In Sewing

pants making – take two

All I want is a cute pair of  vintage style pants like Audrey Hepburn. You’d think that wouldn’t be too much to ask but I’m back with another pair of pants that will make your computer screen want to spontaneously combust from the horror. Actually if I’ve learned anything so far from this experience, after asking Google numerous times “Why do pants hate me?!”, it’s: no matter what pants pattern you start with, your first draft is probably going to be pretty awful. It seems like every good pants fitting reference out there suggests you get your pants pattern down to a basic pattern block, and then re-work them from the ground up into something that won’t make new born babies burst into tears when you wear them in public.


Let me back up a second here and say this is not the notorious sausage pants pattern from my last post. Before I rework those I wanted to try a second pattern to see if that particular pattern was just weird, or if *I* am in fact weird. After cross referencing some fitting issues between these two patterns, and also a few RTW pants I have, I’m realizing I’m not shaped like whatever “standard body” exists out there that people draft patterns from. I’m weird. Whatever, my “weirdness” must be pretty common if people write books about how to fit pants. I’ll get to that in a second…


So this pattern here is Simplicity 1371, which I promptly went out and bought after seeing a spectacular outfit on Dixie DIY. I knew I wanted to sew my final pair in a stretch woven fabric so I made up a muslin in some cheap stretch cotton sateen from J0-Anns. I cut a straight size 4 and basted everything together to test the initial shape, but I left the waistband off since I want my final pair to have a facing instead of a separate waistband piece. I used rayon Hug Snug seam binding to stabilize the waist so it wouldn’t stretch as I tried on the pants.

Things I like about them:
Uhhhh… well definitely not the fit I can tell you that much! But I do think they have potential, and hey, at least I can actually feel my legs this time. I do really like the high rise and the side zipper for a more overall vintage-y look. I also like the length (even though they’re not hemmed in these photos) and the width of the legs is more like what I was hoping for with the last pattern.


What I don’t like:
Well from the back view I’d prefer to NOT look like a toddler who desperately needs a changin’. I have a “load” of fabric (see what I did there?) pooling under my bum that needs some massive adjustments before I ever wear these out of the house. The back waist band pulls down every time I take a step or bend slightly, but the front crotch line kinda feels awkward too. The hips are also too baggy and I’ve got “sad crotch lines” in the front. …not my term haha!


Changes I have to make:
I have a small bum, but it’s pear shaped. So that means I have fullness at the bottom instead of the middle of the seat of my pants, but I also have a lot of pooling and droopy fabric happening at the back that needs to go away. I want to change the front pleat to a dart for a smoother look and take in the hips a bit. I have a game plan for exact pattern changes I have to make, which I’ll elaborate on next time when I can actually test them out.

Fitting references I’ve found so far:
Pants fitting cheat sheet by Colette
How to fit jeans by Silhouette Patterns (originally found through Zilredloh)
Everyone can have jeans that fit via
One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants (I’m currently working through this class now and while I wish there were actual fitting procedures shown on models, the class has been really helpful in understanding how to take fitting issues from muslin BACK to the flat pattern.)


So the moral of this story is: your first attempt at any kind of fitted pants is probably going to be hellacious. Any one who gives you the impression otherwise is either really lucky, or isn’t showing you the seven muslin fittings they did previously (though I will say I had pretty good luck with Butterick 5895 by Gertie, and any super wide leg pant styles I’ve tried, right off the bat.)

What I hoped to achieve by sewing all these different pants patterns is to find one that’s as close to a pattern block for me as possible. This way I can build it out with the fewest number of alterations. Now that I have a few patterns to compare and contrast, my next step will be making actual pattern changes and really trying to get a good fit!


Do you have any go-to references for pants fitting? I know several of you mentioned the book Pants For Real People so I added that to my Amazon wishlist! And apparently I need to try the new Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It because the general consensus seems to be it’s awesome and fits great!**


**Erin, remind me to pick this one up too in California 😉 😉

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  • Oh yeah, these pants has lots and lots of potential! I like red colour so maybe that’s why I like them so much! 😀 If you only finish them and make them fit your body better then they will be perfect! 😀

  • These pants have potential!! I DEFINITELY have a weird body, but I kind of think when it comes to pants fitting, we all do – haha. I suspect (as others have suggested) that the main hurdle to overcome is the crotch curve. Once you get that right, the other fitting issues become a little easier to diagnose. Have you had a peek at Gertie’s new book yet? She has a whole section on pants fitting, with very clear diagrams explaining how to fix all the common pants problems – it’s gold, I tell ya!! I’ve seen a LOT of pants fitting material, and hers is the easiest to follow I’ve seen yet! 🙂

