Review: Fun with Fitting – Pants

Since my last article on the Vogue 8940 pants muslin, I’ve been taking an online course in pants fitting which has been really helpful.

Fun With Fitting: Pants was offering its online course “Fun with Fitting: Pants” on sale over the holidays. It’s taught by Sarah Veblen, a fitting expert who is author of the book The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect Fitting (Amazon link).  Reader David Coffin suggested it to me, and I’m glad I followed up on it.

What I really like about the class is that it takes a conceptual approach, rather than a “spot this problem, apply canned solution” approach. A big problem I’ve had with fitting is that I invariably wind up with a situation that doesn’t match anything depicted in the reference I’m working from.

In the course, Sarah urges you to watch through all the videos, and read through all the printed material, even for the models and fitting situations that don’t necessarily match yours. Over the course of the fitting examples, she explains the principles behind her fitting assessment and explains why she’s making the correction she’s chosen.  The idea is to enable you to visualize the problem and solution in your own head, so you can reason through fitting situations on your own.

Sarah Veblen’s personal philosophy in fitting is that the pattern, whether commercial or self-drafted, is merely a starting point.  Your body is “perfect” by definition and the point of the fitting process is to adapt the pattern to your body shape.  She generally does three or even four muslins to get pants fit right, and so sets expectations for how much work the fitting process should take.

Veblen provides a framework for analyzing and making fitting adjustments. Her system uses a fitting grid, a series of lines marked on the pattern and muslin.  This includes a grainline running up and down the center point of each leg, and horizontal lines (called “HBL” for “horizontal balance line”) running perpendicular to the grain line around the hip region in front and back.

The grid lines act as an aid to let you know how the fabric hangs on the body.  If the horizontal lines are out of balance, or the vertical grain lines are bowing outward or inward, that’s a clue there’s a fitting problem which needs to be resolved. When you pin a proposed alteration into the garment, the grid lines give you feedback if the alteration actually fixes the current problem, or creates a new one.

In addition to recognizing and solving fitting issues, the course also covers the basic skills of preparing a muslin, preparing the pattern, transferring markings from the muslin to the pattern, and altering the pattern. It’s a complete course in fitting and pattern alteration.

The printed materials come with a 16-page quick reference guide to the biggest issues in pants fitting and how to resolve them. The reference guide itself is actually a mini tutorial behind the basic principles in pants fitting, mostly having to do with the crotch curve and visualizing how problems with the crotch curve affect the fit of the pant.

Compared with other instructional materials I’ve come across, Veblen’s course is complete and comprehensive. I would say Joyce Murphy’s articles in Threads magazine compare with Veblen in terms of fitting concepts and quality of presentation. But there’s a lot more material in Veblen’s course and it is systematically presented.

You can also ask the instructor questions in the class forum. Veblen will answer only general fitting questions in the forum, but if you go to her website you can purchase online consulting sessions with her where she will provide advice for your specific fitting problem, either via online Skype video or by examining email photos of your muslin. I may follow this path if I decide I need the guidance; it’s nice to have this option available.

Another Go-around

All this said, there’s no substitute for learning than actually doing.  I prepared a second muslin of my Vogue 8940 pants with the following alterations:

  • Scooped out the crotch curve even more than last time.
  • Added width to the sides to add back the circumference taken by the crotch curve
  • Made a half-inch tuck across front and back to raise the crotch point (shorten the “rise”).  This made the pants feel more comfortable when I pinned it out on the first muslin.
  • Added a half-inch to the crotch point front and back to compensate for the tuck.

All this produced a pants muslin I wasn’t happy with. The pants were too wide on the side seam, and too baggy in the seat.  Plus, the alterations to the crotch curve also straightened the pants back; when walking I could now feel tightness along the center back seam. Adding to the crotch point front and back was also a mistake.

I’m going to spare you the photos of this muslin; instead, I’m going back to the crotch curve I used in my previous blog post, and will make a muslin with that curve plus the tuck to raise the crotch point.  I will also make less dramatic additions to the side seam.  I’ll report back on that muslin soon.

