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By Helen Bartley with Pati Palmer

Seattle resident Jaimie attended our 5-day Fit and Sew Custom Jeans Workshop in Portland, OR. She successfully sewed jeans for her curvy body. But using denim with almost no stretch, she couldn’t get a tight fit under her bum, so I offered to fit her in a really stretchy denim similar to the fabric in a tightly fitted ready-made jean that Jaimie owned.

That led to a weekend in Portland with Pati and me and a stay for Jaimie in my basement apartment, complete with Stanley the cat as a roomie. Fortunately, Jaimie is a cat lover.

We set up the studio to photograph her. We also photographed a few of the important things to remember when fitting jeans.

For success you need:

1. A stretchy denim which may have these characteristics: 4” of cross-wise grain can stretch to 6-8”. It is a lightweight with a fiber content of cotton, 5% spandex, and maybe 10% polyester for strength. The main thing is that it has lots of stretch.

2. You need to do the stretch test found in our book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans. Here is Pati wrapping a double-layer of stretch denim around her hips to see how tight her jeans could be. The number of inches of denim would be compared to the finished hip measurement on the pattern. That is the size she’d use for a tight fit with this fabric. The calculations are in Chapter 4. (See RESOURCES at end of blog.)

Pati Palmer demonstrates wrap test for denim fabric
Helen checks waistband position

First, decide where you want the top of the waistband of your jeans. Wrap 1½” elastic, like Pamela’s Patterns Fantastic Elastic, around your waist. Adjust it so the top edge of the elastic is where you want to wear the top of the 1½” waistband on the finished jeans. This can be anywhere you want and might be at a different place on your next pair.

NOTE: Jaimie has cool tattoos and I asked if we could take a close-up of the three girls. They are so different from what we’ve seen. I ask if there was a significance. She said it was based on an old photo of synchronized swimmers. She picked it because she loves being in the water and swimming. It appears women in hi-tech like vintage!

For jeans with negative ease, you will need to add a strip of tissue to the side seams so you can try on the tissue for fitting, as shown.

The waist stitching line on the tissue (this pattern has a 1” waist seam allowance) should come up to the bottom of the elastic or up to 1 ½” below depending on the amount of stretch in your denim.

We shortened Jaimie’s pattern by making horizontal tucks across the front and back of the pattern.

For tissue-fitting, pull up the pattern “leg” front and back at the same time. I did a little shimmy with the pattern as Jaimie spread her legs wide—until the crotch stitching line touched her body. If you can see “air” at the top of the crotch, pull tissue up more.

Pull up the pattern leg.

The tissue 1” waist seamline is now at the bottom of the elastic. The side seams are perpendicular to the floor. Since Jaimie is lower in the front than in the back we may need to lower the waistband about ½” in the front during the fabric-fitting.

Palmer/Pletsch Perfect Pattern PaperShe used the gridded Perfect Pattern Paper to add width to the side seams and for other alterations.

The tissue may have a wrinkle like the one pointing to Jaimie’s inseam. Letting out the front inseam should make it go away. She may then need to deepen the side seam to fit to her shape, or the leg in the thigh area may be too full for her.

Lastly, don’t forget to dart the back yoke tissue to fit your shape. Jaimie gets several tiny darts to make the back yoke fit her smaller waist.


We suggest leaving 1” seam allowances at the side and inseams when cutting your denim. These are in-case seam allowances “in case” you need to let them out.

You can complete sewing all of the front details including zippers and front pockets, and get your back pockets ready for placement. Then machine-baste the inseams, crotch, and side seams right sides together and try on. Mark where you may want to let out or take in a seam. Transfer those marks to the wrong side.

Place the pockets where you want them and mark the corners with a chalk pencil. Take out the basting and finish sewing the jeans.

Jaimie gets a snug fit with this stretchy fabric. Horizontal wrinkles, also called “jeans whiskers,” form just below the bum and at the knee.

from and back view of Jaime in curvy jeans

Close-ups of Jaimie’s front and back jeans details photographed on Jaimie during our July 2022 Sewing Camp Workshop in Portland, Oregon.



The “wrap test” formula for deciding what size pattern to use is in the new Palmer/Pletsch book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans. It uses the finished jeans hip measurement, which you will find printed on the back of the envelope for the new Butterick Palmer/Pletsch jeans patterns B6911 and B6912 (plus sizes), on sale mid-October 2022.


Our new jeans patterns just came out in Fall 2022. They have some techniques from the book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans and follow Helen’s special fitting and sewing order. You can find more about every step in the guidesheets in the book 


Search for Palmer/Pletsch Sewing and Fitting Pants Tutorials for clips from our digital video classes. You can also purchase the video classes to download or stream at We have a jeans video class where you can sew along as Marta Alto fits and sews jeans from start to finish. It includes an efficient order for topstitching. Use the book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans to follower Helen’s sewing/fitting order that allows for even more fitting, especially for tightly fitted jeans.


If you want to master fitting and sewing pants, check out our workshops and search for a trained instuctor, go to  

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