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strain lines on pants

Deeom | Posted in General Discussion on

I thought I had conquered the “pants fit problems”, the major ones at least.  Waist is fine, straight side seams, dividing line at side seam slightly forward so that the body line is divided nicely, no “smiles” or drag lines in back, front hangs straight, looks good in mirror.  Then I wore them for the first time and almost cried!  I developed definite strain lines across the crotch line in front.  I have at least 2inches of fabric that I can pinch out on the side seams on each side!!  Why the strain lines?  The crotch depth is adequate, the crotch length measures okay.  What am I doing wrong????  Please – all suggestions appreciated.


  1. Tatsy | | #1

    It probably has something to do with grainline. It's entirely possible to have way too much fabric in the pants and not have it in the right place. Does the strain occur only when sitting or is it there when standing? My first thought is that it has something to do with either the width of the leg just under the crotch or the diagonal length from the side seam to the backwaist. One of them may be stealing fabric from the front crotch when you sit down.

    1. Deeom | | #3

      Thanks for responding.  I can test to see if it is not enough fabric in the inner leg seam at the crotch by opening that seam and seeing what happens.  How do I check to see if the length from the side seam to waist back is too short? 

      1. Tatsy | | #8

        When seated, measure the diagonal from the top of the waist side seam to the chair seat approximately in a straight line from the crotch. For me this is 2" longer than the straight side seam measurement. With a pin, mark as close to that spot on the pants as you can get. Then take them off and measure. If this isn't long enough, it can cause your pants to bunch up in front when you sit.

        The problem may also be in the stomach area. If you have a waist that's lower in front than in back extra fabric may creep down when you sit. If the problem disappears when you move that fabric upward, you can try lowering the waistband. Start by using an elastic band to see if there's a spot where the problem disappears.

        Good luck! Pants are a nuisance.

        1. Deeom | | #9

          Hi Tatsy,  I have eliminated the inseam being too tight..  I ripped out the stitching for about 4 inches on each leg and held the seamlines with my fingers while sitting and standing.  There was no strain on the seam there.  I used a flexible ruler and tried to copy the outline of my body.  It was almost identical in the back, but in the front the line did not follow the outline under my "tummy".  It pretty much followed the outline  of the tummy itself.  I'm beginning to suspect the diagonal measure you described, but am not entirely sure about taking the measurement.  I have a lot of fitting books.  Is it explained in any of the more popular ones?  How do you compare that measurement to the pants?  I'm getting discouraged, but not giving up.  Sure wish I had a sewing buddy to take a look and diagnose the problem.  I'd take a picture, but don't know how to post it. 

          1. Tatsy | | #10

            That diagonal measurement is one I'd never seen (or didn't remember) until I saw it in a book a few weeks ago, and now I can't find it again. I have a meeting that will take most of tomorrow but will try to look for it in the evening or on Tuesday.

            I think if the type of fabric is not the cause of the strain, it may have something to do with body depth--the front to back measure of the body. If the front crotch curve is not deep enough, it will have to borrow the material from somewhere else.

             I've had a lot of problems fitting my own pants. Most patterns or drafting instructions leave me with pants that are huge everywhere but where I actually need the ease.

            Have you tried checking to see that the widest part of the pants actually sits at the widest part of your body? This can be anywhere from 3" below the waist to 12" or more, depending on your bone structure and musculature.  Good luck.


          2. Deeom | | #22

            Could the book be Easy Guide to Sewing Pants by Lynn MacIntyre?  It has instructions for putting elastic around the leg at the crotch level and measuring diagonally from the top of the side seam to determine the crotch depth.  Makes sense because as soon as you sit or bend, the curve that develops in back takes up more fabric.  Still not sure that it would solve my problem because the depth measures correctly on these pants.  Still working on it.

          3. Tatsy | | #23

            Hi Deeom,

            I don't have that book but I searched through everyone I've got and couldn't find it again. 

