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!)
RAISING OR LOWERING THE RISE
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.
SHORTEN OR LENGTHEN LEGS
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.
ADDING A POCKET-STAY (AKA “TUMMY TUCK” PANEL)
**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.
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:
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.
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!
FULL OR THIN THIGH
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.
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 SEAT 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.
FLAT SEAT 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.
GAPING AT WAIST
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.
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.
EXCESS FABRIC UNDER THE SEAT & THIGH PULL LINES
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:
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.