You are currently viewing FIT AND SEW CONTOUR WAISTBANDS

For this blog I am focusing on fitting and sewing a contour (curved) waistband. For tips on a fly front zipper and trouser pockets, see the previous blog on sewing pleated trousers. The length of this pant shows off my flat-heeled shirred ankle boots. More about those at the end!

See the blog on our favorite easy top! Mine is rayon/spandex knit, View A, cropped to 3” below my waist.

The guidesheet for this pants pattern shows you how to tissue-fit using a sequence specific to contour bands.


I usually use a size 14 pant pattern, but my fabric is a 4-way stretch knit. My hip measures 39 ½” and on the back of the envelope it says the finished hip measurement of a size 12 is 39 ½”. I chose the size 12 because Palmer/Pletsch pant patterns have 1” side seam allowances. I can let them out if needed.

My waist, however, is a size 16, so I added to the side seams of the size 12 band and to the upper sides of the pants before fitting.

guidesheet for Butterick Palmer/Pletsch pattern B6910 contour band pant

GOOD NEWS! I asked Butterick if we could have band pattern pieces for both sides of the body to make fitting easier. We got it! If one side is flatter, you can alter the band in one fitting.

Pati Palmer fitting contour band pattern piece

I have 1” elastic around my waist placed so the bottom of the elastic is where I want the top of my finished pants. I tried on the waistband tissue and matched the waist seamline to the bottom of the elastic.

I deepened the left side seam because I’m smaller on that side. I made two small dart tucks along the lower edge of the back to fit my body.


PHOTO NOTE: I am fitting over thin tights, but it is best to fit over your underwear so the tissue doesn’t cling.

Fit tip

As shown in our book Pants for Real People, fit the band on your body first. Then attach the pant. Lengthen or shorten the pant crotch until the crotch seamline touches your body. (It will grow in fabric.)

Palmer/Pletsch pant patterns have 1” side and inseam allowances and usually a 1” waist seam allowance. But when teaching I found that the wider seam allowance at the waist was confusing to students. For contour bands I now keep horizontal seam allowances 5/8” wide.

After cutting your band out of fabric, pin side seams together and try it on. The worst thing that can happen is that you need to pin a tuck here and there to better fit it to your body. If so, use the adjusted fabric to cut a new band.


The pants hang from the band. Interfacing will add body and stability. I prefer to fuse to BOTH the band and band facing. I might use the same interfacing on both or a heavier one on the band and lighter one on the facing.

For my knit fabric, I used PerfectFuse Light on both and cut with the stable lengthwise direction across the band to prevent stretching. This interfacing adheres well to knits and textured surfaces.

For wovens I would use PerfectFuse Sheer to add crispness, but not thickness. If I want more body, I use PerfectFuse Medium or PerfectFuse Tailor Ultra.

Test your fabric the same way you would when deciding which interfacing combination is best for a jacket front and front facing. Fuse one interfacing to a strip that will be your band and the same or different interfacings on another that will be your facing. Sew them together, catching the interfacing in the seam. Trim, press open, then press wrong sides together. Which looks and feels the best?

How to Choose Fusible Interfacing


PRESS TISSUE – Use dry iron set at wool.

MARK SEAMLINES – The zigzag craft paper is protecting my ironing surface from the red ink. Mark the 1” side and inseams and the 5/8” waist seams.

MARK YOUR FRONT CROTCH SEAMLINE – This is grading on the FRONT crotch. Mark the correct crotch stitching line for your size while marking the 1” inseam.

If you have a tummy, you can gain up to an inch more width across the front by spreading the center front 3/8”-1/2”.

The arrow points to the new center front.


Use only ½”-wide Scotch Magic Tape, which can be repositioned, not the shiny clear tape used for wrapping gifts.

Lap short pieces around the curves. In the curved areas only, clip to but not through the tape.

Tape front and back crotch seams.

If your derriere is low in the back (think over age 40) tape below the lowest stitching line.

Pati Palmer tissue-fitting the contour waist pant pattern


I fitted the band first. Now I have pinned the band to the pant. This time I put the top of the elastic where I wanted the top of the pant. Then I could more easily pin the band to the elastic to hold it up.

The back is baggy because even though I used the lowest back crotch curve, I am sitting on the curve and pushing it down. (Sorry I can’t show you, but it’s just me taking the photos!)

Normally I’d draw a line on the tissue 1/2”-3/4” lower, tape below the line, clip to the tape, and try on again. 

My 4-way stretch fabric gives me pause, however. It is not very predictable. I decided to wait and, if necessary, lower the back crotch more in fabric.


Following the guidesheet, sew the fly front and the trouser pockets before you sew the fronts to the backs.

Quick Tip

When teaching, I usually have students pin the inseams, outseams, and band seams WRONG sides together. When I fit them, I can then easily adjust seams to their bodies.

But when sewing knits or tight-fitting pants like jeans, I generally machine baste the seams RIGHT sides together. Then I try the pants on and check the fit. When I want to make a change, I pull out the basting and re-baste.

