J? or L?

I got several questions about the “L” crotch curve in my post about the Crime Against Humanity McCalls 6707 Fashion Star Capris. Here’s a little more information on it. I’ve sewn pants for years and years, and while they looked okay, I never was really happy with them. They always seemed rather baggy. I’ve never had a lot of junk in the trunk, but neither am I a flatbottom boat. I figured that I just had to put up with it, because none of the pattern fitting guides at the time had any solutions that worked for me.

Then one day, I took a fitting class with the amazing, amusing and astounding teacher Cynthia Guffey. One of the things she did was use a flexible ruler to show us the curvature of our hinder ends. Well huh, I guess all that time in spinning class has had an effect. Let me show you a couple of pictures. Let’s take a gander at a current Vogue pattern, V8886.

That’s kinda what my butt looked like, too.

Notice the bagginess at the back crotch? It tells me there is extra fabric there. Now look at the pattern piece for the back:

Of course, it would help if I actually INCLUDED the pattern!

It has a gently sloping curve, shaped like the letter J. Keep in mind that the flat fabric will make a 90 degree turn just below the double notch on this pattern, as it heads in between the legs to meet up with the front leg piece, so your bum doesn’t necessarily look like the flat pattern. Now let me show you what the actual curve of my kiester looks like overlaid on the pattern piece at the crotch line:

All that time in spin classes, I guess…

You can see that the my curve is far sharper than the curve in the pattern – more like a capital L. If I cut out the pattern as-is, I get a bunch of extra fabric hanging under my derriere, kind of like the model in the picture. It’s not attractive, and it’s not very comfortable. But by scooping out some of that excess to more closely match my anatomy, I’ve eliminated that problem. Here’s the adjusted pattern piece from my McCalls 6707 pattern, overlaid on the Vogue. The actual cutting line for the McCalls is in pink.

That’s more like it.

I don’t have a picture of me in them from the back, but they conform to the line of moi quite well.

To give you one more picture, since it’s worth way more roughly 500 words I have here, here is a pair of old, pre-L pants that I made, next to the (post-L) McCalls 6707, so you can see the difference in the completed pants.


This adjustment is pretty easy to make. If you have a fitting buddy and a flexible ruler (available at most art supply, crafts and sewing stores), you can see what your own crotch line is: J, L or in-between, which you can transfer to a pants pattern. Try it on a muslin and see what you think of your rear view.

HTH, and happy sewing!

37 thoughts on “J? or L?”

  1. Karin says:

    This is so useful Anne. Thanks for taking the time to share a simple but effective tip. I shall definitely try it on my next pair of pants.

  2. TC Ferrito says:

    This is similar to “scooping” the crotch that I have seen from Palmer/Pletsch. I have done it in RTW to make the pants fit better and it works. But then I have heard other sewing education”experts” say to never mess with the crotch because it will cause other issues in different places. That makes no sense to me- if you trace your own body shape onto the pattern, shouldn’t it fit better? Thanks for a great post with helpful visuals.

  3. paisleyapron says:

    I also have done this with RTW because of the bagginess below the seat. But when making up a pattern from scatch, my J curve (using a flexible ruler) is much more dramatic than yours and eats into inches of the back pieces. So have you heard of a way to adjust for that? Do you add on the inches at the side seam (making the whole torso part go onto the bias)? Inquiring mind wants to know…because I have scoured fitting books and wonder if my seat is just not meant to be in trousers.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      I don’t have a ready answer for that, Paisleyapron, sorry. But let’s open it up to the readership. Anyone? Anyone???

    2. Anne says:

      There’s no reason why you can’t add the extra fabric on at the sideseam if you need the extra width after scooping the crotch. Try it out and see if it imrpoves things. A lot of “expert advice” is just someone’s opinion. Figure out what works for YOU!

      1. Doris W. says:

        Anne says:
        April 7, 2013 at 9:30 am

        There’s no reason why you can’t add the extra fabric on at the sideseam if you need the extra width after scooping the crotch.

        Anne – this is exactly the “body space” concept that Joyce Murphy uses and teaches.

  4. Colleen P. says:

    I’m with you TC-if you trace your own body shape onto the pattern, it should fit better. I personally have to take MILES of room out of the thigh of most pants patterns and the only fit issue I have with that is that the legs don’t bag once I’ve done it. I HAVE to finagle the fit on the crotch, I am flat bottomed, low bottomed and round bellied, there is always too much tush, too high, and not enough front crotch, and the “solution” from most experts seems to just drop the crotch down to my knees. Which would be great if I really needed to be hobbled, but is a bit inconvenient in real life. I decided I know my own body better than they do, bought a bunch of cheap trouser weight fabrics, and kept cutting and basting and changing my angle of attack until I got somewhere with it. Of course, this was last fall and you know exactly what happened in the meantime, right? After years of being the same size and weight, I instantly lost weight and dropped two sizes. Not complaining, mind you, but now I get to do it all over again! LOL!

