the fit of the crotch, and if you’re having any issues with crotch fitting, the trick is to find a balance between the two. Adding to the length can effect the depth and vice versa. This is why we make small incremental changes; much easier to assess progress!


I think the Ginger crotch curve is a pretty good starting point, but here is what to do if you’re seeing some crotch weirdness.


If you have lines at your crotch pointing up like a smile, your crotch may be too short. Try tweaking the angle and length of that crotch curve (again, not making adjustments bigger than 1/4″) and see if those smile lines start to take a hike.

lengthen crotch fitting adjustment


If you see frown lines at the crotch pointing down, your crotch is probably a little too long. Try taking a little off the length and check to see if it corrects the problem. Below I am showing it with a slightly more curved angle, but you can also simply carve a little off the end. The goal is to find the balance between crotch length and depth that works for you.

EDITED: I realized I forgot to talk about the actual shape of the crotch curve here. To shorten the crotch, you can remove length as I stated above, but you can also shorten it by flattening out the crotch curve. Depending on the shape of your body, you may want a slightly flatter line below the crotch pivot point. If simply shortening it doesn’t work, try taking out 1/8″-1/4″ in the shape of the curve to see if that makes a difference!

shorten crotch pants adjustment


If you are seeing pulling at the inner thigh, or if there seems to be excess fabric there, you will need to adjust the inseam. Depending on the adjustment, you will either be taking in or letting out the inseam, tapering to above the knee. For this adjustment, you want to take in from the front and back leg. Keep in mind that the back crotch curve at the thigh is a little longer, so experiment with taking a smidge more from the back than from the front.

fitting illustrations

Left: adding to inseam for full thigh, Right: subtracting from inseam for thin thigh


If your pants feel tight at the calf or you are seeing a lot of horizontal lines above the calf, you have full or hyper-extended calves. If letting out the seams doesn’t help, you can do a full calf adjustment. Cut your pattern piece up the middle of the leg and then angle on either side to just above the knee. Spread your pieces and tape paper below to secure. Straighten the bottom seam line.

full calf fitting adjustment


There are a few ways to make a full seat adjustment, some more complicated than others. A simple fix is to cut a hinge from the crotch curve to below the hip. Rotate up the desired amount to add to the curve and give you a little more booty room. This effects the angle or pitch of the back crotch seam – a more angled seam is better for fuller bums.

full seat fitting adjustment


A flat seat adjustment is done just like a full seat adjustment, except this time your hinge should rotate down so you can remove length from the back seat curve and subtract some of the excess fabric over the bum. Like in the adjustment above, you are essentially changing the pitch or angle of the back crotch curve. Flatter bums need a straighter seam here.

fitting illustrations


If you have a sway back, or a more pronounced difference between waist and hip, you may notice some gaping at the back. The quick fix is to dart out the excess. Once you know what to remove, cut a hinge into your yoke pattern piece and rotate in to remove the excess along the top edge. It is also possible to remove a wedge at the center back, but be careful as this changes the back pitch of the seat.

how to fix gaping jeans yoke

If you are noticing gaping at the waistband, you may need to add a little more curve to the contour waistband. During the muslin phase, pinch out darts where necessary and transfer to your pattern piece by cutting a few hinges and rotating in the desired amount.

curving contour waistband


This is a fairly common problem that results from too much of a difference between the curve of the seat and the size of the upper thigh. Please note that there is an important difference between sitting ease and actual pooling fabric. You need some leeway back there so you can sit and move comfortably. You will rarely if ever see skinny jeans without some horizontal lines under the bum; it’s just the way it is.

If you’re seeing egregious folds of fabric you have two options. Kenneth King recommends pinning out the access in a horizontal line, transferring the amount to the pattern, smoothing out the curve at the thigh, and adding the length you took out from the thigh to the ankle. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this method. Betsy at Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick recommended a fitting trick that she says works wonders at removing fabric and helping with thigh pull lines, so if the excess under your butt is driving you mad, try this!

