How to Fit Pants May 19, 2019
Pants are not necessarily difficult to fit, but it is a time-consuming process. You should start with a general knowledge of the process and then proceed with trial fitting of one or more mock-ups of the pattern until you get the desired fit. I am not an expert in the field, but I can get you started on the way to making good-fitting pants and show you where to go for excellent reference material on the fitting process.
A friend volunteered to be the model for this pants-fitting process. I will refer to her as Suzy Q. Suzy Q is a brave person! It is not easy to have the patience required to stand still while someone is fitting the muslin. Although that is not as painful as having your personal fitting issues exposed to everyone. I believe everything will be worth it, if at the end of the process, Suzy Q has a pattern that she can use to sew pants that fit!
First, let’s talk about the pattern and why I chose to use it. I am using “Eureka! Pants that Fit” by Fit for Art Patterns. I like this pattern because it is so detailed and easy to follow. The pattern includes one front pants piece in multiple sizes and three back pieces in multiple sizes. The back pieces are labeled Back 1, Back 2. And Back 3. This is one way the pattern differs from any other I have used. Back 1 is used for women with very flat derrieres. Back 2 is used for women with round derrieres. Back 3 is used for women with generous or fuller derrieres. This makes sense to me because all of us have backsides that are shaped differently and one back pattern piece is not going to fit all of us even if the size is different. I believe these three different back pieces make fitting pants much easier.
Another difference with this pattern is there is no traditional “guide sheet” included, but instead there is a 24-page booklet of detailed instructions. This is like getting a class on pants fitting in writing that you can reference as often as you wish! The booklet also includes “Tips” from Sarah Veblen. She is a fit expert who wrote the book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting. This is a great reference book to have in front of you while fitting pants. Sarah also has an on-line pants fitting class which is an exceptional value and another great resource. You can sign up for her class at https://sewing.patternreview.com/.
Yet another big difference with this pattern is it includes “Horizontal Balance Lines” (HBLs) along with regular grainlines that extend the full length of each front and back pants piece. The HBLs make it easy for you to keep the pants on the straight of grain as you make changes to the pattern.
If you are interested in purchasing this pattern, you can order it at www.fitforartpatterns.com.
If you choose to use a different pattern, you may want to download some instructions explaining the fitting process before you begin. It will be easier to fit the pants if you prepare by reading through the instructions before you begin. There is a very helpful post from October 17, 2017 on the Sew News Blog. The post is an article by Christine Jonson that originally appeared in the April/May 2011 issue of Sew News. The link is http://www.sewnews.com/blogs/sewing/2017/10/17/how-to-fit-pants/.
The fitting process, especially pants fitting, is not a quick process. It requires time and effort to make a mock-up and make adjustments to the mock-up and pattern. It may require that you make two or more mock-ups before you get the desired fit. However, it is much easier and far more rewarding to have a pattern that fits before you cut and sew your fabric than it is to use a pattern and just hope you get great fitting pants! That is not likely to happen unless you have the exact same measurements the pattern company used to make the pattern. Quite frankly, those are not the measurements of most of our bodies and no amount of dieting will get us there! So, let’s be realistic and start the fitting process.
I took two measurements to determine which pattern size to use. I measured around Suzy Q’s hips and around her abdomen. I did not take her waist measurement because it is not necessary to determine which size pattern we use. We will fit the waist later in the fitting process. I compared the two measurements (around the hips and abdomen) to the measurement chart. She did not fit exactly into one size, but was between two sizes. I know from experience to go to the larger size, but I ignored my gut feeling and chose the smaller size. I made the mock-up and it was extremely tight all over. Instead of trying to adjust the pattern that was not the size I should have chosen, I threw that mock-up away and started over.
I did get two pieces of useful information from the too tight mock-up. I discovered Suzy Q has an extremely high waist. Even though she will not want the waistband at her natural waistline, we still need to start the fitting process using her natural waistline so the mock-up will hang properly. Therefore, I made that adjustment to the pattern before cutting the second mock-up. The second piece of useful information was the Back 1 pattern piece was not going to fit Suzy Q because she has a round derriere.
I chose to use the front pattern piece one size larger than the original mock-up and Back 2 in the same size. I traced those pieces onto pattern paper. There are several kinds of paper you can use, but I use the medical supply paper that doctors use to cover examination tables. It is inexpensive and can be purchased from most businesses that sell medical supplies or it can be purchased online from sites like Amazon. Just search for “pattern paper” and you will get a list of several sources. On Amazon.com you can buy one or a few individual rolls or a case of 12. One roll will last for a while and is inexpensive.
