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Jun 16, 2010

Peter's Pants Epiphany!

My first self-drafted pants -- well, culottes, but still.  I made these yesterday from an obnoxious Ralph Lauren "preppy teddy bear" print flat sheet that I was thrilled to take a rotary cutter to.  On the plus side it was a soft, densely woven cotton that was easy to work with.   And I installed my first invisible zipper without the aid of Collins Wonder Tape, just pins.  No sticky gunk.

Guys, I made an important breakthrough: pants are just skirts with legs.

To draft these culottes all you do is trace your pencil skirt pattern (Lesson 1) and add an inseam, which is basically just an approximately 4" wide rectangle starting from the bottom of your crotch down to your hem, with the inside right angle rounded to a curve.

Here's a pic.  That panel on the left is the only difference between a skirt and culottes.  

Because I don't have a swayback, there's little difference between front and back other than the depth and placement of darts -- also identical to the pencil skirt.

To quote Doris Day, "If I can do it, you can do it!"

Today I'm taking on a more fitted pair of pants -- keep your fingers crossed.

Daily, I read so much about people's struggles with fit -- I think we bloggers would lose 75% of our material without it.  Once you learn to draft you don't have to struggle with all that anymore.

That's the beauty of drafting: you're using your own body's measurements, so provided you can handle a little math and draw a straight and curved line (and there are a zillion aids to help you), things are going to fit.  You don't have to waste time with endless pattern adjustments.  You can still use commercial patterns for inspiration and/or for the parts of your body that are easier to fit. 

That's my beginner's insight anyway; we'll see how it goes from here.  I doubt I'll ever draft everything (I'm a pretty standard size) but it feels good to know why patterns are drawn the way they are and how to make my own.

Plus, sometimes you end up with a pair of cute teddy bear culottes in the bargain.

Have you ever drafted a pattern?  If so, how did it go?  If not, are you open to giving it a try?

Do share!

P.S. -- check out my BurdaStyle page, where Cathy's latest outfit (yes, that one) has been re-named Eighties Avant-garde Atrocity

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Since I'm officially rejected as a SWOB, I've decided to work on my SWOB status and post comments more frequently!

    Well done on your first drafting job! I am not so fond of all the teddy bears, but I'm fascinated by the fit.
    I've never drafted a pair of pants myself, but I had some success with drafting skirts and dresses. The idea is just the same - take a basic dress/skirt sloper and alter it to fit your imagination.
    Here are the patterns I posted for my self-drafted creations, and here is the Origami dress I recently made, which I'm so proud of.

    How I'm doing? Is there any chance for me to get to the SWOB group? I so much want to be a SWOB! ;-)

  2. I have taken all of the required drafting classes that a seamstress needs; but, I despise pattern drafting so much, that I cheat! I pick out all the parts from several patterns that will be close enough to what I want, then trace them, and make the fit or style adjustments for the new pattern piece. It is easier to just draft some pieces from scratch, but I avoid it whenever possible. I prefer draping, but that has issues all its own as well! Sorry I didn't get to weigh in on the latest photoshoot, but it was a triumph for you, as usual. I am very taken with the last "Vogue" shot, in B&W-it really is brilliant.

  3. I have "drafted" two dresses - one a simple halter with half-circle skirt, the other a fully lined (also halter) a-line skirted dress. They both fit...ish...I made them in high school, before I knew what a swayback or SBA was, so they look ok to the untrained eye but drive me nuts.

    Yesterday really cemented my desire to learn how to draft better - I essentially had to redraft the entire front bodice of a dress I'm making (SBA, swayback, tilting+repositioning darts...). 6 hours later I had a working muslin. It was incredibly frustrating as I essentially ended up copying the bodice of another pattern I'd modified. While it could have been the case of putting together the muslin and never having to modify it, in retrospect I should have compared it to a sloper first.

    I made a pair of wraparound pants recently and was startled when I saw the pieces laid out flat - it was just like a wrap skirt...but with an inseam. Good luck with your fitted pants drafting! The 80s abomination was smashing (in an abominable way, of course).

  4. "you're using your own body's measurements, so provided you can handle a little math and draw a straight and curved line (and there are a zillion aids to help you), things are going to fit. You don't have to waste time with endless pattern adjustments."

