Fabric wedges for body bumps below the waist

Many fit alterations can be dealt with just by adding super wide seam allowances to a muslin, and playing with them in a trial garment. Or by adding in or folding out pattern strips.

But there are some fitting problems which mean you have to change the shape of the pattern piece to get fabric where it’s needed. These alterations add wedges rather than strips. A wedge is wide at one end and narrow at the other, it adds different amounts of fabric in different places. So it changes the angles of pattern pieces, not just the length. Once the fabric is cut out, it’s too late to make this sort of change.

These wedges may be needed to cover extra large bumps front and back, above and below the waist, as well as on the arms. Usually the aim is to add fabric to the middle of a pattern piece, while only changing the length of one side of the pattern at most.

This post is on wedges for skirt and pant fitting. Above the waist, the best known wedges are the FBA, and for larger arms.

(I should say I’m not a fitting expert. I’m just trying to make sense of all the different guidance I’ve found.)

P.S. In summary : this post talks about 3 wedges which are related to crotch length :
– adding a wedge at waistline – if you have a tilted waist or large tummy.

- adding a wedge at middle CB seam – if you have a larger butt.

- adding a wedge at crotch extensions – if you have a deep torso.

Since writing this I’ve heard about a fourth wedge :
– adding with the wide end of the wedge at side seam. Not related to crotch length. People with very shaped hips/ thighs silhouette may need this.

P.S. also : It isn’t necessary to do this on the pattern before making a test garment – you can slash and spread a muslin.

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Fullness front and back below the waist :

There are many ways of adding fullness to cover bumps front or back below the waist.
Method 1 : add at waist.
Method 2 : add a horizontal wedge at bulge level from centre to side seam.
Method 3 : add an angled wedge, like that for an FBA.
Method 4 : add to crotch extensions (pants only).

Sadly there isn’t yet universal agreement about which method to use. Perhaps that reflects how many factors influence good pants fit.

(I haven’t come across names for all these methods, so I’ve given them labels for convenience.)

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Method 1 : Add at waist :

The easiest way to add fabric to cover vertical fullness below the waist is by adding fabric at centre waist level.

For example, Vogue pants fitting pattern Vogue 1003.
This is the only method this fitting pattern suggests. Odd, as the Vogue Sewing Book 1963 and Vogue Sewing 1982 both mention the next method.

”

This is okay for small amounts.
But here (left) is an example of adding a large amount this way :

”addwaist”
(Waist level addition left, horizontal wedge method right.)

If you add a large amount at the waist, the added fabric may be in the wrong place (at your waist, not over your curves). So the result may be added strain lines in the wrong places, rather than a solution to your fitting problem.

The very exaggerated wedges in the photo add about 2 inches. I’ve used them to show the effect clearly.
In practice, Morris and McCann in “Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’ p.73 suggest you only add fabric at the waist to make a change up to 1/2 inch.

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Method 2 : Horizontal wedge :

The easiest way to add fabric in the centre of the piece is with a horizontal wedge, wide at centre narrowing to side seam stitching line.

”buttwedge”
(wedge about 2 inches)

This changes the whole angle of the top of the pant back. It’s also necessary to smooth and fill out the side seam curve. The result has a characteristic tilted shape.

I don’t know if there’s something about the Dutch – but all pant patterns in KnipMode magazine are like this.

”knipflipped”

So if you’re this shape you might like to get hold of this magazine ! Try some of these links given by Pattern Review and Stitchers Guild.
(KnipMode do make it difficult for someone outside the Netherlands to get a copy.)

You might get an idea of how big a pants wedge you need to add by measuring over your bumps. Taking the centre line crotch length measurement of your back probably won’t help, as it may to be somewhat shorter than your protuberances !

Sadly there are some problems with this simple horizontal wedge method.

You can’t use it on the front of a skirt, if you want the centre front on a fold, as the centre seam isn’t straight.

You can’t use it on skirt or pants centre seam if you want to use a zip, as the centre seam isn’t straight.

Palmer and Alto in ‘Fit for Real People p.180 say they don’t like to use this method because of the changes to the centre and side seam shapes.

This method adds the most fabric at the centre line of the body. And the extra is actually most needed in the centre of the pattern piece.

