I took the time to put together a simple guide regarding what to do before you ask for help on the forum. It is in no way complete (if it was I could publish it as a book and make money from it).
In case you wonder "Why?", the answer is quite simple. I frequently get frustrated when I see posts regarding more or less the same problem, mostly related to making trousers. And I'm not the only one, many professionals simply give up when they see either no progress or the OPs prefer to take the advice of another amateur.
Anyway, here it is:
For aspiring „tailors“ out there:
We’ve had quite a few threads that covered the subject of trouser making which, sadly, got blown up beyond proportion and either lead nowhere or weren't used as a reference for others.
One of the reasons for that was (and still is) the often lack of understanding how the different elements in the process of making a garment work.
Let’s start with the pattern. I have no idea why someone with often zero experience would want to draft a pattern from scratch. Chances are they’ll end up with a pattern full of flaws, because they got their measurements and/ or the formulas wrong and end up with a big mess and leave it to forum members to sort it out.
So here is my advice (for “normal” figures):
- Buy a commercial pattern. They are available online or in specialized shops/ stores. It doesn’t matter which company made it, just make sure it has your size on it. Online sources for decent multisize patterns are:
Amazon and other (online) shops selling BURDA, Butterick, Vogue and so on.
- Pick the size that is closest to yours. Go for the larger one of your measurements, meaning that if (for trousers) your waist is size 50 (EU), but your hips are size 52(EU), go for the size 52(EU). And vice versa.
It’s easier to take a garment/ pattern in than letting it out.
- Choose materials that are easier to work with. Don’t copy the pattern using flimsy paper, go for stronger stuff that keeps its shape and that you don’t have to pin to the cloth. Use weights to keep the pattern in place on the cloth. No need to buy expensive stuff for that. The cheapest weights are (for example) strong freezer bags filled with sand. For durability use 2 bags for one weight and seal them tightly. If you are more the DIY type, you can use clean old yoghurt cups and fill them with a ready to use concrete mix. You have the option to paint the weights in your favourite colour. Glue some felt to the bottom to avoid damage to paper or cloth.
- Transfer all the marks to “your” pattern. This makes it easier to apply alterations later on.
- Take proper measurements, which in most cases means let someone do it for you. Preferably in front of a big mirror as to check whether the tape is actually in the right place. There are threads about taking your measurements here on the forum or just search the internet.
- Compare and transfer your measurements to that given in the pattern size chart and see point 2).
Müller (Rundschau) patterns come without instructions, since they are meant for professionals. Others (like BURDA, Butterick/ Vogue have a little booklet with instructions that include pattern alterations. There is also quite a large number of books available that cover this subject.
Since you have a proper pattern you have lines to work with that are based on a tried and tested system. Once you get the important measures right (waist, hips and rise) you can then proceed to adjust the secondary ones (like leg length and width).
- Buy cloth that allows you to work with it. Stay away from stuff that has too much synthetics in it. Go for a high wool content.
- Check your pattern. The seams should have the same lengths, only exception in the inside leg seam. Here the back trouser is at least 5 mm shorter than the front. This amount is added through ironwork. Make sure you have enough ease built in. For example you need a minimum of 6 cm ease in the hips for a plain front trouser and a normal figure. For pleated trousers add the amount in the pleat. This number can go up and may need redistribution according to figure features (strong hips, butt shape and so on). Whether you put the seam allowances onto the pattern pieces or you keep it net is up to you. Rundschau mentions the amount of seam allowance on the pattern (when included usually 0, 75 cm), others give a hint in their manuals. Just make sure it’s a constant amount along each seam, for example 2 cm all along the inside and outside leg. Don’t leave too big inlays at the centre front and centre back, as they will create tightness when sewn.
- Keep in mind that your first attempts may not be satisfying, but even professionals use fittings to get things right.
- If something is off, try to figure out what went wrong. If necessary, go back to the start and repeat the entire process to check for mistakes you might have made.
- Transfer lines and marks onto the cloth. Important ones are: centre front (fly), waist (top of trousers), crease line all the way down, knee level, hem line. These will come in handy when assessing possible fit problems (balance, tightness, and lengths).
- Work with precision. Use the marks as guides when putting the pieces together. Don’t worry about pockets in a mock up. First you need to get the fit right.
- Put a zipper into the front fly and attach the waistband. Make sure it cannot stretch. Either press the seams open or baste them down to one side. Either way, the garment should look clean without puckers and unnecessary pleats.
Have pictures taken during the fitting. Check for distortions, pulls or ripples. The direction of those will (literally) point you in the right direction.
Easiest things to check are:
Run of front crease. It should be straight from top to hem. If it isn’t there is something wrong with the leg width (the line is pulled other towards the outside leg seam or into the crotch) or the balance (line is swinging away from the centre of the foot).
Hollow areas usually appear along with tight areas.
Most common flaws are (showing up on their own or in combinations):
- Tightness over the hips, which will make the waist area above look full.
- Waist attached to the band without ease or stretched out. The waist should have at least 1 cm ease (compared to the finished waistband) on each side and needs to be fulled onto the waistband shortly before and behind the side seam. This will give room for the hip bone. If more is needed, put in a small dart half way between front crease and side seam. Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the pocket.
- “Whiskers” at the front fork indicate that the fork is too tight. Often comes along with:
3a) The centre back seam pulled into the crack. Let out front fork/ inside leg seam at the top and give the seam a nice run down to the knee.
3b) Short rise and long rise (rise is the difference between outside and inside leg measures). Simply means that it’s not in the right place, either too high up or too far down.
- Diagonal pulls from the top of front thigh down to the back of calves. This indicates a lack of length for strong calves. Can be fixed with ironwork, if cloth allows it.
- Horizontal folds under the butt. They can have at least 2 causes.
- Wrong balance (back trousers too long above the hip)
- Centre back seam too angled/ long.
- Rise too short, fullness for the hips/ thighs doesn’t go to the right place and is blocked in the fork.
Keep in mind that a very clean trouser leg will mean that the trousers will be uncomfortable when sitting or using stairs. You will need a certain amount of fullness and length in the fork and seat for comfort.