My machine has a “basting stitch,” which is 6 mm in length with loose tensions. It holds well enough for fitting but is easy to pull out.

Use a contrast thread in the bobbin. The bobbin thread pulls out more easily. White is my go-to color for all but white fabrics. I always know which is the bobbin thread!



In my twenties I had people tell me they had a hard time seeing when sewing black fabrics. I was perplexed!

Now I understand. So I have a NEW rule. Don’t match thread to fabric!

My fabric is gray and black on the right side and black on the inside.

Black thread matches too well. I found two grays in my thread stash. The lightest was too light. The charcoal (on the right) was perfect, lighter than black, so easier to see, yet invisible when sewn in a seam.

I may never sew seams in black fabric with black thread again! However, when sewing the hooks and eyes to the front band, black thread looks better.



baggy in the back of the pants

To reduce the bagginess in the back, I will lower the crotch curve first.

To expose the crotch seam, turn one leg inside out and put the other leg into it.

A lower crotch is also usually flatter so I am taking it in (straightening the center back) as well as lowering it.

I make a chalk mark the amount I want to lower at the point where the curve angles back toward the inseam. Then with a chalk wheel and a ruler I draw lines that don’t quite meet the first mark. Then I freehand the curve so it is rounded, not angled.

Chalk the middle of the curve first.

The back crotch is lower so I was able to pull up the center back to have the pants hang straighter as shown on this page from the book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans. See Chapter 4, page 42.

more sitting room

To remove fullness in the upper thigh area, I will take in the back inseams. I will also let out the front inseams because the front thigh would become a little snug after deepening the back inseam.

I will machine baste and try on again! See my final photos for the “after,” below.


Pin the band to the pant.

Because this fabric is a 4-way stretch, I wasn’t sure about the crotch depth. Working with Helen Bartley, author of Fit and Sew Custom Jeans, we learned that minus crotch depth ease was generally required in 4-way stretch denim. She created a formula that helps you get close. See CHAPTER 4, page 66 and 110, if you have the book.

My fabric has a lot of vertical stretch. And I decided I wanted the band lower, so I pinned the band 1 ½” from the top of the pant.

While lowering the band, I fit the band to the pant at the sides. I lapped the band side seams and snipped the band’s top and bottom edges where they crossed the pant side seams. The snips mark the band side seams. Then I sewed the side seams of the band, trimmed to 3/8”, and pressed them open.


Making sure the side seams matched, I basted the band to the pants.

I tried them on and liked where the band sat on my body. A good guess!

However, there was too much crotch length at the mid-section of the fronts. I may not have noticed this in some fabrics, but with this one every wrinkle is exaggerated. Hope I can get good photos when I am finished!

I pinned 1/8”-deep horizontal tucks below the band. I will re-sew the band lower, dipping the seam 1/4”.

Tucks pinned below the band.


To tape or not to tape? Pants made from cotton, rayon, or wool tend to grow during wear. Generally, I stabilize.

This is the first time I’ve not added stay tape to one or both contour waistband horizontal seams. The PerfectFuse Light interfacing cut on the stable grain going across the band pieces truly stabilized the polyester knit fabric and I didn’t feel the need to further stabilize the seams with Stay Tape. (We will see!)

If you are an hourglass shape, unlike me, your band will be more curved, and the interfacing will stretch in some areas. Then I would tape for sure.

For the lower band seam, I stabilize while I am sewing the band to the pants.

For the upper waist edge, I sew the band facing to the band without the tape. Then I try on the pants. If the waist needs to be snugged up a bit, I follow step 11 (at right) from Pants for Real People, CHAPTER 18.

Use StayTape to stabilize the contour band.
Pro Tip

In our book Pants for Real People we suggest wrapping fusible web over our nonroll waistband interfacing so you can fuse all the layers together after turning right side out. Then when you sew hooks to the ends, they will stay put without sewing through to the right side.

fuse the ends

For a contour pant, however, you don’t use Perfect Waistbands interfacing because it is straight, not curved. Instead, I put ½” Lite Steam-A-Seam in the overlap end. You could use two widths side by side. I stuck it to the fabric, touched the iron to the paper so the fusible web would be stuck in place, peeled away the paper, turned the end right side out, and fused all layers together. That allowed me to sew the hook on the end without going through to the right side.


I hemmed the contour waist pants to show off my shirred boots!                  

Pati Palmer models her finished pants — back view
Pati Palmer models her finished pants — front view

Here are close-ups of my boots. They are just plain funky, and I love that! I am admittedly showing them off! They are timeless, and I will wear them for many years so the cost per wear will go down with time! I included the label for those who might be interested.     

I have been asked about shoes I’ve worn in blog photos in the past. Full credit goes to Julie at Nordstrom in downtown Portland.

 She has been my go-to shoe person since my days teaching at Sew Expo in Puyallup. She brings me shoes I would never have thought to try on. For Puyallup I wanted comfort for standing on concrete for four days, but fashionable with an edgy twist.