            The crotch curve can be correct for standing but distribute fabric unevenly when you're sitting. Before you try anything else, it might be a good check to remake the pants in a softer fabric and see if it is just the fabric itself. That would give you an insight on what to avoid in future garments.


          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            The only pairs of pants I have ever had that did not get wrinkles or lines at the front were lined pants. Even when you get a good fit going, just wearing them, sitting in them, you will get some wrinkles or smiles in the front, that look like stress lines. These are creases from the excess fabric bunching up and getting creased as you sit. Some fabrics crease and hold the creases more from body heat and moisture more than others. We tend to fit our crotch depths closer to the body. Lining pants help to eliminate wrinkles. Once you get your pants fitted to your happy point, consider lining as the next step in the perfect pant search. Cathy

          5. Deeom | | #16

            I have not lined the pants, but they are underlined with silk chiffon.  They may not look perfect, but they sure feel good.

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #17

            Ummmmm! I am sure they do! A lining shifts inside a little, and gives the pant something to slide over, reducing stick. I do not know how or why it works, but it sure makes a big difference in how pants wear and hang, even bigger difference than skirts and dresses. Even a separate pant slip helps. Perhaps trying that to see if it helps after your next round of fitting adjustments? Cathy

          7. Deeom | | #18

            Anything is worth a try!!

          8. Palady | | #20

            MO, the "trick" to lining pants is the fabric used.  Since most pants patterns are designed to be constucted w/o, there is some caution.  In the torso section primarily.

            I've used the sports mesh often seen on tops for sleeves.  Sports pockets might be made of this fabric as well.  The material used for the pants comes into play of course.   The mesh works for the seen that has a degree of body.  To clarify - sports mesh - the following Google page has photo.  MO, the right & left are the better.


            For RTW's, one could consider making a pant/slip.  Time was these were for sale in lingerie depts.  Those I remeber were of the capri style, so this could be given thought if one was to sew up the piece.

            Wearing a layer under pants has postives.  The knee gap is lessened, as is the seat, there's an elimination, or reduction, of a pantyline,  and the drape of the pants is improved.



          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #21

            Great idea to use the sport mesh for pant lining or a pant slip! Really lightweight, slippery, and best of all, breathable, and cool! Cathy

          10. Deeom | | #24

            I clicked on the link you provided and have no idea which company, mesh style, whatever that you were referring to.  It sounds like a good idea, which is why I'm trying to get specific on what you are referring to.

          11. Palady | | #27

            I posted the Google page as a visual of my reference.  I'll send you a message through your profile with an e-address you can use.  The better I do so one-on-one rather than put it on a public forum.


  2. Ralphetta | | #2

    I used to have that problem until I tried Burda patterns. Their patterns have the juncture of the front to back placed much more forward in the crotch. The front piece has almost no extension of fabric at the crotch and the back piece has a very long one. You might consider that adjustment, it made a big difference for me.

    1. Deeom | | #4

      Hi,  Since the pants are already made, the only way I can think of to adapt the Burda idea to them is to make a gusset.  Think that would work?  I'll keep trying.  Thanks for answering me.  I really appreciate everybody's help.

      1. Ralphetta | | #6

        It is possible, but would be a lot of work, because you would also need to remove some of the front thigh fabric. As an experiment you might just pinch/pin a tuck out of your center front seam, which would then pull the crotch junction forward and give you a sense of how it would feel and look. It won't look right in the back, etc., but it's just to see if it would be worth trying next time. I don't have hips; my weight is in the rear. Most pants have too much fabric across the front thighs and pull uncomfortably leaving wrinkles on me no matter how much excess there is on the sides. Shortening the front seam and lengthening the back one makes a world of difference for me....much more comfortable and no wrinkles. I don't know if any of this makes sense because I'm not used to verbalizing it.

        1. Deeom | | #7

          I have lots of things to try thanks to you ladies.  Will get busy and then get back to you.

