Sunday, 17 July 2016

Imperfect trousers are better than no trousers (Burda 01-2007-108A)

On my list of things to do this year was work on fitting trousers. I gave it a go back in February, but though I spent what felt like a huge amount of time and effort on it, it wasn't overly successful. After four muslins, I hadn't really improved the fit significantly from the first muslin, and I never moved on to making an actual pair of trousers because the whole fitting experience was so exhausting and all I had achieved was trousers with pretty indifferent fit.

This month, however, I really needed to acquire at least one new pair of trousers. I'll admit it: I fully intended to just buy some. However, when I had a day when I felt quite well, I went out shopping and after rifling through the stock in multiple shops, it seemed like nearly everything available was tapered or skinny leg, neither of which I am keen on. I only found two of pairs of straight leg trousers that seemed like possibilities. When I tried them on, though, one pair really didn't fit at all no matter what size I tried, and although the second pair fit more or less okay they were ridiculously expensive. I'd run out of both steam and local shops to investigate at that point so I went home to sulk about it.

At that point a little lightbulb went on for me: if my choice is between indifferently fitting expensive RTW trousers, and indifferently fitting sewn trousers, why not just sew? Of course it would be better if I were able to make well-fitting trousers. However, as long as the fit of these early attempts isn't WORSE than the store-bought alternative the overall outcome is probably neutral. Also, one thing for sure is that I'm not going to get any better at making trousers by not making them.

So that was my goal this week: make some trousers, no matter how imperfect, because imperfect trousers are better than not having trousers.

Imperfect trousers: complete! (Burda 01-2007-108A in navy twill)

After my experience starting from a Burda pattern in February, I decided to see what happened if I started this time with a customized sloper pattern from Bootstrap. Bootstrap uses the same underlying pattern-making system as Lekala, which I have used with some success this year as a way to short-circuit some fitting issues in top patterns. Lekala is cheaper (if you buy in the frequent $1 sales) so I hadn't really bothered with Bootstrap up to now. However, more recently Bootstrap has started to offer some extra "indie" patterns, including some pants slopers, that are not available from Lekala. These patterns allow you to customize some additional trouser fitting details such as thigh width and butt shape.
Bootstrap CustomFit Classic Pants Sloper With Facing
I bought the CustomFit Classic Pants Sloper With Facing (NOT an affiliate link), and made up a muslin. As I sewed I was sort of day-dreaming that I'd put them on and miraculously they'd look amazing and I'd only have to make some minor alterations to make them fit me perfectly.

Ha. Hahaha. Ha.

No.

I mean, obviously no. I was aware even while I thought about it that was not going to happen, but I admit I did hope for better initial fit than I got. I put them on and the fit was in fact pretty horrible, just like the first muslin I made previously from a similar Burda pattern. Depressingly, it was also horrible in more or less exactly the same ways: huge amounts of excess fabric pooling below the butt, huge diagonal lines radiating from my large upper thighs. I'd hoped that using my actual thigh measurements to produce the sloper would make a difference to the thigh problem, but this was not the case at all. This is because the extra width at the thigh is evenly distributed between the seams on the pattern, but not on my body (my inner thigh is where all the extra room is needed). I realize this is perfectly reasonable as generalized customization method, but it didn't help me. More concerning is that the waist fit was not only not better, it was significantly worse than the Burda pattern I tried previously -- I took out multiple centimetres to get it to fit. I triple checked and my measurements were both accurate and input correctly, so who knows what went wrong there.

My overall impression of the Bootstrap CustomFit sloper then is not very positive. Mostly it looked like the straight-off-the-pattern sheet Burda pattern, and none of the things it was meant to customize actually customized it in a useful way. It is entirely possible I picked the wrong customizations for e.g. butt shape, but at $7 for the pattern I can't afford to keep buying repeats to see if that makes a difference. That said, I definitely think for someone who has struggled to find ANY base pattern from which to start -- and in particular people who are sized out of Burda/Burda Plus or the Big4, since this can be customized up to a 56" hip -- this might be a way to get a basic sloper pattern. For me though, since I am actually a pretty average size and shape, it was kind of a waste of money.

At any rate, since I have some experience of fitting these problems from last time, I made some adjustments (one of them extremely technically dubious) to the Bootstrap pattern and after some effort I ended up with a basic pant sloper that I think more or less worked.

Key words: More or less. I am not going to pretend that I achieved anything like good fit! However, the fit I achieved is not worse than the expensive pair I tried on the shop. It's not any better, either, but it's at least at parity.  I could definitely have gone through several more rounds of muslins (and probably driven myself up the wall with frustration in the process) but for now I ran with "good enough!" and moved on to the actual trouser pattern I wanted to make.

Burda 01-2007-108A
(This was the point that I realized that I had really picked the wrong Bootstrap sloper for the trousers I wanted to make. I should have bought/used the version with a waistband.)

This is Burda 01-2007-108A. I picked this pattern because it's straightforward and has all the key features I wanted: straight-leg, with a waistband, a fly, rear darts, and front pockets with a horizontal opening. This pattern is written for a non-stretch woven, which matched the inexpensive navy cotton/poly twill fabric I had on hand for this pair of trousers. I had 2m of this fabric but I only really needed 1.5m.