  • Kathy McG

    Pants are so hard to fit! My best success – not having the patience to take a class or look at an actual book – has been to use Marcy Tilton’s method of tissue fitting. It involves pinning a length of elastic around your waist, and draping the pattern pieces over it to adjust the crotch. I’ve also done it with pants that are almost finished, draping the fabric over the elastic waist before sewing on the waist band. It’s what I would try first, because getting the “rise” right goes a long way toward solving many fit problems with pants. Here’s a short tutorial from her site (

    Pant Tissue Fitting Tutorial

    Here are a practical tips I use for myself and with students. Once you have made sure the paper pattern is large enough to go around, and that the crotch length is close to what you want, you can pin the pattern tissue together and try it
    on,just as you would try on a pair of pants in the store.

    The Process is Simple and Logical
    Choose your pattern by your fullest hip measurement.
    Compare your hip measurement to the pattern by measuring at the hip line. Make allowances for ease—usually at least 3-4 inches
    Measure your stride by tying a piece of elastic around your waist. Use a tape measure and run in from front waist to back waist and through your legs—just like the crotch seam in a pair of pants. Adjust the tape measure so it ‘fits’ the way you prefer your pants to fit, and record that measurement.
    Measure the pant pattern from front waist to back waist along the seam line (without seam allowances) and compare to your measurement. If there is a difference, divide by 2 and lengthen or shorten at both front and back. Most patterns provide a lengthen/shorten line for this purpose.
    To prevent the tissue from tearing in the crotch, reinforce the curved area seam allowances with tape and clip to the stitching line every half inch or so.
    Pin the pattern together along the stitching line.
    Pin a piece of 1″ elastic at your waist. This will indicate your waistline and you can position the pattern waistline under the elastic as shown.
    I use a large hand mirror along with a full length mirror to check the fit. (If you have a sewing friend to assist, all the better!!).
    Settle the pant on your body and look for possible adjustments.
    Mark your waistline by marking with a sharpie (or a line of pins) along the bottom of the elastic.

    Make any adjustments that show up in tissue fitting. Continue the fitting process as you sew, marking any changes on your pattern. Once you have a pant pattern that works, it is no longer necessary to tissue fit, but IS necessary to fit as you sew as every fabric will respond differently.

  • What about Sandra Betzina’s craftsy course on pants fitting? I took it and it felt like i understood everything (then I gave up when my first pair of pants came out looking like circus pants). I think sewing pants is hard, especially if you work with lighter non-stretch fabric that shows everything, but seeing you make me think about making them another try.

  • Oh I’m in the same place with pants as you right now. I have three toile’s that need tweaking, because of course when one failed I thought I’d try a different style to see if that made a difference. Nope. At least, when I’m done I’ll have three different pants blocks!! I’m hoping that when it’s all said and done, the effort will be worth it…

  • kim simone

    Hello Rochelle,

    I have just subscribed to your blog & have been browsing past posts and I came across your post February 10 2014. I love sewing, I get lost in sewing, forget to feed the kids kinda sewing, but not lately, all inspiration motivation and inclination just left the room. And I would say that I was in a rutt (a Funk). I don’t have a blog or anything like that, I don’t need one, but I do follow some very inspirational women in the sewing Bloggers world. Your post (02/10/14),has inspired me to find my sewing mojo again, I will go home tonight and stare at the wall, sew some scraps together and see where that gets me- motivated I’m sure.It is very reassuring to know that you’re not the only person in the world who gets lost. Thanks to that post I may even find my way home again. My friends & family may even notice the old me has entered the house again. Thank you

    Kim Simone

  • Olivia

    Dear Rachelle,

    I am terribly sorry for asking you this on this post, but I figured you would not see it if I posted it on the right one since it is from an old post.

    The girl with the dark hair and black shorts (the 16 year old who came in second place, she is the first you see on the page) I really like her hair, and was wondering if you could give me ANY idea on how she did it. Again, I am REALLY sorry for asking you one thing from a different, older post, on this new post. I would really appreciate a respond back, and all the help you can give me. 😉 Thank you so much.


    • Olivia

      Oh my goodness! I’m sorry! I just realized I spelled your name wrong! I meant Rochelle with an O rather than an A.

  • Ugh, I have no tips but I’m totally in the same place. I’ve actually gotten a pair that looked pretty good, but then I couldn’t lift my leg enough to step into a bus…

  • I feel like the first time I try pants it will be a sweatpant/knit version hahaha

  • stgilbert

    What about the Gertie pants pattern? You made a fantastic pair from them – very Audrey! These ones definitely do have potential and I love the red!