  3. woodruff | | #5

    1. Could you post a photo of yourself in the pants?2. Sometimes it's the fault of the fabric. I have a beautiful pair of silk dupioni pants which fit perfectly, but they are not loose, and after i have sat in them for a while, there are drag lines in the front crotch area when I stand up. These wrinkles fall out when I'm walking or standing, but the silk wants to crease a little when I sit, probably due to body heat, etc.3. Even if the crotch length of your pattern is OK, that may not be the end (so to speak) of the issue. It is important for the shape of the crotch curve to be right, also. For example, if you lay your front and back pattern pieces on your cutting board with a pin at the point where the front and back crotch curves intersect and then pivot the pieces so the grainlines a perfectly vertical, what does the shape of the crotch curve look like? It will have a more or less U-shape, but that shape should look like you in profile.One of the biggest problems I see on ladies is that the bottom of the crotch curve is simply not wide enough to provide a shelf for the backside to sit on. If you are thick front to back, the crotch curve should reflect that. A tall, narrow crotch curve (a tall, skinny U or almost V-shape) may provide the right number of inches, but because the "sitz place" isn't wide enough, the grainline will be distorted when the pant is worn and the pants will strain a little rather than falling freely in this area.There are various ways to check the width of this portion of the crotch curve. One way is to make a thick length of twisted tinfoil and mold it to yourself where the crotch seam would go. Then you step out of it carefully and take a look at the result (there will probably be a little distortion when you take it off, but still you can get an idea). Art supply stores also have moldable rulers 27" long, rather than the usual 25" that online stores like Clotilde offer.For another method, you need an assistant: You get out an ordinary 12" ruler, back up to a door, slide the ruler between your legs at crotch level with the 0 against the door, have your assistant make sure the ruler is horizontal to the floor, and literally "read" how thick your body is front to back in that region (you or the assistant should hold a yardstick straight down from the front waistline, so that the curve of the belly is included in the width reading). The bottom of the pants crotch curve should be about the same width before it becomes verticalized and heads for the front and back waist.

    1. zuwena | | #19

      Let me offer one easier variation on the last suggestion using the assistant. Using a L ruler, place the longer end on the horizontal between the legs, and the shorter end on the vertical facing up toward the navel, along the abdominal line and "read" the horizontal distance at the back. Same thing as suggested except that you don't have to bother trying to manipulate two rulers. Z

      1. karencreswell | | #29

        I have made many of the changes in my pants pattern that are suggested in this thread but have also found that it is very important to use firm fabrics without any crosswise stretch when making pants. Wool gabardine and tropical weight wools can be very firm. Check for cross-wise stretch when purchasing a pants fabric. Also any wrinkles that occur in wool after sitting hang out better. Fabrics that hold a crease can also be a problem.

  4. jjgg | | #11

    you need to post a picture of this, it may not be 'strain' but something else. When does this occur, when the pants were fresh and you just put them on? does it occur just when walking or lifting the leg like you are walking up stairs? What fabric did you make them out of? Does your pattern have the upper back inseam ease into the upper front inseam?pants can be a very complicated fit, for instance the leg portion may need to shift one way or the other from the abdomen portion depending on how your body is made, some people (athletes) have very heavy upper front thighs that give some different fitting issues.Most important to know is that no clothing item will sit perfectly smooth on the body when the body goes through it's motion, we change shape as we move, AND EVEN MORE IMPORTANT AS FOR THE CROTCH AREA; pants will never fit perfectly smooth unless you put a gusset in the crotch area. Look at your underpants, how the crotch area has a piece added between the legs, now imagine if legs were added onto the panties, you would get a lovely fit of your body. Look at your shape in the mirror with your panties on, there is a flat space between your legs up at the crotch level. Now, imagine how real pants fit- they came up between the legs in an inverted "V" this leaves gaps of space on either side.Why do men's pants often fit flatter and smoother in front? because the crotch is dropped quite a bit to accommodate their parts.Long answer, but without knowing more and seeing them, can't help.My best advice as I've said before about pants fitting is to find someone who can fit pants and have them make you a sloper for them, then you can adjust that to make whatever style you want.Joyce Murphy is the Queen of pants fitting http://www.jsmpatterns.com/She has a list of people that can do this for you, if you can find someone near you to so this, it's probably worth the price. Where do you live?Judy - who is enjoying Spring and watching all the goldfinches turn bright yellow again! The daffodils are all blooming. Seeds are sprouting and wild flowers are up and bloomingEdited 3/30/2009 9:52 am ET by jjgg

