Friday, September 20, 2013

Pants Pattern Alterations

Last week in class I tried on the muslin made from the pants sloper, which was drafted up from my measurements. I think it's worth repeating my professor's words of warning: even a sloper drafted to your measurements isn't going to be perfect right off the bat, because the way those numbers are distributed is different on every person. Depending on whether you carry your weight in the front, side, or back, a 40-inch hip measurement could mean several very different things. One's legs could be 25 inches long, but the angle at which they come out of your hip, the amount of padding on one's inner thigh, and even the way one typically stands can all make a standard draft look terrible, even if it's based on actual body measurements. Still, that said, my muslin looked pretty good for a first try -- definitely better than all the vintage 60s pants patterns I've tried in the past!

We all had to take turns changing into our muslins and standing on the tabletops and our professor walked around telling our group members what to pin and cut into to get the fit right. What helped a lot for seeing where to make alterations was having the grainline, high hip, low hip, knee, and calf lines basted in. That way, we could see where things weren't hanging plumb or perfectly parallel to the floor all the way around.

I needed two vertical darts in the front crotch area to get rid of the excess fabric there. 
There's nothing quite so nerve-wracking as knowing that somebody is seam-ripping right by your butt. 

After everyone tried on and fit their muslins, we went over the kinds of pattern adjustments that might be necessary. One of our assignments is to make those adjustments on tiny paper pattern blocks for reference, so I thought you all might like to see mine. I apologize for the blinding yellow background; we were supposed to use a stiff backing and all I had were these binder divider tabs. I think it kind of helps you see where the cuts go, though, right?

#1) Crotch curve corrections: I did the back alteration to correct the mono-butt look. By giving more fabric to the back piece, one avoids having the fabric pulled so tightly across the butt that it becomes unnecessarily flattened. 
#2) If the grainlines angle in toward each other in a V, the above correction is necessary to accommodate the angle at which your legs exit your pelvis. 
#3) Full inner thighs: start with the same alteration as #2 but make several parallel cuts up the inner thigh portion, then pull the top part out so that the gap is almost parallel all the way up the leg. The cut flaps should overlap a little at the top.
#4) Front/back rise shortening: To change the crotch only, and not the side seam length, make a horizontal cut halfway down the crotch curve, leaving a tiny bit if the side seam uncut to use as a hinge. Pivot down to overlap the pieces, then redraw the curve. 

#5) Shortening the crotch depth all around: If there's excess fabric bagging all the way around, or the crotch hangs way below your body like gangsta pants, pin it halfway up the crotch and see how much needs to be removed. Make a horizontal cut all the way across the crotch and overlap (or separate if you need more depth), then redraw the crotch curve.
#6) Knock-knee alteration: If your legs come together at the knee and then curve back out, then you need a longer inseam only. By making a downward slash and using the side seam as a hinge, you keep the side seam the same length while extending the inseam. 
#7: Full abdomen, or as my prof puts it, extra chocolate storage: Cut across the middle of the crotch right under the dart and angle up to the waist at the side seam, then put a slice down the dart. Pull the top piece up and away, then redraw the curve. 
#8) Excess fabric at the crotch: If you can pin out a vertical fisheye dart at the front or back, cut from the side seam and up the inner side of the dart, then back out to the center crotch seam (leave a tiny bit attached to use as a hinge, though). Cut flaps like in #3, then push the pieces in until the hit the outer edge of the dart. The flaps will overlap a little bit in some place and spread out in others. I know this is a little hard to explain/see on the diagram, but this method of alteration seriously blew my mind, it was so amazing. I've always wondered how to translate the 3D changes to a flat pattern, and now I know!
#9) Lengthen back rise: If your pants are snugging up too much under the butt and giving you a wedgie, lengthen the back rise by making a few horizontal cuts across the crotch (keeping the side seam attached as a hinge), and spread them out. If the side seam dents inward too much, you may need to redraw the hip curve.
#10) Hyperextended calf alteration: My prof says she sees this most in people who have danced or done gymnastics, but the bulge of the calf hitches up the lower leg in the back. Cut a slash up the grainline, past the knee, and then make two symmetrical cuts angling up toward the side seam. Using the side seam as a hinge, rotate the two sides outward. It will look flared on paper, but on the body it will hang straight. 
#11) Waist alteration: Instead of just adding/subtracting at the side seams, which is what I had been doing previously, the proper way to add or take away inches at the waist circumference is to make a diagonal slash from the waist down to the side seam, then use that as the hinge point to spread or overlap the appropriate amount.