So Morris and McCann in “Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’ p.88 say you should only use this method for alterations up to 1 inch

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Method 3 : Angled wedge :

For larger changes you may need a method which adds more fabric in the centre of the pattern piece.

This method is described by Morris and McCann ‘Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’, pp. 75-6 for skirts and pp. 89-90 for pants. Palmer and Alto describe it for skirts in ‘Fit for Real People’ p.180. They say it comes from Judith Rasband ‘Fitting and Pattern Alteration’, which I haven’t seen.

”anglewedge”
(wedge about 2 inches)
(Example wedge rather high, as the darts in the sample pattern are short.)

Slit across horizontally to the bottom of the first dart, then across to the second dart (if any, and angled if need be), and then up to the waist-side seam corner at the stitching lines. (This of course interacts with where and how long the ideal darts are for you, so some adjustments may be needed.)

Spread vertically by the extra amount needed to cover the bump. Make sure the upper edge of the first part of the added strip is parallel to the lower edge, by spreading out the darts.

This changes the pattern shape at the waistline, and lengthens the centre seam, as well as widening the darts.
Happily it doesn’t change the side seam shape.

One problem is that the centre seam can’t be more angled than straight up.

”wedgecorrect2”

Cut off the section of the altered pattern which extends beyond the centre line.
This shortens the waist length.
So restore the proper waist length by making the darts more shallow.

Morris and McCann in “Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’ p.75-6 say you can use this angled wedge method to add up to 1 inch on skirt front and back. And on pants to add up to 1 inch on the front and 2 inches on the back, p.90.

They don’t say what to do if you need more than 1 or 2 inches. If you do need to add more than this, you might use a combination of methods, adding at waist level, at hip level, and at crotch extensions (below). Or you might consider using designs with added seams. It’s much easier to add extra fabric to seams than to the middle of a pattern piece. Vertical seams can be added by extra gores on a skirt, or ‘princess’ seams on pants. Horizontal seams can be added by a contoured waistband, a horizontal yoke, or the classic jeans angled yoke shape.

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Method 4 : Add to inseam / crotch extension :

In ‘Pants for Real People’, Palmer and Alto don’t use either of the methods for adding a wedge in the middle of the fabric piece.
They add only at the waist and at the inseam crotch extension. pp. 30-32.

”crotchext”
(wedge about 2 inches)

Personally I add long crotch extensions because I have a deep torso so I need more fabric front to back. I haven’t got a protruding rear.

Other people need longer crotch extensions to accommodate large thighs.

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Some comments on wedges below the waist :

Some well known names talk about pants fit without mentioning these wedges at all. (Some people just tell you to solve every crotch length issue by changing crotch height. Those of us who need long crotch extensions know that can give very odd results.)

Palmer and Alto ‘Pants for Real People’, and McCall’s Palmer-Pletsch pant fitting patterns, don’t mention either of the methods which add fabric in the centre of the pattern piece. They only add at waist line and inseam.

They do mention the angled wedge method for skirt fitting in Palmer and Alto ‘Fit for Real People’ pp. 179 – 180.

Shannon Gifford suggested all these adjustments when giving advice about individual fitting needs in her ‘Make a skirt muslin’ and ‘Make a pants muslin’ classes at Pattern Review.
Morris and McCann in ‘Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’ also use all the methods.

By contrast Joyce Murphy (JSM patterns) thinks all these methods of adding wedges to pants put fabric somewhere where it isn’t wanted, so give distorted results. Instead she lengthens or shortens the horizontal part of the crotch curve by moving the whole top of the pants pattern sideways above crotch level.

So obviously experts have greatly different opinions about what to do to fit large bumps below the waist.

The waistline method adds fabric at high hip level. The two methods which slash and spread the pattern piece add fabric at mid hip level. And longer crotch extensions add fabric at low hip/ upper thigh level. So perhaps the best method to use depends on how high on your body your biggest bump is.

”hiplevels”

Could be worth experimenting, to see which combination of methods gives the best result for you.

There are also several other pant fitting places where it may be helpful to add a wedge. Here’s a tutorial about them.

