Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Culottes, Then and Now: Comparing Crotch Curves

Most sewists will tell you that the most challenging part of making pants - and I believe that culottes do fall into this category for this purpose - is navigating the crazy minutiae of crotch depth.

How wide to make the back or the front crotch? How steep to draw the angle on each?

To complicate matters, culottes are not exactly pants. They're supposed to hang away from the body at the crotch by a longer distance - though who knows quite how much?? They're made (at least in the case of my modern and vintage versions) with an inner leg pleat on both front and back pieces.

Will that pleat meaningfully impact crotch depth? I suspect not, which is why I've cut my muslin fabric - see next post - with the pleats closed on the pattern pieces. At the muslin juncture, my goal is to ensure the tubes fit, not to manage non-impactful design elements. Of course, if I'm wrong - and pls. feel free to let me know your thoughts - my now-cut muslin fabric will be garbage.

Most sewists will also tell you to use one of your TNT pants patterns (those that fit like a glove due to 5-odd alteration cyles) to determine how best to adjust, prior to muslining, your next pants pattern.

I can tell you that works very well when you're going from pants to pants. Pants to culottes is more challenging, in the absence of relevant experience, because I don't know how - or how much - the crotch curve is meant to differ from that of the TNT pants. I've worked hard to make them the same. But you'll see how it's almost impossible to extrapolate one from the other, cuz pants fit against the crotch quite closely, while culottes will not.

Below is a shot of the crotch-area of the TNT on top of the Butterick back piece. I've shaded the areas that diverge particularly. You'll note how much taller from crotch to waist the modern culottes pattern is than the TNT. However, the crotch curve isn't all that different, in the scheme of things. Note that my TNT and the Butterick culottes delineate the crotch line on the back pieces. (The McCalls vintage pattern does not...):


The pen lines, in the photo below, demarcate where I've cut the Butterick back piece to reflect the TNT:


Below is the TNT pattern over the Butterick front piece. There's slightly more divergence here - it appears that the culottes angle is a bit more extreme than that of the TNT (see arrow):


Note: The top of the curve on the TNT piece (no arrow pointing) seems wider than the Butterick piece it rests atop because the seam allowance of the Butterick pattern centre front is folded back, while the TNT's is not. Because I've folded the culottes pleats it's not possible for me to show this differently without ripping the pattern.

The McCalls (vintage) culottes are very similar to the TNT at the front crotch (no photo available) - though I did straighten the waist down to the hip (as you'll see in the next post, which shows a photograph of all the pieces side by side). I did that because the TNT and the modern culottes share that design and, as a woman of a relatively full lower stomach, I didn't want to tempt fate. I don't adjust modern patterns in this way, but this vintage one has such a pronounced curve, it makes me nervous.

Update: I actually did the waist straightening on the back piece - for some reason I forgot that. The rationale is the same, but that's where I applied it. And I'm wondering at this moment - why did I alter the back piece for straightness when the area that concerns me (and that, apparently warrants straightening as the alteration) is the front waist, as it skims over my stomach? Hmmmm...

Finally, below you can see the rather extreme way I've had to modify the McCalls vintage back piece to more closely approximate that of the TNT (and Butterick, for that matter). I don't know how successful I've been - or (given the different hang needs of Culottes vs pants) how necessary that will be... Next post shows side-by-each shots.

It would be interesting to know how much of this modification - on all the pattern pieces - was required because of the difference between garment sizes: The TNT is a modern 14, the Butterick culottes are a modern 16 and the McCalls culottes are a vintage 18.

Any thoughts so far?

And while were talking, please let me know if these posts are making sense. I'm spending a ton of time on documenting this project which, I'm totally thrilled to do if it makes sense and interests my fab readers. It's possible I need more experience before writing about sewing in this kind of detail. Just cuz I can think it, doesn't mean I can tell it! So feel free to offer up advice...

14 comments:

  1. EXTREMELY interesting. I've been defeated more times then enough in my attempts to make respectable (wearable) pants of any type and it always seems to be related to crotch depth. My measurements are somewhat (ahem) larger then yours, but I always have hope of hitting on the reason and cure for baggy-ass-ed-ness.
    Your blog is wonderful.
    Elaine

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    1. Carrots: Love your name! Thanks for stopping by, and please observe this crazy experiment till the end. Here's hoping we can avoid any crotch curve disasters :-)

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  2. Certainly interesting and I think I'm following along pretty well. The pictures of the pattern pieces are really helpful in understanding your words.

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    1. OK, I'm glad to hear that! I'll keep on with the pics.

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  3. I can't see how making the crotch curves match would be BAD... I think if anything the looser fit of the culottes would be more forgiving. Not that I know anything, mind you, never having made loose-fitting pants *or* culottes. I think you're really just going to have to muslin to see, though. :)

    ... it's so much fun to watch (read) you going through this. And I'm ever so happy it's not MEEEE :D

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    1. You're right, as usual! It occurs to me that the curve is super "generic" cuz it's hanging so far away from the body.

      You see, I wish it was you right now!

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  4. I think you're on the right track. I'd do all the same things.

    Oh, and I always like seeing how other sewistas mark up and alter their patterns. So, yes, I'm enjoying your little adventure with culottes!

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    1. Ha! These patterns are very messily presented, I have to confess. But they work, so that's that :-)

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  5. I don't know, but what Martin does in perfecting the fit of his shirts and vests is guess where to cut muslin based on past design changes. Then he bastes and experiments with draping and pinning the basted muslin so it fits perfectly and the important lines are where he wants them. The he redraws the new lines, recuts, etc. Multiple iterations before he cuts real fabric. A lot of mirrors are involved, and sometimes my help pinning and verifying lines.

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    1. How did I not know that Martin was a sewist??

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  6. Oh, I'm interested! Mostly, I want to see the finished products modeled side by side to determine if different styles will change a TNT fit. So I'm going to be following this process closely as I'm planning some pants fitting as well.

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    1. I know - that will be interesting, yes? Let's hope we find out! :-)

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  7. I'm enjoying learning from your perspective. Fingers crossed your experiments go the way you want them to!

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    1. Oh, I know. Let's keep them well crossed.

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