For all of these slash-and-spread moves, we literally cut and spread the muslins while the people were still wearing them, which let us adjust until there were no more wrinkles; this also let us measure exactly how much to spread the pattern pieces. It was an...intimate...experience for all involved, and thank goodness it was only ladies in the class. I wish I could show you what some of those slashed-and-spread bits looked like for real, but obviously I'm not going to post other people's butt pictures here! You'll have to look at my slashed-and-spread hyperextended calf alteration and imagine it on abdomens and such.

Look at how many inches they had to add in with an additional strip of muslin! The prof said she hadn't had to do one in a very long time, so I guess this is proof that I really do have burly calves?
You can see the diagonal fish-eye-esque darts under the butt, the hyper-extended calf cut, and the ripped open CB seam so as to avoid the mono-butt look. Yup, I had blue skivvies on that day.

I made three of my four adjustments (I couldn't figure out that diagonal dart, so I'll have to ask the prof about that one. ETA: answer is here) and redrew my sloper, so we'll see next week how it translates into a second muslin!

Oh, and for those who were wondering, the drafting book we're using is Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women's Clothing, by Suzy Furrer.

88 comments:

  1. Wow, this looks intense! I know pants are tricky but that's a lot of considerations that you have to make. You are going to be so chuffed when you finally have that lovely fitting pair of pants now!

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    1. It is definitely intense, how many alterations one has to think about and how they all go together! I've got my muslin sorted now, though, so I'm that much closer to my perfect pair of pants!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this! It is very informative. To be honest I am a bit scared of sewing pants. I tried it years ago and it was a complete disaster because I just couldn't get them to fit at all.

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    1. I had the same issue when I first made pants, but I think what helped me most was knowing that almost nobody fits commercial patterns (or even their sloper!) right off the bat...fitting is definitely necessary, but it doesn't have to be scary as long as one is methodical about it.

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  3. Wow, these are such great lessons! I can't thank you enough for sharing your notes and the fabulous diagrams demonstrating the contents of those notes. This is so cool!

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    1. I put them up because it's what I'd want someone else to do if I weren't able to take the classes myself!

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  4. This is why I Adore your blog!!! I have been sewing for about 1 1/2 to 2 yrs (but only here and there when I can find the free time - I'm not a fast worker, I admit). I can follow a pattern and make things that look reasonable. However, I don't have the confidence to alter patterns yet. I feel utterly unqualified. I have made stuff for my 7 yr old daughter. I have made minor adjustments on my own - but lets face it - she's just turned 7. There aren't A) a lot of curves to accommodate or B) a fashion patrol calling her out on any major poor fit issues. I have made 2 shirts for my husband, who is a bit picky, but really very sweet - so far, so good. But...I am currently burying my head in the sand regarding a muslin for a rain jacket for me. It doesn't fit quite right and I am intimidated at the idea of altering the pattern so that it does. This blog of yours is really great because I feel like it isn't quite so unnerving as it seems. I still don't know what I'm doing, but I hope one of the books out there will help. I am so delighted that you are out here in the blogiverse, like a beacon :).

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    1. You are so sweet, Kim! I hope that these posts about pants-fitting make it seem a little bit less like a mystery...I wouldn't say fitting is easy, but it helps a lot to have good references and a bit of patience. And really, the fabric/pattern won't ask for your resume, so go ahead and start altering even if you feel unqualified; it's the best way to learn!

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  5. Wow, great information and definitely a lot more to getting the perfect pant fit. Thanks for sharing all of this information. I have bookmarked this as one day I am truly going to try to make a pair of pants.

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    1. I hope you do! I feel like a lot of sewists get scared by pants, when they're not theoretically any more difficult to fit than a bodice.

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  6. Honestly....not many a people could explain,the chemical / fiber connection or pants fitting the way you have....and keep me 1) interested, 2) understanding, & 3) wanting more...seriously, you have me considering things I never would have before! The sign of a truly inspired teacher, I'm sure.

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    1. Aww, thanks! I feel like I'm doing my job then :)

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  7. Btw...did you ever find classes like this when you lived in TCOCC? I'm in SM and curious....

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    1. I did see some classes at Otis, which isn't in SM but close enough!

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  8. COMPLETELY FACINATING!! Thank you for all of the great diagrams. I'll be bookmarking this for later!

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  9. wow that was intense! i'm bookmarking this post for future reference!

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    1. Going through all of them in a row in class was a little bit of information overload, but so good anyway!

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  10. Great Post - Fitting is so interesting and pants are hard to do...

    "There's nothing quite so nerve-wracking as knowing that somebody is seam-ripping right by your butt." Laughing Out LOUD !!!

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    1. It was seriously a test of will to stand still and not flinch!

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  11. WOW!!
    Amazing diagrams. So helpful...
    Thanks for sharing! We need more good pant sewing information.

