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Fitting Articles

violet_fairies | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

Since fitting seems to be a problem with many sewers, I was looking forward to new Fitting article series.  Unfortunately I was VERY disappointed in the last two.  Both of these articles were geared toward women with flat derrieres.  I guess when I see an article on fitting the seat of pants it would include both flat and protruding behind problems.   And the article on fitting a protruding midriff assumed only a flat behind.  That may be true for some women but not all.  If these fitting articles are only going to apply to certain body shapes then I think you should say so in the title or the lead in.

Ommisions like these give me the impression that whoever is reviewing the articles isn’t a sewer and doesn’t really understand fitting problems.


  1. midnitesewer | | #1

    I felt the same way about the articles. I figured that the seat fitting article would cover more than one type of posterior, but there wasn't even a passing reference to the fact that some one might has the opposite build.


    "Ommisions like these give me the impression that whoever is reviewing the articles isn't a sewer and doesn't really understand fitting problems."

      I been wondering about this about the magazine in general for some time now. There doesn't seem to be as much attention to detail as before.

  2. zuwena | | #2

    Hear! Hear!  Your points are well taken.  Does this bring to mind the reason why many of are sewers--because RTW has an image in mind that has nothing to do with reality for many of us.  The only way we can have clothes reflect the quality we desire is to sew them ourselves.   I realize that articles can't cover "everything" but Threads ought to be sensitive to the essentials that should be covered in any fitting article.  When something like this happens, it's a real disappointment.  Z

  3. oliveoyl | | #3

    For once I was so happy to find an fitting/alteration article that applies to me. I was just about to give away a pair of expensive pants that has "excess rear" when I read this article. With help, I have altered these pants to fit. I know I am in the minority of sizes - I really do have the figure of Oliveoyl, and even the smallest size pants do not fit properly. Living in a rural area with limited shopping and where they cater to larger sizes, this article is definitely a keeper for me. Now for the magazine to address the rest of the fitting problems that women like me have.

    1. violet_fairies | | #4

      I think it's great that this article helped you.  My point in writing the message is that I think Threads should have either included all figure types or indicated in the title that it was just for flat behinds. 

  4. alotofstitches | | #5

    I am sick of all the complaining about THREADS!!!!

    The whole mag cannot consist of just one article to cover all "backside" shapes!--which is how much room it would take.  Besides, most ladies would skim right over an article that long!  I alter patterns for all shapes and sizes for a wide range of clothing.  Some ladies have multiple issues (like myself) and some have only a few.  It would be impossible to cover every single thing in one article.  And something I've discovered is there is more than one way to alter for the same thing--you have to find what works best for your body type.  In other words, YOU have to read/study multiple articles on altering the same thing to get the best results.  There simply is no quick fix to fitting.

    I clip all articles on fitting, slip them in sleeve protectors and put them into a loose-leaf notebook.  My Fitting Notebook is the thickest one I could find and body sections are separated by dividers.