  • I love and really admire how you can take your sewing projects that don’t turn out as planned and poke fun at them. So many people would get terribly discouraged and feel like they had to apologize for their sewing fails/less-than-perfect-results. It’s refreshingly and fantastic that you speak so candidly about them, keep your chin up and keep on keeping on with sewing pants. Way to go, awesome lady!

    ♥ Jessica

  • I still haven’t taken the leap into sewing pants, but wanted to say thanks for sharing your fit experiences (good and bad!) and all those useful links! Have earmarked this post for future reference as one of these days I’ll take that leap! Good luck with your next fitting – it seems you’re learning a lot through this process 🙂

  • zilredloh

    Sooo I just went and bought the ‘ultimate trouser pant’. Wish me luck… when I get them in the mail….

  • You will get there! This pattern is SUPER similar in style to the Gertie Butterick trousers that you like the fit of on yourself (down to the pockets, even). So, perhaps those would be better to use as your jumping off point? 😉 The Ultimate Trouser pattern is the one that got me back into wanting to try cigarette pants, although I haven’t tried it yet either! It looks promising too.

    The pooling butt thing has been a source of frustration for me too. I tried two different flat seat adjustment for my non-stretch version and didn’t find either perfect, but it did help somewhat. However, I discovered it’s a really fine line between getting rid of TOO much excess fabric to the point where you can’t bend or sit. lol! When I get back to tweaking my stretch version, I’ll have to re-visit if I want to try a flat seat adjustment on that too.

  • zilredloh

    While I’m no expert on pants fitting – mine still have that diaper loo (Ugh!), couldn’t you use one of your wide leg versions or your Gertie capri’s to make a block out of? You could narrow the legs down while keeping the bum & hips the same.

    So… the sewoverit trousers…. Hmmm… I’ll have to give those a try. I haven’t heard anything about them but I haven’t been investigating trousers patterns lately either.

  • I bought this pattern but have been hesitant to make it up – I appreciate reading your thoughts! I have a Burda pattern that fits me really well in the key areas (crotch length, depth, etc.) so I might just need to rework the legs to be what I want – and draft a wider waistband. Pants are hard to fit – period – I hope you find your perfect pair sooner rather than later!

  • Oh man! The saga continues!!

    Just clicked through to check out your Gertie pants again – dude, that pattern fits you SO much better than this one! You could use that as a start to your block since the crotch and rise seem much less problematic than these, then adjust the legs to suit your taste. Just a thought! Unless there is something with those pants I’m not seeing…

  • Miss Dani

    Hey there, why aren’t you still using the cute Gertie capris pattern that you made up a whole ago? The fit looked great and you could so easily draft out the pockets! Keep up the great blog chick!

  • I’m no pants expert, and I may be in the minority, but I really didn’t think the sausage pants looked too bad. Maybe they were worse to wear than to look at. I’m just about to take the plunge on the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers, but all this talk of fit issues is giving me the fears….

  • Isaboe Renoir

    Good Morning Rochelle – longtime listener, first time caller – I’ve been having success with ‘Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach’; yes the textbook with a textbook price, but worth it. I can’t compare it though to the other references you’ve mentioned as I’ve never used those.

    You definitely need a fitting buddy for pants, even a dress form that’s custom made doesn’t quite work with pants (maybe because we’re moving?) Having said that, I would look at these areas: is there an outward rotation to the knee? Also I’m seeing either a low buttock curve/ slight sway front/ flattened lower torso, which all means baggy seat and adjusting the crotch at the inner thigh seam/ crotch area. Once that’s corrected, possibly a flat abdomen; and then you definitely have a large front thigh which may be causing the look of a prominent calf/ hyperextended knee, which will go away after fixing the large thigh, or there is an actual prominent calf/ hyperextended knee which needs to be addressed separately.

    Definitely use the advice about copying or at least referencing a good-fitting pair of RTW; measure your rise, crotch length and shape, inseam; plus thigh width on the front and back of the pants leg, and your calf width front and back. I also found the pants fitting Craftsy class by Sandra Betzina to be very helpful. (She also has a pants construction class which is very complementary to the fitting class.)

    I think the high-waisted look is very nice on you, and definitely get rid of the pleats – I don’t feel they look good on anyone’s pants. All this to say stick with it on getting a good fit and you’ll have a wonderful TNT cigarette pant. (How do you think they got Audrey’s pants to fit so well? They hired someone…)

  • Oh man, pants. One of these days I’ll properly muslin some and come up with a pair of pants I reaaallly like, but until then I will follow along with your adventures in pants sewing and hope I pick up some useful information.

  • Maybe you just need an actual vintage pants pattern for your petite frame? I always have better luck with the fit of vintage patterns vs modern ones with my pear shape. I have been following your pants progress and look forward to seeing you succeed.