Edited: the following alteration is no longer necessary for the Ginger pattern as it has been redrafted in the most current file to include this change (as of June 2015).

Drop the crotch curve of the back leg about a half inch, and draw a diagonal line from the new height of the center back seat to the side seam, like so:

removing excess under seat

The back inseam is now a 1/2″ shorter than the front inseam. If you ease the shorter back inseam into the front inseam between the crotch and the knee, you will force the fabric to cling to your thigh. This is apparently an old pro fitting trick, and I’ll be trying it for my next pair to see how it works.

Whew. These are some basic tips to get you started. Feel free to post progress pics to the Flickr pool and we can try and diagnose what’s going on over the next few weeks.

If you’d like more help sewing professional looking jeans, consider taking our online video class. The Sew Your Dream Jeans Workshop will give you the tools and techniques to design, sew, and wear your very own custom pair of jeans with confidence.

Sew Your Dream Jeans: ultimate online sewing class to teach you to sew jeans


  • Ooh I’m very interested in that “pooling on back of thigh” adjustment as every single pair of my trousers does that…

    • Maybe this is the answer!

    • Sharon

      Me, too! I’m hopeful Heather has nailed the fix!

  • Jen

    That last tip is on my list too – thanks for the reminder. I have also read that pants legs should be sewn from the bottom up. Then that part of the back inner thigh (inseam) part can be stretched (eased) to the front leg.

    • Oooh, good call. I’ll try to remember to say that when we get there in the sewalong.

  • Really enjoying reading all these tips! I got mine basted the other night and i’m excited by how well they fit right off the bat. I may make the adjustment of contouring the waistband by cutting 2 hinges, and i like the idea of the pocket-stay. Looking forward to making more progress over the weekend and can’t wait to see more ginger jeans posts pop up.

  • I love your blurb at the beginning about not being so hard on ourselves… I think while making my Gingers (just finished last night!!), I was getting down on myself about my topstitching (note to self: use the good machine for topstitching, not the bad one you stopped using a year ago because it was bad). But you’re right in that we hardly notice stuff like that on RTW, and we should give ourselves a break. We’re making our own clothes for Pete’s sake!

    Also – I cannot wait to try a tummy tuck panel in my next mid-rise pair! And the other tips will come in handy for all future jeans (and pants, even) projects!

    • How do they look?! Topstitching takes a bit of practice to get right – it’s a feel thing. At this point I can do it blindfolded, but I promise it gets better with every pair!

      • They look so good – I’m wearing them right now, and showing them off/bragging to all my coworkers that I never have to buy jeans again! Hopefully I’ll have time to get them photographed this weekend for my blog! Woot!

  • I’m so excited and terrified to start! As a cyclist I have a big, muscular butt, thighs, and calves, so I’m worried muslining will take a while… BUT I’m very excited to have a pair of jeans that will actually fit properly, since none really ever have.

    • Poor you and your gorgeously athletic legs – it must be such a burden, hahaha. I think a muslinis definitely in order since I think these are pretty butt/thigh friendly. But hopefully some of these tricks work for you!

      • Ok, so I started cutting up my cheapy denim finally and now I’m not quite sure what to do for the muslin, seeing as I’d LIKE it to be wearable if the fit is good… Should I just baste the legs, yoke, and waistband together and see how it fits, then rip it apart and start assembling correctly, assuming the fit is ok?

        • Yep! A lot of fit adjustments are pretty subtle, so assuming you don’t have to do a Full butt adjustment, you may be okay just trimming a bit off the crotch or hip here and there.

  • Amanda

    Don’t beat yourself up about not including the tummy tuck pocket version with the pattern – but I’m SO glad you went over the pattern adjustment and will be covering how to sew it! I’m going to try it for sure!

  • Kat

    I was a little scarred from my first endeavour making pants. I had self drafted them in a class, my muslin fit perfectly…then the final garment was 2 inches too large and I had no idea where to start to fix em! Thanks for the detailed fitting post. I’ll definitely be using this when I try making Ginger!

    • Oh that’s such a bummer!! Hoping your Ginger experience goes far more smoothly.

