Figuring out fit

custom pants draftI’ve been on a sewing journey for awhile now and thought I’d start making notes on it.

For the last several months, I’ve focused on drafting my own patterns. One reason is that it’s been difficult to find patterns that fit, whether from the Big 4 (Vogue, McCall, Simplicity and Butterick) or the independent pattern designers. The other reason is that I love the challenges it presents.

I’m five feet tall, hover around 100 pounds and I’m in my late fifties. Commercial patterns designed for teens (there aren’t many) may include smaller sizes in their multi-sized patterns, but most of the styles are hardly appropriate. I’m more of an Eileen Fisher-type woman, but $300 for a single garment is not in my budget. The good news is that her designs are always simple and streamlined, so my mission to recreate her look should be achievable.

I’ve already worked out basic pattern drafts for:

  • A knit maxi dress. Finessing this draft required solutions for very narrow shoulders/gaping back neck and a short back length. I’ve copied the draft to create variations for sleeves, turtleneck, etc.
  • A t-shirt. This one was important, since it’s now my reference for a number of garments. I have plenty of variations on that one as well. Still need to attempt a v-neck, though.
  • A knit maxi skirt. This one was just too easy and anyone can do it. Take a few measurements, sew three seams and you have a new skirt in less than 90 minutes on your first try. The instructions are on the fabulous Mad Mim site. Depending on your fabric choice, you can dress this one up or down. There’s no elastic in the waist, just a wide, yoga-pants style band, so they’re insanely comfortable. Add a t-shirt and sandals and you’re ready to go just about anywhere.
  • A pencil skirt. This is really nothing more than a tube with a slight curve at the waist side seam and a few darts. Instructions are all over the Internet, so grab yourself some muslin, throw one together and tweak it. Don’t forget a back vent so that you can actually walk in the thing.

The current and most challenging draft so far is for pants. My first draft is in the photo above. I followed the instructions in the Threads Magazine article “Draft Your Own Pattern for Pants that Fit.” You can view it online if you’re an Insider, or buy the special fitting issue of the print magazine that’s out right now.

The first muslin I made from the draft pictured had too much room in the waist and I hadn’t done such a great job on the hip curve. Big poochy there. For the second draft, I started by taking a little circumference out at the center front and smoothing out the hip. The muslin from that draft showed that I needed to get my darts on. I added those to the third draft, and sewed up that muslin today. Turned out that I had gotten a little aggressive, shall we say, on the darts. In fact, I could hardly get them on! I’ve let out all of the darts and repinned them, and think that I may not even need darts in the front.

Tomorrow I’ll try again with smaller darts in the back. I’m going to make those darts shorter, too, because the ones I had in there today were like those neon hotel signs shaped liked arrows, shouting “Hey! Look at my butt! Right here, look!” Sheesh.

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