McCalls 6440

 originally published 1 2/13/11


I feel like I’m obsessing about pants again. I devoted one of my sewing sessions to mending.  I didn’t have much – 2 missing buttons and a hem coming loose- but I like to get the mending done right after the laundry and keep the mending in a “not much” category.  The mending went quickly, as expected and I decided to tackle alterations.  I’ve added 4 tucks to the back of my vest.


My pic was taken after the first 2 tucks.  I don’t like my styling.  The vest is worn with tunic length Loes Hines 5202 blouse.  It’s a really nice blouse. I like the front view with the vest.  I guess I’m just not accustomed to outer layers being shorter than inner layers.  I find the style jarring no matter who wears it.  But the pic does show the vest beginning to conform to my body instead of rippling and sticking out. I put the last 2 tucks in and decided to wear it for a while to see if it was comfortable.  It feels good, I just need to get that pic.  It’s the only way I can tell if something fits my backside!


Then I started with the last pair of McCall’s 6440.  I opened the back waistband and removed 1/2″ from the leg tops.  I took pics (why didn’t I think to slip my vest on ??) and ran upstairs to check. No change in the baggy bottom. None!  So using a seam like a fisheye-dart, I removed 2″ from the center-back leg tapering to nothing at the hip and again at the knee.  More pics.  More disappointment.  If you recall, I’ve already removed 1″ from the side seams.  I’ve not yet touched the inseams.  But paused to consider.  I would have thought removing that much ease would have some effect on the rolling fields beneath my butt.  I put the hems in permanently.  The hem circumference is now 14″.  I don’t want it any smaller so anything else I do to the legs will “taper to nothing” a couple of inches above the hem.  Then I hung the pants in my closet while I think.



In some of the pics the wrinkles are worse than others.  I suspect my posture to be a factor.  In fact, I try to take at least one pic standing straight, with my legs about 2″ apart.  Before that pic, I pull the waistband up and resettle it into place; and smooth the rest of my garment.  I know I’m going to share pics and would really like some good poses, but I’m also looking for fit issues.  The straight posture is critical to eliminate it as factor for wrinkles and drag lines.


It could be just that I’ve made a very bad choice of fabrics.  I used to wear these soft double knits without a thought.  They were very comfortable and looked good from the front.  Until I starting taking pics, I had no idea how poorly pants fit me in the back.  But, these fabrics were popular at one time and did look good on other people.  I think I should be able to fit them to myself.   But then again, fabrics all have their best uses. Pants may not be a good choice for these particular fabrics.


I’m perplexed at the amount of fabric I’ve removed.  The pattern envelope lists stretch fabrics.  I’m expecting a pattern that is drafted with minimal ease; that’s drafted for stretch fabrics.  I’m surprised at the amount of ease I’m removing.  The recommended size for me is 16.  I cut a 14 front and 16 back.  I’ve removed 4″ ease from the side seams; 2″ ease from the center back leg; and 1/2″ from the crotch length.  These are still big.


It occurred to me that the grain line could be off.  I remember YLD’s recent problem with drag lines on her pants.  Eventually she solved the issue by locating the correct grain line.  I compared my traced pieces to the pattern. Yep grain line was copied correctly.  This is one place where I’ve always been a stickler and I’ve gotten worse.  I extend the grain line marking from top to bottom of the piece and I measure from grain line to the side in at least 2 places with my 24×6″ ruler.  To be more accurate I’d have to thread trace the grain on the fabric.  I don’t think I need to be more accurate because my current procedure has been working with all my other garments.


So I think some more.  I bought this pattern because it was very similar to Trudy Jansen 906.  It has 2 major differences 1) no back yoke 2) designed for stretch fabrics (TJ906 is drafted for non-stretch denims).  I pull out TJ906 to compare the pattern pieces.  Oh My!  OH MY!  I’m astonished.  The pattern pieces hardly look alike.  In the pics, TJ906 is always on the bottom and is darker than M6440.  I pinned the back yoke to TJ906 so that I could compare over all length and crotch shape.  I aligned the pieces on the Straight of Grain lines. Take a look:

The M6440 front is higher at the center front and adds a good 3″ of ease at the hip. Harder to see, so let me tell you, there is another 3/4″ ease over at the inseam too.


This style requires 2 pieces for the back leg.  I thought that would make it easier to fit. Pooh on me. M6440 is smaller than TJ906 – this would be the side seam piece.  M6440 also doesn’t have much shaping where TJ906 is working hard to add width across my butt. Strangely, even though the M6440 back is cut at a size 16 it is slightly shorter than TJ906.



This is the inseam and crotch pieces.  Again we see huge differences. Look at the angles of the inseam.  The inseam of TJ906 curves gently and is much more vertical than M6440.  M6440 swings out like I’m supposed to be as bowlegged as a prairie cowboy in the 1800’s.  On TJ906 I needed to add a 1/2″ wedge to the back crotch.  It just wasn’t quite long enough.  You’d think if the crotch needs to be longer, the length could be added to the top (at the waist). Oddly, that doesn’t work for me.  If I add length at the top, the top of the leg bubbles and the crotch still digs in and is too short for me.  I have to add the length where it is needed, down at the bottom.  Adding the wedge changes the upright crotch into a nice ski-jump.  But when I wear this ski-jump, it curves nicely around and between my biscuits.  I’m not sure if you realize from the picture, but the crotch is actually shorter on my TJ906 and the area above the thigh is narrower. I think the narrowness is a result of the side piece being wider. TJ906 seems to divide the back space fairly evenly.  Well so does M6440, but M6440 has a whole lot more ease in both pieces. I usually need the deeper/wider back crotch.  For years, just for comfort, I’ve added 1/2″ and more to the crotch tip.