I traced the new pattern and then overlaid the Bootstrap pattern I'd worked on over the top. This would have been easier, of course, if I'd picked the right sloper, but it was just a case of pinning together the waistband and leg pieces as if they were a single piece and then drawing the new pattern over. I'm pretty sure I introduced some stupid mistakes in the process -- definitely I screwed up the rear dart placement -- but I did manage to put together a working pattern.

Fly front. Actual fly: good! Pocket bags that peek out: not so good!
A good thing about my pattern choice, which I actually didn't realize when I picked the pattern, is that this was this issue's "Sewing Course" pattern and therefore came with extensive, illustrated instructions. Most of trouser making is not actually at all challenging if you've made anything at all with a waistband before, but the only previous times I made a fly front (two summers ago, on some skirts) I really struggled and they looked rubbish. The instructions for the fly for this pattern were really good though and I am very pleased with how it turned out. I made a couple of goofs -- somehow forgot to understitch the pocket bags so they pop up annoyingly! -- but overall I'm happy with the sewing on these trousers.


Trousers on me from the front
From a fitting perspective, the front looks pretty good, and the side seams are nice and straight. My main problems have always been at the back, though. When I look at these trousers on me, it's clear to me that there was extra width added at the outer thigh by the Bootstrap sloper (where I don't need it) as well as the inner thigh. I ended up adding yet more width to the inner thigh to eradicate drag lines, but I didn't take it off the other side. There's this empty, saggy line to the outer thigh as a result. The back darts are in the wrong place because of the way I merged the two patterns, and they look rubbish besides.

Trousers on me from the back :( I have very little idea how to fix any of this and believe me I've tried!
There are obviously still other fitting issues at the back overall, not all of which I understand or have any idea how to fix. Also, wow, the photos look 100 times worse than when you see the fitting problems in the mirror. /o\ This is where I really do have to remind myself that imperfect trousers are still better than no trousers! Also: this is not worse fit than I achieve from RTW. I just don't worry as much about RTW fit.

The problem I think overall with trouser fitting is one of the uncertainty of time/effort vs. reward. I feel like I could easily spend another 100 hours on muslins and fitting and the outcome could be anywhere from "amazing trousers that fit perfectly" to "no change from what I've achieved so far: still pretty rubbish" to "I might as well wear these like a bag over my head because it's such a disaster".

I also feel like I just don't GET trouser fitting in some fundamental way, probably because spatial resasoning has never been my strength. (It pains me to admit this -- I wish I were good at everything! But spatial reasoning and I have never been the best of friends.) I really struggle with the logic behind the pattern changes required to change the fit, and I don't really understand why some changes work (or don't work). Plus, trousers seems to be such a shifty mess of "change one thing for the better, everything else gets worse!". Argh. In a perfect world, I'd go do a trouser fitting course, but that's only going to be possible when (if) I get better and can leave my house for more than half an hour at a time!

In the meantime, I am not entirely sure how to proceed with my next pair of trousers. The fabric I bought for them is quite stretchy, which means finding a Burda pattern written for stretch and seeing if I can translate some of the adjustments I made into that new pattern. I might take a break from trousers and make something else easier first though!

21 comments:

  1. Like you, I've decided that it's better to have some trousers than no trousers, and that the ones I make are at least one of better, cheaper or easier than shopping for them. I'm also short so always have to re hem bought ones which is a pain. I'm no kind of expert on trouser fitting, but the backs of yours do look like they need more at the inside and less at the outside, as you say. Years ago I read a post (now deleted, but I think there is still a discussion on pattern review) about cutting the legs off the pattern at crotch height and moving them inwards. This gives more of a curve on the out seam and more trouser towards the inseam. It scared me to do this but it did help and it might help you. I also wonder if you need a knock knee adjustment. It's not really about knock knees, it's for when you have an angle at your knees (asopposed to a straight line ) because of the angle your legs leave your pelvis. Before you try the moving the legs thing, maybe try on your actual pants pinning a tuck at the inseam just below the crotch (basically shortening the inseam and changing the leg angle - use safety pins :-)) and see if that makes the legs hang better. The grain will be screwy but it might give you an indication. For yhe next pair I'd also add a tiny bit more width in the back at high hip (just above your wrists in this photo).
    Having burbled on, i think these are generally pretty respectable and look v goid from the front and ok at the back. Hopefully someone with more knowledge than me can chime in with tips.

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    1. Thank you for those thoughts! I definitely think I need to shift the legs inward because they aren't in balance. I did try it on my last fitting attempt but screwed it up so epically that the whole muslin was a mess. I've been reading a bunch about the alterations I might make in my next attempt though and I've added them to the list!

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  2. There are some very helpful YouTube videos from Peggy Sagers. Search for "Silhouette Patterns". She goes step by step through fitting pants in several separate videos. Her instructions for fitting the back of pants are excellent. Good luck.