    1. woggy | | #6

      I have been collecting fitting articles on pants from Threads and other magazines for many years.  The majority of these articles discuss either the flat behind or very large size (plus size of over size 24) behind.  Some "lightly" touch on the low slung bum, broad hipped mature figure with a protruding belly but the directions are lacking.  I also have numerous sewing/fitting books including "Pants for Every Body" which really does not discuss the above mentioned issues in depth as how to resolve eliminating wrinkles and smiles unless you have someone helping you make the adjustments (pinning tissue or muslin).I am beginning to think that these fitting issues are very difficult to correct and that we women who happen to have this shape have to settle for pants that have a few smiles or creases in the back.  The pants that fit me the best in RTW usually have elastic on the side such as Lee pants or Dockers.  This type of pant gives me room over my broad hips (from side to side) with a low slung bum and room in the front for my belly.  The elastic than cinches in my waste so the waste band is not sticking out in the back.  I once saw a diagram of different figures and one could say that I have a diamond shape or hour glass.Many of these fitting articles use a young model with few fitting problems.  Well, I bet there is a huge percentage of women who sew who have protruding bellies, broad hips and a low slung bum but are not extremely heavy (size 14 or 16)- that figure shape happens to many of us as we age.  I have seen many older models used in articles and they tend not to have a "curvey" waste but be more straight on the sides with higher hips.  Even Joyce Murphy's last two articles in Threads for pants fitting showed models who appeared to have few fitting issues compared to what some of us must do to get a decent fit.For the past few months, patternreview.com has had many women write about their woes on pants fitting/making.  There have been some wonderful ideas shared - many have come from women who referenced older Threads magazines which had artcles on fitting pants issues from the 1980's.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't know about Threads at that time or I would have purchsed those issues.  In the 1980's, I had a nice slender figure and had no problem finding RTW pants to fit me.  Fast forward 30 years and I am heavier and even more broad through the hips from sitting at a desk job for many years.  I wish Threads would revisit those articles or provide a link on its website where I could download these articles - I would be more than happy to pay for some of these in depth pants fitting articles that I have heard mentioned.Maybe some of the reasons why so many of us are unhappy with Threads not providing these types of articles anymore is because a.) we have more sewing experience and knowledge and could better understand the article now as compared to 30 years ago; b.) some of us are retired and want to start using our creative juices more - what better way than to tackle making a nice pair of pants; c.) moderate price RTW doesn't fit our aging figures and we still want to look nice; and d.) why should we pay a huge price for a pair of pants to fit if we like to sew and are good at it. These are just my thoughts.  I am bound and determined to make a pair of pants that fit me before I die!  

      Edited 2/21/2009 5:53 pm ET by woggy

      1. NovaSkills | | #9

        Oh, girlfriend, I've got your same shape, but also a very long rise to go with it. I am in my 50's.

        What I do to pants is add a second set of back darts if they had one set, or put in a set if there was none. Back elastic is unflattering to low bums because it accentuates the hollow area above the bum. Don't taper in the CB seam any more, add the darts.

        Then, the most important mod is to make more of an L-shape of the back crotch seam than a J-shape. This lowers the full part of the bum area without changing rise length at all. You 'll see the excess under the bum disappear. Works for RTW, also.

        Next, you must adjust the tilt of your overall waistline. If you have our figure, you no longer have a waist totally level with the floor--it tilts UP in front. Add CF length of up to 1" that tapers to no extra by CB. Let the tapered extra add a little to the side seams, also, which allows for the wider high hip we have. The best way to see this need on your body is to tie snuggly a thin piece of elastic around your waist, bend over and sideways, then look at where the anatomical waist wound up. Note that RTW companies are of the mistaken opinion that a woman's waist is below her belly button--not biologically possible! Men's, however, are that way.

        You may also need an adjustment to inner thigh girth for only the front of the pant. This is done by slightly straightening out the curve from inseam crotch to upper thigh, or if needed, adding just another 1/4" of length to that pointed joint.

        Finally, redistribute the waist girth and high hip girth so that the side seams are no longer at exactly halfway points. There should be more in front at waist and high hip, which those darts I mentioned will fix.

        It may sound odd, but I get great tailored pants with minimal effort by buying a mens pair of trousers (long rise if possible) that fit smoothly in the bum but are 2" too long in the leg, and of course they'll be too short in the rise and too big in the waist. I do the crotch shape mod and lower that seam at the same time, take in the CB waist, deepen the back dart if really needed (rare) and enjoy great tailoring at 1/3 the price of women's--if I could find them to fit. A side benefit is most of these are unlined or only front lined to the knee and of better fabric, so they are more comfy in my South Florida climate.

        PS--those nasty angled pockets that lie right where we bulge should be banned. Use on-seam or welt pockets, or the ones that are L-shaped at high hip.

        1. woggy | | #10

          Wow - thanks for your reply - great tips, too!

          I just took a pant fitting class with a great instructor.  We used a Palmer/Pletsch pattern (McCall).  The instructor believes women look better in form fitting clothes and she might be right but I do not like clothes to fit me like that. 