  • VickiKate

    Amazing post! I’ll be adding the tummy tuck pattern mod for sure, and the rest make what may need doing easy to understand. I was going to wait until I’d had my baby, but I want to make these jeans and I want to support a pattern co that shares such thorough and more importantly clear, instructions so freely. Thank you!

    • Thank you Vicki! It’s comments like these that make all the fitting research worth it, haha.

  • Kristin S

    I’ve so been looking forward to fitting instructions! I really like your illustrations. I have been reading lots of fitting blogs and Threads articles, and dumb as it may sound I’m never sure exactly what “flatten the curve” and other expressions really mean, but I look at these drawings and I GET IT! Well, I think; we’ll see how my Gingers turn out– which will be the first pants I’ll ever sew. I noticed how clear the drawings make everything seem in the pattern instructions, too.

    • Oh yay! I was aiming for clear and concise because I think a lot of fitting diagrams and explanations are overly confusing. I’ve honestly read so many books and blog posts about all this stuff and a lot of it finally clicked in my head in a much clearer way than I think I have been seeing… but then again, these are sort of level 1 adjustments. More advanced fitting adjustments involve a LOT more hinges and slashing and spreading! Not necessary for this pattern I don’t think though.

  • Inner thigh adjustment!! I’ve never come across that one before, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I need! I have bagginess around the crotch, but not the smile or frown lines that would seem to indicate a problem with the length. Thanks for putting this post together – it’s super helpful!

    • Keep in mind that taking in the thigh does effect the crotch length, so small changes! If you start seeing some lines after taking in the thigh you may need to add a little to the depth for your next pair.

  • AuntyMaimu

    I have the seam ripper ready to take my third pair apart. One should never fit extra stretchy jeans while one has THAT time of the month. Plus, my asymmetric bottom is giving me hard time.

    Heather, what a great post! It has everything covered! Now I wish someone did a post as great for men…

    • Maimu, you are a technical designer and have a blog *nods in your direction*.

      • Actually, now I’m thinking I need to start researching fitting for men…. I was going to make Guillaume a surprise pair of jeans for Christmas but just figured it would be fine because he’s slim and athletic. Are there boy fit issues like “Hockey butt adjustment” or “Gamer thighs”?

        • Jen

          Definitely butt issues, at least with Burda, which seems to be drafted somewhat flat back there. That’s my experience with a men’s athletic pants pattern that I used. So few men’s patterns out there, I couldn’t say if that’s true for most of them or not.

  • Great fitting tips Heather! I feel much more confident about giving these jeans a go after reading this!

  • Louise

    This is brilliant Heather – thanks for giving us such detailed and clear explanations of potential fitting issues and ways to address them! I also really appreciated your insightful comments about perfection being a dangerous goal – learning to focus on enjoying the process and celebrating the victories along the way rather than dwelling on the perceived imperfections is definitely something I need to work on.

  • SmileDog Stitches

    Thank you Heather for the excellent post! You take a bit of the “scary” out of fitting these jeans. I’m also a cyclist but unlike Nickey I don’t have a big muscular butt, thighs & calves (dammit!) so I’m thinking of making the tummy tuck version for those days (everyday) when I eat too much junk food! At 52 it doesn’t spring back like it used to, little sucker!

  • Oh my goodness what a great tutorial on fitting jeans. You are making it hard for me not to just go ahead and ignore the three other reasonable pants patterns I have and just go ahead and buy yours already! Thanks for such helpful materials!!!

  • You can make a ‘shorts muslin’ to check for fit against the pattern before you start carving it up. And a muslin is just a model, it can be cut out of any fabric (a woven if your final is a woven, a knit for a knit). I prefer the hides of wadder projects, but old bedsheets, ugly curtains, whatever will do. Doesn’t have to be the same weight for this sort of fit check. And cut the seam allowances too wide so you have room to mess around with it. And you can ….always make another one.

