Uh-Oh Minutes and Aha! Moments: Lab Notes on Pants Fitting

Line drawing of McCall's 6514 pants pattern

It’s been five years since I’ve attempted to sew a pair of pants. My first pair (wide legs, with an elastic waist) were fitted by following the guidelines in a comprehensive pants sewing reference book and the-most-awesome pattern alteration reference book from my library. I had a succesful pair of palazzo pants (which later proved to be a horribly pilly linen-blend fabric that ultimately made the pants unwearable) after only 1 night of pattern alterations and two muslin prototypes. I still have the original and altered pattern. But for some reason, I threw away 99% of my notes —perhaps a subconscious move of self-sabotage. Maybe I like re-learning things from scratch and have orchestrated things so I can experience life like that guy suffering from short-term memory loss in the movie, Memento…”Hey, look at that! I figured out the steps for making a pair of pants that fit!” Five years later…”Hey, I wish I knew how to make a pair of paints that fit.”

That’s kinda of what happened to me when it was time to conquer my second pair of pants for an upcoming challenge (to be revealed later)….I had only a piece of the map to  the island where they buried the Treasure of Trouser Tailoring (sorry, I have a small addiction to alliterations I’m trying to shake off). The rest was lost during my years of intermittent, aimless sewing. So, back to square one I went. Reference books…check. Muslin yardage…check. Measurement tape…check. Measurement charts…check….Pants pattern…check. Pandora set to Jim Gaffigan radio station…check (cause I’d be needing EVERY ounce of my sense of humor).

I’ll be going into the weeds of the details later on, but for now let’s just say….I know now why I waited five years to make another pair of paints. I was probably still post-traumatic from the first time I was faced with nearly SIX different pattern alterations – not all of which are self-evident at first.

Here is the chart I filled out (click it for a closer look via PDF) while measuring myself vs. the pattern pieces and below is an illustration of all of the reference points I used for the flat-pattern measuring.
Measurement Chart used for Pants Fitting

Pants Pattern Reference Points for M6514

The first muslin took two days (my longest alteration-to-muslin interval all year!). The second and third took an evening each. Halfway through evaluating the second muslin, I got worried that my fitting issues were hopeless. Thankfully, my extra nerdy, overanalytical husband wouldn’t give up on his attempt to read my wrinkles and sherlock where on the pattern to make the correction. His scientific inquiries kept my gears turning and I ultimately remembered on what page in which book the key alteration was explained. We nerded on further to come up with more efficient ways of making the length and width adjustments to save time and reduce pattern distortion.

I’ve re-discovered the treasure and am drawing myself a new map (don’t worry I won’t be tattooing it to my flesh with ink from a Bic pen like the Memento dude).

Guy Pearce with self-tattoos in sccene from movie,
Guy Pearce with self-applied tattoos in Memento (2000)

This whole adventure put me waaay behind schedule (when am I not these days). Which means I may have to opt out of next week’s challenge so I can do the chores I’ve been neglecting. Must I really choose between having a clean house and making another garment?

3 thoughts on “Uh-Oh Minutes and Aha! Moments: Lab Notes on Pants Fitting

    • Sometimes I feel like I should’ve been an architect with all of the plotting and measurements I’ve gotta do. That chart, when I actually follow it, is magically accurate.


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