I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully emerged from the period of sewing inertia described in my last post and have been actively at my sewing machines again with mostly positive and illuminating results. An interesting and unanticipated added benefit of being productive these last few weeks is that this increased activity has yielded improvement in other areas of my life, including regular exercise, vocal practice and maintaining a healthier diet. Funny how that works.
My main focus these last several days has been to finally nail down the fit of a basic pair of yoga pants and leggings. You, the reader of this blog may ask, with two to three simple pattern pieces, just how hard could it be? Let me tell you, although the actual sewing part is not particularly difficult, creating flattering, comfortable and usable yoga pants is more challenging a process than it may seem. Add the variables of body shapes, different fabric content and drape and it becomes an ongoing lesson in discovery.
As a pear-shaped individual, the fitting challenges of length, circumference and depth are an ongoing issue, especially when it comes to crotch length/depth. I personally need more crotch length in the back, but the conventional default method of adding inches to the top of the pant doesn’t effectively fix my particular fitting issue. Ask me how I know? Many women have various curves and length issues that occur at the hip line (depth) as well as just below the intersection of the inseam, center back and front, (length=sagging wrinkles in the back thigh area). These sagging lines can occur in even the slimmest of women. The above fitting issues are instances where fitting darts added to the initial muslin come in so handy.
In my case, cutting a horizontal slash at the hip line, adding length at the center back seam, filling in with extra fabric (pinning or sewing in place) then tapering to nothing at the side seams works much better in creating the extra length I need to prevent the top of my waistline pulling down, especially when sitting. Creating a horizontal dart just below the top of the front and back inseam then tapering to nothing at the side seams fixes the sagging back at the upper thigh area beautifully. Of course, these extensions and darts are for the fitting muslin only, then I alter my pattern accordingly.
I’ve compared various rises, front and back, from several patterns, both leggings and yoga pants. As it happens, the pattern that fits me best right out of the envelope (or my printer in the case of a downloaded pattern), is Style Arc’s “Margaret” stretch pant. I was curious why this was the case so I compared my altered Vogue, V1440 Donna Karan leggings pattern with the Style Arc “Margaret” pattern, laying the front and backs of each, one on top of the other, I was amazed to see they were almost an exact copy of one another. Then I had an idea; I would re-draw the front and back rises from the Style Arc Pattern on to my traced Silhouette Patterns Yoga Pant patterns and voila! My next attempts at the Silhouette Pattern yoga pant patterns fit me much better.
Variances in fabric content also make a remarkable difference. I like my yoga pants and leggings to fit relatively snuggly but not uncomfortably so and certainly not baggy, especially in back. Even with a well-fitting pattern, it’s tricky when working with knits, especially when considering the differences in weight, stretch and recovery memory after bending and sitting. The heavier the fabric, the snugger the fit. Experience teaches me that it does not pay to buy cheap knit fabric when making your own pants. The seams tend to ripple and the stretch memory is almost non-existent. Tops are more forgiving in this regard, but when it comes to active wear, it’s worth investing in fabric that behaves well (drape and stretch memory-wise) throughout the day.
In the midst of all my experimenting, I’ve raided my fabric stash and used a variety of low-priced, yet decent quality fabrics I’ve picked up on sale over the years with the express intent of making knit muslins. Some of my recent yoga pant attempts will now be used as pajama bottoms and the others I will potentially wear around the house or may serve as fabric references the next time I make up each pattern.
Here are the Silhouettes 3400 yoga pants with the altered rise (still a little sagging in back thigh area):
Here are the Style Arc “Margaret” pants (no alteration other than shortening the hem):
A word about stitching choices. I either use the “stretch stitch” on my regular sewing machine or the four-thread overlock stitch to sew all the pant seams. A woman in the sewing workshop I attended last Fall shared a story where she made a pair of yoga pants and sewed them together using a regular straight stitch. The first time she wore them in public was when she was out walking her dog. Within the first ten minutes, the thread in her pant seams began breaking as she walked, yielding the seams to pop open with every ensuing step of her stride. Needless to say, her dog got a very short walk that day and those pants needed to go back to her sewing machine.
My new serger (also a coverlock machine) has a wonderful safety stitch combo option that I hadn’t tried previously. I been experimenting with using it these last couple of weeks and find I now want to use it almost exclusively when sewing active wear. The safety stitch combines a chain stitch with a 3-thread overlock stitch and allows for great mobility while being incredibly strong. This said, figuring out how to thread my machine correctly for this new stitch option took over an hour. I was referring to the printed diagram in my machine manual but this was an instance where watching the companion DVD yielded quick success at long last. I’m definitely a visual learner when it comes to sewing.
My enduring take away from this most recent flurry of pants fitting activity is that after much trial and error, it’s been worth taking the time to compare patterns and risk some failures. It’s true that I ended up with some duds, but in the end, I now have a customized and usable base for several different yoga and leggings pant pattern styles to choose from. I will now proceed with renewed confidence and resolve to cut and make some flattering and usable pants from the beautiful knit and stretch woven fabrics I’ve invested in in recent years.
Lastly, I’m happy to report that I’ve now made it to my ninth month of my self-prescribed ready-to-wear fast for 2018. Aside from shoes and jewelry, everything new that I’ve added to my wardrobe this year I’ve made myself. I’ve also donated just as many if not more items of clothing to charity. It’s been an interesting experiment so far and believe I can successfully make it to the end of the year without buying any ready to wear clothing. I’ll will report back on this front again soon.