Mambo No. 5 Jeans

Pattern: frankenpattern
Fabric:  1 1/2 yds stretch woven
Cost:  ~$20 per pair

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mambo No. 5, where I combine all my favorite girls into one great jeans pattern. Let me explain...

I like the sizing on my Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans. I have fiddled with the waist to get them snug, and tapered the legs just so. However, they have a number of fit issues for me. This goes back to my thoughts on big Fit vs little fit. They fit, in that they are comfortable to wear and stay on, but they don't Fit in that there are little drag lines and imperfections that my other pants don't have.

That's where my other patterns come in. My Colette Clover pants have a really great crotch curve. It is L-shaped, which works well for me. J-shaped curves make it look like my butt is trying to eat the fabric - lots of diagonal lines going on there. However, the Clovers aren't my perfect pants either. The fit in the legs has always been a bit funky, most likely due to the fact that I need a knock-knee adjustment. They also slant a bit inward at the leg inseam.

So in comes a third pattern. I really like the leg shape of my Style Arc Misty Jeans/Barb Pull-On Pants. Compared to the other two patterns, they slant in the right direction to ensure that the side seams do not pull around to the front or the back. This is crucial to avoid that dreaded slanted inseam.

So with Ginger, Clover, and Barb, I set about drafting my perfect pair of pants. All the names remind me of the ladies in Mambo No. 5: "A little bit of  Ginger in my life. A little bit of Clover by my side. A little bit of Barb is all need. Really great pants is what I see." Haha! Ok a bit silly but you get the point. I guess I could have also called these my All-Spice pants, because using Ginger and Clover sounds like I'm baking and not sewing.

Anyway, back to pants drafting. Another feature I wanted in my perfect jeans was a wide seam allowance. While I drafted most of the seams with a standard 5/8" seam allowance, for the side seam I gave a generous 1" seam allowance. This is because pants REALLY vary with the amount of stretch in the fabric. I have never had the same pants pattern sew up the same way in a different fabric, so I wanted to give a generous allowance to account for different stretches and weaves. I can simply take it in a bit for a pair with good stretch, and let it out for a tighter weave or less stretch. This little feature would have saved me a lot of heartache over the years, and I highly recommend all you pants-makers do the same.

So how did they turn out? Not bad! Mr. Made agrees that the back is my best one yet. The only lines you see in the back are the little horizontal lines under the butt. While you could draft those out, in tight-fitting pants they are necessary to allow ease of movement. However, what you don't see is diagonal lines or other puckering, meaning my crotch curve is working! On the front, I also extended the curve a bit to try to eliminate some whiskers there. My first version is the black pair.

For my second version, in brown, I made a few minor adjustments. First, I needed to true up the side seam by 3/4 of an inch. While I measured the seams when drafting, I forgot about the yoke! D'oh! Next, I removed a wedge from the front and another from the back, as both were drafted too long and sagging a bit. Finally, I did one last 1/2 inch knock knee adjustment. While I tried to build it in, with all the other changes I was making it was hard to tell if that change was going to transfer over. That got rid of a little bit of bunching around the outer knee, although some is inevitable. However, I may have compensated a bit too much. I think I need to decrease the width at the knees instead of make a bigger knock knee adjustment.

The fabric for my first and second pairs were beautiful stretch wovens from Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley. When I first started sewing pants several years ago they didn't carry much in the way of bottom-weight stretch wovens, but since then I have been finding more and more great things there. I also finally met the owner last time I was in, and she's a total sweetheart. I will definitely be checking back more regularly for pants fabrics, as I much prefer to inspect them in person than blindly order through the mail.

On  my second pair, I also modified both the front and back pockets. For the front, I added a pocket stay, which keeps the pockets in place as you take the pants on and off. I may have to recheck the drafting on this though, as I think it may have contributed to some wrinkling in the front.

You'll also notice I drafted some welt pockets instead of patch pockets. If you're interested in making your own welt pockets with perfectly finished seams, I've got a tutorial up on the BERNINA WeAllSew Blog.

While I am just frankenpatterning things together, altering these patterns to fit me has taught me a lot about pants fitting. Four years after making my first pair of pants, I feel like I am finally able to diagnose fit problems and know how to fix them. While no pair is ever perfect, I am working on it slowly but surely...


  1. Yay, these look great! I find sewing and fitting pants to be such a rewarding process. I think I had missed your post on fit vs. Fit, and I completely agree. I had fitted an old jeans draft as best I could but it ultimately had some strange issues with how the hip and rear width was distributed. It takes time and practice to develop that eye. And I'm going to steal your 1" side seam allowance trick.

  2. These are really impressive, you've done the work! It is so true that with different fabrics the fir is always different, partly why jeans continue to frustrate me, also getting the perfect fit is so incredibly tricky! These look fantastic, and i am sure will get much wear!


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