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Pants that grow

Nancylee | Posted in Fitting on

I’ve got this problem with pants that appear to “grow” after I’ve made them. This
has happened with different patterns and various fabrics (except stretch denim). I fit them carefully before sewing them and after wearing the pants for a few days I have to take the seams in as much as an inch all around!  I’ve not lost weight or anything and can’t figure this out.  Any ideas?  The only thought I’ve had is perhaps I swell or something while sewing!  The fabric is always prewashed and then ironed before cutting.  Thanks.


  1. susanmwilson | | #1

    I have read an article in the past that recommends taking your waist measurements several times a day for a few days in a row to get a more accurate measurement as it will fluctuate during the day, so you could start there and see if the actual pattern is the correct size.   Also, measure your body seated and standing.  Perhaps your body changes and it 'stretches' the garment out of shape just with your movements sitting/standing.

    I have pants that do the same thing, jeans as well.  I guess they get stretched out wearing them, and they 'snap' back into the original size after laundering.  I don't alter them because they do fit after washing.  I could see how this would be a problem on pants that need dry cleaning!

    Two solutions might be to create a two-piece waistband so when you need alterations it is a simple matter of taking in/letting out the back seam only.  This technique was in a recent Threads article (issue before current one) and it is fabulous!

    Or you could try the Sandra Betzina "Comfort Waistband" techinque of a waistband interfaced with elastic instead of interfacing so the waisband itself expands and contracts.  I think there is a Threads  article on that in an old issue as well.  Good luck! Sue

    1. Nancylee | | #2

      Thank you for responding Susan.  That's such a good thought - that as I sit my fat little out of shape thighs must be stretching the fabric.  My waist seems to be okay just the leg portions.  Hmm.  Maybe some toning is in order.

      I think I'll try the waistband comfort idea, it also sounds like a good one - particularly as one's waist can change more during the day with age. 

      1. susanmwilson | | #3

        Why don't you try the same principle with your thigh measurements?  Measure them sitting and standing use the larger measure to compare with your pattern.  Remember when you stand up your thighs are relatively circular, they get squished into an oval shape when you sit.  Compare with your pattern finished measures to make sure you have some ease built in -- then you shouldh not have any stretching (unless you are making tight-fitting pants).  Sue

        1. Nancylee | | #4

          Thank you Sue that is another good idea.  I hadn't thought about the change in shape that obviously does occur in the thigh when sitting; these ideas will help my pants sewing in future and I appreciate your input.

          1. SewingSue | | #5

            Do they go back to the original shape after they are laundered?  If so, you may want to apply a stabilizer or underlining to provide stability.  This would make the pants warmer but should minimize any fabric distortion.

          2. Nancylee | | #6

            Oddly they don't go back to the original shape after they are laundered.  I have to take in the seams at least an inch to two inches in each leg - less in the hip area but still reduced.

          3. SewingSue | | #7

            That's very odd.  I have been sewing for over 30 years and never encountered that.  I used to cut out my fabric without prewashing and was surprised a number of times with shrinkage but not the fabric growing.  I now wash everything before the pattern ever touches the fabric.  If I think the fabric is prone to shrinkage I may wash and dry it two or three times before I cut it out.  I have had fabric bag out of shape but when laundered it returned to its original shape.  Usually at the knees.  You said this has happened with a variety of different fabrics except for stretch denim.  What fabrics do you typically work with that this happens?  Are you slacks slim cut or more relaxed fit?

          4. Nancylee | | #8

            Thank you for your interest in this problem - it has really been a puzzle to me. I usually use Burda patterns but it occurs with Vogue as well.  My fabric choices are cotton, either corduroy, a kind of twill, or a blend of cotton/poly that looks and feels like cotton.  My next thought is to wear my pants for a few days before finalizing the cuffs and even just basting the zipper til it's certain they'll fit.  I don't have your number of years of experience but am a moderately experienced sewer who tends to choose patterns of mid level difficulty; however I have sewn a winter coat, jackets and the like which have turned out.  So this pants thing is a puzzle.  I am 5'5" and about 150 lbs so somewhat overweight but not huge -  perhaps just heavy enough to really stretch the fabric.

            The cut tends to be fitted, almost like a fitted jeans cut as they look best on me. Maybe that's part of the problem.  Thanks Sue,  Nancy

          5. SewingSue | | #9

            Nancy, I lean towards blaming the fabric and not you.  Slimmer fit pants will endure more stress then a relaxed fit and be more likely to stretch out of shape but should return to the original shape when laundered.  You don't indicate that your seams show any signs of undo stress, no popping of seams or such.  And, since the pants grow a few inches I'm sure the seams wouldn't be showing any signs of stress.  I am sure the stretching has to do with normal bending of body parts required for movement.  Since you said cotton corduroy is a fabric you use I am going to assume you live in one of the northern states.  If I was you I would experiment with fusing interfacing to your pants.  I would use a fusible interfacing designed for knit fabrics such as fusiknit or softfuse.  The interfacings designed for knits have a nice hand and launder very well.  Interface the pants front and back from the waist to the knee.  Since you are using a heavier weight fabric you shouldn't be able to tell where the interfacing stops.  If this cures the problem, then it is definitely the fabric.  I am not sure where you are buying the fabric or how much you are spending but not all fabric is created equal.  I am not beneath shopping at WalMart's for fabric and you can find good deals there but you have to be careful and shopping at JoAnn's or other specialty shop doesn't guarantee quality fabric. 

            You also indicated that you have to adjust the hem also.  That indicates that the fabric is not only stretching in width but the length is effected as well.  I truly think the fabric is likely the cause.  However, a more relaxed style should be less likely to stretch out of shape since there would not be as much stress on the fabric.  Do you use a dryer or do you hang them to dry?  The heat and tumbling action of the dryer will promote the fabric returning to it's original shape.

            Hope this is helpful.  You sound as though you are quite accomplished.


          6. Nancylee | | #10

            It's nice to be let off the hook, at least probably!  I've been buying my fabric at Fabricland - don't know if you have them in US as I'm in Canada.  The point about the seams is a good one as they don't show signs of stress, so perhaps I'll try the idea about waist to knee interfacing.  Thanks for that.

          7. SewingSue | | #11

            Nancy,  the thing that really leads me to believe it is the fabric and not you is that the fabric does not return to its original shape.  Cotton is very prone to stretch out of shape.  Who hasn't put on a pair of skin tight jeans you could barely zip to have the jeans loosen up with a brief wear and be loose?  Also you said you don't have this problem with stretch denim which would behave more like a rubber band.  It will stretch with you and then return to shape when relaxed.  If the interfacing resolves or reduces the problem you will have a better idea of what is going on and how to deal with it. 

            I grew up in upstate New York and Fabricland sounds very familiar.  In fact I think that is the name of the fabric store I worked at for a brief period.  Give us an update on what happens.

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