          I realized in this class that I am too curving to have a waistband without elastic on the sides.  Using elastic helps the material hang on grain on my body.  So I think I will add a little bit to the waist and 3 inches below, then put the elastic in.  I shrink and expand too much during the day!  The pants I made still need some tweaking.

          I also am beginning to think that I am a "petite" in the front and regular in the back.  I just purchased a slack pattern from "Petite Plus Patterns."   I am going to have to alter the pattern, but I read on the website from a satisfied customer that the pattern fit her body - stated she had a petitie front and normal back.

          The saga continues.

          I have tried men's pants but find my hips are too broad.  And your are right about the price.  Makes me mad when I see well made men's pants for a lot less money than what we have to pay for crummy clothes.  That is why I am going to get a pattern to fit!


          1. NovaSkills | | #11

            I agree with you about the form-fitting stuff. I always hated that the skirts to all the wonderful RTW jackets are actually smaller at the knee than at the hip. No wonder we all look like sluts when we wear them!

            You may also want to consider cutting a yoked waistband that you place on the bias. Pulling down on the bias narrows the material, which you can afford if there is such a difference between hip and waist.

            Also, if you make a pattern, do yourself a favor and create an intentional two-piece, or even three-piece, waistband so that CB or side seam adjustments are easy if your body changes and you need to adjust the amount of elastic or solid length.

            Good luck!

          2. HeartFire2 | | #12

            <<<<I always hated that the skirts to all the wonderful RTW jackets are actually smaller at the knee than at the hip. No wonder we all look like sluts when we wear them!>>>Wow, That's some awfully strong language! I'm curios why you think it makes women look like sluts?? On a woman with the right figure I think this looks fantastic! Its just that not many of us have the figure to pull it off.!For the most part, no matter the style, if it FITS correctly, it will look good. (the word FIT is the key to the whole equation)

          3. NovaSkills | | #13

            I guess I'd say that style pulls attention "down south" which isn't best in a business environment. It's a style that lends itself too readily to being overly fitted on most of us, and makes lots of us look like we are inviting attention to something other than our personalities or brains. For evening, dates and parties, go for it (if well-fitted)--for business and to be taken seriously, a genuinely straight or barely A-line allows you to move, sit and bend without compromise, and has the same style impact with the jacket.

          4. HeartFire2 | | #14

            ah, Yes, I agree with this, certain styles are very inappropriate for certain environments.Along this line, I was at a conference on sewing and there was a group advertising their method for determining hem lengths - they have a "mathematical formula" for this, and showed slides of women wearing the same garment in 2 different lengths. You were to pick out the one that looked better (for office work) - I went to the below knee length every time, and the woman essentially told me I was WRONG. That the woman in the shorter skirt would get hired for the job - sure if its a man doing the hiring, I wouldn't get caught dead in an office environment with a skirt 2 inches above the knee! (now, to add to this I am 50 y.o., so mini skirts are not my thing)HeartFire

          5. Ralphetta | | #15

            If the reason a company wouldn't hire you was because your skirt was below the knee...you probably wouldn't want to work there anyway.

          6. NovaSkills | | #17

            There is no mathematical answer possible for the correct length, as it depends on the exact shape of a person's legs and their body proportions. My friend, D, looks almost obscene in a skirt more than 2" above the knee. whereas I would have to raise my hem to 4" above the knee to cause the same look. We are similar in height, but our leg shapes differ, and our proportions are not the same.

            And it very much depends on the shape of the skirt, of course. No surprise.

            I, too, am on the downslope of 50, and wouldn't wear a micro-mini to work, no matter what.

