Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trousers Muslin #1: Way too Big, But Super Comfy

I sit here writing this post in the most comfortable pants I have ever worn. I've been wearing them all evening any they are awesome--I can run, jump, bend, sit, you name it. I even took the trash out in them.

Unfortunately, said pants are (a) made of muslin covered in red permanent marker notations (b) have some of their darts and seams sewn on the outside (oops!) and (c) are way too freaking baggy in the leg.

I'm really glad I made the muslin in a size 14 instead of 16, even though my measurements are closer to the latter. Here are the front, side and rear views (click to enlarge):

They are not quite looking like this yet:

Stripes + Wales trouser outfit sketch

My first thoughts were:

  • Too much fabric in the legs. This would be even more overwhelming in the corduroy.
  • Too much fabric on the sides of the hips? Maybe? It's a tiny bit loose and poofy on each side--I can pinch about a half inch on each side. I think I need to pin up the looseness and rebaste.
  • I think the crotch seems to be about right in depth/length--but there seem to be some weird wrinkles in the front. I will have to study my gazillion pants books to figure out what they mean. Like studying the oracle...
  • The waist seems about right. (Note: these are supposed to sit about 1.5 inches below natural waist).
  • The back looks surprisingly good. I have a really flat seat, so I was expecting to have to do some major flat butt adjustment. Maybe the fit model these pants are based on was flat too?
  • I haven't pinned the hem up, but they're about the right length. So I'll need to add extra for the hem (and cuff).
  • I'd like the pants to cup a tiny bit under the butt, not fall straight down. Though according to all my books, the definition of a trouser is that it has that more straight/relaxed silhouette. So this might technically make my trousers into slacks.

To help in my analysis, I decided to compare my muslin to my favorite pair of RTW wide-legged denim trousers--which fit pretty well except for some bagginess below the butt (flat butt issue, I think) and being slightly too low-rise for my tastes. Here's what I found:

They actually are quite similar up top--similar waist measurement, similar hip width. And at the hem, too--they're both 23" wide on each leg. The crotch curve is even pretty similar.

The big difference as you can see is in the leg widths at the crotch (28" wide on each leg of Baggy Trouser Muslin as opposed to 26" on Favorite Jean Trousers) and knee (25.5" vs. 20.5").

My plan of attack:

  • To fix the baggy legs: I'm going to rebaste the muslin to be shaped a bit more like the jeans, taking in width on the inseam and side seams and then gently flaring back out to full width.
  • To cup the rear a bit more in back: Apparently I need to stitch a deeper inseam. But I worry that will make the crotch too tight--it seems just right now. I'll have to see what happens.
  • To deal with tiny bit of fullness at hips: I might leave the teensy bit of extra fullness around the hips alone and tweak it in the fashion fabric. And actually, the extra fullness seems to disappear when I sit down.
  • I think these trousers need back pockets to give me a little padding in the rear. Would it be weird to do welt pockets in corduroy? (Not that I've ever made such a thing).
  • I might try adding a sneaky subtle elastic in the back waistband area to make them more adjustable. I find belts really uncomfortable with pants... which means at the beginning of the day my pants tend to be falling down a bit and by the end of the day they are sometimes a bit too tight. This solution is advised in several of my pants books--we shall see.

But I have to admit I'm having a problem with this project already. I probably should have gotten back into sewing for myself with something that was either more of a quick win--a simple skirt with minimal fitting, say--or was really exciting, like a beautiful dress in an exciting print. These pants are boring me and the fitting process is annoying me.

So right now I'm running on sheer stubbornness, since I told you all I was going to make pants. THE PANTS WILL NOT BEAT ME. Though if my rebasted muslin doesn't fit any better they may get a rest while I make something more quick and fun.

Any tips from expert pants-fitters appreciated.

P.S. Speaking of annoying totally no fun projects, I finally rehemmed my bedroom curtains to the right length. They look nice.


  1. Your pants are going to be awesome! One tip I've used is to sew the outside leg seams last so you can adjust the fit (and the hip fullness) there. I've found that the same pattern made up in different fabrics can fit really differently, so it's nice to be able to adjust towards the end.

    Another thing I've done for fitting pants is just to pinch out bits of extra fabric in the muslin and sew them into darts (doesn't matter which way they run, just pinch out until the fit looks and feels good). Then take the muslin apart but leave these darts in place. Flatten the muslin as much as possible and use that as your new pattern.

    (Not an expert by any means but those are some things that have worked for me.)

