Patternmaking Pants with pleats

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“Oh pants” as a pseudo expletive has a certain chutzpah about it. The sort of  “%#&@ this” that  “Oh trousers” could never hope to conjure. I might just start using it.

The trousers Princess was wearing in the previous post were very quickly ‘pattern cobbled’.  As a starting point, I had her try on a toile of my college’s pant block – yeeeuck! Then I thought to pop her into my own trouser block  made at a Studio Faro workshop – much better fit, apparently, we’re related! Princess needed a bit less fabric overall and the seat required more shape for her youthful buns – no biggy!   Actually I performed the exact same surgery on the pattern as Kirsten did on her very dandy Maritime Shorts  – scooped out the rear crotch curve a tad.

Suzy Furrer’s Craftsy class solved the puzzle as to how  volume could be added to the leg without adding  volume to the torso.  Her technique appears to keep the hip to waist fit neat, essentially adding fullness up to the low hip. Perfect for a pair of full, flare inspired trews.

modifications to pant block pattern

Alas, the 2cm I allowed for the pleat was just too skimpy, a problem solved by borrowing fabric from the generous waistline to increase the size of the pleat. If at all possible I had hoped to line the pleat up with the centre front crease line – that always looks nice and also makes for easier pressing, don’t you think? Next time I’ll go for a big fat 3+cm if designing a single pleat. Overall the total hem circumference was made 24cm larger. Checked against a pair of RTW trousers, it seemed about right.

Between my daughter doing her final exams, me travelling on a 10 day trip to the Northern territory and then her going away for a post high school camping shindig for a week, there was precious little fitting time. These trousers had to be fit and finished in 1 day, the final fashion parade being the day after! You’ll have to trust me when I say “they fit perfectly for the parade”! After 1 month’s R & R the pants now fit much less well !

The fabric, oy that fabric (much wringing of hands and gesticulating wildly), same as the jacket and bustier. Despite having basted the waistband before the final stitch in the ditch, the draggy, stretchy lycra/wool fabric crept and crept, till it had bunched horribly at centre front. So I shrugged and knew it would have to do. Following extensive statistical analysis It was estavblished that I was more likely to well and truly f%$@ it up further if I unpicked the waistband given mood, time and fatigue variables!

My teacher at college, Blair, has a penchant for trouser design and I have to thank him for some ideas here. I had originally drafted the pocket opening to be a bit longer and he suggested it could be wider at the waistband but shorter to reduce that opening bulge when seated – looks fab I think.

left front pant with slant pocket


He also suggested I extend the pant front piece at the side seam just a tad to make it easier to slip hands inside the pocket. Hopefully the photo below will make that garble clear. But here was I thinking “I spend all my time trying to reinforce the pocket opening to prevent stretch and bagging!”, but it’s great – controlled ease is what we’re after – not uncontrolled bias stretch!

extended slant pocket at side seam

You’ll notice that this pocket pattern has a fold rather than a seamline on one side – Blair’s suggestion also. Anything for less bulk. Also, a simple french seam at the bottom of the pocket – very slick! Because the pant is loose at the front and the pocketing is fine, there’s no problem with a right angled corner showing through.


pocket bag with fold and french seamed bottom

pocket pattern, just add bearer and facing then trim

That’s it for the patternmaking shenanigans, thanks for not mentioning the grease stain on my pattern!

Just a quick question. If you were cutting and spreading to add volume to the front leg up to the waistline (as opposed to adding it to the low hip in this example), how do you deal with the back pant piece? The final hem circumference needs to be identical more/less between front and back so if I split the front – do I split the back and somehow eradicate the extra volume? There seems to be something wrong with my brain, cos’ I just don’t get it!

Pant/Trouser Resources

Studio Faro have started a members only area – its free at the moment but… gal’s gotta eat! The member’s area is a patternmaking forum (all patterns, not just trews), no question too stupid is the overarching mantra. Anita will be going into more detail about patternmaking and there are free resources like some blocks’n’stuff too.

Curvy Sewing Collective did a brilliant job of their pants making resources roundup. Something for everyone and every issue including fit, pattern adjustments and sewing.

Did you happen to see this on Rhonda’s Creative Life? An online custom pants block class from Joyce Simons Murphy? Joyce is a professional “pant maker” and writes for Threads magazine – the articles are on her site. The online pant block course looks great.

Currently in Baanf, Canada where it’s -30C to -12C – brrrrr!