I can’t say I’m totally in control of my pants fitting skills yet, but I do feel like I’m digesting the material. Veblen recommends attempting a fitting session, then re-watching/re-reading the class materials to get a deeper appreciation of what’s presented.  I’ve also recognized that fitting is not completely a theoretical exercise: a big, big challenge is developing the skill to recognize and see fitting problems.

It’s not unlike when I started amateur astronomy.  I had to train my eye to see details on planets and in faint galaxies that most people would completely miss. When most people look through my telescope at the planet Mars, they generally see a small terra-cotta colored dot. When I see the same view, I recognize landform markings, polar caps, and sometimes even cloud markings. I’ve learned to train my brain to perceive things it would normally miss, and the exact same principle applies to fitting.  This is a point Sarah Veblen makes in her course, and it’s something I’ve discovered I have to develop myself.

I’m pretty pleased with “Fun with Fitting: Pants” so far.  Though the production values on don’t compare with the courses on Craftsy, the content in this course is solid and there’s a lot of material here to digest.  I’m glad I purchased it and give it five stars out of five.

13 thoughts on “Review: Fun with Fitting – Pants

  1. Mainelydad

    I bought the book hoping it would help me, but her techniques really require two people. Maybe someday I’ll have a fitting buddy, but until then it sits on the shelf. I admire your perseverance!

    1. Stoting Stitch

      It’s incredibly hard to fit without a fitting buddy. I’ve tried to find one to no avail. At least now I have a dress form.

      I do know people who have done it alone. They’re very patient. They make one change, pin, put on the garment, look at themselves in the mirror, take off the garment, make the next change, etc.

    2. mportuesisf Post author

      Thanks for the encouragement. I forgot to mention fitting for yourself; she does cover that in the class but it’s obviously easier with two. Using a camera to record yourself is super helpful, as is just taking the garment off yourself to pin in alterations in the back. I’ve seriously considered fitting my partner Jim, and asking other guys to pose as fitting models just so I can practice skills (and give them a pair of pants for their time!).

      And yes, finding fitting buddies for guys is hard. There’s a local a Meetup group for sewists, and they have occasional group fitting meetups, but I’ve always stayed away. The group is almost entirely female and I’m not sure they’d be big on a co-ed fitting session!

      1. Stoting Stitch


        You’re doing well. You sometimes are too hard on yourself.

        Another challenge of fit buddies is finding someone at the right level. Ideally, you want someone who knows as much as you or more ( :-) ). Beginners wouldn’t know how to fix many problems. I once met someone who was extremely enthusiastic, but she didn’t know even the basics of construction and was unwilling to learn.

  2. Stoting Stitch

    Sarah Veblen’s personal philosophy in fitting is that the pattern, whether commercial or self-drafted, is merely a starting point.

    –That’s a universal philosophy. The more fitting and patternmaking skill you have, the further you can move from the starting point to accommodate your shape while preserving the spirit of the pattern.
    Drawing the grainline and balance lines is standard.

    She generally does three or even four muslins to get pants fit right, and so sets expectations for how much work the fitting process should take.

    –It’s common to do several muslins, especially home sewers. Top-level professionals who have studied and apprenticed for years and do nothing all day but fit men, often specializing in trousers in a particular style, need fewer fittings. In addition, men’s tailoring permits some fitting with the real cloth.

    I can’t say I’m totally in control of my pants fitting skills yet…

    –No one would expect you to be.

  3. David Coffin

    Here’s a quite interesting option for getting a free customized pants pattern:

    That link is from the guy’s larger site, here:

    Haven’t tried yet because you have to enter measurements first, so I need to take those that the site requires, but I will. I’m quite intrigued with the overall project of the site, which seems to be to encourage male sewists by providing free instruction and custom pattern drafting for basic items. There’s a few female patterns, too… I found it when looking for necktie patterns online, of which I found many, but only the one at this site met my personal standards by not being about making a dumbed-down for home sewers tie project, but very much like the “real thing”. It’s here:

    As you can see from these various links, the whole makemypattern enterprise is quite deep as well as spread out..and very much a work in progress. Well worth following, I believe!

