kelly hogaboom strikes again... May 08 2012, 6 Comments
....and thank goodness she has! The last time Kelly came for a visit we all gained so much knowledge in regards to sewing with knits. If you haven't had the chance to read through that post please schedule the time, it's worth it! Now, Kelly is back providing us with new sewing knowledge on a topic that many sewists have been very interested in: customizing a pants pattern to create the perfect fit. Thank you so much Kelly for sharing this with all of us. We feel privledged to have you visiting once again.
I have the honor to work with Shelly and Daniela at Figgy's Patterns and their
wonderful garment pattern designs for children and tweens - in this
case one of their latest: the Banyan shirt, tunic,
pants and shorts. Today I have for you a tutorial for custom
sewing pants for your child. But let me give you a spiel first.
One of the best things about learning to sew clothing is you can make
exactly what someone wants, using colors, fabrics, and
embellishments just for them. You can construct the garment in a way
that fits them perfectly and feels better to wear than anything
purchased ready-to-wear (RTW). And finally - these clothes last longer
than even rather expensive retail products. Yes, it takes time to
build these skills, but today I CAN HAZ THEM, and I love to share
Specifically what I'm going to show you today concerns sewing
trousers for the tall and/or slim child.
My children have typically been slim for their age and size. When it
comes to pants, in RTW this means buying slim-fit trousers, elastic
waist pants, or using belts - all of which have drawbacks and
limitations. But in sewing we have the opportunity to create custom
fit, and here's how I did it.
First, I measured my client - in this case, my eight year old son.
Here are his measurements in inches, with the corresponding Banyan
pattern size in parenthesis:
Height: 51 1/2" (size 8/9)
Chest: 24 1/2" (size 6/7)
Waist: 22" (size 4/5)
Hip: 23" (size 4/5)
In making pants, the next thing to consider is where your child tends
to like to wear his or her clothing. In Nels' case, he wears in
between his hip and his waist. Both these body measurements are in the
4/5 size. And since his height corresponds to size 8/9, I'll simply
adjust the fit to correspond to a size 4/5 body girth and a size 8/9
If you trust the pattern's draft, you can adjust the pant fit
according to the pattern's waist size. Let me describe another method
to determine which size to grade to, or a way to double-check waist
sizing at a selected size.
On a flat or pleated - that is, non-elastic - pair of pants, the
length around the front waist, side seam to side seam, should
correspond to front body's wearing waist, ideally bisecting the
side-body. Said another way, the front body section of the pants'
waistband should reach halfway around the body at the wearing waist.
Flat-front pants with pockets, or pleated pants, take a moment to
figure out, but it's pretty simple really (see below). This
pattern has a 1/2" seam allowance. So measuring 1/2" in from the top
raw edge, I drew lines (shown in red) from the center front
(dashed line at left), skipping over the pleats (which
will reduce to zero once sewn), and extending to within 1/2" or
one seam allowance, of the side seam.
But - we're not finished! Remember, the pockets will extend the front
waist of the pants. In the case of this pattern, figuring the added
length is very easy: simply fold the pocket piece in half (as the
pocket will be when finished) and measure the distance from the
slanted raw edge to the side raw edge - AT the size selected (shown
here, 4/5). Add these red-line measurements up.
For the 4/5 size, the finished front pant measurement was 12"
(and, spoiler alert!, when I finished the pants, they were 12"
exactly). Obviously your cutting, tracing, measuring, and
stitching abilities will all affect the outcome of this method, and if
it seems too complex put it aside, or write me an email. However,
thinking this way about clothing is a good technique to learn.
On to tracing and cutting. When making a smaller girth to height, the
pant leg is a fairly simple adjustment: since I wanted the length of
the 8/9 size, plus 1/2", I simply traced from the crotch point of the
4/5 size in a smooth curve onto the thigh of the 8/9 cutting line
(you can see my resultant cutting line below, in red).
For the other side of the pant front leg, the difference between a 4/5
and an 8/9 is so minimal - about 1/8" as marked, I didn't do any
grading at all but just cut along the 8/9.
Layout: This pant pattern only includes one back pocket. You can see
my pocket piece near the center of the photo, waiting to be cut after
I cut the rest and unfold it (this is a great opportunity to cut a
bias pocket if you have a cute pattern on your fabric, stripes,
corduroy, et cetera). I added 1/2" to the length of the pant legs
for a bit of growth room. To do this, I simply extended the bottom hem
of the front and back pant leg - using the large ruler you see laying
on my pant front pattern piece.
One more comment about cutting. The waistband for the Banyan pants and
shorts is a bit of genius. It is a three-part waistband, with a long
back waistband fully-elasticized and corresponding to the side-seams
of the pants, and a left front and left right flat (i.e.
non-elasticized) waistband. In a case like this I typically cut
the front waistbands a bit longer, to make sure I don't run out of
room later. Waistbands can be kind of a pain and I'd rather add a
little extra now, than rip out stitches and/or add darts and/or cut
new pieces later.
After cutting according to your adjustments, the rest of
construction follows the pattern instructions. I'll continue here
to write a bit about constructing the pants. You can skip to the
bottom of the post if you'd like to see the fit difference my
To prepare the pants for sewing, I marked darts, pleats, and pocket
placement, interfaced appropriate sections, and pre-serged a few
For marking, I prefer either water-soluble marker or chalk or thread.
I used pencil in this case as I knew it would wash out.
I typically insert a needle through the pattern to get perfect
placement of marks. Here you see the inner pocket placement upper
edge. After pushing the needle through the paper, I carefully lift the
pattern and mark, on the right side, the pocket placement.
Pocket placement markings on the right side of the garment. The little
bump at waist-edge is the dart head.