I think the problem is, that I really don’t understand how to fit pants.  Yes I have the Palmer Pletch book, even bought some of their patterns.  I’ve resisted drafting my own pants patterns, because you still get a basic pattern which must then be tweaked. My JSM pattern also came with drafting instructions.  After you take your measurements and draw your pattern, JSM starts listing changes needed to be made for specific body issues.  Partly, I’m not sure of my issues.

    • I mean I can look at the measurements of a blouse and say my shoulder isn’t that long and my back-waist is shorter.  I make those 2 changes and tops fit me- almost invariably, top patterns will fit after I make those 2 adjustments.
    • But I can’t make the same correlation with pants.  I know my legs are shorter than the 5’6″ gal pants are designed for. I get this one.  I’m 5’3″.  3″ has to be removed from over all for clothes to fit.  I know from measuring that the difference is fairly even  1″ above my waist, 1″ above my knee and 1″ above my ankle.  Over all length wise, I get.
    • It took a long time to figure out  fitting waistbands. Even longer for contoured waistbands.  But in the end I realized, the garment (skirt pants etc) has to hang from the waist.  If the garment is bigger than the waist, it will slide down until the waist of the garment meets something that is larger than it is — and there it will sit.  My problem with the waist is that my waist doesn’t stay the same size all the time.  I actually make my waistbands about 1/2″ larger and then I wear belts.  I think men learned this long ago.  Adding a belt, makes for an adjustable waistband but your garment can always be held attractively at your waist.
    • Eventually I realized that I, like millions of others, have a tilted waist.  Mine is tilted forward.  That means that my front crotch length will be shorter than my back crotch length.  It took me years to find this out.  I even complained to sewing teachers about the front bulge I didn’t think women should have.  Would you believe they told me “Some pants fit like that.”  I was never satisfied with that answer, because if some pants don’t, why can’t I make all pants fit like the ones I like.  As I said, eventually I discovered my waist is tilted and starting making the right adjustment, usually removing a 1″ wedge across the front, starting just below the zipper and vanishing before reaching the side seam.  This works.  It does mean that I usually have to redraft pockets and front stays. But I’m OK with that.  I can fit the front.  My front crotch can be fixed.
    • My back crotch then becomes longer.  Whatever length is removed from the front needs to be added to the back so that the overall crotch length remains the same.  I love love love Louise Cuttings method of adjusting that on her One-Seams, but I can’t apply it to these 2 and 3 piece pants patterns.  But there are other methods.  I also learned that “My” back crotch needs a big ledge or deep crotch point.  I understand this.  I am as deep as I am wide.  It makes sense that I need a wide and deep ledge to sit on.   A little hook down at the bottom isn’t going to work for me.  With those type of pants, I always have the dreaded “Butt Vortex”.
    • It’s the X wrinkles below the tush. They run from below the knee, cross at the knee, and run across the thigh but not up the cheeks. There is one on each leg. Forming the famous X wrinkle

Some pants are worse than others. The one above is not the worst.  Sometimes, if the pant leg has lots of ease, I get wrinkles above the knee but not below:


I don’t understand what causes this or how to remove it.  There isn’t an easy oops do this that works every time. I’ve tried the “Clown Butt Alteration” helps some but doesn’t eliminate the problem. I’ve tried scooping and pulling the back up. Again helps some times, not others and doesn’t eliminate the problem. I’ve tried replicating my body crotch shape to pants crotches.  Nada – waste of time but fun, entertaining with a partner and very educational. I’ve also tackled this from a knee problem.  My knees don’t actually turn-in as a knock-kneed leg would be, but I have accumulated some padding on the inner knee which could be acting like a knock knee. However, the knock knee alternation never fixes anything in fact the few times I tried it, the wrinkles became worse.


I am frustrated. I am perplexed. I am flummoxed but I’m also determined to learn what is causing the X wrinkles. I still think it may be a combination of issues.  Like maybe the wrinkles at and below the knee really do need an alteration especially since on loose trousers those wrinkles disappear.  They also disappear on my skin-tight Jalie Jeans.  Umm, the X wrinkles completely disappear with the Jalie Jeans. Maybe there isn’t enough fabric for wrinkles to appear?  That’s why I’m thinking of drafting my own pattern.  I’m thinking that would give me a better understanding of what needs to be measured and how the measure corresponds to the pattern.


For now, M6440 is in the trash. I traced the originals so they are still intact and I could give this another shot if I come up with another idea.  I do have to say having wasted 6 fabrics trying to fit one-seams and now 2 more on 6440, I’m tired of experimenting. I’d like to make some pants I can really be proud of instead of making pants that are tolerable for home use. Thank God, I have found 4 patterns which nearly fit right out of the envelope:  TJ906, JSM, Burda ‘143 and Jalie Jeans.In that vein, I traced TJ906 and added the back yoke to the back pants leg pieces. When I actually start sewing, I will need to tweak the idea a little bit.  But I’m fairly sure that I can produce a well fitting pant of stretch fabric with the same style features of M6440.