To pleat or not to pleat…

I have good news and bad news. The good news is if you’re in the mood for a blog post that meanders aimlessly with no finished projects to show off or clear direction as to fitting trousers, you are SUPER in luck. The bad news is that I didn’t bring enough popcorn for all of you. Let’s just jump in, shall we?

I posted the beginning of my search for trousers the other day, and included a shot of my three major contender patterns – Hot Patterns Razor Sharp and Everyday pants, as well as one of the ‘vintage’ reissues from Simplicity (4044). I cut the patterns and re-read through Pants for Real People (honestly, they need to restyle that book. It burns my eyes.) I couldn’t decide which pattern to start with. The Hot Patterns ones seemed so frumpy, the Simplicity pattern… well… it has pleats. I pulled the back pattern pieces and laid them out to compare. First, The Razor Sharp pants – a faced waistband, front fly zip, angled pockets, creased and supposedly wider leg.
 01_Hotpatterns_razorsharp

The one thing that I’ve read about over and over is the L-shaped crotch line on the Hot Patterns trousers – see how it makes a sharp turn rather than a big angle? I’m curious about how that will look on me! The thing I noticed is that the leg seems to angle in slightly toward the ankle. Not surprising, given my frump-suspicions. And not promising.

Next, I laid the Everyday pattern piece over the Razorsharp. I tried to get the crotchlines to line up for comparisons sake.
02_Hotpatterns_everyday

I was a bit surprised by this piece! I expected the legs to be similar, with the differences between the two patterns being the Razor Sharps have pockets and a fly, The Everydays are simple with a side zip. Turns out the cut is very different! The leg of the Everyday pants is much more narrow and has a definite slight flare. Hmmmm…

Next up the Simplicity retro pants. With pleats.

03_Simplicity_4044

Again, I was surprised. I expected these to have the widest leg, which they clearly didn’t. Also, it appears that Simplicity drafts for shrimps! Did I buy a petite pattern?? No… the crotch depth of the Simplicity pants is MUCH deeper, something I was definitely concerned about. My problem with trouser patterns has been all the excess fabric in the front! Even taking the high waist of the Simplicity pattern into account, I could see that the length of the leg was actually in line with the other two trouser patterns when I slid the pattern piece down to line up the hems. The width of the Razor Sharp and Simplicity pants is quite similar, with the Simplicity pants having an extra few inches of crotch depth. Ho hum. Here’s a shot with all three pattern pieces outlined; pink is the Razor Sharp, green is the Everyday and blue is the Simplicity piece.

So. Time to decide what to do. I went with the Simplicity pattern. You may think I’m crazy, but I was drawn to a few things. First, I really wanted to try a high waisted trouser. That seems to be a good look for me. Second, I just wanted to jump in and of the three patterns, the Everyday and Simplicity patterns were more simple – side zips, no pockets. The Everyday pants seem a bit more narrow than what I want. Finally, even though the pleats on the Simplicity pattern seem to be the cardinal no-no… (I mean, didn’t we just finally throw out our last pair of pleated trousers from 1993 a few years ago) I’m trying to find trousers that work for me, not necessarily the most in-fashion pattern. I’ve heard these are flattering – there’s a picture on patternreview.com that looks great (although I think the pleats were removed on that version) and maybe the pleats would turn out to be super flattering?? Who knows??

So first, dealing with the pesky super-long crotch. I’m trying to be a little more methodical with this trouser project – you know. Actually making the pattern as is before messing with it. I can do adjustments to the bustline before muslining because I have a pretty good idea as to what will work. Unfortunately, I have no idea what works with trousers, so I want to make the pattern as-is then go through the fitting process. Here’s a shot of the crotch – you can see that the crotch of the sizes 26/28 (I cut a 28 to match my hips. Gah. Let’s go back to Colette sizing, can we?) is a full inch lower than the other sizes. I dutifully cut the pattern as is, but kept the little wedges, suspecting I’d want to put them back on later. I marked each one with a pencil, front/back. (blue is 26/28, pink is the other sizes.)
05_Simp4044_crotch

The first muslin

Then I completely lost my head. I was trying to follow the fitting process in Pants for Real People (sister to everyone’s favorite fitting book, Fit for Real People.) The authors are huge fans of tissue fitting, then pin fitting your fashion fabric, then doing the final and tweaking. I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of muslins. So, of course, I just jumped in and made a muslin. The only fabric I could find that was big enough to cut from was on old pair of drapes that are of a weight between muslin and gauze, but closer to gauze. And very see-through. For modesty’s sake, I’m wearing a pair of leggings under the muslin, adding a bit of bulk.

