I Drafted My Own Pants!

We have passed 200 days in quarantine. I've finished sewing up my party dresses. I've made a full workout wardrobe. I've sewn loungewear for both me and my husband. I needed a PROJECT. So of course I turned to my old standby, sewing jeans. Sewing jeans has never gotten old in the 8 years I've been doing it mostly because they are never perfect. I always find myself wanting to tweak one thing or another after making them. And as someone with not much pattern-drafting knowledge, it was a bit of a shot in the dark every time I made a new slash or pivot in my pattern. 

However, this time I decided it would be different. After making a few pairs in the past month, I decided to try drafting the pattern myself. It seemed like just the type of big project to keep me busy for a couple of weeks. And the results have been so, so worth it. 

Pattern: self-drafted ;)
Fabric: 1.5 yds stretch denim
Cost: $20

What started me down this path was a post by Heather from Handmade PhD. If you're not familiar with her blog, Heather is a neuroscientist who started sewing bow ties for her husband and became obsessed with sewing. She is no-nonsense, prides function over frivolity, and usually makes very detailed pattern adjustments to just about everything she sews. It's fascinating!

Recently, she published a blog post about measuring herself for some new pants and I was very intrigued. Her basic method, which you can read about in great detail, involves measuring a grainline up the center of your ankle and knee, and then taking measurements on either side all the way up your leg to determine your body measurements for your new pattern. 

Now, she does this with a ruler but I am a very visual person. I put on some old black leggings and, with chalk, drew that grainline right on my pants. Here's my process if you'd like to follow along. 

Measuring for Pants

According to Heather, the grainline should be drawn perpendicular to the floor/pants hem and go straight through the center of your ankle and your knee. This should prevent the pant legs from twisting when worn. So that's where I started, drawing the line at the center of my ankle and knee up my leg. From there, however, your hips may not be distributed along the center of the grainline - they may swing outward (as mine do) or have more width inward (perhaps for a fuller belly and slimmer hips). So I kept drawing the line from my ankle and knee straight up, perpendicular to the floor. I also made sure that the inseam and outer leg seam of my leggings were positioned at the correct place on my body and marked them with chalk as well. 

Heather doesn't detail this part as much in her post, but I found that next it was helpful to draw horizontal marks on my body at key points. I marked my ankle, calf, knee, thigh, crotch, full hip, belly, and waistline with horizontal marks on my pants. I then measured the distance of each mark from the waistline and drew this grid on my paper. 

From there, at each mark I measured the distance from my side seam to the grainline and then from the grainline to the inseam, recording both measurements. So the ankle, calf, and knee should have the same width at each side of the grainline. Then going up you can see how my hips start to stick out, with higher measurements to the outside of the pants from the grainline than the inside of the pants. On my torso, I just took my measurements to the center of the pants, not all the way across, as this is how I'll cut my pattern piece. 

Repeating this for the back, on yourself, gets a bit tricky. I enlisted my husband's help drawing the grainline and then took my own measurements from there, using a mirror to make sure the tape measure was level. (Yes, this sort of request makes him think I'm very weird.)  

Here's what the measurements look like all written down. You can see the grainline running up the leg, then the horizontal marks at key places, and the measurement from the side to the grainline to the inseam for both front and back. 

Measuring and drawing the crotch is probably the trickiest part. You can read more about how Heather did this and she also relied on a blog post from Michele for specifics on measuring the crotch curve. I used Michelle's method to measure my crotch depth and height with an L-shaped ruler, and also double-checked this with a bendable ruler that I've used for pants fitting in the past. The crotch curve took further refinement over two muslins to get just right, but this gets you pretty far. In the image below, you can see I measured my crotch depth, height, and length for both the front and back. 

Drafting my Pattern

Did you ever take an art class where you copy a painting by drawing a grid over it and then reproducing the piece, square by square, on your canvas? Well, this is kind of like that. Once I had recorded all my measurements on my paper, I set about re-creating those on my pattern paper. I started by drawing a straight grainline down the center of the paper. I then drew perpendicular lines for my waist, measured down the given amount, drew another for my belly, and so on for the full hip, crotch, thigh, knee, calf, and ankle. Once I had those markings, I measured out from the grainline and marked the distance for the inseam and outer leg. So at the waist, I marked 6.5" out from the grainline toward the side seam and 1.5" inches toward the center front, based on my measurements.

