Tapering or Widening Pants
by Karen Howland
from Threads #67, pgs. 24, 26
I need to taper the leg width of a pants pattern that fits well otherwise. Is this more complicated than just trimming down the leg seams? Do I reduce front and back equally? -Judi Davies, Ellkford, BC, Canada
Karen Howland replies: If you simply taper the seams on an existing pants pattern or on ready-to-wear pants, you'll typically find that there's still more fabric below the seat and under the belly than you want. Here's how to take out part of the width from the side and inseams and part from within the pattern, in both front and back.
Start by noting the widths you want at hem and knee levels, then measure the distance from hem to knee line. Fold both front and back patterns in half lengthwise, matching the inseams and outseams. This establishes the creaseline and center on each piece, which should be parallel to the grainline. Correct the grainline if it isn't.
Unfold and cut both pieces horizontally at the knee. We'll alter the lower-front pattern first. To make sure the hem allowance fits inside the tapered leg, fold the pattern on the hemline before marking and trimming. Refold the pattern piece on the center line, measure the total hem width you want, subtract 1 in., then divide the number by 4, and mark along the hem from the fold toward the seams. For example, if you want a 17-in. opening, subtract 1 from 17 to get 16 in., then divide 16 by 4. Do the same thing at the knee using the knee width you want (minus 1 in., then divided by 4), then connect the marks from hem to knee, add seam allowances, and cut away the excess.
Now, repeat the entire process for the lower-back pattern piece, this time adding 1 in. to the knee and hem widths before dividing by 4. Adding and subtracting 1 in. ensures that the pattern follows the usual ready-to-wear practice of making backs wider than fronts (which improves the hang of the garment).
Tapering Pants: Steps 1 and 2:
|Step 1: Divide front and back at knee|
|Step 2: Alter lower pieces|