          7. HeartFire2 | | #18

            I couldn't agree with you more! current style also has quite a bit to do with what "looks good" to the eye as well. This lady did not like me cause I didn't like her 'system'

      2. amapola | | #19

        I bought from Amazon the following Fitting your Figure. It's from Threads published in 1994. The contents of the book are articles written by editors from Threads magazine. It has a different outlook on fitting. One shows you how to fit yourself. It's really something. Gave me ideas.  It has a different outlook as far as I can see. They are more realistic. Thought you might want to know. Amapola

        1. Sancin | | #20

          I agree with those that say elastic at the waist sides is ideal for fit of lumps and bumps. I see these in RTW but have yet to see a pattern or instructions on how to do this, in particular how to calculate the length of elastic to use. I would love to see Threads do an article on how to adapt full elastic or firm waistband patterns to put in side (or back) elastic. Threads editors - are you listening?

          1. woggy | | #21

            Sancin,Twenty years ago, I had a pants pattern that fit me. The front had pleats. As I aged, my waist became larger so I added to the waistline. I needed to add elastic at the waist to cinch it in a bit.I purchased elastic a bit smaller in width than my finished waistband. Next, I sewed the waistband on the pants. I measured the distance between the side seam and the back dart then cut a piece of elastic a tad more than 1/4 smaller than that measurement. I trimmed the seam allowance of the waistband and pants then ironed the seam line. To attach the elastic to the waistband, I sewed it on the waistband material - not the waist of the pants. I placed the elastic on the back of the waistband about 1/8 towards the back of the pants from the side seam (didn't want the elastic to sit right on the side seam) and stitched one side down. The elastic's long edge was next to the seam of the waistband and pants waist. I stretched the elastic towards the edge of the dart and sewed that side down on the waistband.I did the same treatment to the other side of the pants. Then I folded over the waistband and hand stitched the waistband to the inside of the pants. It is not hard to do this on a waistband. I also had belt loops and wore a belt that covered the elastic area of the waistband.Hope this helps.Woggy

          2. Beth | | #23

            A couple years ago I took a waistband class from Cynthia Guffey. She used a similar technique, not identical. To help recall how to put elastic in a waistband, I wrote out her instructions. I think yours are better written than mine. Can I add yours?Elizabeth

          3. woggy | | #24

            Beth,By all means - if this idea works for you then use it!The length of the elastic for each side depends on how much you need to gather in the waist. Sometimes, I make the elastic length 1/2 inch less than the distance between the side seam and dart - depends on the material and if I added more to the side seam when I cut the material.I also do this to my pants now. My hips have spread and the curve on my side calls for a waistband to go over the curve. Fitting my waist has always been an issue because I do not like a tight fitting waistband. It cuts off the circulation to my brain! My waist gains and loses a lot during the day and this elastic waistband helps with these changes.Hope this alteration works for you.Woggy

          4. Beth | | #25

            Thanks, Woggy. I saved your message in Documents to combine with other instructions. The bits and pieces of good information spread here and there mean recalling where to find them. Not easy at my age!.Elizabeth

          5. starzoe | | #26

            Good explanation about the elastic in the waistband. If find that a partial elastic makes the pants fit better than the whole circle of elastic. About elastic though, (and I know you know this), it is important to use waistband elastic that won't curl. I find that there is quite a difference between elastics even of that type, and a certain amount of fitting is always necessary.

          6. sewslow67 | | #27

            Starzoe:  I was wondering if you have any suggestions on what proportions to use for Sport Elastic; i.e. what ratio works best re elastic to waist when sewing it on? 

            I've never seen any literature on this and the gals at the fabric shop (although generally very knowledgeable) don't seem to know either.  All they have told me is to "just try it out", but that means a whole lot of time spent ripping out by trial and error.

            I would like to make several pairs of pull-on pants (jogging suit type) to go with some nice work-out tops and have not been able to get the ratio right.  I've been using the regular non-roll elastic for the waist, but prefer the waist bands that come in RTW using sport elastic.  Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

          7. starzoe | | #28

            I am not familiar with sport elastic unless you mean the elastic that is sewn in with multiple rows of stitching. I would think it would be difficult to get it right without some preparation: perhaps if one was to sew the elastic into a loose waistband piece and then sew the elasticized band onto the pants?This could work also if you wanted only the back elasticized. Make the separate band longer than you think you need, sew one end into the side waistband seam, adjust to fit, then sew into the other side seam then finish off.Elastics vary so much, that's probably why you cannot find instructions for this. I have a difficult time finding elastic of any quality, it seems one of the prime manufacturers went out of business some time ago and left us with only elastic from offshore.