I liked the muslin more than I thought I would! Since the fabric was so drapey, the pleats weren’t as awkward as I expected. The shape of the leg appealed to me, as did the way the waistline was a bit higher. They were, of course, giant. See how high they pull up? And How far I can pull them up? And I’m wearing leggings underneath AND have my shirt tucked in!? I sighed and accepted the fact that I’d have to start over with tissue fitting. At least my quickie-muslin showed me that I was interested in working on this pattern a bit more.

Um, where’s my waist again?

OK, so I don’t know about all y’all, but the instructions in every fitting book that you find your waist by bending to the side and finding the crease is completely nonsensical to me. Which crease?? This directive reminds me of the Special K pinch-more-than-an-inch commercials that were on when I was, like, five years old. I would obsessively pinch my side (It was about 3/4 of an inch at that time) and then pinch everyone else’s side. Anyway. My actual waistline remains a somewhat mystery to me. There’s my narrow part – VERY high and where I like my dress waistlines, but probably not workable for trousers. There’s what I believe to be my natural waistline – more in line with my belly button and slightly above where I like to wear my jeans. A very, very unflattering line on me, since my body continues to angle in above that point, so any horizontal line there looks bad. And then there’s a point somewhere between (and a ‘side-bending-crease’)– perhaps my goal waistline for trousers? Here’s some super-hot pictures of me in my gym-slash-cat-burglar outfit, showing you what I’m talking about. From left to right- the high waistline preferred for dresses, then the low waistline that must be avoided except for jeans (maybe?), then a happy medium.

For the observant amongst you, you will see that Mr. Bug is just home from work and nesting. The odd placement of his head in the second picture is due to some basset hound snuggling. I cropped for proper comparison – here’s the original…

Tissue fitting

The point (apart from idle curiosity) of finding my waistline, is that with the fitting method from the book, you assemble your pattern pieces and put them on, tucking them into a piece of elastic fastened around your waist. Here’s my first go-round with tissue fitting – the elastic is at that mid point.
 18_tissue1_side

Obviously, there was a lot of extra room there! I wriggled out of my paper pants and realized I had ripped the back, which added to the roominess in the photos. I taped it up and added the crotch wedges I had set aside back to the pattern pieces. Pink shows the original cut line.

Then another tissue fitting. Much better! You can see the back looks fine, while there’s a bit of extra length in the front. According to the book, one way to deal with this is to just tug up the pattern piece so the front is hanging correctly and remove that tissue. There are also a bunch of other things to look for – wrinkles and creases and such. I had a really hard time doing that – to me, all I can see in the tissue is wrinkles and creases! I decided to make the front adjustment and try another muslin. My main problems are less with width and more with that pesky crotch area – not super easy to work with in paper!

Here I am marking the excess tissue on the front pattern piece. You can also see here how I pinned the pleat down and folded to nothing mid-thigh so that I wasn’t using the pleat ease for fitting.

Ah! Morning! Here is my front pattern piece, laid flat. You can see the blue marker line I made the night before, and how it curves to the side seam – it’s really the center front that’s always too long on me!

I wanted to keep the pleat depth so I just cut along the blue line, then slid the pattern piece down and taped it back onto the main pattern piece, aligning the original top (where the notch marks are) with the new cut edge. Then I didn’t have to transfer any markings! I extended the bottom of the pleats about an inch (the amount I had trimmed.) I expected that I’d have to fine-tune the length of the pleats, but this gave me a place to start. Green dots show original pleat end-marks, pink shows my new ones.