    Edited 3/30/2009 9:53 am ET by jjgg

    1. sewslow67 | | #12

      Judy; thanks so much for such a detailed reply.  Although I don't have the same pants fitting issues as Deeom, the details of what to look for will (hopefully) help me, as I struggle to find the Holy Grail of pants.

      When I get this next pair "to a better place", I will ask DH to take a picture and, hopefully, you and others will help me perfect the pattern.  So far, the only pants that have ever fit even close to correctly, have been jeans.  However, at my age, I prefer not to wear jeans all the time, and would like some nicely fitting pants, as well as some lovely trousers.

      I hope you will be willing to help when the time comes.  In the meantime, enjoy your beautiful spring weather and bright yellow goldfinches.  I remember them well when I lived in Wisconsin.  How lovely they were, and what joy they gave us.

      Thanks again for your detailed post.

      1. jjgg | | #13

        Well, I hope I will be able to help with the pants.I have several bird feeders hanging right outside my kitchen window (my computer is right in front of the window) so I get a great view all day long as the birds come and go.

    2. Deeom | | #15

      I would love to post a picture, but I don't know how to do that.  The strain appears after I start moving around and sitting down.  I experimented with the inseam crotch seam and it doesn't appear to be the culprit.  Tatsy2's suggestion that it may be associated with the diagonal measurement from the side seam to the crotch line (and I still can't figure out exactly  how to do that) may have some merit.  I have a very flat seat and maybe in accommodating that I have taken out fabric you would need to sit down and bend over.  I don't know.  I live in Wyoming - not spring here yet, snowed again last night - and I've tried to locate the fitting expert you were talking about.  No luck.  I've been toying with the idea of going to the one tailor we have and asking to be fitted in a muslin.  Don't know if he would do it. Wouldn't hurt to ask.  We have a few dressmakers, but I don't know their expertise level.  I'm not giving up yet though. 

  5. Tootsiebelle | | #25

    First, Many Thanks to Deeom for asking the question and Many Thanks to all who responded with all the helpful information.  I've been putting off making more slacks, but now thanks to all of you I have something with which to work!!

    Deeom, your question could have been written by me!  I have sewn for many years from the usual pattern sources, but just over the last couple of years have I made slacks from patterns I made using the Bonfit system.  While I've done minor design modifications, I'd not drafted a complete clothing pattern prior to that.  Truth be known, I'd always been able to find a pattern to fit without modification.   But I put on some weight and cannot do that at this time, so I decided to try drafting my own. 

    Yes, my pants have those nasty Lap Wrinkies just minutes after sitting down in pants that have been laundered and painstakingly pressed!  By the time I get to work, my pants look a disheveled mess.  It's difficult to buy RTW, as I'm fairly tall, but not tall enough for the tall girls shop.  And I've tried going to the big girls store, but they seem to cater to those whose legs shortened as their bottom became wider.  I didn't think that was possible, but there must be ladies out there like that, because the stores keep making clothes for them!  LOL! Well, my bottom may have spread, but my legs didn't get shorter!  

    Again, my heartfelt thanks to All of You! 

    1. Deeom | | #26

      It is a wonderful group, isn't it?  Love it and am so grateful.

  6. Tatsy | | #28

    Hi Deeom,

    This morning I found the book with the diagonal measurement in it. The title is The  Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-shirts, Skirts, and Pants, by Lynn McIntyre and Marcy Tilton. The idea was to put an elastic band around the top of the thigh and measure from the top of the side seam to the point where the elastic band hits the chair seat. I've never used this book and had just skimmed through it, so I don't know how helpful this is, but it would seem to make allowances for body depth more adequately than measuring straight down. Hope this helps in the future.


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