Nikko Top by True/Bias Patterns;
McCalls' Leggings M6173

The fabric for both of these garments was from my stash. The top is a cotton spandex jersey from an estate sale; the leggings are a 4-way stretch zebra print knit of unknown origin.

McCalls M6173 is a wonderful pattern! A year or so ago, I posted a pair of leggings made from this pattern out of a heavy black rayon/nylon/spandex knit. Since then, I learned a great trick for choosing the size of knit pants’ patterns.

Fitting knits is a bit of a challenge. Just as each woven fabric has its own hand and drape, so do knits. Only, more so. Each knit also has its own stretch profile in both its lengthwise and widthwise directions. In a woven fabric, I might need to adjust a side seam or dart because the particular woven fabric is more stiff than the previous fabric I used. In knits, I might have to use an entirely different size pattern.


Yes. A knit can be so stretchy that I have to use a different size pattern. So, how do I decide what size to use?

Here’s my method, modified from a stretch denim trick I learned from my fellow Palmer/Pletsch Certified Sewing Instructor, Helen Bartley:
1. Double the fabric, in the direction in which it will be cut. My zebra knit was more stretchy in the width than the length, so I planned to cut the leggings with the greatest stretch around the hips. I folded my fabric widthwise. For the test, I held the fabric with the width going around my hips, and the length falling down my legs.

2. Place a pin near one edge of the fabric.

3. Stretch the fabric around your hips, just taught enough to be comfortable.

4. Place a second pin where the fabric meets the first pin.

5. Remove the fabric from your body and measure between the two pins.

6. Compare this number to the finished hip width on the pattern.

7. Choose the pattern size with the same finished hip width you just measured on your fabric.

I’ve used this method to determine the size of several pairs of leggings, and it consistently yields the correct size. Tissue fitting knit pattern with negative ease can be a little tricky, since paper doesn’t stretch, but I use Helen’s method for tissue fitting jeans, found in Helen Bartley’s book, “Fit and Sew Custom Jeans”. (The book’s a great resource — even if you’re not making jeans!) I found that I don’t need many alterations for this pattern. I scoop the seat a bit and redraw the waistline. These leggings are super soft and comfortable, perfect for my Pilates class!

(Photo credits to Susan Anderson at Second Story Pilates, Agoura Hills, CA)

I want to Learn MORE!

Subscribe to our newsletter and ---- and in addition to news about specials, new classes and sewing tips --- you'll receive a FREE guide to Palmer/Pletsch tissue fitting. Click the button below to subscribe:

Read more