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Grainlines on Pants Patterns are so Important!

Welcome to Sew! Let’s Get Dressed, a weekly blog that encourages you to sew successfully. 

Pants grainlines are political football in sewing circles.  Bloggers and writers each have an opinion they feel strongly about and often they are at odds with their colleagues.  That adds to lots of conflicting information popping up in a google search to find the perfect solution to a pants fitting problem.

Eureka! Pants back pattern

I have been thinking about writing on this issue for a while.  It is not very glamorous and there is no eye candy this week, just pure pattern adjustment and fitting suggestions based on years of experience fitting pants on all types of bodies.

Fit for Art Patterns travels around the country fitting stitchers in our pants samples and offering pattern adjustments that work successfully with our Eureka! Pants that Fit pattern.  Our system presents a new paradigm, essentially draping a pant base on the body so the crotch curve is addressed first and foremost with our number 1, 2, and 3 back options in each size.

Fitting a Eureka! Pants mock up.

For this method to work successfully, the grid of grainlines and HBL’s must stay parallel and perpendicular to the floor.  This is why we have them drawn on the outside of our samples.  They are our reference points for achieving a balanced fitting pant on any shape body.

This is a process, though, and the need to have quick results leads stitchers down the dangerous path of wedge adjustments that are suggested in many places on the web.  I am here to tell you these changes do nothing but whack your pants out of balance with only a modicum of cosmetic improvement. These warnings come from experience and I beg you to run fast and far from these “easy” adjustments.

It is not our habit in these posts to tell you what not to do, but this is an exception.  I am going to show you just what havoc two such wedge adjustments can have on your pants.  I will also show the Eureka! alternatives.  Even if you have always done these adjustments, give our Eureka! adjustments a try and you will incrementally end up with the best fitting pants you have ever had, standing or sitting.

Back pant pattern with under the seat wedge.

The “under the rear end wedge” is often suggested to reduce excess fabric that results below the derrière.  As you can see from the photos, if you fold a wedge out of your pattern, you throw off the grainline, but also the inseam, the tilt of the waist and darts, the curve of the side seam and the angle of the crotch curve.

A view of the altered grainline. Don’t try this.

You can straighten the grainline, but all the other difficulties remain.  Even if you succeed in eliminating some fabric below the derriere, you will create other problems that are difficult to adjust.

The Eureka! adjustment is to establish the appropriate crotch curve and extension by observing the grain lines and HBLs.  Then shape the inseam and side seams below the crotch to shape up the leg if you want a tight, form fitting leg.

Adjusting the inseam and side seam for a tighter leg.

The “HBL crotch adjustment wedge” has been used since women began wearing pants to provide length in the crotch curve.

Wedge adjustment to the HBL for lengthening the crotch. Don’t try this!

As you see in the photo this adjustment also throws off the grainlines, the tilt of the waist and darts, the curve of the side seam and the angle of the crotch curve.  The grainline when straightened, falls very close to the center back.  These pants could not possibly hang correctly on the body.

The Eureka! adjustment is to lengthen the crotch extension where the extra length is actually needed and reshape the curve if needed based on the grainline/HBL grid.

Lengthening the crotch extension.

Read more in the Eureka! Pants instruction book on page 6-7.

In an effort to get a fashionably form fitting pant, do not distort your pants pattern in unproductive ways. Contact us if you have a question. Read more about the Eureka! pants fitting process by following these links:

So, remember to keep those grainlines straight on your sample pants and your patterns my friends.  They are your north star as you move toward pants perfection!

Happy Sewing, RAE

P.S. Watch our calendar for the dates and times of a January Pants class at Capital Quilts and the Sew Successfully Retreat in March.  Both great opportunities to fine tune your pants pattern or get started on your pants journey.

6 thoughts on “Grainlines on Pants Patterns are so Important!

  1. Hi – what is HBL please?

    1. Hi Rebecca, Great question, HBL is short for Horizontal Balance Line. They run horizontally across our jacket and pants pattern pieces and are used in conjunction with the vertical grainlines to assess fit. We discuss them extensively in both our jacket and pants patterns. RAE

  2. You guys are great. Wish I’d had these instructions BEFORE starting to alter the pants pattern. I spent countless hours trying to do wedge and other adjustments, to no good. Wowy. Thank you.

    1. Patti, Would you recommend we insert a line in the direction booklet to that effect. We never mention these adjustments, but give directions for the other adjustments that were outlined in the post that do work. Try to keep things positive! Appreciate your comment. RAE

  3. I have a version of knock knees so that the grainline ending at the center top of my foot, it swings toward the inseam area. I have been taking a wedge from the side seam just below the crotch line and from the side seam to nothing at the inseam. This does throw the grainline above that point. How do I fix this problem? I own the Eureka pattern. In fact, I am drafting the pattern again since I have lost weight and inches. I just finished watching Sarah Veblen’s Pattern Review video on pants fitting again. It makes a lot of sense now than it did when I first watched it. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Evangeline, Great Question with not an easy answer. Depending on the shape of the leg, you are right, sometimes the grainline does skew a bit, but with careful attention, it can be kept to a minimum. That said, it often requires letting out the legs where there is fullness and tapering where there is extra. Consider participating in our April retreat, or signing up for some virtual fitting appointments to work on the pants without taking wedges from sides. I have no easy answers, but a persistence that can help.

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