I am officially fed up with the way that cotton leggings wear out at the inner thighs, and are so hard to mend. There must be a better way.
It occurs to me that some kind of bloomers plus long socks would achieve an equivalent degree of leg warmth and chafing prevention, and be far more mendable. However, I don’t much want to wear frilly Victorian style bloomers like you see being sold to re-enactors and steampunk enthusiasts. I would quite happily wear a well-fitted pair of knee-length undies, though, if they were basically just like longish shorts designed for the job, and didn’t look too costume-y if they showed under a skirt.
So I was thinking about making some such undies. I was thinking of having a little elastic at the top for comfort/give but mostly doing them up with a couple of buttons, so they don’t have to be too gathered, and thus won’t bunch up too much — perhaps making them flare out into a more circular shape so they fit nicely over the hips and are more culotte-like around the hem. Fabric-wise, cotton lawn would probably work well, though at this time of year I’m tempted to go for flannel.
Then I got to thinking about the original problem, the wearing out at the inner thigh. A looser sort of garment won’t rub in the same way, and woven fabric is far easier to stabilise or to mend, of course, so that’s winning over leggings already. But how about if I could strengthen the thigh area from the start, or at the very least make it with mending or strengthening in mind?
Then the idea came to me of gussets. I’m generally in favour of that kind of sewing anyway — mostly based on rectangles and triangles, and conservative in fabric use — and would much prefer to do it that way than to try and cut out a modern-style pattern. So, could I find a pattern for knickers or bloomers or trousers with a diamond gusset in the crotch?
I googled extensively and didn’t find much except for this pattern for 16th century Hammer Pants. No matter, I can figure it out myself. So I got out some paper, scissors, and sticky tape and experimented.
Here’s what I made with two trapezoids (narrower edge being the waist) and a square piece set diagonally into the crotch (points at the inner knee seams and front and back of the crotchular area).
And here’s my roughly sketched out pattern on the scrap paper:
The important measurements, as I see them:
A: Waistband — this would be your waist measurement plus a bit of fullness for elastic; if you prefer to think of it that way, make it just a smidge bigger than your hip measurement, which will make it easy to pull them on. Or if you prefer to have a non-elasticised waistband, or something else, then adjust as necessary (but make sure you flare the shape out to fit your hips, in that case.)
B: This is the front/back seam. Measure from centre front to centre back through your legs and make a note of it, then subtract 0.5 * D (see below) and adjust at front/back to make it higher/lower depending on your own waist curve.
C: Outer thigh. There’s no seam here but basically this is the length of the undies as measured down the side.
D and E: Moving over to the gusset, D is the line that goes up your inseam from inner knee to crotch and down again, or to put it another way, D = inseam measurement times two. By basic maths and a bit of fudging, this means that E, the side of the square you’ll cut for your gusset, is about
3/4 1.5 times the inseam measurement (sorry, got this wrong originally in the diagram). For instance, if your inseam measurement for knee length pants is 12″, you’ll cut an 18″ square (plus seam allowance, yada yada)
F: Moving back to the main part, F is the lower hem of the pants, which is as full as you like them. For not-very-full pants, just make the sides (B) straight up and down, and you’ll have as much fullness in each leg as you have in half the waist measurement. That is, if you have a 40″ waist you’ll have a 20″ leg. Measure your leg just above the knee to make sure that’ll work for you — you’ll want a couple of inches ease at least, but more won’t hurt.
So basically what you have here is two rectangles — one for each leg — and a square for the crotch. You’d sew the crotch gusset in, then the back seam, then either sew up the front seam or put in buttons or whatever you like, then add elastic/a waist band/whatever around the top. If you want your pants to be stronger in the crotch you can double the fabric thickness there. If the centre gusset wears out it can be quite easily replaced by just cutting a new square of the right size and sewing it in. If you want your undies to be fuller/more culotte-like, you can cut and spread your pattern into a wider curve, even up to a semi-circle. Longer ones could be made by extending the length of the main part and just sewing front to back tube-style for whatever length of inseam you want below the gusset. And of course if you like you can trim them however you want.
I haven’t actually constructed these yet so I don’t know if they’d be comfortable or not, but I’m interested in your thoughts on whether you think it would work — especially if you are a sewer and into this kind of design.