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    1. Right? There's lots out there on skirts and dresses, but less so on pants!

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  12. It has been ages since I've had to fit pants - thanks for the refresher! Really great examples in the mini-flats. =) And thank you so much for sharing all your fashion classes with everyone!

    I do the cut and spread with extra fabric pinned in for almost everything when I'm fitting on someone, whether it's a dress or pants. I find it so much easier to alter something on a body than on the flat-pattern because so many things look weird/wrong on paper. But if I see that it's right on a body, there is so much less to second-guess and start doubting!

    Can't wait to see your perfect fitting pants by the time the class is over!

    ~ Brooke

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    1. Seriously, a body is so much easier to work with! Like if I had been told to make the hyperextended calf alteration without seeing it first on me, I would've thought it was wrong since it looks so flared.

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing your diagrams! They're so helpful as I've been working on pants lately.

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  14. Best post ever!!! I am ready to start pants (again, for the umpteenth time) and this post is so understandable! You word things so well, and the little diagrams are perfect. This must be an amazing class. Can you feel the envy?

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    1. Haha yes, but I hope to mitigate some of those feelings by sharing all of the stuff I learn!

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  15. This post is so informative....thank you!

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  16. Awesome! Never heard of a hyperextended calf alteration, but I think I may need one (too many years of skating). Very cool info!

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    1. Yeah, based on what I've seen from Olympians, I would agree!

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  17. What a wealth of information! I have only made a muslin of Colette Clover pants and then I stopped because I didn't know how to correct my muslin- I was thinking of trying again and I will certainly use your diagrams. And you explain things so clearly... Thank you!

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    1. Colette also has a lot of pattern alterations listed, but I agree that it can be daunting when you don't know where to start!

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  18. So so helpful! Thank you so much! I am eager to try a couple of these I am sure my pants fitting will be greatly improved. You rock.

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  19. I'm not sewing pants anytime soon, but I'm book marking this for when I do-so informative & fascinating!

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    1. Haha glad I'm not the only one who finds this stuff fascinating!

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  20. This is just amazing. I've sewn several pairs of pants in my sewing lifetime, but I've never had the privilege of sitting under the wisdom of an instructor in a class like this. Thanks for posting all this detail - it's trouser-altering! ;)

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    1. While some of these are alterations I've done on my own, there are definitely some I'd never think to do! This is why I'm so glad to be taking a formal class...self-teaching only goes so far!

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  21. This is SO interesting! SO thorough, and great explanation! xoxo

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  22. Thank you for sharing all your diagrams! I will definitely refer back to these next time I'm making a pair of trousers. Hope your alterations yield you a good fit. :)

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    1. My muslin already looks tons better, so I'm excited! Fingers crossed that I'll have some amazing pants after this class is done!

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  23. Thank you so much for sharing all of these adjustments! I have never seen the muscular (sounds better and more accurate than burly) calf adjustment before! Amazing and awesome!

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    1. Yeah, I feel like crotch curves/rises are frequently covered, but like my prof said, not many people need the calf alteration!

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  24. WOW!! What an incredible read - I loved every bit of it. This class sounds like an absolute winner - watching the alterations get done (as nerve wracking as they must have been!) on yourself and other people would be just so incredibly useful. I was planning to make next year (I know, I like to plan in advance) my year of pants so I have no doubt this will all come in handy. Thank you!!!

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    1. The thing I appreciated most was getting to see alterations that I've never needed, and therefore would never have learned on my own! And the year of pants sounds like a great plan!

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  25. Cindy- thank you so much for posting this all up! My mind is BLOWN! This looks like such an amazing class and learning experience! Hope you're having a blast!

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    1. I am definitely eating up every bit of information! None of that slacker-student-sleeping-in-the-back-row business for me!

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  26. Thanks for sharing your learning adventures, I am learning a lot from you! Where do you take these classes? I thought you lived near LA, but it looks like Canada college is in redwood city....?.

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    1. Oops, I never updated my location after I moved! I live in the Bay Area now, not TCOCC!

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  27. You've done a real service to many of us who are always looking for more ways to refine pants fitting. I've never seen that calf alteration but I think it's one that I could use so thank you.

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    1. I'm always looking for information that doesn't seem to be there, so when I find out I am eager to share...that calf one is definitely uncommon!

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  28. Hi Cindy - I sent a message to your gmail account about coming to San Francisco in October. Hope you're free!

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    1. Oooh, good thing you commented -- it may have been misdelivered because I never received it!

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  29. SO HELPFUL!!!! Thank you! Keep it coming, please!

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  30. Thanks for such a thorough description of what all of the flat pattern alterations look like! I'm currently hosting a little pants sewalong, and I was wondering if you would be willing to allow me to link to this post as another fitting resource?

