Sunday, July 18, 2010


(warning: another long and rambling post that may be of little interest to anyone but me...)

I spent a good chunk of yesterday "muslining" the HotPatterns Marrakesh Pant ("straight leg, relaxed fit" with one of those HP combined elastic-drawstring + zipper waists: sounds forgiving, right?).

Some of the reviews over at PR suggest that this pattern is not for pants newbies, but the fly front, faced pockets, etc., do not intimidate me. It's true that after muslin #2 I and ended up with a worse fit than I'd started with (resulting in some profanity and a creeping sense of despair), but none of the style details have anything to do with that.

I am not giving up, however. Here in Hawaii I can get away with wearing skirts every day in public, and yoga pants (at home only) in cooler weather, but pulling that off during my October mainland trip will be difficult. I dearly, dearly wish for at least one pair of medium- to light-weight pants that fit, and since RTW will never deliver on that dream, I have no choice but to keep on until I can make them myself.

After walking away from utter failure yesterday, I regrouped and spent an hour or so browsing sewing forums for advice and re-reading my two pants fitting books...:
~ Pants for Real People, which is highly praised but did not deliver good results yesterday; I got caught in a feeback loop of pulling up at the waist to resolve problem A, which made the cr.curve too high, recutting which resulted in problem A again. After going through that two or three times it was clear I was heading for no improvement in fit but with a waist at the armpit and the pants hem somewhere around my knee. I do appreciate the "real people" approach, but none of the real people in the book are shaped anything like me. Heads-up folks, some of us pudgy middle-aged ladies carry our excess in a very curvy bum, not so much the belly and hips (not as slim as they once were, but still a long way from huge).
~ Easy Guide to Sewing Pants, from Taunton Press, now available as PDF download, which is quite detailed, with many diagrams of how to change a paper pattern. More photos/diagrams to help identify the problem to which those pattern fixes refer would be helpful.
... and the Threads magazine article (#142 July '09) on fitting pants to a curvy figure, which so far has been the most helpful.

As frustrating as the unsuccessful muslins have been, I now have a significantly improved understanding of my fit issues, and that's an important first step. Here are some problems and hiccups I've encountered:

1) "Choose your pants pattern size by your hip measurement." Um, okay. I'm exactly halfway between a 12 and a 14 hip on the HP chart for both waist and hip measure. Based on my Kyoto skirt experience (and even a passing glance at my hip profile in a mirror), however, I know I'll need extra butt room. I decided to go one size up and cut a 16, figuring I could trim if/where necessary.

2) But wait, let's take a gander at the crotch length measurements. I am "long in the hip" (more distance than average between a low crotch and a high waist), but had not realized that on the HP chart my crotch length is between size 18 and 20, and cr. depth a solid size 20. My "center front" (floor to waist) BTW, is a whopping size 22! Gee, do you think maybe that's why the incremental pattern adjustments my resources recommend were not delivering a good fit? According to a flat measure of the HPMP pattern, the size 16 back crotch length, point to (low) waist, is 2.5" too short for me.

I'm not going to try a larger size because the only successful revelation of the muslins so far is that they hang better if I take at least an inch off the outseam (bringing the pant leg down to somewhere around a size 10). Going further up in size seems likely to deliver so much extra fabric at the back of the thigh (already an issue) that it won't be worth any hip/crotch improvement.

3) In the absense of one of those flexible ruler things to capture the full glory of my curves, this morning I followed an online tip and twisted up a coil of aluminum foil, pressing it firmly front and back. I don't expect it's truly accurate, but take a look at it overlaid on the pants back from my original HP size 16 muslin (no adjustments yet):

As you can see, I am not exaggerating when I say my butt is "curvy." My curve is so far off the pattern I'm not even sure where/how to line it up; either way it's somewhere between fascinating and appalling. When I am slimmer this profile does shrink some, but the basic shape remains unchanged. Where this JLo-worthy shape came from is a mystery, BTW: I am the product of a solidly WASP gene pool in which the most exotic contributing element is a scant touch of French from way, way, way, way back.

However, this does help me understand why the unaltered muslin is snug in the butt while I can pinch a half-inch or so extra out of the hip (two fitting issues that seem as though they should be mutually exclusive, a situation that utterly baffled me yesterday).

Anyhoo, now that I've taken a break to write up this post and play with the photos, I'm going to give the "Threads" slash-and-spread method another go and see how I do. I'll post more pics when I'm a little closer to a wearable solution. Wish me luck.


  1. WOW! That's a whole lot of technicality... and humor! I am laughing out loud reading this post! Also glad to know that someone else in this world suffers the same "JLo worthy" bum issues that I do!! I've never tried to make a pair of pants, and based on this post I'm pretty sure it's waaayyyy beyond my capabilities at this point in life. I want to be you when I grow up :)

  2. Shelley, I found it immensely reassuring that others have wrestled their way through multiple muslins and figure challenges that equal or surpass my own, and have survived to come out the other side with well-fitted pants. If they can do it, so can I. And so can you (maybe? someday? when you are feeling brave?). BTW: if you have a pair that fits well, you can just copy that shape in critical areas: much easier! Unfortunately I have nothing to copy from, hence these adventures.

  3. I have the same problem, a generous behind, with extra thigh width as well! I've never made a pair of well-fitted pants, ever. Pants are the single most difficult thing to fit properly around all of our curves as a woman!
    Good luck, and I hope all of your fitting efforts result in success at the end! :)

  4. I made these pants three times before I was happy with the fit. I ended up making it two sizes smaller! When I made it in the size that matched my measurements, I could take the pants off with the zipper up, the button buttoned AND the drawstring tied! These are supposed to be really slouchy pants. Good luck!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement! I'm ready to sew up a fresh muslin (will be #3) this weekend, incorporating all my changes so far. Based on a modified size 16 through the butt, with at least an inch taken off the outside seam.