    Hahahahaha!! Spoken by (a) a male and (b) someone new to pattern drafting.

    Now add boobs to the drafting/fitting process. Done? Good. Hips that are wider than your waist? Check. Curvy thighs? OK. A butt that gravity is working on? Yes. Tummy? Affirmative.

    Now try to copy that cute little number you saw on some RTW site. So, exactly how wide was that collar? How far do the collar points spread? How much extra width (and length!) was added to your sleeve block for those cute puffed sleeves? How big are those pockets, and what changes should be made so the scale is the same for your size? Where exactly is that waist seam hitting in relation to your bust point or shoulder? Do you need to add a zipper in the sideseam so it will fit over your bust on the way to your waist? Lapped? Invisible? How long is that skirt? How wide is each gore and how quickly does each max out? Where should the grainline fall on the pattern to get the most swish and flattery from the skirt? Do you want sewn waist darts? How deep? How long? Or leave the unsewn? Rotate them out completely? Etc.

    Now, let's move on to the fabric decisions …

    There will be a quiz on Friday. ;-)

    Men's clothes don't really ever change that much. Work up a basic pants pattern, you're set on pants/shorts for a lifetime. Add pleats to the block and you have every trouser you will ever wear, sans jeans. Work up a woven shirt, again you're set. You can even get adventurous and draft a jacket and a knit tee. You now have patterns for the rest of your life (provided you don't change size).

    But try to stay current with women's fashions, which change rapidly, and you'll spend more time drafting than fitting. Once you do learn how to fit, that part is EASY compared to all the decisions that go into designing one piece of a woman's fashionable wardrobe and you'll find it's way easier to let the true pattern designers make all those decisions while you just cut, fit and sew.

  5. Sheesh - longest comment ever. LOL!

  6. Heaven's to Gidget, can't a guy take some pride in his culottes?

    I'm just trying to put out some positive energy! LOL

  7. I'm sorry Gidg .... I really didn't mean to rain on your culottes parade. I got carried away. They are lovely culottes, teddy bears aside ;-), and you should be very proud of your pants draft. Really, I mean it. Learning drafting can only help your pattern skills. :-)

    Kiss and make up??

  8. I drafted my basic slopers while in school and I have never looked back. Sure some parts of my anatomy have expanded since then but all I do is make the necessary adjustments/re draft the whole thing (I prefer the latter) and I'm still in business. It took several fittings to get the bodice right but once you have them the possibilities are endless.

    Another thing I believe should be law when drafting is making a toile (test garment). Though it's your measurements things may not fit properly on the first go whether you have an industry standard size or not.

    Debbie Cook yes drafting is not for the weak of heart, It can become quite a technical and pain-staking process especially when you decide you want to knock off a design that's not your simple sheath dress but I think it's worth it, plus i actually love drafting.

    But the same way you learned to sew you can learn to draft. If you don't plan on making oh lets say a knock of from Alexander Wang's resort S/S11 collection but you would love to have a skirt/pant that fits your gravity aided butt then and several unwanted layers on fat tummy (making them looked like they are defying gravity) then learning to draft the basic patterns are for you. The skirt is the easiest, pants in the middle. The bodice (my opinion) is the more technical in terms of drafting and fitting. To each their own at the end of the day

  9. Oh and to address the issue of pocket, collar size, zippers and so forth. When you learn to draft those things are taught at a standard size. if u draft a 1 inch collar and think it's should be bigger just add an inch when cutting (no need to re-draft) Zipper insertion the how to any way is a matter of preference. But all this is addressed if you should learn and I must say Debbie if you were a student you be right on point with all those questions

  10. Lovely shorts/culottes! I actually like the print. It provides a delightful surprise after one gets done admiring the wonderful fit of the shorts. I am glad your first effort was successful. So many people don't have the same experience and get very discouraged. And I totally agree with Debbie. I love pattern drafting, but I found it isn't the wonderful solution to perfectly fitted, unique garments I thought it would be. A tape measure around my hips doesn't tell me how that length is distributed between front and back. Forget that Hip/4 dimension, used in some skirt/pants drafting instructions. It doesn’t work for me. And I chuckled when I read your simple description of adding the crotch extension. Certain areas of a drafted pattern are based on formulas derived from the average body shape of a specific population. Like crotch extensions for example. If you compare Japanese pants drafting instructions to those in a US published book, there are some significant differences in that area. I know that I will always need to do fitting of a muslin made from a pattern drafted from my measurements. Ain't no way around it! I am looking forward to seeing what you draft next.