Muslin #2

Time for some more fabric pants! I hemmed and hawed all day. I have some drapey poly fabric in my stash that would work for a muslin. It would also work for, you know, real pants. I finally decided to pick up some cheapo-muslin to work with. With which to work. I really didn’t want the stiff muslin fabric, but just couldn’t bring myself to cut into viable fabric when I still wasn’t sure if the trousers would work. The stiffness of the muslin was definitely an issue with the pleating. Sigh. Here it is…

Not terrible (and I clearly need me some creamy wide legged trousers to go with this shirt!) I didn’t like the pulling at the bottom of my hips and the lumpy-bumpy along my side – I have that valley between the top of my hip and the top of my thigh that makes me crazy! And there’s some funkiness around the crotch that bugs me. I like the width of the leg and where the waistband hits.

From the side, it looks like I took a bit too much length from the front. I think I do have a slightly tilted waist, but not this much. And I can’t tell if it’s the seam allowances or the seam, but there may be a bit of the seam veering toward the back over my hip.

From the back, I don’t hate it. I have a tendency to make the back of my trousers too loose while fitting – baggy is not the look I want! Oh! And I switched the zipper to a back zip. I think it’s more complimentary to this style and I just like it!

Another muslin

The pulling of the pleats and slight tightness over the hips was really bugging me, so I made a few tweaks. The fitting book says that pleats should end at the fullest part of your tummy, so I went back and extended the pleats about four inches. When I tried them on, it really didn’t work. I ripped back an inch or two – I marked the original end of the pleat in pink and the new end in green. I also resewed the side seams between the blue marks using about a 1/2 inch seam allowance, adding about a half inch ease total to that area. I like what the new side seams did – getting rid of a bit of the lumpy bumpy. I’m still not sold on the pleats, although I do wonder what they might look like in a more drapey fabric – this muslin is amazingly thick and stiff for being the el-cheapo variety!

I still have some crotch problems –I see some folds in the front – sort of pointing towards the pink and green dots? I think that’s what the book calls a ‘smile’ and the remedy is to let out the inseam a bit. Or it sort of looks like a ‘bubble’, and of course the remedy is to sew the crotch a bit deeper. We’ll see about that! And there’s just a hint of the dreaded toe of the desert beast of burden, but I think if I get rid of those angled wrinkles it’ll take care of that.

On the side, I think I still see some pulling, but again, it’s hard to tell from the photo if it’s the seam or just the seam allowance – I know I pressed them this way and that!

The back looks much better. There’s a few slightly angled folds pointing downward. I couldn’t find a matching drawing in the fitting book, but I wonder if I let out the inseam a bit that would relax the folds. I spent some time hanging out in the trousers and they were definitely comfortable! Oh! And they are definitely short! The unhemmed muslin is barely long enough!

What’s next?

I haven’t quite decided. I’m not sure the pleats will work for me, but I think there’s a few more tweaks I could do to this muslin to see. I also was thinking of trying to work out a dart arrangement in the front to completely remove the pleats – since I have the muslin, it might be worth it as I like the rest of the style. I may still try one of the Hot Patterns patterns – probably the Everyday pants just to check fit and not deal with a fly on a muslin I’m not committed to! To which I am not committed. Darn Minnesotan messed up grammar!

One very likely next move is to add a new pattern to the mix. I picked up Simplicity 3688, the other Simplicity retro pattern – it looks like the same lovely high waistband and wide legs with a much cleaner finish. But there’s a waistband and I’m not sure how much I’d like that! We’ll see how the mood strikes me! In the meantime, I’m working away on other projects!
3688

16 Comments

  1. [...] now lets back up to the beginning. When I last left off blogging about the trouser adventure, I had gotten through a muslin for Simplicity 4044, the pleated, high [...]

  2. PepperToast says:

    I am super interested as I am debating a few of these patterns. Please post progress!

  3. tanitisis says:

    As usual I'm awed by your fit process! But what progress you've made! Can't wait to see the next version!

  4. Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood says:

    i was thinking of using that other version and make that waistband wider even. so it comes up higher. you got me thinking about pants, just even for a foray into the evil pants land. just to see if home made pants are better than RTW. but i hate pants sooooo much snuggy buggy.

  5. lindsinangels says:

    Have you ever checked out any Knipmode pant patterns? It's a Dutch sewing magazine. A lot of the Patternreview sewers (including me!) use them, and they are fantastic!
    There is a wide range of pattern sizes, and the pants patterns, especially, are especially flattering to all sizes.
    The only drawback is that it's all in Dutch, but if you have an intermediate knowledge of sewing (obviously not an issue for you!) you won't need directions, anyway.
    I had similar problems with getting proper fit with commercial patterns, but I've never had a problem with Knipmode's drafting.
    Just an idea in case you haven't found the perfect pattern yet. :)

  6. Sue says:

    Thanks for the excellent documenting of your pants fitting process. Really informative and helpful. Good luck in your further fitting adventures.

