Hi everyone! I’m Jackie and I’m super excited to join the Sew Altered Style team! When you grow up with an accomplished seamstress, fitting techniques become second nature. So it’s been interesting for me to stop and really think about the steps I take to adjust patterns to fit my body. Now before we get into techniques, let’s establish what I’m working with. Since the age of 14, I’ve been 6 feet tall with a 36″ inseam. I also have no butt whatsoever. That often means that ready to wear pants leave me with a saggy bottom and highwater hems. It’s not a cute look, despite how on trend capris and cropped pants sometimes are. Thank goodness my Mama sews, and that she taught me.
I really want a pair of me-made jeans that I reach for over and over again. There are several patterns out there to choose from, many of which I’ve tried and liked. Today I am working with the Jalie Women’s Stretch Jeans. One of the first lessons I learned from my Mama was to make a muslin with zero changes. When I muslin pants, I only cut them to short or bermuda length. I want to conserve my muslin material until I get the seat corrected. I can muslin the seat multiple times in the same amount of fabric I’d need to muslin them once at full length. I chose a size W (US 10) based on my measurements. The front lies nice and flat. My side seams are on the side where they belong (and show I’m not exaggerating about the no butt situation). The waistband sits close and doesn’t gape anywhere. And the back…. If I were feeling lazy I would accept the fit on the back because it is better than most first attempts. But we’re here to focus on getting the best fit, so that means addressing the excess fabric under my rear.
I make two consistent adjustments to any fitted pants pattern – a flat seat adjustment and added length. Adding length is something I’ll address once I have the seat resolved. There are several flat seat adjustment tutorials that come up from an Internet search, but my preferred method is this one by Ann Rowley. She was the winner of The Great British Sewing Bee and is an incredible source of sewing knowledge. Her photo tutorial is easy to understand, so I’m not going to recreate it here, but I followed her instructions and you can see my new rise and side seam in green.
I whipped up a second muslin to check that my adjustments were working. See how much better the back is now!?! There are still some horizontal lines under my bottom, but I can’t get rid of them entirely and still be able to sit, In fact, if I do one of the squats my trainer thinks will help tone my butt, all the wrinkles disappear. But there will be no photographs of that. I can also sit comfortably in these and not worry about the back rise creeping down.
Now I’m ready to add length. One of the things I love about Jalie is that they include the inseam in their pants measurements charts. For the Women’s Stretch Jeans, they specify the inseam is 31.5″. (If a designer doesn’t include the inseam, that’s okay. Just get your tape measure and measure the pattern, being sure to subtract seam allowances and hems.) My inseam is 36″, so I’m going to need to add some length. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to do so. A lot of patterns include a lengthen/shorten line on the pants legs pieces because unless it’s a truly straight leg pattern (such as palazzos), it almost never works to just add length at the hem. Ideally, you want to add any length above and below the knee. Our knees are essentially equidistant between our hips and our heels, so adding length at the knee maintains the essential shape of the pants leg pattern pieces and distributes the extra length in both the thigh and the shin. Because I like my pants long (it only ever happens when I make them), I add 6″ to the legs of the Jalie Jeans pattern pieces, which should give me an inseam of 37.5″. There is no lengthen/shorten line on this pattern, but the leg pattern pieces come in two parts that must be joined. Based on the hemline of my initial muslin, this line will also work as my lengthen line. I used the alignment tabs to maintain my grainline. When there are no alignment tabs, you can use a ruler to extend the grainline marking until it intersects with the lengthen shorten line. I always note how much I added on my pattern piece to help me remember when I make the same pattern again later. Using a ruler, draw a new line that blends the top and bottom halves so you have a new smooth line.
Now that I’ve made adjustments to my paper pattern for a flat seat adjustment and additional length. I’m ready to cut my baste muslin. I went ahead and topstitched the zipper and pockets because I fully intend for these to be wearable after any final tweaks. The front has remained clean and flat. The top of the zipper pulls a bit, but that will be resolved once I attach my waistband. The side seam has stayed where it belongs, and the back is behaving as well. Remember, there are wrinkles on my backside, but I can’t eliminate them without losing the ability to sit.
However, somewhere my math betrayed me, because these pants are too long, even for me! I turned them up 3″ at the hem. considering I need about 1″ for a hem, I think for my next version, I’ll remove 2 of the 6″ I added, leaving me with only 4″ added inches. But for this pair, I can get away with cutting off my excess at the hem. The flare of the bootcut can accommodate it.
This is the time to start thinking about the details, particularly pockets. I have a love/hate relationship with pockets. I stick everything in my back pockets from my phone to my debit card to the notes my kids ask me to hold for them. But pockets on ready to wear jeans do flat bottomed girls no favors at all. Often they are oversized, wide set, and rather than framing or gently cupping my butt, they flatten and widen it more by wrapping around to my hip. Case in point: These are a pair of Mossimo skinny jeans. The pockets are short, which works for me, but they are wide and wide set, located more towards my hip than on my actual rear. They also angle out rather than go straight down. If you want to go down the RTW pocket rabbit hole with me, check out this blog. The blogger details how so many brands of jeans we buy are giving us all the dressed Mom Butt.
So how do I address pockets on my Jalie Jeans (or any jeans pattern, really)? First, I cut pair of pockets, removing the seam allowances so I can see the scale of the pocket as worn. The original pocket is on the left, placed exactly where the pattern indicates. It’s too wide for my bottom, so I took 1/4″ off both sides of the pocket on the right. I placed it using the center back pattern marking as my guide. Just slimming the pocket by 1/2″ total has made a huge difference. I think I will also bring both pockets closer together by 1/4″, narrowing the gap between. The length of the pockets are fine. The points of the pockets end at the base of my rear, which is right where I want them.
Before I remove my basting stitches and sew this pair the right way, I have a few other modifications to address. This denim is pretty basic, and if I sew them as is I’ll probably wind up with a nice pair of handmade jeans, but they won’t be favorites because they’ll look handmade. They are in serious need of some distressing. The Craftsy class “Sewing Designer Jeans” by Angela Wolff is a great course on how to achieve a designer look, including how to distress your denim. By looking at the front view, I need to distress them over my thighs and on the backside. You can’t see it much in the final photos because the denim hasn’t faded much, yet, but after a couple washes, they are slowly showing wear patterns. I also need to consider the topstitching design for the back pockets now that I have the pocket size and positioning figured out. I want a design that will help give the illusion of curves but still be relatively easy to accomplish. I used my French Curve and started tracing the curves to create depth and definition. After some trial and error, I decided to mimic the lines of a bikini.
Now that all the fitting is completed and the details are sewn, I finally have a pair of jeans that fit me just right. No more saggy, baggy bottom or highwater hems. This pair of jeans is already in heavy rotation in my wardrobe, and my next pair will go so much faster now that I’ve mastered the muslin.
I’m starting to feel self conscious about sharing soooo many photos of my backside online after all this work, but it’s all about educating ourselves, right? Hopefully, my work can help some of you with fitting your own dreamy jeans.