  11. I've graded a pattern up a size. And it was only partially successful, because the neck on it wasn't big enough. Remember that layette? It was those outfits. By the time I got the pattern, Evie was almost too big for it and my baby brother has an irresistible puppy dog look. It was a bad pattern to try grading up on when you've never done it. The knife pleats at the shoulders almost killed me!

  12. P.S Peter good job on the invisible.. I've banned them from my sewing expeditions but I may try it just one last time before i call it quits for good

  13. I'm not particularly interested in pattern drafting. I feel like that makes me a bad sewer, but... Does it involve maths? Yes? Then that's not going to work for me. I am literally handicapped when it comes to math and imagining anything coming to life from a diagram. Luckily though, I'm also a standard size, and I also find that once you fit a few things you make the standard alterations all the time.

    I am totally willing to alter existing patterns... I just don't want to go to the trouble of making my own (though I reserve the right to eat my words... and I do so admire anyone who can - your pants look great!)

  14. Hey, Debbie, just gimme me a few days and I'll try to help you out with some of those fit problems, OK? ;)

  15. I think I'm in the Debbie Cook camp. Plus, while I've drafted a simple skirt, a halter, a bib (woohoo... way to stretch skills), and lots of purses, I'm frankly just not interested in doing anything that I'm going to wear on my body.

    I do love a teddy bear though!

  16. You read my mind! I was just thinking of culottes the other day. I loved them and wore many during my Florida summers as a kid. Can I get away with culottes at nearly 50? Oh, the reason I stopped by is that I have some photos of shirt details I think you will like. Check out the photos at the end of this post: A Funny Thing Happened. . . at the blog addy below:

  17. I'm with Debbie Cook too. Men's bodies are generally easier to fit because there are less curves.

    Also I think you'd be better off using some men's drafting books for yourself (not that learning women's drafting is bad). I have 3 I can think of. You work up a pant block, knit shirt block, woven shirt block and a jacket block. With those you can do anything you like with design changes.

    I have a problem though that the front and back pattern is the same for your culottes. Am I reading that correctly? Almost always you will have a deeper curved seam in the seat than you do at center front. Also once you draw up a proper (men's) pant block, you will see that the back waist seam is rotated outward toward the side seam more than if you're using a skirt block as your beginning point.

    Not to be critical, but it looks to me like you have no ease along the side seams. Your hip point looks really tight, and I could be wrong but I would imagine these are pinching you if you were to sit down.

  18. Audrey has a good point. The women's pattern book I work from doesn't follow the circumference/4 theory. Instead full circumferences are measured as well as "arcs" or 1/4 of the body front and back. That'll give you a more exact draft. This is incredibly important for large busted or big rears on girls (and men too if it's a complicated body shape.)

  19. Oh my. what nice teddy bear cullotes you have... I'm scared of pants though... is it really all that hard?
    I have just started some drafting using the 'design it yourself' book by Cal Patch and also the 'fit for real people' book. both are excellent. I have just put a preview of a self drafted jacket on my blog if you care to come and visit

  20. We had to try drafting in an introductory course that involved making slopers. It was a nightmare. I still don't know what went wrong, and my slopers were damn perfect I tell you!

  21. Great job, I love the side zipper idea on shorts. I sewed & drafted my first pair of pants a little while ago. Cute Red beach pants.... What do you think?

  22. Cant believe I bought one of those sheets here in Ireland in a second hand shop. Same teddy bears. The pants look great, and, as always are a great fit.

  23. Just to add my $0.02: that crotch *curve* on women is a bear! We are all so different there, the skirt with inseam idea is great, but not really true in real life. I'm with Debbie. Yes, men have size differences, but the shape is much more rectangular. Try wallpapering a bowling ball... :-)

    WF: waditi=a small, failed sewing project

    And yes, those are lovely culottes.


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