Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jamie Jeans: My Fitting Experience

I'd originally thought I wouldn't write up a post about fitting, only because fitting is such a personal experience.  That is to say, the fixes my body needs are likely not the ones other bodies need, since we're all shaped differently.  But two things changed my mind:  firstly, there were several comments asking for this post.  And secondly, when I was looking back at my Pants for Real People book after I'd finished, it seemed that there really aren't that many different adjustments one can do to pants, which I think is good news:  it's not as hard as we all think it is.

Another reason I'd thought not to write a fitting post is that my method was very unscientific.  For all my talk about taking flat pattern measurements and comparing to my RTW jeans and TNT Clover pattern (all of which I did), in the end, what really got me to a fit I was happy with was making up the pants and pin-fitting them to my body.  Same as when I made the Clovers two years ago.

So I think from here on out, my process will be as follows for pants or jeans:
1) choose the size that corresponds to my biggest measurement
2) make the pants
3) pin fit
4) adjust the pattern to match garment

So, it's not really difficult or arcane.  It just requires a willingness to take the time to do it.  After sewing up my jeans, I tried them on and adjusted the seams four times before I felt I was happy with them.  It took me 3 - 4 hours on a Saturday morning.  Not a huge investment of time really, considering I shouldn't have to do such an intense fitting again.

I should also mention that except for having Hubby take pictures of the front and back after each alteration, I did the fitting on my own.  So I don't think you really need an extra pair of hands to accomplish this.  In fact, I think fitting a pair of pants is probably easier to do by oneself than a bodice, because you can reach all the areas!

I'm going to share those pictures I had Hubby take.  I really hadn't planned on sharing them - it was just easier for me to see in a photo what was going on than in the mirror.  So the pictures are heavily cropped because I was only wearing a bra on top!  But I think you can get the idea of how the fit transformed.  At each step, the changes don't look very dramatic, but the difference between #1 and #4 is pretty significant.

Also:  I say I "pin fit" but really, the only thing I pinned was to close the fly.  At each stage, I pinched out some fabric and eyeballed how much needed to be taken out, then went back to the sewing machine and sewed a new seam by that amount.  After the body photos, I'll show the seams so you can see the changes I made.

It's probably helpful to know that I started out with a size 42 to accomodate my hips, my biggest part.  My waist falls into a size 38; however, these don't come all the way up to the waist.  In the end, I found it was easiest to start from my bigger size and take away in the places where I needed it.

Here is how they looked straight out of the box, with no alterations:


Not too bad really!  I knew I'd have to lower the C-curve and take a wedge out of the center back, so I did that:


Then I refined the angle of that wedge at the center back, so I didn't have a piece sticking out over my coccyx.


And finally, I took in a bit at each side seam, and also took in a bit at the top of the inseam, which helped a little with those C-level whiskers.  They show up better here than in yesterday's photos, but adding the waistband and a belt helps lift everything up so that it's not as dramatic in the finished jeans as it is here.


Now, here is how the C-seam looked after all those refinements:


The stitching closest to the edge is the original (pattern) seam line.  You can see that the changes here were incremental.  In contrast, the amount I took out at the center back was significant:


Once I had the fit the way I wanted it, I did two things:  first, I used my marking pencil to draw in my new seam lines on the fabric.  It ended up being to my advantage that I forgot to baste my pants together with the seam allowances on the outside:  I think I got a better idea of the fit, and I was able to draw the new seam lines on the wrong side where I needed them to be.  Then, I placed my pattern tissue over the jeans and drew in where the new seam lines were.

I should back up a little here.  I sewed the jeans together at the inner leg seam and finished that seam.  Almost all the fitting changes happened at the center back, C-seam and side seams.  So those seams were basted with contrasting thread so that I could see and remove them easily.

So when I transferred my changes to the tissue, I transferred the side seams first.

back yoke
back side seam

upper front side seam - lower front was unaltered

Then I opened up the side seams so I could lay the leg pieces flat, and transferred the center back and C-curve changes to the tissue.

center back of yoke

center back and  C-curve

back C-curve and a bit removed from top inseam

front C-curve and a bit removed from top inseam

Here's a picture of my penciled-in new seam lines.  I didn't trim away the extra until after I'd sewn the C-seam and tried the jeans on one more time.


I did make a couple of changes to the leg before even starting, and didn't adjust them at all during this fitting process.  From the get-go, I took 2" off the bottom of the leg.  I did it that way rather than shorten it mid-leg because the place where the knee hit was about right for me.  Because the jeans continue to taper a bit below the knee, cutting off the bottom meant that I already had a bit of extra width at the ankle.  Having received advice that the calves are snug on this pattern, I gave myself the extra room I mentioned yesterday by adding another 1/2" at the hem line before taking off the 2" on the bottom, and connecting that to the notch at the knee.  I did this at both side seams on the front and the back.

As I said, I spent 3 - 4 hours on Saturday doing all the fitting.  And then I put the project aside until the next day.  On Sunday, I spent about an hour unpicking all the basted seams, marking the seam lines and transferring them to my pattern.  Then I was ready to sew them together for real and continue on with the finishing.

So the whole process really wasn't so terrible.  And I found that I already had a lot of clues about what needed to be done from the way my RTW pants fit:  I always find myself wishing I could take a big wedge out of the center back, and a bit out of the sides.