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    1. Please do! I'm glad you find it a useful resource!

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  31. Thank you so much for sharing your experience in such a meticulous way! I have "Pinned" this for future reference. You will soon be able to teach this class as well!

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    1. Haha not yet! I still have a lot to learn about fit!

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  32. This is incredible--alterations for knock-knee and hyperextended legs?! Who would've thought. Thank you so, so much for sharing! I've been too scared to tackle pants made from anything except 4-way stretch fabrics, but this just might be what I need. Thanks again.

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  33. Sorry If I missed it, where are you taking this class? I live in LA and I would be interested. Your pants adjustments look great, you are learning some great skills!

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  34. Oh, wow, this is so cool! The alterations seem so straightforward and clear here (while they seem so confusing in muslin form!). Thanks for sharing!

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  35. Thank you, thank you! I took an unexpected hiatus from sewing and am now returning to it with renewed enthusiasm because of lovely folks such as you willing to share and inspire.

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  36. Thank you, thank you! I took an unexpected hiatus from sewing and am now returning to it with renewed enthusiasm because of lovely folks such as you willing to share and inspire.

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  37. Wow, this is totally AMAZING!!!! It's one thing to draft a sloper and make a muslin but then you look at all those fabric wrinkles and go, "now what?". I would absolutely love to take this class, but the next best thing is peeking over your shoulder at all your notes and diagrams - you rock!! :) Also, I'm pretty sure I need a burly calf adjustment too, especially on slim pants LOL

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  38. This is absolutely fantastic. You have presented the information very professional and it is very easy to understand. I have bookmarked this site. You have also motivated me to go to my sewing room and try to start a second muslin. I made the first one following on an online class. Your instructions should help me get the second right!

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  39. I have flat butt syndrome... any tips on how to give my rear a little more roundness

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    1. Sorry Avis, we didn't talk about how to change "problem areas," just how to fit them.

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  40. Thanks for this info. It is super helpful. I get discouraged when I let out something thinking that will fix the problem and it looks worse. Now I know what to do.

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  41. LOVE this post. I love making my own clothes, but alterations can always be a major PITA. I've been looking for that book you mentioned, but can't seem to find it anywhere online (I'm in Australia).

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  42. Thank you so very much for posting your alteration examples! Sometimes it is hard to read and imagine in my head what the pattern needs to do so I really appreciate you posting those pictures... especially the knock knee one!

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  43. What a good blog you have here. Please update it more often. This topics is my interest. Thank you. . .

    Alterations

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  44. Thank you for sharing all of your info and for making it so easy to understand. I have been making pants for a while now, but you made the light bulb come on for me a couple of times here. The pictures made it so easy!

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  45. Good explanation!!!!. I enjoy it!!!, Here, in Argentina a man called Hermenegildo Zampar do this corrections on tv, I think that you will find it on "Bienvenidas TV" a tv show who share his programs on you tube... Sorry about my english, I need to study more!!!!. Thanks again.

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  46. Im happy!!!!, is the first time I read something really interesting about fashion on internet!!!!. Im a fashion designer and an entusiastic pattern learning!!!, I use 4 diferent metods to draw a pattern and I always think "the best one is each one when you think about you are drawing". Sorry about my english, I need to study a lot of...... Thanks to share your knows. Mariana from Argentina.

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  47. Oh wow, this is SO useful! Thanks so much for sharing all these altering tricks! :) Lisa

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  48. This is the first time I've properly understood translating 3D muslin onto flat paper, thank you so much! Teresa, London

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  49. Great information! Can you tell (or give the link) how you handled that diagonal dart across the backside? I have the same thing and can't quite figure out what to do with it to get it onto the paper pattern. I love your site, especially that you are a chemistry teacher!

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    1. I've updated my post with a link to the diagonal dart alteration! http://cationdesigns.blogspot.com/2015/12/that-diagonal-pants-dart.html

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  50. Hi Cation Designs,
    Thank you very much for publishing this post with such great information. I am very keen to learn how you ended up addressing the diagonal darts pinned out on your back pants pieces (pictured in the photograph at the end of your blog entry). I share this fitting problem and have never seen it on anyone else! I will look forward to hearing back from you. Regards, Miss Knitandpurl.

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    1. I've updated my post with a link to the diagonal dart alteration! http://cationdesigns.blogspot.com/2015/12/that-diagonal-pants-dart.html

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    2. Thank you so much! I am very grateful for your post. I am going to try out this adjustment on my own pair of pants! Regards, Miss Knitandpurl.

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  51. Great info and excellent pictures! Everything looks so simple when it is done on paper, not so easy when done for real with fabric. Thank you for taking the time to make the pictures. They really help alot.

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