          8. sewslow67 | | #29

            Thanks so much for your help here, Starzoe.  I esp. like your suggestion of sewing the elastic onto the waistband first.  What a great idea!  That way, I could make it longer than it might need to be and then cut off the excess before sewing it on to the pants.  And yes ...sport elastic is the one with multiple rows of elastic and then multiple rows in-between where to sew it on to the waistband. 

            Fabric Depot in Portland, OR is huge, and has an enormous variety of fabrics and sewing notions too, including lots of different kinds of elastic in many widths.  I usually go there when we go down for my medical appointments and, if nothing else, get a "tactile" fix ...spending time feeling all the new fabrics.  Idea:  They also have a Website and it might be worthwhile calling them (they have an 800 number) and they will send samples (which I think are free).

            Thanks again for taking time to help.  I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

          9. Sancin | | #30

            Thank you very much, Woggy. I don't have any pants currently on the go but going to soon. Like you, I had a pattern I made that fit well a number of years ago. I am going to try to remake that pattern as other than the waist in the front of me the pattern still fits. The thing that really surprises me is the crotch curve, other than adding a bit to the top front, is still correct. To everyone else trying to figure out elastic, something I have found is that the softer the elastic the more it stretches. When making full circle elastic, I found with the sports elastic (with several seams through it) that I had to cut the elastic shorter than when using firmer elastic ... a pain that I found out after the fact. When I try to sew seams through regular elastic (not specified for sewing through) the elastic stretches even more. Yes, there are all sorts of elastic which is frustrating. It would be very helpful if elastic manufacturers could put some instructions on their elastic about the elasticity. Something similar to the stretch pattern one sees on knits.
            The only author I have seen that actually suggests a correct length is Sandra Betzina. Information on elasticity would be a good topic for Threads editors to research. There has been articles, in various sewing magazines, about the types of elastics, but not on the stretch factor. If I could find one I would laminate it and keep above my machine. I think as one ages we use elastic more .... reverting to childhood I guess~

          10. KharminJ | | #31

            Oh yes! I second the "stretch factor" information request! Especially for packaged elastics (different brands, widths, constructions). By-the-yard, you can test it before you buy, but the package costs add up quickly if you have to test them all yourself! Kharmin (who would also keep this chart handy!)

          11. Teaf5 | | #33

            "Thoughts on waistband elastic proportions"--here are a few gained from many, many trials: 

            1) always prewash and dry the elastic before using it on a garment. The post-laundered elastic will be at its true size, length, and stretchiness. (I don't think the manufacturers could lable this; it seems to vary, even in the same brand.) 

            2) Make the unstretched length about as long as the final desired waist measurement, not much shorter.  Otherwise, you will always feel an uncomfortable tightening sensation as the garment creeps up to the relaxed position of the elastic. You can test the optimal length by pinning a length together and then wearing it over or under your other clothes around the house for awhile. (Providing many giggles to your family.)

            3) Include an option for shortening/lengthening the elastic after wearing the garment.  The weight of the fabric, the amount of use, time, and laundering will stress any elastic.  You can leave a basted-shut 1" loop in the elastic and a slight gap in the waistband facing for this purpose. Or, an extension can come out of the waistband and be tacked or buttoned to the inside beyond the meeting point. (Either method helps for weight fluctuations, too.)

            Thanks for bringing up the topic; elastic is always exasperating, no matter how much we've experimented with it!

          12. sewslow67 | | #35

            Hi Teal5:  Please accept my apology for being so slow in responding to your helpful message.  I appreciate you sharing your experiences and will copy and paste it into my sewing info file.  In the past, I've rarely used elastic waistlines except for p.j.'s but as time goes by, I thought I'd add pull-on pants to my everyday wardrobe, since I now need something soft that is a bit more flexible.