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  3. It's been a long pants fitting journey for me, too, but I think I'm finally starting to get it. One of the things that has helped recently was a week long pants fitting marathon using yards and yards of cheap poly quarter-inch gingham check (to be able to see the horizontal and vertical grainlines) to make muslin after muslin. BUT, fitting on my own, in the course of twisting and turning to see and adjust my back side, I actually hurt my back! I've been one of your blog readers for some time, so I know your health is an issue, so this might be an activity to be careful with. I wished you lived in Seattle (State of Washington, USA - WAY far away from you!) because I'd love to help you fit your pants. Can you find a fitting buddy? Good luck! (P.S. I think the front of your current pair look GREAT.)

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    1. Thanks you so much for the gingham tip! I have bought a massive piece of it and will give it a go for the next attempt. Unfortunately, I actually know exactly zero sewing people in real life -- more accurately, I know a couple but they are both quilters and moreover live 100s of miles away. I would have loved a fit buddy!

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  4. I just finished https://www.knipmode.nl/broek-pdf-patroon-20983 with remarkable success with almost no alterations, although I'm going to add width to the inner thigh (and remember to remove an equivalent amount from the outer thigh) the next time I made them. (I don't have any photos yet.) I know that's no indication they'll work the same for you, but if you already have some Knipmode pants patterns from the magazines, I'd give them a try.

    Carly (breakdownhat on Insta)

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    1. Oh! Good to know! I'll look into a Knip pattern and see what I think!

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  5. Think about using a smaller size for the back pattern since you have so much extra fabric. Then use a flat backside adjustment to remove the excess fabric under the backside.

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  6. I have heard of women with smaller backsides having success using a men's pants pattern from Burda. I don't know if it would be worth the investment to buy a pattern & measure first, but you clearly have too much fabric in the wrong place. It seems that you need more in the width and less in the depth. With your smaller backside and high hip, a man's pants pattern might be a better starting point than the women's patterns you have been using. Just an idea to ponder.

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    1. That's such an interesting idea! I actually have some Burda men's patterns in the actual magazine, I might have a look to see what they look like in terms of shape compared to the women's patterns I have been using!

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  7. So many thoughts! I agree with Towanda to try a flat seat adjustment and maybe take a vertical tuck right down the center of the back leg (this is similar to the suggestion to use a smaller size). Although, I discovered with skirts that a 16(42) front and 18(44) back is near perfect so I cheat and do that!

    Now, Burda. We love Burda. Burda is awesome. BUT - I think Burda drafts for a completely different figure than you have for pants. I would muslin a different brand. Maybe Knip Mode? Or Style Arc??

    You could search PR reviews for pants and quickly scan for anyone who has a similar body type too!

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    1. The SA Katherine is what I was thinking!!!

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    2. I am definitely going to do some kind of comparitive approach next because I think you're right, the Burda draft is just a long way from my body shape. I have Knip, Ottobre, Patrones, plus some Big4 both modern and vintage that I will look into as well!

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  8. I second Kathie's reply on Silhouette Patterns (Peggy Sagers) instructional videos.
    She also has DVD's for sale that are more detailed etc., but the free youtube ones
    are very helpful. I often watch them more than once. On her website she has free webcasts, some of the older ones may not have been uploaded to youtube. I have found her fitting tips to be very helpful, once I got my head around them. http://www.silhouettepatterns.com/ Look to the right under upcoming events, then past webcasts. Keep at it, you will get it.

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    1. Thanks for that! I'll look into it!

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  9. I happened to find your blog this morning and saw your entry about your pant issues. You had a couple suggestions to watch Peggy Sagers on her webcasts. This past Monday (August 8, 2016) she fit four ladies on her live webcast using three of her pant patterns from her Silhouette Patterns line. Here is a link to the webcast: http://www.silhouettepatterns.com/html/media/livestreamchannel/replay_08_08_2016.htm These are regular ladies and she shows how to correct the back of their pant. I think the front of yours look really nice. You may find some help listening to her commentary on why she is doing the changes, for the back of your pants. She says you can do this by yourself, it just requires a bit more taking on and off times. I saw several things that she did that, I think, might work on yours. She came to our Sewing Guild to do fittings and it was very helpful. Hope this helps. Carolyn

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    1. PS Just so you know that nothing is wrong with the audio on the broadcast. There is some quiet time at the beginning of the webcast as she waits for questions to come in, usually around 15 seconds or so, a couple of times. This is a live webcast and questions can be asked online on YouTube while she is on live. At about 20 minutes she starts the fitting/draping on the ladies.

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    2. Thanks! I'll look into that video!

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  10. I, too, struggled with sewing a pair of trousers that fit. I tried three different patterns before I found one that only needed a minor change to fit me. After the first pattern I read "Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body" and it was tremendously helpful. I didn't have a clue as to how pants fit and how to alter them to fit better. After reading the book, I had a better understanding as to how to make pattern changes to better fit my full butt and tilted hips. I've since sewn 8 capris and 5 trousers and love how each one fits me! Good luck in your quest for perfect trousers. Don't give up, you'll get there! :)

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