After I marked all my measurements it was time to connect the dots. This part was more art than science for me. Sometimes one marking seemed shifted and I had to shift it back in line with the others. I'm sure if my measurements had been perfect this wouldn't have happened as much, but I'm a living human marking measurements on myself using chalk lines drawn on my body, so it was bound to get a bit messy. 

Once I had drawn the front and back, I also trued my seams to one another making sure the front inseam was the same length as the back inseam and so on. This allowed me to fix things up even more and even created a few head-scratchers. The biggest problem was how to add enough crotch length and depth in the back without making the inseam too long (more on this later). I also puzzled with my curves, where my hips swing out then back in sharply to meet my knees. In my muslin, drastic curves didn't lay quite right on my body. In this instance, I found it was best to smooth the curves as much as possible. Because this pattern was for stretch jeans, I also found I could cheat the measurements slightly where needed, making them slightly more snug than measured to avoid drastic curves.

Adding Ease and Seam Allowances

What I now had on paper was a pattern for my body with no seam allowances or wearing ease. To determine how much ease you want to add, it can be helpful to reference your favorite pattern and compare the body measurements to the pattern measurements listed on the envelope. For example, Heather recommended half to one inch of ease at the waistband and added 1 inch of ease around her hips and 2 1/2 around her calves for looser her hiking pants.

For mine, I knew I wanted close-fitting pants sewn up in fabric with at least 25% stretch. Based on my muslin, I actually subtracted four inches from around my hips and thighs (an inch at each the front and back side seams). This is called negative ease and will rely on the stretch of the pants to fit me. I tapered this up to zero ease at the knees and calves based on how the muslin was fitting me. 

Once I figured out my desired ease, I added my seam allowances. I did a standard 5/8" all the way around EXCEPT for the side seams. For the side seams I like to use a 1" seam allowance. This gives me a bit of wiggle room in case my fabric isn't as stretchy as I'd like or is more tightly woven. I highly recommend this as it's rare to have two pairs of pants ever fit me exactly the same. 

Making a Muslin(s)

After all this drafting, I was so excited to start on my muslin. Would it fit me perfectly? Was this a disaster and I should just stick to purchased patterns? My first fabric unfortunately wasn't as stretchy as I thought, but the pants still fit surprisingly well given the custom measurements. Success!

Of course, they also gave me a good sense of what needed adjusting. First, I actually ended up repeating the above measuring and drafting process one more time, as I had gotten better at taking my measurements. After that, the main thing that needed adjusting, as I mentioned earlier, was the crotch curve. I had made my measurements as close as possible to the body and the crotch was a bit too contoured: it needed some wearing ease and smoothing out or else it was going to give me a huge wedgie! I lowered it slightly and smoothed out the curve where the front met the back. I also deepened it slightly and removed some of the height from the top of the pants so everything would sit where it should. 

My second muslin is fully wearable and what I'm wearing in this post. I also made a third pair out of a thick stretch knit that's similar in weight to a ponte, which  you can see in this post as well. For the second pair, I baste fit it to start and made a few small tweaks here and there - smoothing out the top waistline, the leg curves, etc. But in all these were fairly minor tweaks and I am pretty happy with the final fit. There's room for my butt, room for my thighs, the knees hit where they're supposed to, they're not too tight and not too loose. Definitely the best-fitting skinny jeans I've ever made. The one thing I changed between the second and third version was to move the inseam slightly toward the back. I'd heard jeans were supposed to have an inseam that was slightly forward, but I had done it by too much. 

That said, looking at these pictures I can see that I might want to take a wedge out of the front as I'm seeing some wrinkles there at the crotch. Interestingly enough is they are lot less prominent in the ponte version. I'm not sure if that's a difference in the fabric or maybe has to do with the zipper insertion, so I'll have to play around with that. That and I will lower the waistband a smidge, as it really is quite high as is. Jeans fitting is never done!

Comparing My Self-Drafted Pattern to Commercial Patterns

After drafting my pattern, I was very curious to know how it compared to other similar patterns I've sewn in the past (note: I haven't actually sewn the Cashmerette Ames or the Megan Nielsen Ash, but have heard good things so wanted to see how they'd work on me, hypothetically). 