When you trace your pattern, make sure to trace all the markings including the horizontal balance lines, the grainlines and the notches. Don’t forget the lines for the darts. These will not be the traditional v-shaped lines you see on other patterns. They are simply straight lines to give you an idea where you may need darts. The size and the number of the darts will be determined as the pants are fitted. You will need to transfer all of these markings from the pattern onto your mock-up. A picture of a mock-up with the appropriate markings is shown below.
This pattern goes into detail for several different alterations that may need to be made on the pattern. You should make changes a little at a time. It is best to try to get an accurate fit in the crotch area first and then move to other fitting issues. The pattern instructions explain how to scoop out the back crotch if you need more room in that area. If that does not provide the extra room, you may need to use a different back piece. If you use back 1 and it is too small, you may need to use back 2 or back 3. You will figure this out by trial and error. Then you can move to other fitting issues. For example, if there is too much room at the hip area, determine whether the extra should be removed from the front or back. You can pin the amount out of the mock-up and then make the change to your pattern. It is imperative that you always keep your horizontal balance lines straight with any change you make.
Suzy Q put on the mock-up. I began the fitting process. She had the pants on right side out and with the opening in the back. After the pants have been fitted, we can change the location of the waistline and we can also switch to a front fly opening instead of the opening in the back. Fit for Art patterns has another pattern, Sporty Details for the Eureka! Pants that Fit. This pattern gives details on how to convert the Eureka! Pants that Fit pattern to a pattern for jeans. It has clear instructions for making a fly front. Suzy Q wanted a fly front in her pants, so we used the Sporty Details pattern to add this detail.
I cut a piece of narrow elastic that would fit around Suzy Q’s waist plus an additional 8-10 inches. I placed that around her natural waist over the mock-up and tied it securely. The elastic may not be parallel to the horizontal balance lines because many women have waistlines that dip. It was at this point, the actually fitting began. I checked to see how the crotch of the pants fit and was very pleased to find a good fit in that area. Using the Back 2 piece made a world of difference. If the pattern had supplied only one back piece, we would have spent a considerable amount of time adjusting the crotch of the pants. Your choice of three different back pieces in this pattern based on the shape of the derriere really speeds up the fitting process! I then checked for other areas of adjustment. I pinned a little extra fabric out of the areas where needed while being careful to keep the grain lines and horizontal balance lines straight. I marked any changes on the mock-up so they could be transferred to the pattern pieces before cutting the pants.
The biggest problem I encountered was trying to determine where to mark the waistline on the mock-up. Remember, Suzy Q has a very high waist and she was adamant she did not want the waistband at her natural waistline. She had jeans that she liked with a waistband that was at the perfect spot on her body. We decided to try to replicate that spot on the pants. That was easier said than done. When we tied the elastic around what we thought was the correct area on her body, the elastic would not stay put because it was not her natural waistline. Finally, I asked her to put on the jeans and I marked the seamline on her body with an ink pen where the waistband would attach at the new waistline. This was not exactly rocket science, so it took a couple of tries. The first attempt resulted in the waist being a little too low because we did not have the mock-up situated at the correct height on her body. We added a little fabric back onto the mock-up and the second attempt was much better. I realize now that I probably should have left the elastic at the natural waistline and measured down from there to make a guess at the spot where she wanted the waistband to attach. Hindsight is usually 20/20 and besides, if we had done it that way we would not have had as many laughs as we did! I will definitely not be fitting pants to make a living!
I made the fitting changes to the pattern and added a fly front extension to the front of the pants pattern. The instruction booklet that comes with the Sporty Details for the Eureka! Pants that Fit pattern gives clear instructions on how to construct the fly front. Suzy Q is an experienced sewist so after we fit the pattern to her, she was able to cut and sew the pants quickly. Both of us were pleased with how the pants fit. After she wears the pants a few times, she may decide to make small changes in her pattern before sewing another pair. Wearing the pants is the only way to determine if they really are comfortable for her and actually fit the way she likes. Pictures of the pants prior to hemming is shown below.
Although preparing a pants pattern to fit you may not be a quick process, it is rewarding to know the pants will fit you before you cut your fabric and spend your time sewing them. It is important to do your homework before you start. Prepare yourself before you begin by learning as much as you can about the fitting process and above all use a good pattern that has clear instructions. Make sure you transfer all changes you make to the mock-up to your pattern and save a good copy of the altered pattern so you can continue to use the pattern for all future pants you sew.
I hope you will try fitting pants for yourself soon. Good luck with the process!