Thursday, February 5, 2015

The quest for the perfect pants

Several years ago I made a gingham check muslin from McCalls 2953 Palmer/Pletsch 3 hour Perfect Trousers fitting shell which included their flat bottom tuck down the back leg. What I learned from the exercise was that my hips are completely flat at the sides and my waist is 3 sizes larger than the pattern for my hip size. But I still suffered from droopy bottom in every pair of pants I made thereafter.

After I finished my January top I decided to have another go at the muslin which, when I put it on, wasn't too bad and seemed to hang fairly smoothly at the back so I made a few more alterations.

Raised front waist 5cm tapering back down to the side seam.
Added width to front waist (size 18) tapering to size 14 at hip and size 10 at leg. I later removed the extra and brought the waist back to size 16.
Added to back waist height but took it out again later as not needed.
Cut back size 14 tapering to size 12 at hip then size 8 at leg.
Took in 2 cm tuck through back and leg as per Palmer/Pletsch instructions.
Left out back darts - not needed. I'm very flat across lower back.
Lowered back crotch a bit (this was a guess, it wavered between size 12 and 18 and didn't follow any particular measurement)

I made another muslin this time using some grey check fabric that has been hanging around for a long time. I wanted to use the check so I could see the horizontal and vertical lines easily.


I used a New Look pattern from 2000 that had been a dismal failure the first time I made it.  At that time I made View B  with pleats - shudder - my tummy and I don't do pleats. Lesson learned. However the pattern included a pair of flat front pants with darts and straight legs, which looked possible . I cut the pattern using the alterations and measurements from my fitting shell and made them up without any further adjustments except for length.

New Look 6736

To say I was surprised is an understatement. Before I put the waistband on I stitched the side seam at the waist a little closer and added my usual tiny dart either side of the centre front to bring the waistband in over my high round tummy.

See the straight side seams and the horizontal lines

I have a slightly crooked spine and twisting to take the photos didn't help, but just look at how smoothly the back of the legs fall. I'm ecstatic.

These pants aren't perfect but they are the closest I have ever been. I have learned so much about my weird shape, especially how to cope with a little basketball for a tummy and a flat as a board bottom. They still need one or two minor tweaks. They are a bit roomy and the waist is actually a little loose but that is easily fixed and I might increase the flat bottom tuck by a further half centimetre, but all in all I can't think of many more improvements I could make. If I fiddle too much I take the risk of over-fitting. I'm so pleased with these I may tackle the tapered leg pants on the right some time.

One more look at the back

I'm hoping those those curving lines at the back of my right leg are because I'm twisting sideways.

Thanks for reading through my babble. It is mainly so that I can remember what I did right so I can do it again next time. I'm very bad at taking notes and usually rely on my memory which good as it is, isn't always infallible. 

For February I think I'm making a dress, that is unless I change my mind. ;)

Cheers everyone.


  1. Great job on your pants! It was interesting to read your project notes to understand sewing a pair of pants is a process. Clever idea to use that particular fabric to check for vertical and horizontal lines. And... it's always a woman's prerogative to change our mind?! Look forward to seeing whatever you make next!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. It was worth persevering.

  2. Kathy, you and I have such similar fitting problems - even down to the slightly curved spine. I could have written this post. These pants do work - and they add some slight fullness to your legs, without being baggy. Absolutely love them, they look great.

    I used a PP pants pattern once, and sometimes I take out back fullness in some patterns, but not all. It certainly did work for the PP pattern, but no all patterns seem to need this. I think you have found a pattern that works for you :).

  3. Always happy to read this type of post to learn more about fitting pants to real people shapes. I think you have nailed it.

  4. Kathy , your pants are brilliant! Well done. You make me laugh, you get my vote on the best ever selfies taken.! These pants give you a good booty. Thanks for sharing your f ing issues:)

    1. Thank you Maureen. It's hard to photograph your backside by yourself. :)

  5. They are very fine pants indeed. You have done well.

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  7. Getting pants to fit is the bane of my existence! You've done a great job.

  8. I've also got fitting issues with pants and am currently enrolled in a pattern making class (face to face) to get myself a pants sloper. Yours look great.

    1. Thank you. Good luck with your sloper.

  9. I've just cut out this New Look pattern too. Even though I have a completely different body shape and fitting issues to you this pattern is probably one of the best pair of pants I've ever made - a magical pattern! Hopefully mine turn out as well fitting as yours have