            In the past, I never pre-washed the elastic, but plan on giving that a try in the next few weeks. 

            Thanks again for all your tips.

        2. woggy | | #22

          amapola,I have a few of those articles on pants fitting that are printed in that book.Hope to buy that book one day. However, I am beginning to think that some better ideas for altering pants patterns are found in European sewing books - problem is I don't speak Dutch or German, etc.These alteration ideas have been posted by European sewists on various websites - some of them are so simple and terrific in solving problems that I am always amazed when I seen the picture and explanation.This thread started two years ago on fitting and I have finally solved my pants fitting problem - I have worked on getting a pair of pants to fit me for almost 4 years now. It took that long to figure out what the real problem was and it was my front center front seam. Once I figured out how to redraw that seam to fit my "pop out" belly, everything else fell into place.Woggy

          1. Teaf5 | | #32

            If you post some of the European instructions on this thread, someone may be able to translate them for you.  I read German, and my sister is fluent in Dutch; both of us are experienced sewers, too.

          2. woggy | | #34

            Thanks so much for your offer!The reason why I posted my remark is because I am a member of PatterReview.com and a member posted a picture of altering the front pants pattern. It was so simple but brilliant. She is from from the Netherlands and I believe the book she uses is Dutch.Also, a tip posted on this website recommended if you can't understand the English directions for a Burda pattern, try the French or Spanish. Apparently,these directions better explain what one needs to do with the pattern. My brain is just not wired for a language - studied Spanish for two years in high school and was so glad to end my second year of it! Thanks again, maybe someday I will take you up on your offer!Woggy

          3. sewslow67 | | #36

            Would you please post a link to the Pattern Review pants front alteration that you mentioned?  I would really appreciate checking it out.

            Thanks so much. 

          4. woggy | | #37

            Sewsow67,The website is http://www.patternreview.com.It would be impossible to list all of the posts on pants fitting on this website. There are just way too many!On the home page of this site are tabs at the top. Select the message tab and once that page appears, select the word search. In the search field, type pants or type crotch curve or type body space, etc. Many pages appear for those words.Hope this helps.Woggy

          5. sewslow67 | | #38

            Thanks for the information.   I'll check that out.

    2. violet_fairies | | #7

      You missed my point.  I have no problem not covering all the different shapes in one article.  But the article comes across like flat bottoms are the only ones who have fitting problems.  The midriff fitting article states that those with protruding bellies usually have flat bottoms.  I find that hard to believe.

      To me the authors of these articles appear not to realize that there are other shapes.  I wouldn't be surprised that the authors have the very fitting problems they wrote about.

    3. SewNancy | | #16

      Yes, absolutely. I also have a fitting notebook with all the articles in plastic sheets. It is a great help to have them all in one place. I think, after finally solving my pants fitting problems, and there were many, is that I just couldn't read the wrinkles. I knew that I had a problem in the front crotch but not what to do. I had tried many things but never really solved the problem. I went back to all my fitting articles and books and finally in Nancy Zinemans fitting book she has a diagram of wrinkle shapes and how to eliminate them. Finally, a solution. It would be impossible to solve everyone's fitting problems in one article, but Threads has run a series of fitting articles on pants over the last year and for me Joyce Murphy's articles went a long way toward solving my fitting woes in pants. But, we need to think and really look at what is wrong with our clothing before we can solve the problems. There is no magic bullet that works for everyone.

  5. stitchintime | | #8

    I will first admit that I've never made a pair of pants.

    However, http://www.sew-whats-new.com  has a 3 part article with good illustrations on constructing pants that seems to be easily understood and covers many fitting problems associated with pants fitting. I was so impressed after reading it that I'm going to set myself a challenge and follow the instructions there and see how I do. I just thought that if Threads hadn't addressed your fitting problems, maybe these articles will help.

    Edited 11/23/2006 9:06 am ET by stitchintime

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