For the darts, I used the same needle method to mark the termination
of the darts on the wrong side of the pants. I make these
markings simultaneously on both left and right pattern pieces.
Given there is a 1/2" seam allowance, I give myself license to mark
the dart heads by notching. Below in the center of the picture you can
just make out my 1/8" notches, which will be matched up and stitched,
Now, the front pleats. Here you can see I notched and drew the pleat
headings with red, and used my trusty pencil for the pleat termination
After marking and/or notching, I interfaced and pre-finished a few
seam allowances. I used a serger for finishing on this project. For
this pattern, I recommend finishing the edges of the cuff pieces, the
edges of the fly extension/guard (center of photo, rectangular
piece), and all four crotch seams, front and back pantleg. For
interfacing, follow directions in the pattern - interfacing one of
each waistband, the fly extension/guard, and the fly extension on the
front flaps of the pants (at left). Interfacing the fly
extension on the pants front will make a lot nicer fly - promise.
We will be serging/finishing more seams as we sew.
Now we get to stitch a little! Here is a finished dart:
After sewing I steam-press, then carefully knot the thread and use a
tiny dab of anti-fray glue.
Now it's time to make the pocket!
In this picture you see the pressed front pleats (left), and
the pressed pocket with finished embroidery. The embroidery is my
son's drawing of Uranus, traced onto one of my favorite little
helpers, Sulky's Fabri Sticky-Solvy. I keep my sticky
stabilizer scraps (like the red type you see here) so I can
use it for all kinds of stabilizing jobs. It washes away easily and
makes things a lot easier than tracing, basting stabilizers, etc!
Creating the fly:
I use an extra long zipper whenever possible. That way I can sew
without coming anywhere near the zipper pull. Just be careful not to
cut the top of the zipper off until you're about to secure that top
raw edge. If you aren't going to need to zip up the zipper during the
rest of construction, you can stop at this stage and apply safety pins
along the zipper tape so you don't accidentally pull the zipper pull
right off the cut zipper tape (ask me how I've learned this, the
Here you see the finished inside of the pants, including the bar tack
in white. The pattern calls the piece in foreground a fly extension -
I've also heard it called a fly guard (my son calls it "wiener
protection", which I think is awesome).
Outseams: I like to stitch, serge, then topstitch. This is easy to do
as the inseams aren't sewn and we can work in the flat with ease.
Outseam with pocket:
After serging and topstitching, I serged the pants hem. Again, easy to
do as we've not yet sewn the inseam:
Now to stitch, then serge, the inseam! Here you see the crotch curves,
already pre-serged. We'll have a very tidy finish when we're done.
Finally - it's time for the waistband. This is a bit picture-heavy,
but I'm trying to demonstrate how to do a quick, yet good-looking and
I sewed the outer waistband on first (you can see the
water-soluble blue pen for my fly stitching, here).
Next, I stitched the inner waistband, at 1/16" larger seam allowance
so no stitches would show on the outer edge of the garment. Don't
worry if you don't get this perfect. The only person who's going to
inspect your waistband is you. Here you also see the gap in the inner
waistband for inserting the 3/4" elastic.
Waistbands both attached.
Trimming. Remember when I said I made my front waistbands a little
longer than the pattern? Here's where I correct if needed.
Grading seams eliminates bulk. It makes a big difference for wear and
comfort, and it can also make a huge difference if you have more
construction steps. Here, we're just about done with the pants, so
don't skimp! The general rule is, leave the longest seam allowances
where they will be facing the public side of the garment. So here in
the foreground you see the inner waistband, behind that the pant
front, and behind that the outer waistband.
Topstitching the waistband. I start here on the underlap where you
won't be seeing the overlapping stitches.
Have I mentioned how much I love linen? It is so crisp it's easy just
to finger fold and sew. Remember though to fold enough of a seam
allowance and stitch so that the waistband won't ravel later. And go
careful over those zipper teeth. My 1950 Singer is a champ, but my
newer, pricey Juki will grind on a metal zipper tooth, break the
needle, and scare the camp out of me.
Still topstitching. Again, my desire isn't topstitching perfection so
much as sturdiness and no waistband ripples. That said...
Even my quick and dirty results look pretty nice. Go check your RTW
pants and compare! The waistband is also delightfully light, thanks to
that grading work.
A few words on tidy thread tails. I like to make invisible knots so
there are no ugly thread snarls or tails. Here after inserting and
stitching the elastic, I pull both thread tails firmly to the inside
of the garment. Then I thread a needle and stab it right through where
the thread tails end, emerging a little further down through the
inside of the waistband...
Then I pull the threads all the way through (you can see a little
loop just before I snug them up)...
After snugging and snipping, the thread tails are secure and invisible!
Okay, now for a few comments on the finished garment and fit. Here you
see my adjusted version:
And here's the 8/9, made without adjustment:
While the Banyan trouser, by virtue of an elasticized back waistband
and a fair amount of dart and pleat action to boot, is designed to
have a full seat and thigh, you can clearly see superior results after
adjusting for proper size. The too-large waist of the 8/9 pants meant
using a shorter elastic in the backwaist, leading to an overly-full
thigh and very bunchy bum.
And finally: here's how the pocket turned out:
This rendering of Uranus is a simple drawing of my son's, taken from a
larger solar system sketch he drew. My son selected Uranus for his pocket
as it's one of his favorite planets, with its "sideways" axis of
rotation and complicated ring system. This sketch may be a little less
than cosmically-complex, but the "ring system" does glow
in the dark.
Thanks for joining me in my tutorial, and if you have any questions,
please do email or comment below! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Kelly!!! I hope you come back again soon because YOU rock our socks :)