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Any tips on altering a pattern?

Hansi | Posted in Fitting on

I made a test garment for a pair of pants yesterday.  It was a Sandy Betzina (Vogue 7179) and had very detailed instructions (I really liked the pattern and feel like I want to make multiple pairs of this style of pants for work.)  However, the pattern alteration instructions focussed more on making the pattern bigger.  I needed to make the waist smaller.  Being new to sewing I was scared of permanently messing up my pattern and went ahead and made the pants up to a certain point; then I tucked in the side seams.  (I did this knowing that the princess seams were in there so you could make more subtle changes.  But I got confused because a previous step had me sewing a narrow strip of selvage across the waistline and it seemed involved to pull that out.  Should I have?)  It looks okay to the casual observer, but I know where those tucks are and see them when I look at the pants.  (I guess that’s why I made my first pair from bargain fabric from Wal-Mart.)  So here are my questions:

1.  If the pattern fits me at a larger size for the hips and at a smaller size for the waist, what’s the most subtle way of changing the pattern so that there’s not an abrupt change in the seams as there are in my current pair of pants?  (e.g. pattern with 8-10-12 sizing)

2.  What would you guys have done?

3.  I keep reading about slopers in the magazine and on this forum.  What are they and how do I get/make/use one?

Also, I do want to make these pants in nicer fabric than I made my test pants out of.  I noticed in the Power Sewing book that she made this pattern out of Silk Duponi (sp?) and the pattern envelope says gabardine, novelty stretch wovens and denim.  What are the rules for knowing when you can do a fabric that’s not recommended on the pattern envelope?

Everyone on this forum is always very helpful.  I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say.









  1. Jmars0727 | | #1

    <<....what's the most subtle way of changing the pattern so that there's not an abrupt change....>>

    First I would play around a bit with your test pair of pants.  Determine how much you want to remove from the waist and where you want to remove it from.  Usually, it is best to leave the center back and center front seams alone, but  you can remove some from all the other seams.  With the princess styling on this pair of pants, you have your choice of 6 other seams to adjust.  You can remove all of the excess at the sides, or you can choose to take a portion out of all 6 seams.  If the side seams are straight (not curving to the front or back at the waist) while you are wearing the pants, you probably want to remove the same amount from the front and the back to keep them straight.  This would be the same as taking a tuck in the side seam, or just sewing a deeper side seam at the waist.  It is possible that removing all of the extra from the side seams will make the top (waist area) of the princess seams pull to the side and no longer look straight.  If that is the case, you can remove some of the excess from the princess seams.  Once you know where you want to make these changes, baste the changes in place, to be sure they are what you want.  Then transfer the changes to your pattern.  I'm attaching a small sketch to this post to show how I would mark the changes on the pattern.  The black lines are the original cutting/sewing line, the red shows the new seam line.  Remember that any change you make to the waist of the pants must also be made to the waist facing.

    << What would you guys have done? >>

    Without the pattern instructions in hand, I am going to guess that the narrow strip of selvage is put in the waistline as a stay (to keep the waist from stretching) and is sewn into the same seam that attaches the waist facing.  If that's the case, then there is no real need to completely remove it to adjust the pants.  You could cut it where it crosses the seam you want to change, take out enough of the stitching so that you can unfold the seam allowances (the pant seam allowances that are under the stay)  and press them flat --not open.  I would stitch each section of the stay to the pants waist up to the seam line.  Then, when you take in the waist, just be sure that the endes of each piece of the stay are included in the seam. 

    << What are the rules for knowing when you can do a fabric that's not recommended on the pattern envelope? >>

    That's a tough one!  For someone new to sewing I would suggest that you ask.  A lot depends on the pattern.  Mostly (I think) it depends on the weight of the fabric and the drape.  Most slacks require what I would call a 'bottom' weight fabric -- Light weight (or blouse weight) fabric probably wouldn't stand up to the stress that is put  on the seams during normal wear.  While a bottom weight would probably work well for a jacket, it would probably be too heavy and 'stiff' for a nice blouse.  Sometimes it comes down to a judgement call.

    As for the sloper question.  I thnk you best bet there for information would be to do a search on this web site.  There have been a lot of good articles/explanations in Threads Magazine.  I'm hoping someone else will jump in here with a specific reference, because I am so unorganized that it would take me a month to find them.  Not much of an answer -- sorry.

    Hope this helps

    Julie M.

    1. Hansi | | #2

      Julie, thank you for your detailed post.  I really appreciate your time.  I'll look at your suggestions and let you know how it turns out.

      Again, thank you very much!


      1. Jmars0727 | | #3

        You are more than welcome.  Just hope it helps.  If you find you need an explanation of my explanation just ask.  And please do let me know how it works out.

        Julie M.

  2. ablakemo | | #4

    Hi! I too am new to adjusting patterns and have found the book "Fit for Real People: Sew Great Clothes Using Any Pattern" by Pati Palmer a valuable reference tool-very easy to understand what you want to alter and what not to. I recommend checking your local library to see if they have it. Also, check out the book Fabric Sewing Guide by Claire Shaeffer--it's also a good reference for deciding what fabric is good with what patterns. (can you tell I like having reference material around while I sew? :) )

    As to the sloper question, I have been reading on the same subject right now and experimenting. There seems to be a variety of "theories". My understanding--which could be wrong-- a sloper is a basic pattern with little to no ease which is then used as the foundation to make garments from. Each pattern company has a standard 'sloper' for set sizes that are altered to make garments from.

    I just recently read a book called Body Mapping which is a method for making your own "sloper" which you can make your own patterns from or use it to overlay on commercial patterns to alter. I found this method lacking myself--I am going to check out this Moulage method I am reading about here in the Gatherings forum.

    Not sure if that helps--good luck on your pants!

    1. Hansi | | #5

      Hi Aim,

      Thank you so much for sharing all those wonderful resources!  You certainly have been doing your homework.  I've been sidetracked for a week by Stuff (people don't seem to understand that I'd rather be sewing) but I'm expecting next week to be much better and hope to look up some of your books.  Again, many thanks for your response.


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