Sewing party people, it’s time for the final installment of the Sewing Pants series — a full report on the Cali Faye Hampshire trousers I sewed using this pants-fitting method! Are you psyched?!? You know I am!
If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, please go back and check them out. This post will be volumes more meaningful if you have the background on this fitting technique.
Sewing Pants, Part 1: The Measurements You Need for Success
Sewing Pants, Part 2: Altering Pants Pattern Pieces
As I mentioned in the previous installments, I learned this pants-fitting technique from sewing educator Cynthia Guffey. If you’d like more information on her method, she sells books and vids on her website. Or, better yet, take an in-person class with her! She’s a hoot and a half.
As for this blog post… in the front half, I’ll talk about sewing the Cali Faye Hampshire trouser pattern, which was the October garment for Project #SewMyStyle. In the back half, I’ll cover what’s great about Guffey’s fitting method, what I didn’t like about it, and a big step I think you can (mostly) skip.
Y’all ready for this? OK, let’s roll!
Part 1: Sewing the Cali Faye Hampshire Trousers
I have this thing for olive pants. It all started with a pair of Gap trousers I wore to death in high school and college.
When I wear olive near my face I look ill, but I adore it as a color for bottoms. It has so much more to say than khaki, you know?
This is Robert Kaufman Ventana twill (affiliate link). It’s 100 percent cotton and comes in a ton of colors (and you can buy it on Amazon, boom!). It’s lovely to work with, but its recovery is not great. I wish it hugged my booty a bit more, but I think that has more to do with the relaxed nature of the trouser pattern. This is what happens when you wear skinny jeans all the time! (I must say, though, these pants are more comfortable than skinny jeans!)
The pocket lining and inside waistband feature quilting cotton (above) from Jo-Ann that I picked up on clearance years ago. I also have a thing for caning patterns.
I strayed from some construction instructions. Most notably, I increased the seam allowance — from 3/8 to 5/8 inch. Three-eighths doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room in the pants-fitting process.
I also skipped topstitching the inseam and waistband, just because.
If I were to make another pair of Hampshire trousers, I would add belt loops, because pants without belt loops kinda weird me out. I also would pay more attention to the direction of the twill weave. In an ideal world, if you’re sewing with a twill weave, the direction of the weave should mirror between pattern pieces. For example, if on the right leg the twill goes from northeast to southwest, the twill on the left leg should go from northwest to southeast. But this is next-level-sewing-with-twill stuff.
I also wish I would have fiddled more with the fit at the waistband, because to get a nice (snug) fit at the waist, my button isn’t centered over the zipper.
My Fit Adjustments
You’re probably wondering how I applied Guffey’s fitting method to adjusting the Hampshire trousers pattern pieces. Well, let me tell you, I had adjustments just about everywhere you could make adjustments. I won’t get into the measurements, but here’s a high-level overview of what I did:
- Adjusted front and back waist slope.
- Added to crotch depth.
- Flattened back crotch curve.
- Added to crotch length in front and back.
- Removed width from back hip.
- Added width to front hip.
- Added 5/8-inch pleats to front.
- Removed length from waist to knee.
- Added length to finished length below knee.
- Removed wedge from center back. (I did this in my fashion fabric; the gap didn’t show up in my muslin. I should have made the muslin with a waistband!)
- Drafted new waistband to reflect waist width adjustments.
And I made corresponding adjustments to my pocket pieces, too. And after I was done slashing, spreading, taping, etc. my pattern pieces, I traced off fresh ones so things were a little easier on the eyes as I was cutting fabric.
Erin vs. the Front-Fly Zipper
Argh, the fly-front zip on these pants kicked my butt, guys. On my first pass, I followed Cali Faye Collection’s pictorial tute for a fly zip, and the topstitching turned out wonky.
Instead of just unpicking the topstitching, I unpicked the whole fly. Why? I can’t remember now; I probably figured there was something foundationally wrong with the zip unit, blah blah blah. It was a mistake.
So, after I deconstructed the zipper, I went searching for alternative fly-front zip directions. I sewed the zipper again using what turned out to be fairly crappy directions, and unpicked yet again.
I went back to the Cali Faye instructions and committed to following them S-L-O-W-L-Y. And this time, I conquered the zipper!
I think the major thing that was killing me with the zipper was the seam allowances. This pattern has three-eighths seam allowances, which is kinda weird, and zipper tape is built for five-eighths (or at least half-inch) SAs. I had alignment problems and also problems trusting my visual intuition as I worked on this sewing element, which I’d only sewn once before.
File this one under Living and Learning.
Part 2: Final Thoughts on the Pants-Fitting Technique
What I Like About the Fitting Method
You Understand Your Body
When you take so many measurements of your body, you gain a deep understanding of its geometry and how it compares to the geometry of a sewing pattern. This technique helped me flip my thinking, in some ways, about my body. Instead of “My body doesn’t fit this size,” I started to think, “How can I make this size fit my body?” I’m already *pretty* good and not getting hung up on numbers/sizes, but this method hammered those hang ups out of my brain.
Size is just a collection of measurements, guys. Measurements aren’t judgments; they’re facts. You, as a sewist, are tasked with using those facts to make adjustments to better fit the geometry of your body. Carpenters and scientists don’t look at measurements and associate them what society holds as good or bad, worthy or unworthy. They take the data at hand and work with it. And so should you.