  5. kathryn barnhill says:

    I was lucky enough to attend a two day workshop at my local ASG and Cynthia’s measurements changed my sewing life and that was just the topand bodice.

    I’m getting her pants fitting materials after reading this.

  6. This is so fascinating. Anne, when are you going to write a book? You are so good at explaining things like this; it’s like a little light bulb going off in my head when I finally figure out calculus. Or at least that’s what I’m guessing it will be like, if I ever DO figure out calculus (says the momma who is getting to the point where she can’t help her son with math anymore, and doesn’t want to admit it’s because I don’t know how to do it!)

    Seriously — when you get your book deal, I’m first in line to pre-order a copy.

  7. KathyZ says:

    thanks for the great explanation. I had recent run-in with an “L” crotch curve. The pattern was an “L” and I am not. I can feel the pants pulling right at the corner of the “L”. I need that extra fabric. Isn’t it amazing how different we all are. How come men don’t have these problems?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Oh, they do, Kathy. Most of them just don’t know it! I’ve seem some pretty egregious fitting problems on guys, but unless they have a good tailor (or sewist) advising them, they haven’t a clue.

  8. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Ann, thank you for the enlightening post. I’m going to be tackling pants again this summer so this will definitely get tried as I suspect my butt is an L and not a J.

    Theresa in Tucson

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Anne. I didn’t know this fitting instructor…I wish I lived closer to take a class.

  10. jsews says:

    thanks for clarifying that. Just one question, do you take you crotch curve standing up or sitting down? How tight should the flex ruler be to the body?
    thanks for all the great information you provide on your blog.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Cynthia took the curve standing up, and you press that puppy as close as you can. No being shy with the flexible ruler! 🙂

  11. Vicki says:

    Ha, ha, love that last reply! I am going to pin this post. I have one of those rulers and will put it to good use. This is a funny adjustment in that it looks like you are giving yourself more room rather than taking it away.

  12. Michelle says:

    This is very helpful – thank you so much.

  13. Thanks for this great post, Anne. I haven’t gotten to pants sewing yet, but some of the posts by others I have read that talk about “scooping the crotch” I couldn’t visualize. This is so perfect and makes sense.

  14. jsews says:

    Thanks Ann! I will give it a try and see what shape I come up with.

  15. Suzanne says:

    Speaking of fitting issues, did you see the model in V8883 (Vogue)? I saw these and thought, wow, why would anyone buy this pattern?

  16. Clio says:

    Like most, I’ve struggled with pants/crotches too and this really is an “aha” kind of post. I suspect my cc should be more L than J (running and elliptical trainers?).

  17. Margritlb says:

    I have always thot I have a flat butt but dont have extra bagginess there like other flat butted people. I seem to have a different problem. I’m trying to get rid of extra fullness (horizontally) under my butt, across the back thigh. Do you have suggestions how to fix that?

  18. Cindy May says:

    yes but I want to see your butt:).:):)

  19. Bernie says:

    Hot patterns have been shaping their pants like this since they went into production – always a great butt finish

  20. Tina Spear says:

    I have heard of this method before. From Lorraine Henry. But how did you compare your crotch curve from the flexible ruler with that of the pattern piece? Did you just use the lower part of the curve & compare with the lower part of the pattern piece, or did you compare the whole crotch curve with the whole pattern piece? Can you give pictures to show how you made the comparison?

  21. Kerri says:

    I’m so happy to read this post! I’ve been sewing since high school but have hit many walls of frustration and annoyance when making pants. I can’t wait to try out this tip; just finished recycling that pattern because the crotchet was just so wrong. I will give it another try. Sure wish I could take a class from you!

  22. K-Line says:

    How did I miss this post! So useful to me right now…

  23. Ann D. says:

    So glad that I found your site and this blog! I now know what to do to get rid of all of that extra fabric. I cannot wait to share with my sewing friends. THANK YOU!!!!!

  24. Cyndie says:

    I just read this post the other night. This morning, I used a flexible ruler to make a crotch mockup. My butt is more of a C shape, thanks to all the heavy lifting I do in the gym. 😉 I just happened to have a pants muslin that has been sitting there for months because I didn’t know how to get rid of all the extra fabric in the back. It totally did the trick. Amazing! This adjustment both makes more room for my bottom and gets rid of extra fabric that was previously pooled underneath it, but I would not have figured it out if I hadn’t seen your post. I just want to say a big THANK YOU!

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