  • Jessica W

    Heather, for a number of reasons (work mainly) I’m not anywhere ready to even think about making these–yet!–but can I just say that you are amazing! So clear and thoughtful and helpful. Kudos.

  • This is the part that freaks me a lot !! But reading your post was very reassuring, because on RTW jeans, I always have lots of horizontal pleats on the back of my thighs…
    With your adjustment, I could cut directly my fabric and fix it, if needed. I don’t have any other stretch fabric to make a muslin…
    Thank you for this useful post !

  • Such a brilliantly simple full butt adjustment! You’re good at this game.

  • Thanks for the tips! I just finished my trial Gingers using your swayback, curved waistband and under-butt wrinkles adjustments you suggested- super helpful! I still have some back of the thigh wrinkles, but i am determined to reduce those on my next pair. Blogged my Gingers here:

  • Amy

    Great fitting notes, Heather! so clear and spot on. And thank you for talking about fitting perfectionism! Fitting is such a unique set of skills apart from sewing and so important to enjoy the journey and turn off the body-hater language.

    On that last one, the drafting methods I trust always make the back crotch point lower than the front point on all trousers, and it totally makes sense. I usually go 3/8″ lower than the front, but I imagine you could go even lower with some fabrics. That back inseam is more on the bias and prone to stretching out, so making it shorter and easing the front to the back around the inner thigh area helps clean it up.

  • I found your blog when I was searching for how to make your own sewing table, and it brought up your tutorial. Then I started looking around and I love your stuff! Thanks for all the great tips!

  • Kohlrabi

    Love all the info you put into this post! And you had me giggling at that unique snowflake part! I basted my pair of Gingers today and sent you a pick on Instagram. If you have the time (no pressure!) it would be really great if you could take a look at my personal snowflake!

  • Sharonb

    Re: full/flat seat adjustment. I don’t understand the difference. In both examples, aren’t you just spreading the pattern piece at the cut, then taping in place? Help!!!

    • For the full seat adjustment you are pivoting up to create a little more space along the CB seam. For the flat seat adjustment you are pivoting down and overlapping a bit to remove length/volume from the the CB. Hope that helps!

  • Grace

    I love that pant inseam trick! Jacket pattern drafting employs a similar technique with the a 2 piece sleeve wherein the front inseam is shortened to encourage the sleeve to curve forward with the natural pitch of the arm. I love how with some clever drafting and sewing we can build shape into a garment.

  • Sarah Campbell

    so i am starting my first ‘muslin’ gingers with view B
    i did the full calf adjustment but i am wondering if there is any way to keep them “skinny” after doing that because it spreads the hemline of the jeans out so far…i am assuming i can just try to make them slimming by taking in seam allowances. only thing i am worried about is making them twist. any thoughts? totally over-analyzing?

    • I would just try on your muslin and if the ankle width really bugs you, you can try taperng it after your calf. Just make sure you take equal amounts from front and back!

      • Sarah Campbell

        Alright that sounds reasonable! Thanks so much!

  • Willknitforbeer

    a wee vent if I may(maybe someone knows what I did wrong)…finished my muslin for my jeans and they fit relatively well…just need to lengthen here and there but when i began to sew the outside seams, i noticed that the back panel is longer than the front panel.(ie if I removed the yoke they would be the same length is it supposed to be this way and i ease in the extra or…i screwed up a step with the yoke? any ideas? thanks.

    • The side seams should match up. I walk all my pieces just to double check. Is it possible you sewed the yokes in reverse? The longest side should be along center back.

      • Willknitforbeer

        i thought about that but I did sew them on correctly(idealistically lol)…hmmmm..ok, i’ll rip it apart and try it again…i used a sheet so no big loss…by the way it’s pretty freakin awesome that you answer sooo quickly…much appreciated.

        • That’s really weird! I hope you figure it out but the only time I’ve ever heard anyone having this problem is when the yokes got reversed…

  • pinkowl

    at last i found why some stupid skinny jeans flatten my bum. i was going almost crazy. they squeeze and paste together my bums or lets say bu** cheeks in a way that i get rashes and my 2 bu**s look like united. stupid!