Over the years, I've learned that an L-shaped curve works best for me and this was borne out by my new block. The image below shows how my back crotch curve, one of my biggest trouble spots, compares to these patterns. The Thread Theory Lazo Trousers, Cashmerette Ames, Colette Clover, and Closet Core Ginger Jeans best match this shape and, of those I've sewn, have worked well for me. The Style Arc Misty, Megan Nielsen Ash, and Deer & Doe Safran are all much too shallow or J-shaped for me and would need to be deepened. Pro tip: If you know your general crotch curve shape and are curious whether a pants pattern is going to work for you, you can usually look up the sewalong or user photos and find a photo of the actual pattern piece. Very helpful! That's what I did here for the Ames and Ash patterns that I didn't already have on file. 


Beyond the crotch curve, there are usually a few other adjustments I need to make to my pants. I shared recently that I realized I should be making a full thigh adjustment as my thigh measurement is often much bigger than patterns are drafted, even when they fit me at the hip. I also sometimes need a knock knee adjustment to shape the pattern from my full thigh curving inward toward my knees. For this adjustment, the torso of the pants on front and back is pivoted out toward the hip. 

Looking at the rough comparisons below, I can see that I would probably need to do a knock knee adjustment on the Style Arc Misty, the Megan Nielsen Ash, and the Deer & Doe Safran (clearly these patterns are not working for me, even though I love my Safrans!). I especially remember this from sewing up a few different patterns from Style Arc - they all had drag lines at the outer thigh, a tell-tale sign of needing a knock-knee adjustment. 

Even for the patterns with an L-shaped crotch curve and legs at the right angle, you can see in the image above that the crotch curve STILL needs to be deepened/widened to fit me. I have a 5 inch deep back crotch curve and there doesn't seem to be a pattern out there that fits that, especially for close-fitting pants. 

Looking at these images, I realized that, in the past, I had been deepening the crotch curve all wrong. Typically, I would extend the crotch curve to get the space I needed. You can see this method on the left in the image below. While this gave me the needed 5" of depth, it made the inseam too long, giving me folds of fabric at the inseam under the butt. By looking at my new block, I realized that what I should have been doing to adjust most patterns was to shift the whole back torso out toward the side seam, which widens the curve without changing the inseam. Once the top portion is shifted out, you blend the hip line into the leg line. For me, this also gives me the room in the thighs that I need. 

Going back to drafting the pattern from scratch, this is why it was so important (and helpful) to take my measurements from the middle line going up the back of my leg. It helped me understand that I needed to add most of the width for my butt from the middle of the pants going out toward the hip rather than in toward the crotch. 

But why make all these comparisons? For one, it's interesting to benchmark my shape to the standard pattern blocks from other popular patterns. It helps me understand where I'm "standard" and where I need a custom fit. For example, wide-legged pants usually fit me fine right out of the envelope because they avoid some of my major trouble spots - they are not close-fitting at the crotch, thighs, or knees. 

This is not to say that these pattern companies did a bad job or that I'm better than them at pattern drafting. When you buy a pattern, you are not only paying for the fit but also the way the pattern pieces fit together, the instructions, and the style lines of the garment. And I certainly don't expect every pattern to fit everyone right out of the envelope, especially something as tricky as skinny jeans. Making up my own pattern has been so instructive in how I might need to adjust professional patterns in the future. 

As for my jeans, I am super excited about them and have plans for many more (once I re-stock on denim). It's funny because I mentioned in an earlier post that I actually don't have much occasion to wear real pants right now, but when you have a pair that fits this well you know I'll be busting them out for every social-distance hangout. 

Summer Jeans

Ok it's a bit weird to follow up my fall pants with a post about summer pants, but I'm blogging a bit out of order here. Plus it was 90 degrees today (quite warm for any season here, especially when we don't have AC), so I don't feel totally unjustified talking about these now. Though it is of course too warm for these now, too!

Fabric: 1.5 yds Cone Mills stretch denim
Cost: $30 

I also realize that I'm pretty slow on trends. This style of pants has been trendy for a few years, with the ever-popular Lander Pants published in 2017 and the Persephones in 2018. I am just now catching on. But my latency also gives me the chance to watch the trends and decide how I want to do them. While the above patterns are fun, I always felt they both had too many crotch wrinkles. I chose instead this New Look pattern, which retails for just over $4 and uses a pattern block that I'm a bit more familiar with. 

