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Conversational Threads

Gi & Gusset: making our own patterns

TJ | Posted in The Archives on

One of the most fun, most useful things I ever did when my interest in sewing revived after about a 20-year hiatus was to take a pattern-making course (from Linda Faiola at the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed.). There’s a lot to learn! But my course focused on one thing: getting a basic pants pattern to fit the student’s own body, and learning how to modify the styles.

For me, the big breakthrough was realizing that I was free to change what was on the pattern (I grew up learning to Follow The Rules Or Else!), or even to invent my own pattern, without disaster! The class taught me to understand better what I could change, and how, as well as why certain things needed to be a certain way for certain effects — such as grain, easing, seam allowances, the shape of front/back crotchlines.

The great “take-away” was a basic pants pattern in tagboard for pants that fit MY 46-year-old body, and some knowledge of how to make new patterns from it. In 3 years I’ve made flattering classic pleated trousers, drapey summer pull-on pants with no sideseams, and (most recently) traditional karate uniform pants in white cotton duck with crotch gusset (I incorporated the design features of a pair that didn’t fit any more — sewing wasn’t the ONLY thing in my life that took a long hiatus — and the new ones are SO comfortable I want to adapt the gusset feature for everyday pants!).

Anybody else learning to make their own patterns? What mental breakthroughs have you made, what useful lessons have you learned, what books have been most inspiring?


  1. Marion_ | | #1

    TJ -- I had always imagined that gussets in the crotch area of pants were put there to conserve fabric when cutting it out. I didn't realize they might add ease of movement. Could you describe the karate pants gusset? I have been making my own patterns for years. Nothing fancy, just basic ones with slight modifications, such as adding fullness or yokes. I took a few courses through the county continuing education program to get started, then just made trial garments until things worked out the way I wanted them.

    1. TJ | | #2

      *Yes, the gusset does conserve fabric: the widest part of the flat pattern for a pants leg is at the crotch. The gusset is a single piece that takes the place of the four "corners" of the leg piece that would go together where the crotch seam and inseams meet. Thus the leg pattern doesn't have to be as wide.I made a drawing which I will e-mail anybody who wishes (it's 61KB, a little oversize for an attachment, because I'm not adept at drawing with the mouse!). It shows a regular pants pattern piece (a front or a back: if you cut the "outseam" on a fold you'd get a one-piece pants leg like I made). The "dashed" line shows the part you would cut off of a regular pants pattern if you were going to use a gusset. The gusset is a single diamond shaped piece, and it replaces the cut-off part of all 4 leg pieces (L and Rt front and L and Rt back). The gusset does modify the fit of the crotch, and I'm not entirely sure why. One thing is that you don't have crotch seam and inseams crossing right in the middle. Another is that it makes the pants into a more complex 3-D shape that you can fit closer to the body (which, on an inside curve like the crotch, means that it stays with you instead of pulling against you when you move -- same as an underarm gusset in a dolman sleeve, I guess). When I was fitting my karate pants (instead of going to karate class!), I tweaked the fit experimentally, cutting a couple of different gussets just to see what happened if I lengthened HERE or widened THERE. It's not a huge piece of fabric, in my case it was a diamond shape that is maybe 8" from the front point to the back point, and 18" or so between the long skinny points that taper into the inseams above the knees. What helped the fit for me was when I made the gusset take up excess fabric at the front crotch, which for me (big in seat and thighs, not so big in front) made it close-fitting in a way that did not pull when I move, the way pants with excess front crotch length seem to pull. This fine-tuned the fit in a way that seems impossible when there are crotch seams to deal with.I think you could duplicate this fit a different way, by making a two-part pants pattern with, basically, two inseams instead of one. You'd have a long skinny straight strip of fabric (rather than a diamond shaped gusset), a few inches wide, that would be a continuous length of fabric from the inner hem at one ankle, up to the crotch where it folds over and goes down the other leg. I suspect there ARE patterns designed this way, and now that I've made my karate pants I think these would be very comfortable.Teresa

      1. Jen_Donnelly | | #3

        *This reminds me of something I read or saw somewhere once- Chuck Norris has jeans specially made so he can do martial arts while wearing blue jeans. They are made with a gusset of strectch fabric in a matching color.

        1. TJ | | #4

          *I did a search for "gusset" on the Threads site and found that Issue No. 27 (Feb/March 1990) had 2 articles I would love to see! Does anybody have this issue? I would happily pay a reasonable cost for a copy or photocopy of the following articles, or if it has been reprinted in a Threads book I'd buy it. The articles, by Rebecca Nebesar, are: "A COMFORTABLE PAIR OF PANTS (Letting the body talk back to the trousers)" and "ADDING A GUSSET TO A PANTS PATTERN." Thanks!

          1. Diane | | #5

            *TJ, I found the articles and would be happy to send copies to you. Email me your address.

          2. Carol_T | | #6

            *A full length gusset can be a life-saver. I was working on a community theater project in which a major female character had to wear a tuxedo. She was measured at the chest and waist, but none of us thought to take into account how a female body would differ from a male's. To accommodate the muscle development in her thighs and calves, a gusset was added from the hem,(about one inch) tapering to five inches wide at the crotch. Of course, I had to return the pants to their original condition before they went back to the rental place.

  2. whitedragon1 | | #7

    martial arts trouser gusset

    Hi TJ, could you please email me a copy of the gusset design you have for martial arts trousers. I would really appreciate that.

    My email address is - [email protected]

    Thank you


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