At this point in life my mission is everyday comfort. Julie told me this boot sells out every year to women like me. The boots have zippers on both sides, making them easy to get on. They are lined with plush for warmth. The “slouch silhouette” is the edgy part.

“Slouch silhouette” is how these boots are described on the Nordstrom site.

resources mentioned in blog

Chapter 18 features faced waistlines and contour bands. the Real People/Fitted Pants section shows fitting a wide contour band on a teen, my daughter, Melissa, who jokingly claims I “used” her as a child. She was 17 here. Hope she is still a good sport! For fun, here is the website of the custom suit company she started in NYC.

There you go, Melissa. It worked out fine, didn’t it?! (But these blog readers probably won’t become your clients.)

Besides the interfacing information I shared earlier, Jackets for Real People contains many more lessons that tailoring teaches for improving your garment sewing.

Helen Bartley’s jeans book has tons of info on fitting jeans and other fitted pants. Pages 66 and 110 refer to a formula for crotch depth in stretch fitted jeans and other pants.


If you’ve really been wanting to learn to fit and sew jeans, join us in the immersive experience of a 5-day jeans workshop.

more workshops from palmer/pletsch

We offer fitting, sewing, and design workshops on a number of topics — pants, jeans, bodice, knits, jackets, and couture at different locations around the country.

Why are these logos used in Palmer/Pletsch books and patterns?

Palmer/Pletsch, the Fit Experts
Palmer/Pletsch...Teaching Sewing Since 1973
The Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method
For a complete understanding read this book

This Post Has 12 Comments


    I have this pattern, just a few quick questions, I am using the pattern for myself, simple slash pockect pants, I ‘m a guy, I alway compare measurements to a great fitting rtw pants i have, ok so sizing wise, finished garment measurements is always what i look at, for woven fabrics will I be ok with 2 inches of ease around the hips for close fitting pants (no baggy trousers or pleats for me) 2. if i want to make this in a ponte knit close fitting how much negative ease can I get away with in order to figure the size to work with, I completely understand that pants are all about the hips, if you cant get them over your hips, waste of time. Thank-you in advance.

  2. Pati

    FYI, I think most patterns are genderless because YOU make them fit you. So thanks for writing! In seminars and workshops we end up saying “it depends” a lot. It depends on the amount of stretch in the knit. It depends on your personal preference of what is too tight? It depends on whether you will use a zipper or convert them to pull-on which can be done with a knit. You can make a mock fly, eliminating the actual zipper. If using a zipper, sew the crotch to the zipper opening circle and before sewing the zipper, pin the inseams and side seams and try on the pants. Do you need a longer opening to get them up?

    So here is what I’d do. Since a knit pant can fit one to one, you could use the hip finished garment measurement closest to your hip size. Our patterns have 1″ side seam allowances so that will give you plenty of room to let the side seams out if you want to loosen the pant a bit. A ponte is generally a heavier more stable knit, so crotch depth may be the same as a woven. You can always lower the band on the pants like I did if you want the crotch shorter. I hope I’ve answered your questions. Pati Palmer

  3. Paula Robertson

    I have taken a class with you in Portland and it really helped me with tissue fitting. I use it every time I make a garment with a new pattern. These pants look terrific and I really want them, so I just bought the pattern. I have been looking for a pant pattern to love and hope this will be it. I then looked at Marcy Tilton’s site and think I found your fabric. I live in California so you won’t see me walking around in your pants!
    Wish me luck!

    1. Pati

      Great. The MY tips with the same fabric should be helpful!!! HAVE FUN! Pati


    Pati thank-you for the information, it is as I guessed. I have your books on jackets (love this book) pants, sewing with knits and the jeans book is the best. I also love your sewing patterns they are pretty flexible to work with, the only other brand of sewing patterns I really like since they are well drafted is BurdaStyle. Once again thank-you so much for your advice

  5. Joan

    Thank you for the terrific teaching blog, Pati — much appreciated with your detail and book references.

    You look terrific in your new pants and boots! I bypass the slouch styling every year, but they are really cute: will reconsider next Winter!

    1. Pati Palmer

      My shoe fashionista doesn’t steer me wrong. Most of the shoes she sells me I never would have tried on. So now I just trust her. She has a huge following at the downtown Portland store. Pati

  6. Nancy S

    Those pants look awesome! I have a similar Ponte print, but I don’t think I can pull off a print pant. I have almost finished fitting this pattern, but set it aside for other priorities. I look forward to going back and finishing the fitting. I think I will try it in a stretch woven I have. Love the boots!
    Thanks for sharing!

      1. Helen Major

        Thank you for an informative step by step guide. I have always struggled to make trousers and get them to fit well. I have some fabric in my stash that has a slight stretch and will see how I go using your guidelines. Will need to get the book too, as I like to have reference guides I can read & not on my tablet. Thanks so much Pati

Leave a Reply