You End Up with a Well-Fitting Block
After all this work, you’re left with a finely tuned pants block, especially when it comes to length (assuming you’re cool with where the waist falls). I used the back crotch curve of the Hampshire trousers to determine whether a different pants pattern needed adjustments. Bam, working smarter!
What I Don’t Like About the Fitting Method
It’s a Lot of Work, and You Can’t Do It By Yourself
In case you hadn’t noticed, this fitting technique is a lot of work. There’s a ton of data to collect and math to complete (simple math, but still). And you need a buddy who you trust to take correct measurements; this is not a solo operation.
Sewists are used to lots of work, but relying on someone else for an assist when you’re used to sewing solo (heck, that’s me to a T, no lie) could be weird.
If You Have Slant Pockets, It’s Even More Work
I kinda wish I had picked a pattern without slant pockets for this fitting technique, because I found making adjustments to the pocket pieces annoying. The adjustments weren’t hard, but you had to do the length and width adjustments in the same order as the leg pieces. It was fiddly.
Pleats are Controversial
Guffey insisted that waist width be controlled with darts (back) and pleats (front). She said we’d get a better waist fit with darts and pleats vs. manipulating side seams.
I deeply follow the indie pattern scene, and I’m not seeing a lot of pleats on pants these days. Plus, the last time I wore pleated pants in the ’80s/’90s. See where my hesitation comes from?
I trusted Guffey — a bonafide pants-fitting expert — when she told me to add pleats. She said pleats on a semi-relaxed-fitting trouser would be classic and above trends. Basically, she talked me down when I said, “I remember pleated jeans in the ’80s, Cynthia! I don’t want to get burned by pleats again!”
And you know what? I like the pleats in these pants, guys. I think they work with the high(er) waist to deliver a feminine shape across the abdomen. I never would have come up with pleats on my own, but I dig them now. They do look classic, IMO.
What About Negative Ease?
I can only speculate how to combine Guffey’s fitting technique with pants with negative ease in the hips. (Negative ease in the length would be a leggings-type situation, and I don’t know if this fitting method would work for super-stretchy bottoms.)
To determine whether pants have negative ease, you’d compare size guide measurements to the finished measurements. If the finished measurements were smaller, that means there’s negative ease.
I think what you’d do with Guffey’s technique is take all your (width) body measurements, determine how much negative ease is built into the pattern, and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if your hips measure 36 inches and the negative ease of the pattern is -1 inch at the hip, the adjusted hip circumference of the pattern pieces should be 35 inches. (You’d need to do the front and back hip width math for the two pattern pieces, but you get the picture.)
What I Think You Can Skip
If you were looking to streamline this pants-fitting method, you could punt on the width measurements across the front and back hip, especially if your hips are even. I think if you made the length and crotch curve adjustments and had enough seam allowance at the sides, a sewist could fine tune fit on a muslin without adjusting width on pattern pieces.
The widest hip measurement and its corresponding vertical point (e.g., 9.5 inches below the waist) might be the only hip measurement you’d need.
Guffey said you might need two muslins before you’re happy with fit, so, even after all those measurements and pattern piece adjustments, your body still has ways to challenge you. This fitting method is time intensive, but it’ll get you a lot closer to awesome-fitting pants than zero adjustments to the pattern pieces (even if you have to make two muslins).
Try it out, and let me know how it goes. I’ve said it before: I’m not a pants-fitting expert. I will be, however, here to answer questions as best I can and to cheer you on. It’s just clothes, you guys. Keep telling yourself that when you’re feeling frustrated and nervous about wasting fabric and time. Any time spent learning something new is time well spent, and you can’t expect it to go as expected (or better than expected) your first time out of the gate. That just doesn’t happen. For instance, I should have made my back darts wider to take more width from the back, but I already had sewn my welt pockets and I wasn’t going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, ya know?
In any, case, I got you! Great-fitting pants are within reach. I believe in you. I believe in your ability to measure correctly, do the math, and slash, spread, and tuck to success!
P.S. ICYMI, here’s the previous post: 53 Gifts for Sewists: The Ultimate Guide to Gifts for Sewing Lovers. There’s still time for holiday shopping!
P.P.S. Here are the other Project #SewMyStyle garments:
January: Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #2: The stylish sweatshirt
February: Named Saunio Cardigan: Harder than it looks
March: Becoming a (Manila) leggings person for Project #SewMyStyle
April: Bridgetown backless, the forever dress
May: Cali Faye Collection Pocket skirt + How to use basting tape like a pro
June: Mom status: Effortlessly cool in a Megan Nielsen Briar top
July: Cali Faye Valley blouse pattern hack: A mini muumuu with no regrets
August: A Modern Darling Ranges Shirt Dress: Megan Nielsen Pattern Review
September: Yona Coat: Proud as a Peacock
P.P.P.S. For those observant readers, I’ll be posting about my November and December Project #SewMyStyle garments soon! November is the Anna dress from By Hand London, and December is the Ruri sweatpants from Named. I’ve got Anna slotted for Dec. 21 and Ruri for Jan. 18. (Consider this a sneak peek a reward for reading until the end!)