    1. mportuesisf Post author

      Wow, thanks for recommending this site. It looks really interesting, for more than just pants.

      1. Stoting Stitch

        It’ll be interesting if you use those sites. But bear in mind that I’ve never heard of pattern making software, e.g., Wild Ginger, My Label, that didn’t require adjusting. Even with the specific measurements, the further the individual’s shape departs from the target shape, the more work there will be. All drafting systems depend on assumptions about the average shape in a specific group for which the draft has been developed. For example, petite American women sometimes have to adjust Japanese patterns because they tend to be curvier than the average petite Japanese woman.

        1. Stoting Stitch

          In a year or two, you might want to do a post comparing your experiences with

          –fitting a commercial pattern;
          –fitting an indie pattern;
          –fitting a software generated pattern;
          –drafting a block from scratch.

          I’m sure it will be educational for you and us.

  4. David Coffin

    There’s no question that drafts either from computers or by hand depend on further adjustments to some degree. This is certainly the opinion of the experts who post at cutterandtailor, most of whom declare outright that tailors drafts require a tailor’s experienced judgement on seeing the client as well as the numbers to get right.

    It seems to me the most obvious clue for the rest of us about just how much extra adjustment will be needed is in the number and subtlety of the specific measurements required for the draft. The makemypattern pattern only requires 4; 2 circumference (waist and seat) and 2 length (inseam and waist to chair when seated. There’s no way only those could capture anything about posture or crotch shape, which are exactly where most of the trouble comes from. I regard these sort of drafted patterns as about the same thing as a commercial pattern that’s been adjusted for length and circumference, and that’s it, without as a rule any additional info on the style prefs of the drafter, like how much ease, widths at knee and hem, etc., which a pattern would give you.

    Still, they’re a start and can be quite useful. Eventually most of us are going to need somebody like Sarah Veblen (or her skills) to guide us to a truly custom fit.

    1. Stoting Stitch

      “Eventually most of us are going to need somebody like Sarah Veblen (or her skills) to guide us to a truly custom fit.”

      Exactly. But some people think these drafts and computer programs are magic. I know I did until I started reading about them.

      1. mportuesisf Post author

        As a computer software professional with over 25 years experience, I’m unlikely to be fooled into thinking computer programs are magic. That’s why I’m studying Sarah Veblen’s fitting course and updating patterns by hand.

        That said, I think a computer can add value. I have read on the BrianSews! blog about his experience using Wild Ginger to get good fit for a pair of jeans. He still went through several trial garments to get a good fit. But the software made each revision of the pattern easier for him to produce, without the inaccuracies that creep in when you trace, blend and redraw seam and cutting lines by hand.

        Computer pattern drafting software might be in my future, but I first want to learn more about pattern drafting, fitting and alteration.

        1. Stoting Stitch

          “As a computer software professional with over 25 years experience, I’m unlikely to be fooled into thinking computer programs are magic.”

          My comment was for the benefit of anyone who might be reading this. As long as people understand that you may need to do several muslins. I believe the ordinary sewer thinks that adjustments will be minimal.

          “Computer pattern drafting software might be in my future, but I first want to learn more about pattern drafting, fitting and alteration.”

          Yeah, you can’t use software if you don’t know how to draft by hand. I’ve done a little pattern making and my first question was, “Is there a way I can have a computer do this?” Unfortunately not.

          Sort of related, Fashion Incubator provided on post on why computerized MTM systems being touted are not what most people assume them to be:

          “Many entrepreneurs are excited about a new-ish technology called MTM (Made to Measure) that they think will revolutionize retail. The premise is this: A customer is scanned, their measurements uploaded into an MTM CAD program that will spit out a pattern that fits the customer and his or her style preferences. The customer selects the fabric and features they like and after payment, can expect their order to be delivered within a matter of days.”

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