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The biggest fitting hurdle I had to get over was expecting to get fit right first time (or with just one muslin !). Now I’m only looking for improvement, the whole process is much less stressful. . .

Good Luck with all your fitting issues :D

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Patterns and links available March 2010

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8 Comments on “Fabric wedges for body bumps below the waist”

  1. RuthieK Says:

    Fascinating! I add onto the crotch and whilst this then makes pants wearable, I have fabric puddles below the butt afterwards. However when I sit I use all that puddling fabric, so maybe there is not a way around it.
    Burda pants seem to fit better than most as long as the legs are not too skinny.
    (I have a 12″ front crotch and a 17″ back crotch so have to do some quite extreme additions)

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for the interesting comment Ruth.
      Yes, I think we all have to find our own compromise between comfort and appearance. . .

  2. EJVC Says:

    Very interesting post, Lisanne, I always enjoy your analysis. The tilted “knip-mode” method gives a jeans draft by putting the CB more on the bias. Bev on SG posted a link to Sew-4-Fun’s blog where she compares the drafts: http://sew-4-fun.blogspot.com/2007/07/trousers-vs-slacks-vs-jeans.html It’s quite interesting reading if you haven’t seen it yet.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for the excellent link Elizabeth.
      Personally there are two reasons why the jeans shape is not right for me. I need a lot of both hip and crotch ease, so the trousers shape pant top is best for me. Also I haven’t got the sort of derriere shape which is good enough to emphasise by wearing a style that’s close fitting over the thighs!
      But I don’t look good in a straight or fuller leg, so a ‘big’ hip area needs to be combined with a more tapered leg, a problem I haven’t yet found an ideal solution to. Except of course by wearing a thigh length tunic and covering up the whole problem :D

  3. Kim Says:

    I need to add to the waistline in a pattern for a shift dress. Butterick 4386 size 14. the pattern is 36-28-38 and my measurements are 36-32-38. Any ideas on how to get a better fit? Should I put in a wedge like the protruding belly diagram? I don’t want to look pregnant. thinking this pattern might not work for me I also have Butterick 5396 which might be more forgiving. Any ideas?

    • sewingplums Says:

      Kim – from your measurements it sounds as if you are more of a ‘rectangle’ (straight up and down) rather than an ‘apple’ (waist larger than hips).

      If you’re a beginner at fit, I would start with Butterick 4386. The simplest solution is just to leave out the waist darts. Measure across the paper pattern, except the seam allowances. 2 x (front + back) at waist level. If this is about 2 inches or more larger than your waist, you should be alright.

      Butterick 5396 with its princess seams could be more difficult for you to fit. I would make a muslin, with much wider seam allowances in the waist area. And then try out how much you can take it in at the waist. A lot of work maybe, but when you’ve done it once you’ll know a lot more about yourself.

      I think a shift dress without waist darts is easiest for a rectangle. I think the success of a princess line depends on the particular pattern and body shape.

      Palmer-Pletsch have seasonal newsletters suggesting patterns they think are flattering, and easiest to fit, for different body shapes.

      Best Wishes for getting to know your own shape !

  4. Kay Says:

    I loved reading about the different wedge insertions for different fitting alterations. Thank for sharing them, Lisanne!

    The line – ‘The biggest fitting hurdle I had to get over was expecting to get fit right first time (or with just one muslin!’ stood out to me…

    This is what terrifies me too!! What if the stuff I make doesn’t fit? then what? well, the world doesn’t fall apart.. I’m still the same person who is maybe a tiny bit wiser from the lessons I learnt in making that garment that didn’t fit…

    What baffles me is that when RTW doesn’t fit, it doesn’t hurt that much!! I’m okay with trying multiple items and even coming home without buying a darn item… Therefore, it’s not body image issues…And So,why is it harder when I sew?? What is different??

    Unrealistic expectations for me to perform and also from a generalized pattern!!! That’s what!

    I need to ponder more on these thoughts…Thanks for sparking some conversations with myself with your insight!!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for your comment Kay Yes, I’m the same – accept shapeless RTW and fuss constantly about fit and quality of what I make myself. I’ve found the only thing that calms all my quirks is acceptance, then it eventually gets in perspective :D


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