Summer is approaching fast, and I’ve put off making shorts for several years. I can’t avoid the task any longer. The biggest hurdle I had adjusting shorts was determining how to find the center grainline and then how to make adjustments. To test my approach, I started with a simple pattern, the Tula shorts from Papercut Patterns. This blog post is about my fitting method for shorts. TL;DR I have no idea how to adjust shorts without starting with full-length legs.
Materials and Notions
I’m skipping the fit and style section because the Tula pants are basic elastic waist pants, and there’s little to discuss. I made my shorts using Meet Milk Mara Linen Blend in Mustard. The material is a medium-weight plain weave fabric made with TENCEL (72%) and linen (28%). The material is 200 g/m2 (~6 oz) and has a fluid drape. I was shocked by the fabric when it arrived because it gave me Sound of Music vibes. The weave of the material makes it look like drapery or upholstery fabric. It has a lovely flow, but the weave is singular.
Sizing and Version
My current body measurements are a 36-inch waist and a 44-inch hip. If I consider my anterior tilting pelvis, my hip measures 46 inches. I made the Mirri Jumpsuit from Papercut Patterns not that long ago in a size 7, so I was certain I needed to select the same size again.
Final Garment Measurements
As with any elastic waist pants, the waistband must be big enough to stretch over the widest part of your body. For example, the size 7 waist without elastic is 47 inches and will easily fit over my 44-inch hips. Notice that the size 6 waist is 44.7 inches, which would be difficult to get over my hips, especially with any subtle changes to my circumference. The other thing to consider is the final hip measurement compared to my seated hip measurement. My seated hip circumference is about 47 inches, and the final garment has 50.6 inches at the hip. That gives me enough room to easily sit in my shorts. Finally, I’m not sure what information the length from the waist to the hem provides. It’s an odd value to give instead of providing front and back rise and inseam length.
I made the shorts in size 7.
The first thing to test was waistband placement and crotch depth. I sewed together the waistband and then, using the Top-Down Center-Out method, adjusted the waistline as needed. Luckily with this pattern, nothing about the waistband or waistline placement needed to be altered!
Label Key Grainlines
As stated in my TL;DR, I have no idea how to find the center grainline on anything other than full-length pants. My starting premise is to find the middle of the ankle and draw a vertical line. Unfortunately, you can’t draw a line starting at the knee because the knee level is not always bisected, so I will always need full-length legs, even if I eventually turn them into shorts. For the Tula shorts, I started with the wide-leg pants and drew the center grainline.
Does the Center Grainline Bisect the Knee
I thanked my lucky stars for choosing a pattern where the center grainline was not off-center at the knee level. Whew. At this point, you can remove the knee to ankle portion of the pattern to save on muslin in the next step.
Find your Body’s Center Grainline
I used my laser-level method to compare the pattern’s center grainline vs. my body’s center grainline. I saved on muslin and only cut my pattern to the knee level. Next, I stood in front of my laser level and lined up my ankle and knee with the laser. Next, I marked at the crotch level where the laser appeared. For the front pattern piece, the laser was 1 inch medial compared to the pattern’s center grainline. For the back pattern piece, the laser level was spot on in the same spot as the pattern’s center grainline.
To adjust the front pattern piece, cut along the crotch level and shift the torso lateral 1 inch so the laser level mark matches the center grainline on the leg. Next, redraw the inseam and side seam from the crotch to the knee level. The center grainline can also be redrawn, now in the correct location.
Study the Original Pattern
I compared the two versions: full-length legs and shorts. I removed the hem from the shorts to calculate the leg differences in the figure above. The original style was to add 1/4 inch to the front inseam and side seam and 3/8 inch to the back inseam and side seam.
That’s exactly what I did to my pattern pieces. I marked the inseam length for the front and back and widened the front leg 1/4 inch and the back leg 3/8 inch.
I added the hem as it was on the original pattern, making sure the angle of the side seam and inseam mirror my pattern. This is important so the hem fits perfectly when folded up.
Original vs My Pattern
The original pattern is in blue. My pattern is outlined in red. I am only showing the front pattern piece because I didn’t change the back pattern piece. I couldn’t make sense of these alterations without my center grainline and laser-level method.
I’m excited about this basic pattern because I didn’t have to self-draft it. The fit turned out great, and overall I’m really pleased with these shorts. The few patterns I’ve made from Papercut have always been reliable and this was no exception. The instructions are clear, and the sew-alongs are invaluable. Note that the pattern also comes in an extended, more inclusive size range (waist 35 – 54 inches, hips 45 – 64 inches). I made the regular Tula pattern and not the Tula Curve Pattern. Cheers!
I am so impressed with your knowledge about and use of a laser to determine your center grain line. I did read your post on that but I am sad to say it confuses me! I am curious about one thing with your shorts. Since they were the pull on type, why did you leave the cut on zipper on your pattern?
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The center front seam is styled to look like a faux fly. The construction is unique, and if you need a photographic tutorial, check out Papercut Patterns webpage here: https://www.papercutjournal.com/tutorials/tula-pants.
Hi, I’ve just found your blog and wanted to say how very helpful all your analysis and detailed reviews have been. I’m a retired engineer myself and have been trying to work on fitting for years. Finally, finally an approach that makes sense and isn’t the result of “interpretation” of drag lines, etc. Thank you very much for the time and effort you have put into this, both from the actual sewing and for the documentation of the process. I look forward to following your work in the future and to sitting down with my coffee going through your old posts. Jackie
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Thank you so much! Be sure to look at my “reference guide” listed in the top menu. As I’ve learned more about fitting pants, my process has evolved. Therefore, the reference guide will have the most up-to-date information. I also have developed my own terminology, so the guide is helpful because it provides definitions. Thanks again, and enjoy your cup of coffee!