Archive for March 2010

Fabric wedges for body bumps below the waist

March 28, 2010

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.)

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.

My examples show changes to the pattern. But it isn’t necessary to do this on the pattern before making a test garment – you can slash and spread a muslin. And that way you don’t need to guess how big a change you need, you let how far the slash opens tell you. Here’s an example of above waist changes

from Craftsy.

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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 :

(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.

– – –

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.

(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.


So if you’re this shape you might like to get hold of this magazine !
(No need to go to the Netherlands, I’ve since heard this shape is known as ‘Burda butt’ 😀 )

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.

(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.


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.

– – –

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.


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.

Even 1/4” or 0.5cm change in the crotch extensions can make a difference.
Small amounts you can change by adding on, as in the previous photo.

But it’s best to change a longer amount by slash and spread, so you don’t change the length of the in-seam.

(haven’t been able to find the source of this image)

This may make a ‘crotch peak’, which you’ll need to straighten out. (If you have a big crotch-peak, test the result of straightening it out, as you will have removed some crotch length.)

(image source)

– – –

Some comments on wedges below the waist :

Some well known names talk about pants fit without mentioning these wedges at all. (Most 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.

Morris and McCann in ‘Every Sewer’s Guide to the Perfect Fit’ also use all the methods.

By contrast Joyce Murphy of 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.


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

– – –

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 😀

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Originally written March 2010, links checked December 2018

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Clothing Values

March 21, 2010

I’m currently enjoying working through ‘Dress Smart’ by Anne Fenner and Sandi Bruns.

Yes, it is a workbook, full of questionnaires and exercises, as well as insights. Takes time and thought.
Expensive (not good value) and mainly focussed on work clothes, but a lot of interesting ideas and clarifications which work in a wider context.

What I’m particularly interested in is that it adds an extra dimension to the mix of deciding what are the best clothes for you, not just :
– your colouring,
– your body shape,
– your lifestyle,
– your personal style,
but also :
– your clothing values.
This doesn’t mean how much your clothes cost, or how much they cost per wear, but how important you think different aspects of clothing are.

This is somewhat related to personal style (classic, romantic, casual, dramatic, etc.), but I’m finding it greatly clarifies things for me to see this as separate.

They identify 7 values. (I’ve put ‘ ‘ round a couple of labels as I think their meaning isn’t obvious.)

– – –

How much money and time you’re willing to invest in your clothes and their care.
For sewers I think this includes how much and what type of effort we want to put into making our clothes (time, complexity of skill we enjoy using, time to gain new skills, etc.).

Are you ‘interested in clothes’ – how they’re made and designed, how fashion works, the history – as an interest separate from being fashionable or enjoying sewing. This I realise is very important to me. A big ‘aha’.
Or ‘concept’ clothes, clothes which express an idea ?

Physical Comfort
I got the highest possible score on this !

Beauty and quality.

Body awareness
How important it is to you that your clothes enhance your body.

Social acceptability, fitting in, belonging to a group with a particular dress code, being fashionable.

How important it is to you to be “the best”, or to enhance your power by how you dress.
My ‘least important’ score here 😀

– – –

I think we sewers have another important value which probably doesn’t occur to people who are studying clothes buying habits : how much we want opportunities for individual creativity.
And what form that creativity takes – whether our pleasure comes simply from making things, or using the equipment, choosing fabrics/ patterns/ techniques, making our own styles or patterns, or designing our own embellishments, etc.

– – –

And all these ‘values’ can be reasons why we sew, as well as just because we enjoy sewing. I’ve realised the reason I’m so uncomfortable with buying RTW is that most of it goes against my clothing values.

Very intriguing – this has helped me to understand important ways I differ from some people who otherwise seem very similar to me. Often I dismiss some issues that other people are greatly concerned about. Or what I think is important are things which other people aren’t bothered by.

Summer Slowdown

March 10, 2010

Just a note to let you know I’ll be posting less frequently and less regularly from now on.

I greatly enjoy writing these posts, and still have a lot I want to say. But these posts take a surprising amount of time to prepare. And using a computer is a bad weather activity for me.

So I’ll be posting less often for now. I’ve got a couple of posts nearly completed. But they’re taking much longer than I expected. And a folder full of topics I’ve started making notes on. Though they won’t be done quickly. . .

– – –

If you want to keep up, without wasting your time checking in without reward, you could set up a service like bloglines.

Or check a blog like Robin’s. She lists blog links according to how recently they’ve had a new post. With titles. A very useful service.

– – –

Thank you for your interest !

Enjoy your Summer 😀

Embrace your inner dressmaker

March 6, 2010

What does this mean for you ?

I think what does this for me is quality : quality of fabric, quality of construction, quality of fit, quality of style.
And embellishment – especially lace, embroidery, and heirloom sewing by machine.
So I need to do more of that.

This lovely phrase comes from a recent issue of ‘Sew Today’ (UK BMV magazine).

– – –

Life intervened this week.

The cotton poplar had to be pollarded. Sad, it does not look good for a year afterwards, but if it’s not done it drops bits on the neighbours.

I did make a cushion cover, to keep me calm while the chain saw was in operation.
No photo as I mis-measured the pad it’s made for, so the result is strained and lumpy. . . well, my pants fitting attempts are getting better than that, I’m happy to say.

The early crocuses are in full bloom, and the birds no longer need last year’s seed pods. So gardening is taking priority.

Greetings ! Enjoy the existing posts !