  • Michelle B

    Can you do a tummy stay with view A or is it just for view B because it’s high waisted?

    • Totally! Simply follow the same method to drat for the low waisted version!

  • Robyn Vickers

    This is super helpful.I am an experienced dressmaker, but getting jeans or leggings to fit is a problem. i have a short waist, small hips, very little bum (starting to sag) and my thighs skinny and are set well forward on my pelvis,so my butt appears a bit bigger than it is as there is a definite step under it. All trousers have bags of wrinkles under the butt that generally come a couple of inches forward of the side seam. Fitting trousers is my nemisis. I think from this I should be able to get some really nice jeggings that I just bought to fit, a bit of unpicking, but lowering the crotch and reducing the inseam should get them to fit.

  • Robyn Vickers

    I took my jeggings apart, cut the back in leg seam back a bit and lowered it as shown. I deepened the back crotch seam curve as this generally lifts some of the fullness out from under my butt and i do not need the extra fabric there. I made the front crotch seam a little more curved as I have found when it lacks curve this is also a cause of camel toe. I cut more off the backs at the side than the fronts (they were way longer than my waist) when I reconstructed them they were barely any shorter in the back so and evidently been eased the opposite way in construction to give fullness through the butt. The finished garment looks an odd shape compared to how they started out, but they fit with the wrinkles under the butt being minimised and finishing about 5cm short of the side seam instead of having them continue over my hip. So thank you Heather, your tips have really helped and are appreciated.

  • Vanessa

    Hi, I’d like to sew my first ginger. But there is a thing I’d like to know. Is the waistband of the low rise version (view A) intended to be worn with negative ease, zero ease or positive ease ?
    Thanks for the answer.

    • It should have zero ease if not slightly less. Waistbands stretch out a lot with wear and if they’re too loose they won’t stay up.

      • Vanessa

        Thank you so much for this very helpful answer. So I think a good compromise would be to choose the waistband with zero ease and to interface it to prevent from stretching.

        • Hi Vanessa. I would choose a size based on waist (grading to hip if necessary) and doing a baste fit to check it fits well. I like interfacing with knit fusible for a stable yet comfortable waistband.

          • Vanessa

            Hi Heather. Thanks a lot for your advice. I’m going to trust you and choose size 8 for the waist grading to size 10 to the hip, and use a knit interfacing for the waistband.

  • I’ve made a pair of Gingers trying to grade sizes but I have a feeling a slash/spread adjustment might be better for fitting purposes. So maybe this is a stupid question, but… is the “full seat adjustment” the adjustment one would make if their hip measurement fell 2-3 sizes above their waist measurement? Or is that a far more complex adjustment?

    • Hi Rachel. Happy to help. The full seat adjustment is not what you would do (well, in effect you are lengthening the seat curve when you go up sizes in the seat, but you are also adding to the side seams and inseams). Grading is really the only way to go if you have a big size differential like 2-3 sizes. What seems to be the fitting problem?

      • Thanks! I think there might be a couple of issues.
        1) I only graded down for the waist, not for the rest of the legs, so there seems to be a lot of extra fabric in the thighs, specifically on the back. I basically cut a 12 (hips are 40″) and graded down to an 8 for the waist (27-28″, depending on the time of day).
        2) I think I need more of the extra hip/butt area fabric on the back, because I have a lot of fabric bunching in the front around the crotch.
        I’ve seen various slash/spread methods that look seem like they should help, but I’ve been hesitant to do any because the line/cut placement seems so arbitrary to me (for example: Would you recommend I try that or retry grading? And just to be sure, if I grade, I grade all the seams? I don’t know why this concept is so confusing to me…

        • Grading can be confusing, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just to be clear – you cut a size 12 with a size 8 waist but the legs are too big and there is excess at the crotch? If you uploaded a front and back photo here I can diagnose but it sounds like you just need to a) remove whatever you want from the legs (with pins just pinch out equal amounts from front and back till you get the profile you want and then b) Shorten the front crotch (I suspect).