The result? Meh maybe still some crotch wrinkles. But they feel pretty good on and were made with minimal adjustment. I think they look pretty good in person!

I did read Pattern Review before I started and saw that they have a slash pocket that doesn't sit very flat at the hip. Honestly, I think that problem is a bit intrinsic to slash pockets - they always seem to gape open and don't seem to do a good job at holding onto their contents, either. I replaced them with the faux welt pocket of the Deer & Doe Safran Pant, using the wrong side of the jean fabric for the welt for a bit of contrast. Everything is topstitched in white. 

I used my treasured stretch Cone Mills Denim for this project, which I've been holding onto for years. I bought it not too long before they shut down their last American plant. When it arrived in the mail I realized it wasn't quite stretchy enough for skinny jeans, but it is great for this style. The denim is 12 oz and should soften a bit with age.

OK I do have one more pants pattern to share so hopefully it's not raining ash or too hot this weekend to take some photos. 2020 continues to be a dumpster fire!

Stepping into Fall

Does anyone even wear real pants anymore?? I don't. Not really. Hence the 10 pairs of leggings I posted last week. But I still love sewing them and couldn't resist when I found this wonderfully stretchy fabric at a real-live in-person fabric store this summer. It's fun, right?

Pattern: based on Deer and Doe's Safran Pants
Fabric: 1.5 yds stretch denim
Cost: $20

I love a bright pair of pants and these orange ones seemed like the perfect color. A bit more interesting than khaki, a little less bold than bright red, perfect for fall and beyond. And for those occasions where I am able to picnic with friends, the high-stretch fabric makes them perfectly comfortable for sitting around in the grass. 

As you can see, I've been playing with various tops to complete the look. I like that the pants are high enough that I can wear them with a crop top but they also go perfectly well with my longer, looser Ogden Cami. 

While I have a few tried and true pants patterns, I do tend to make small tweaks each time I make them. This time I redrafted the back of the Deer and Doe Safran Pants a bit and also gave myself more room at the thighs and tightened things up across the stomach and waist. In past pairs, they have been tight in the thighs but slip down at the waist, a bad combination for getting your pants to stay up. 

I usually struggle to fit pants in the legs and have recently come to the realization that my thighs are at least a size bigger than my hip measurement in most drafts. Patterns don't usually list the thigh measurement on their size charts though, so I just realized this because Greenstyle Creations does provide this listing for their athletic tights. It was a big realization! I suppose you could also figure this out from measuring the pattern, but I find it gets a bit tricky with negative ease and all. Handmade PhD actually has a good blog post on measuring yourself for pants that I might try as well. 

Lower in the legs, my thighs taper significantly toward my knock knees, then back out for my calves, then back in at the ankle. This leads to some pretty weird-looking alterations. I did a lot of baste fitting for this pair until it felt like the ease was even up and down my leg. 

I didn't have matching thread but red thread worked fine. (I usually only buy black, white, gray, and red thread as I find it works for most of my projects.) Here's the back view with pockets and a fun little X in the belt loops. You'll also notice that this pattern doesn't use back darts, which I find pretty amazing given the wide disparity between my waist and hips. 

I actually have another pair of pants in the pipeline too - a wide-legged pair from this beautiful cone mills denim that I've been saving for ages. I might not have much occassion to wear pants but plenty of opportunities to sew them!

Working It Out

Not to psychoanalyze my sewing, but I've worked up a pretty good theory about my recent obsession with activewear. In the before times, I could care less about what I looked like when I worked out. I wanted clothes that were comfy and, preferably, with a pocket for my keys, but beyond that the same running clothes I'd worn for the past 15 years seemed fine. Now, I'm suddenly dreaming up pink matching workout sets and buying leopard-print spandex. What happened?

Well, my theory is this. Before, I could put my energy into fun dresses, skinny jeans, and outfits to wear out. Now, my main outings each day are usually just my morning run and afternoon dog walk. That's it. Suddenly that becomes my only chance to show off my personal style. To see and be seen. And damn it I'm going to take advantage of it!

So with that, I present to you my latest, a leopard print running outfit. 

Pattern: Greenstyle Creations Tempo Tights and Sophie Hines Axis Tank
Fabric: 2 yds reversible leopard print activewear in dusty rose, plus black mesh
Cost: $30

This is another version of the Greenstyle Creations Tempo Tights, which I love for its good fit and fun print mixing possibilities. The reversible fabric on this one made it really easy. I also ordered some more black mesh, this time in a more open weave. (OK I also ordered like a ton more spandex. More on that later.) 