  2. I like spottedroo's dart fitting method. I might have to try that myself.

    I was going to say that I think the fit is pretty darn good straight out of the box, although I see where you want to improve it. I think those front wrinkles are telling you that there is too much room in the front crotch curve. Your inseam adjustments might help there, so I would make those first before I started futzing with that darn crotch curve. Tapering in the in and outseams equally around the knee will also give you a sleeker look without sacrificing the fit in the hips or the hem width.

  3. They look pretty good so far. Adding hidden elastic in the back is a cool idea I wouldn't have thought of.

  4. Ha! It is like studying the oracle. Excellent analogy :-) I think you're doing all the right things - esp in comparing your pants to the RTW jeans. Don't forget that the drape of denim lends itself to derriere-cupping (for want of a better term). Trousers are by nature straight from the hips and there should be some fabric below the seat.

    I'd be careful about corduroy pockets. They might be a bit overly voluminous.

    Also, I appreciate that you have drag on only one side - which leads me to believe it could be about a bit of structural asymmetry in your hips or legs. I'm kind of over the whole "drag at the crotch is a disaster" thing. You have 3 tubes intersecting and engaging fabric in more movement than it will ever experience in any other garment construction. The likelihood is that there will be wrinkles there - def. when you sit, maybe sometimes when you move.

    I think there's a diff between drag as a result of the pants being too small (never good) and drag as a result of fabric drape/hand and the way your body parts fit together. The question is, what's your appetite for it.

    I really recommend not over fitting the first pair of pants because you'll learn more from a wearable muslin (one you wear out in the world) than anything else. (Also, it gets really old making 8 zillion, seemingly-unknowable adjustments). I tweaked the same pattern 5 times. 2 of those 5 variations came as a result of wearing the pants weekly for a while.

    What I def recommend is getting enough fabric to make the same pair at least twice. Then you won't be factoring ease and drape into your numerous fitting exercises. Minimize the elements of variation at the moment.

    BTW, the crotch length and depth do look pretty good.

  5. Woot! They are looking great. I will second sewing the outseam last---this is what I always do when I make jeans.

    I think you've got some good ideas and some good advice already, so all I'll say is that they won't be boring once they're sewn---they'll be fab!

  6. SpottedRoo had good advice. I am thoroughly on board with sewing the outseam last. Also, I've used the dart method she mentions to deal with my narrow shoulders - it works pretty well IMHO as long as you are careful with your grainline (ie: make sure it is still running down the center of the each pant leg).

  7. As someone who has made this pattern before I want to remind you of the pleats in front and back. That is where that extra fullness will be going. I would iron those into the muslin and then judge the fit. This type of trouser usually does not cup the butt, the pleat would start at the most protrusive part of your rear and then drop straight down, especially if going for that 1940s factory-girl look. When I first saw your pictures I thought that was your final muslin, they look excellent to me. Here's a good link with similar pants, though a bit fuller than these. Good luck, I think you're really close!

  8. i think you are off to a great start and it's exciting to see you posting again. sounds to me like k-line has some excellent advice there, and i look forward to following your process. have you checked out the trouser sew-alongs at colette patterns and fashionable stitch?

  9. Actually, looking back at your pictures I think that muslin IS finished. Again, iron in the pleats and then reassess.

  10. Oh, good point--I did take some photos with the pleats ironed in:

    View One

    View 2

    But I didn't post them because I had the pants sitting too low and was wearing the wrong shoes, so they got all crumply. Does that change things?

  11. Is this the right pattern to use for the fir you want?
    Seems like these are straight leg pants, ideal for that 40s look that you posted (the pic of the gal in the striped shirt).

    From the muslin, they look great for *that* look. Compared to the modern jeans you laid on top of the muslin, I can see the dissatisfaction if that is not what you are going for.

    All I can say is the drape of the leg looks smashing. But I love a 40s drape. :)

  12. Shelley, lsaspacey, you are totally right... my inspiration was 40s trousers, so comparing these to the 00's jean trousers probably doesn't make sense. I'm just not used to such a wide leg!

    I'm a bit nervous about how the drape will be in the corduroy, but what the heck--maybe I'll make them up with no modifications and then just adjust as needed in the fashion fabric. I think I should have chosen a different drapier fabric for the 40s look, but we'll see!

  13. I have wide leg 40s style cordies.

    It does take some getting used to, though. If they don't suit your tastes, then alter them, though you might want to do another pattern. I find pants alterations can be a huge headache as taking in one area or letting out one area can bring a world of hurt.

  14. One way to adjust the pants is to fold out -down the grainline- a fisheye dart, rather than at the seams. Only do it from the hipline to where you want them to flare out again. You can even baste it into these pants to see if that gives you more the look you are going for.


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