Width Alterations for Pants

It’s been a rather wild weekend. Sorry to have kept away, but there was a birthday party for Mr. S that needed doing. I’m always surprised by how much time things like this take up! Needless to say, we had great fun and now its back to the Trouser Sewalong. I have a few more alterations which will take up the rest of this week. Next week we’ll start sewing up the final pair. Does that sound good?  How are you all coming about? Let’s move onto width, shall we?

Some of you may be drowning in your pants. Some of you might have pants that are just too tight, but the crotch depth and length don’t really seem to be the issue. Some of you may have only a width issue in one area of the pants, but not in others. So I guess it’s time we finally talked about width.  I mean, how fitted do you want your pants to be around your hips, your waist and your legs? That’s the real question. So let’s talk about width and some of the more complex problems that might arise with these adjustments.

Let’s start with the general adjustment. This adjustment affects the entire length (and width, of course) of the pant. Feeling a little baggy all round? Or perhaps your pants are just too tight. From the waist down to the hem? This one is for you. Put your muslin back on inside out. Now, there is more than one way to skin this cat, so I’ll show you the way I like best. For pants that are too baggy, pin out the sides starting at the hip. Make sure the hip is level with your actual hip and not falling down below where it shouldn’t. Pull out one side and spear a pin inside the seamline, approximately half of what you think you’ll need.  Do the same for the other side and adjust each pin until the pants sit on your hips comfortably without falling down. Be sure to have the same amount pinned out on each side. Now start working your way up and down the pants. Same thing until the pants are fully pinned out. For pants that are too tight, in general, unpick the waist to the hip and down the outseam of one leg. With a piece of elastic around your waist, tuck the pants up and into the elastic until the elastic sits at the waistline on the pants. Now, take a look in the mirror and measure how much needs to be added into the side seams from the one leg that is fully unpicked.

Image source: Pants for Real People
Posted with permission from Pati Palmer, highlight added

Now, for pants that are too wide: take your muslin and measure how much you’ve taken out on one side of the pants. In my first muslin that would have been a good 1 inch. Keep in mind that this measurement is from the seamline to the pin on the front portion only so if I add the back measurement to that I would have to decrease one whole side by 2 inches. Make sense? Now you need to adjust your paper pattern. Figure out which pieces are affected by this change. In this case, the front and back legs and the waistband are affected (I realize the image above only shows the back leg, but this adjustment works for both the front and back leg and the waistband). Rather than just chopping off the excess at the sides, it’s more fitting for you to adjust each piece in the 1/3 section closest to the crotch/inseam (I like drawing a line right next to the darts or pleats). Draw a line parallel to the grainline, the full length of the paper pattern. You’re going to either fold out the excess or slash and spread here. And you will do this to both the front and back leg pattern and the waistband, equal amounts. For pants that are too tight: you’ll do just the opposite. Slash and spread and add paper into the paper pattern for these same pieces.

OK, having gone through that, let’s have some words about width adjustments. If you’ve got a good 2 inches to take out or put into each side of your pants (back leg and front leg together) then it would be better for you to go down a size or up a size. So the alteration above is for those who need a “little” tweeking but don’t need to go up or down a full size. Now I suspect for most of you, the bagginess or tightness is in one area. So let’s start with the hips, shall we?

Now, let’s say you need a width adjustment in your hips. The legs look great. The crotch doesn’t really seem to be a problem, it’s the hips. Let’s get an idear of what this looks like first. Going back to my 2nd muslin, I’ve pinned out the hip through the waist area to give the illusion of being too tight. The biggest site for sore eyes is that lovely puckering in the back and the tautness of the fabric right across the rear end. You’ll feel the tightness in the front hip and you’ll also see the strain on the pleat, if you have one. Too big? Here’s what your looking at. Your hips are drowning and you’ll see baggy vertical lines the back and the front from the hip to the waist and in through the thigh. Look for vertical bagginess and bunchy-ess.

What to do? Pin it out or unpick your muslin to the hip and measure to see how much you’ll need to add or take out. Just like for the full width adjustment. Take off your muslin and fix your paper pattern. This time you’ll be chopping off or adding this amount to the side seam and blending your new seamline into the knee.

What if you have full or thin thighs? Follow the same process as for the hips, except localize the fitting to the thigh area. Pin it out or unpick your muslin on one side and measure to see how much you’ll need to add or take out. Then fix your paper pattern and blend your seamlines into the hip and the knee.

Two more width adjustments and then we’re done. What if you have a full tummy or a flat rear end? Or vice versa? For tummies, mess with the dart or the pleat in the front leg. Full tummy – let the dart or pleat out. Flat tummy – unpick front darts or pleats. Put your muslin on, with the elastic around your waistband, pin out the dart or pleat size you’ll need over the markings of the old dart or pleat. The dart will end up being wider and longer typically, the pleat wider. Adjust your paper pattern after. Flat or full derriere – do the full length width adjustment for the back leg only.

Now, let’s have a word about how all of the different adjustments interact. All of the adjustments I’ve shown you so far (crotch depth and length, leg and hem and width) work in tandem. This means that if you fix one, you might need to tweak another. For instance, say you’ve fixed the crotch length on your muslin, but you find that in the hip up through the waist, the muslin is a little baggy. You go ahead and fix the width in that area and you find that once again you have those unsightly puckers in the front crotch that you saw previously with the crotch length adjustment. But you already fixed that!!! This is where you need to fix it again. Unfortunately you will find with pants, that they need some coaxing. This is one of the biggest reasons they are terribly hard to fit. So, keep coaxing them. Finally, after a few curses and possibly some tears, all of the adjustments will work together and you’ll have a perfect fitting muslin. Hip Hip Hooray!


Tomorrow, I’ll be covering two of the rarer adjustments. And for these I have two wonderful examples from the flickr pool! Thanks you guys!




7 thoughts on “Width Alterations for Pants

  1. How timely – I’m just about to do muslin two – I need definite width adjustments – perhaps a slight tweak of the front crotch inseam (just a tad smaller) and perhaps some narrowing of the legs (I have chicken legs). . .I am also going to do a back zipper (hand-picked) – the side zip is not a good look for me. And, finally, I’m questioning that front pleat – but I’ll let it ride until muslin 2 – usually front pleats are not a good look for me. . .

  2. Oh dear I think I did this all back to front. The first adjustment I made was to let out the seams from hip to waist, then I tackled the crotch adjustments. This was because I didn’t really trust my assessment of what the crotch was doing until things were hanging properly from further up the pants, ie. the waist. I still have some mysterious wrinkles but the muslin is sitting better overall. A bit more tweaking perhaps, sigh!

  3. Thanks Sunni, great tutorial. The whole pants fitting thing is becoming less and less of a mystery! I suspect looking at my muslin photos I need to make an adjustment in my upper thigh. Hopefully I’ll be all set to sew up the final pair next week.

  4. I was kind of lucky. My first trouser pattern seems to fit straight out of the pack. Just a little tweak to the upper thighs. I expected to be going back through all your very helpful tutorials to get them right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s