The one update that I made to this pattern, which you can see in the photo above, is that I cut the lower leg insert on the fold rather than as a front and back piece. This eliminates the center seam and allows me to cut the mesh all as one piece. You have to sew it in last after sewing the inseam closed, but it works out well.

The top is another Sophie Hines Axis Tank. I like my tops a bit longer so I lengthened it again, and this time made it with the design panels - one cut in coordinating print and another in mesh. It's fun, but I actually think I might prefer slightly looser tops. And I still can't seem to get the bindings quite the right size. 

Of course, as soon as this fabric arrived the weather really warmed up and long running pants weren't working out too well. (Also, the fires came, so I had to take a break for running for a bit.) But once we had clear skies I thought I might also like some in a bike short length. My thighs tend to rub together when running, so I prefer spandex to looser shorts and wanted them long enough to protect my legs from the rub. I used another spandex from my mail order to put these together. 

These are actually a modified version of the Greenstyle Stride Tights that I have been drafting up. They are designed to have diagonal pieces all down the legs. For the shorts, I raised the diagonal line some and sewed the bottom panel in mesh. This makes them super breathable. The top part still has the pocket and it's even long enough to stash a phone in (though I usually don't run with one). The one update I made after sewing was that waistband, which is double thickness, felt pretty warm on my run. I unpicked it and resewed it as a single layer. Much better!

The tank is an a-line top that's a combination of the Megan Nielsen Reef Camisole with the Axis Tank straps and neckline. The fabric is super soft and I may even steal this (or make another) for non-workout wear. This is definitely my preferred style for runs and it so perfect!

So, one last thing. After making these tights I of course made a few more. And a few more. And as you can tell my obsession is growing. Rather than keep on with the blog posts I figured I'd put it into one quick video for you! Ha!

I hope you are enjoying your weekend and finding fun ways to fill your time! 

Goodbye to Summer

This past week was brutal. Fire smoke has been chocking our air, driving us inside our stuffy apartment. It's lonely - you can't visit with friends inside because of the virus or outside because of the smoke. It's stuffy - we can't open the windows so now it's been much warmer inside than without. On Wednesday, the sky was so dark that it looked like night most of the day. For each adaptation I make in 2020, it feels like it just throws more punches. I feel so deeply for those affected by the events of 2020!

In my free time, I've been trying to focus on happier things. So today I'm throwing it back to one last summer project from a happier time - my new bathing suit from our trip to the foothills at the beginning of August.

Pattern: an amalgamation of personal patterns
Fabric: 1 yd nylon spandex
Cost: $10

Cooped up indoors for most of the summer, this swimsuit had a lot of internet inspiration. First, I love these bikini bottoms from Sew Swimmingly. You can get the pattern on their site but I had already fitted a pair of high-waisted Ohhh Lulu Grace Panties so I just used those. I have a very long lower torso, so to get them to fit at the waist I had raised them quite a bit! Having already done that, it was just a matter of attaching a circular flounce to the side panels to get this fluttery mermaid look. It looks like the Sew Swimmingly pattern has you sew the flounce into a seam, but I just topstitched mine to the side panels before sewing the panels to the front and back pattern pieces. So that you don't see the stitch line, I topstitched the flounce upside down and then just folded it down over the seam line. 

The top was a bit more of a project. I like a bit more of a substantial top to balance out fuller bottoms. I first tried out (and fully made!) the Edgewater Ave Maxine Top (not pictured). It's quite cute and I learned some interesting construction, but I just didn't love it with these bottoms. Having nothing but time on my hands, I decided to make another! The Lisette for Butterick pattern 6358 would have been great, but it's out of print and I'm not about to go running around town trying to find one. (Bonus if you do have it - it's got the right bottoms for this suit, too!) Instead, I used a personal pattern I had traced off a Madewell bra and adapted it to have tie fronts. The construction got a bit dicey but in the end it came together quite well. 

Here's me at the river, enjoying happier times.

Our warm weather (and smoke!) is likely to continue for a while yet but I'm all out of swimsuit fabric so I'll be looking for something else to sew. Stay safe everyone!
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