  • Merle

    Love your blog. Pants are probably the hardest to fit out of all the clothes styles.
    See if you can pick up a second hand book by the singer sewing reference collection called sewing pants that fit. It is great. Also what you can do is buy the vogue pants fitting block it gives you step by step instruction on how to make the pant block to fit you. You will find this and also the dress (splits into the skirt and bodice block to also make a personalized fit) they are the last patterns in the book, there also used to be a jacket one to I think. I have a friend who has also done these and she now modifies the basic block to the style she wants and it pretty much a perfect fit for her.
    Good luck.

  • There’s a wonderful class on pant-fitting on craftsy! I leaned more there than form the ‘for real people’ book!

  • No idea on your fitting issues but good luck! I was going to suggest the ultimate trousers since they seem to look great on everyone! Also sunni’s trouser sewalong has really useful information on fitting. Maria denmark also has a great way to determine crotch length and shape on her blog (possibly from Winnie trousers sewalong)

  • Ahh pants are so frustrating, I thought that if I drafted my own pattern it would eliminate these problems that didn’t work either it still took three attempts!
    I found most of my problems were ‘fixable’ by making alterations to the crotch and it’s seam line. I’m not 100% sure about this so you might want to look it up first but you may find by dropping the centre front by about 1cm this may stop the back from pulling down, something to do with a sway back adjustment I belive but it’s early in the morning and my brains are still a bit foggy lol.
    Good luck I’m sure you’ll figure it out!

  • OK, I think that you have two problems. First, since the back waistband is being pulled down when you sit or move, the crotch is actually too short. The draping butt (aka your fabric “load”) is probably because you need a to take some of the width out of the seat — look up flat seat adjustments. Try to see if you can find a Simplicity Pants That Fit pattern that you like. They have different back pattern pieces for different bum plumpnessrs and great step-by-step directions on fitting. Lord, I wish that I lived close to you so I could help you in person, you must be so frustrated.

  • Pre

    I have not attempted pants yet though one day I’d love to because RTW pants just don’t fit my shape right (I always seem to be ‘in-between’ sizes or something). I love that you’re sharing the raw details of your pants-making journey. It helps put things into a realistic perspective for those of us who plan to take the plunge at some point. It’s not just – hey, look at the photos of my perfect pants – instead it’s hey, look at my journey and how weird/difficult/adventurous the process of making pants can be. So thank you!

  • I love that even though I don’t sew anything more complex than a skirt or knitting project bag, I can read your blog and be totally entertained. I remember trying to make a pair of pants about 15 years ago and thinking what a horrible waste of time, money and decent fabric and I’ve never turned back. It gives me hope to see that I’m not the only one who struggled with pants. I still have no desire to try it again, but appreciate your hard work and know that if anybody can do it and find humor in every negative moment of it, it you. I’m glad you share your successes and failures.

    She Knits in Pearls

  • misscrayolacreepy

    Pants pattern, In and Out, yarn shopping. Check 🙂

    I don’t have any tips on fitting your pants, as I am far from a pro when it comes to that. But I admire all the hard work you have put into all the fitting. Working through the problems is the best way to learn, right?

  • Karen

    The gals behind Pants for Real People have a line of patterns with decent fitting instructions for McCalls. My TNT pattern comes from that, but it’s oop. Here’s what they have now. Joanne has McCalls patterns on special at 3 for $5 September 18-20 if you want several to look at.

  • The main hurdle with pants fitting is getting the crotch curve correct. Once you get that right for your body, the rest is pretty easy. I’ve never been able to get a pants sewing pattern to fit right out of the envelope as drafted. My solution for a quick fix has always been comparing a pattern to rtw in my closet that fits well enough in the crotch and then altering the pattern to match and then making further alterations after a mockup. (Rtw can help you know what adjustments you need to make even if it doesn’t fit well.)

    If you haven’t seen Cindy’s post about her pants fitting class, it’s a really good overview for proper fitting when you don’t have a good rtw example to compare to. Drawing the grid on the mockup helps so much!

    Keep going and you will be making pants like you make shirts soon enough! =)

  • Tädi Maimu

    I have a feeling that if you shortened the crotch just a bit it would eliminate the diaper look. I would also bring the waist down. I know then they wouldn’t be high waisted but I think medium rise would look better on you. Just a bit.

    When I fit my own pants, I do a series of “tests” – sitting, crouching, bringing knees up… just to make sure the pants wont crawl into places and I wont expose areas… LOL.

    AGAIN I’ve made great high waisted pants from Burda magazine.

  • High waisted pants are difficult to fit in the bum and crotch area because they have to be a bit big there so you can sit. Use a stretch woven will help with that but don’t try to over fit in those areas!