  7. Shasta says:

    Such an interesting and informative post, Patty! I'm just amazed at the amount of sewing you produce. I need more time in the day (i.e. can't wait for my son to start pre-K in August!). I don't really know where my waist is either — glad I'm not the only one! Can't wait to see what you do next with these pants!

  8. Cassandra says:

    Yes! Someone else who has become confused about where their waist is according to stupid sewing books. I've seen it described like so:

    1. The place where your measurement is smallest (presumably on your torso!)
    2. The place where you instinctively put your hands when you put your hands on sides (ie. when you get super angry this is the pose you assume)
    3. At your belly button
    4. Bend at the side etc.

    The smallest part of my torso is about 1 inch below my bust. And about 3 inches above my belly button. I promise you, that is not my waist!

    Having any clothing/waistbands end right at my belly button is incredibly uncomfortable to wear. It also makes you very aware of any extra weight that pouches out above and below.

    The hands-on-your-hips pose is a pretty good guide. I put my hands on my sides about 1" above my belly button. It's quite comfortable to wear dresses with waist seams here.

    The bend to the side pose works a lot like the hands on the hips pose. If I put my hands on my hips and then bend to the side I seem to fold right over my hand.

    At the end of the day I would thoroughly recommend putting the waistband of your new pants wherever the hell your favourite jeans/pants sit. It's about comfort and the best part of sewing is that you can dictate where you want the waistband to be.

    For pants I like a really odd elliptical shape with a back waistband that are right on my lower back and then curve down around my body: hanging just on the top of my hip bones and at the lowest point: across my tummy about an inch or two below my belly button.

  9. KC says:

    Very interesting and helpful post. Thanks!

  10. Karen in VA says:

    I love your muslining process.. I find it hard to tissue fit myself. I have Simplicity 3688 – will be interested to see how they fit.

  11. jaimesews says:

    I have gone through this process, though not at all as well documented, for my Anita Jeans. I too have that problem with the too-long front crotch. If you figure that out, LET ME KNOW! My jeans are okay, but still not fitting how I'd want them to. I look forward to seeing what you end up with!

  12. Anonymous says:

    i have similar problems with pants. I tried Pants for Real people and i honestly could not tissue fit myself. I couldn't reach the areas that needed pinning and pinching. I finally made a fabric pattern (really 1/2 a muslin), which draped better and was less fragile. then i made a pair according to the fabric pattern. hmmm… i guess i am saying that i feel your pain. and i'm glad to see that i wasn't the only one who couldn't make pants that fit the way i want them to.

  13. Laurwyn says:

    So So So interesting!
    In October, I gave a shot to the burda pattern that the Cupcake goddess is using at the moment. It was comparable to the one that you are using, with pleats, and it looked so bad at the first muslin that I just stopped. Now that I see what a few tweaks can do, I might give it another shot, or maybe without the pleats…

    –> to do (long) list

  14. anotheryarn says:

    Watching you make muslins and conquer fitting patterns is encouraging for my own fit problems and a wee bit terrifying. 4 years ago I said I was going to tackle pants but all the patterns are sitting uncut in their envelopes.

  15. Ada says:

    Before you give up on your pants watch Peggy Segers webcast on fitting pants. One really important thing I learned about fitting pants is to clip the crotch curve before making any changes. Who knew?
    Silhouettes Patterns web site
    Past Webcast
    Dec. 27th 2010 / 7:00 PM CST
    Topic: Ultimate Pants Fitting

  16. Heather says:

    Interesting post about the fitting process about the trousers. I've always thought that each muslin you made were entirely new (practice) garments, and I could never understand how you could make so many different muslin pieces without A) hating whatever it is that you're making, and B) going broke. :) Heh, it's one of many reasons why I never made muslins. :D

    I'm interested to see how these turn out. I have a copy of Pants for Real People too, and I'm curious about your thoughts on their fitting process.

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