Stay well friends. x


Add yours →

  1. Lesley When Gianni leaves I will be reading this more carefully. Thanks! It’s perfect and timely as I want to make trousers like my YSL ones but remove some of the width in the thigh and get a flared line (no turn ups). It’s why I asked you about the pants on the last post. I really like them and aporeciated the comments about the pockets. I really like the YSL pockets but have noticed with other trousers that getting that controlled ease for Pocket openings doesn’t always happen.
    PS Skated to work in -20 C today plus wind chill and my sinuses are punishing me for it…stay warm

    • The weather in Canada is punishing isn’t it? Here in Baanf we’ve got 0C today, but Hubs and Princess are coming back from skiing because the lifts are on wind hold! My sinuses have come out in sympathy with yours! I may have reached my level of incompetence with trouser drafting I’m afraid. You’d probably need to slim down from the side seam equally +/- maybe reduce the front pleat a little, though I recall loving your pleated pants. Alternatively, you could consume copious quantities of poutine – that should have the same effect!

      • Ha ha good poutine tip! I’d apologize for the weather but that would be toooo Canadian of me…

      • I wanted to share a photo taken at an art exhibition, which was very thought provoking. Trouble is I,m not sure how I add a photo to a comment😋 The exhibition was called ‘Oh Canada (I’m sorry)’ by Diana Thorneycroft.
        “Typical Canadians are known to say “I’m sorry, eh” Diana Thorneycroft says, “I sincerely apologise for not being sorry.”
        Your comment was very timely Steph!

  2. I’m with your tutor on the pocket, perfect lining method and I usually add up to 5mm to that side piece, to avoid tightness on the slant of that pocket edge. It’s usually used on jeans too.
    I think that at the hem of a trouser the back is usually bigger than the front?
    If you alter the front from the waist to the crutch line, I would only alter the back if it needed it? The best line to check is the side seam, when worn. If it’s right it will follow the side of the body perfectly, if it’s wrong it will produce a very obvious wiggle, or sit too far forward or back! Trousers are the trickiest, especially if fitting to specific body shapes
    I don’t ever want to feel that cold. Have fun.

    • Fabulous and comprehensive as always Linda – thank you. Good tip about the pocket edge, I’ll give that a go. Yes, Anita my Patternmaking teacher usually uses an unequalised block where all side deans sit forward 1cm, but if I’ve added 12cm to the front I’m going to need a bit more at the back.? More research required! Cannot believe this cold – apparently is unusual!

      • I fight with the front and back crutch! In my years I have seen many odd fronts, particularly crinkled star shapes in the front area? And badly fitting rear areas. I recently sent for a Japanese pattern book. There are patterns to copy in it. The crutch shapes are very good and although I do like elastic in trousers- not the old lady type but elastic is popular for comfort and in some shops I think it’s used to reduce the range of sizes, of on a tangent! I will at some time reshape this pattern to be non elasticated. I work with someone who believes as long as you have a good front and back crutch, then you can shape anything on the stand from this. For a trouser I prefer to start flat.
        To increase your back piece, could you simply add to the sides. Sometimes on a trouser this is the best way, so that you don’t create fullness through the whole piece. I then use the inside and outside front leg shaping to reshape the back leg shaping!
        Hope it’s heated up a bit for you??

      • Thanks for your great input Linda. My patternmaking teacher is much the same about crotch curves, she likes the front to have a short extension. I need to post about some trousers I made for myself from a pant copy and my pant block. I love pants, they’re pretty much all I wear in real life! Just tried on a variety of jeans in San Francisco and noticed that all of them twisted at the calf on me, that’s something worth sorting in a jeans block I think – harrumph, athletic calves!

  3. Hopefully you have a nice view out a window! The weather is crazy everywhere. We just got a nice fluffy dump of snow, but it’s to be mild for the next couple of days.
    This pant talk is too complicated for me.. …I shall just sigh and admire, Re- read and re-read again. I didn’t have a lot of luck with my last attempt at a jean pattern. Seems I end up with excess material from the v at the yoke in the back, up to the back waist. I just pinched that in and did a fish eye dart ( if that’s the name for it) in the waist band to suck that in. Very unprofessional! And that’s with a commercial pattern! I shall check out your links tomorrow.
    Yeap, .I have lots to learn….. thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your Posts!
    Till the next time,
    Joyce from Sudbury

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