After I made my first coat last spring, I felt a big boost in sewing confidence.  And after I made my third coat this fall, I started to feel like I can sew whatever I want.  Things like coats and jeans used to seam like far-distant goals to me.  But lately I've had the attitude that with RTW, somebody has to make those things.  And if they can do it, so can I. 

And if I can do it, so can you!  So if you are one of the people who think that sewing your own pants is beyond you, I encourage you to think again.  Pants aren't hard to sew.  If you can put a zipper into a skirt, you can put a zipper into pants.  If you can follow instructions to sew a dress, you can follow instructions to make pants.  Just give yourself time:  don't expect to get a good fit right from the beginning, and be willing to make as many adjustments as necessary.

And be willing to fail (although you likely won't).  Be willing to mess up a length of fabric in the name of experimentation.  If it doesn't work out, you can always cut the fabric up to make bags or other small projects!

29 comments:

  1. There is no end to your talent!

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  2. This was such a helpful post!!! Thank you for all the photos of the changes you made both to the pants and the pattern! It does seem less daunting when you do it step by step!
    I know what you mean about gaining sewing confidence through intimidating projects. I feel the same way about being able to sew anything, too! It's just a matter of time and patience. You did a great job! I hope you enjoy your jeans! :)

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    1. Thanks, Eleyna! I think I put more energy into procrastinating and obsessing about it than I did into actually just doing it, as usual!

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  3. Thanks for this post, Gail. It's nice to have the whole process demystified! It does seem doable so I'm less worried that I added jeans to my 2014 goal list.

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    1. You just have to approach it as an experiment :-)

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  4. i'm glad you did post this! the jamie pattern seems to have a really good draft, just from what i've observed here and elsewhere. so tempted to try them out myself! and pants seem more daunting than they really are... preach it, lady!

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    1. It may well be partly due to the pattern. I've been watching the Sandra Betzina pants class on Craftsy, and she talks about there being a difference between how the C-curve is drafted in Europe, as opposed to in the US, and she feels the European one gives a better fit. I found that really interesting, and wondered if that is at play in this pattern.

      And yes - I am a little preachy, aren't I ?! Hard not to be when you've Seen The Light, LOL!

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    2. i've heard whisperings of this different european curve... very interesting! may explain why burda generally gets good marks for fit also!

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  5. Oh, thank you for this interesting view on your fitting process. I do think the pattern was pretty good from the get go - and how often does that happen?? But the refinements make all the difference. I'm still trying to figure out my situation with the Claudia pants. I think I may have shortened the rise in the back too much. I'm going to have to slash the fabric, horizontally, at the derriere to see what happens.

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    1. Agree - see my comment to Lisa above. I do think I'm less exacting than you :-) Anything as good or better than RTW is fine with me. I also think that the proof will be in wearing them around for a few days - it's probably a bit premature at this point to say they're just right. But I have high hopes!

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  6. This is so interesting! The fitting doesn't seem quite as terrible as I'd feared! I must confess that my friend came over today to work on this pattern, and we chickened out! So terrible!!!

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    1. You can totally do this! Prior to making these, the only other pants I'd attempted was a pair of failed Thurlows. I'm not done with my Jamies yet (up to redoing the waistband) but I'm so happy with how they're turning out. If I can make these, you absolutely can!

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    2. You guys have to give it another go! They're not hard to make! And these are going to look SO cute on you! Do I need to go all schoolteacher on you and set you a deadline?!?!

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  7. Wow, you really made this seem straightforward, but sewing usually is. I sometimes wish I was a beginner again, when I didn't know the things I was supposed to be intimidated by, and just did the steps!

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    1. It was straightforward! I wish I hadn't wasted so much time stewing about it - I could have two pair by now, LOL!

      I know what you mean - when I first got back into sewing a few years ago, I made a bunch of stuff out of silk. Then I found out silk is "tricky" and got scared off!

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  8. I love seeing the fitting parts and the insides. For the next pair I'd like to add some width to the leg and maybe lower the rise. There is such a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish something a bit more complex or learn something new.

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    1. There really is, isn't there? And it was so much more fun doing it along with you!

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  9. I love the term "C-curve"! Now I don't have to write crotch over and over in ever pants post! :) Thank you!

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    1. I'm really glad everyone figured out what I meant! I try to keep it genteel around here . . . most of the time :-)

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    2. I didn't figure that out and had to ask on Instagram!! LOL.

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  10. Thank you for this! I just finished sewing my first pair and while they fit ok, I need to make some changes and I was at a loss of how to do that!

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  11. Thank you for this post Gail. Even though my alterations likely won't be the same as yours it's still really interesting to see what you had to do.

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    1. Thanks, Sam. I have to confess that I don't usually read other people's fitting posts, unless they have the same issues I have and I'm in the middle of trying to solve a problem! That was another part of my hesitation in posting this. But I guess if we all put our two cents out there, the info will be available for people when they need it, right?

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  12. Thanks for sharing your fitting process and photos. I am also pear shaped and have successfully made jeans, but I loved seeing your incremental stitching. It does show that little changes can have a positive effect. Well done, your jeans look wonderful!

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  13. Gail, you are awesome, you know? I'm only catching up on blogs now and I'm glad I read this post this morning. I've been having a lousy couple of days and your pep talk at the end of this post felt like it was directed at me - I feel much better! Tanks so much for taking the time to explain EXACTLY how you went about making the alterations on your jeans. I know I will be referring to this post over the weekend when I start working on my Thurlows. Thank you!

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    1. I'm so glad this was so helpful and inspiring for you! You can definitely do this!

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