Ripples On Leggings

Why am I getting ripples in these places?

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I have had a few questions about fitting problems on leggings. The questions have all been of the same type. Why are we getting ripples in all these places? See the first Illustration. The yellow ripples are on the front only and sit between the waist and hip line and point down towards the side. The green ripples are always between calf and knee and point upward towards the side (both front and back but more pronounced on the back). The red ripples are not to be confused with a poor fitting crotch area ... these ones sit away from the inside leg seam and extend almost to the center of the front leg (they aren't on the back).


As usual the first intuitive thing people tried to do was to fit certain areas tighter thinking that they were making a closer fitting garment which was better contoured to the body ... but for some reason it made things drastically worse. Hint: these ripples don't occur on leggings with much less ease.

However the cause is not too much tension (horizontal negative ease). In every single case, except one, they had chosen to eliminate the side seam by distorting the pattern and expecting the fabric to simply forgive this crudity by stretching more. The fabric doesn't care about anything except physics!

In the left image below I've used the leg block I'm working on as an example ... it's not over fitted and reasonably straight down. The inside leg on my block is 618mm, the waist to ankle is 927mm and the leg center line is straight. The right image shows what happens when we eliminate the side seam ... the inside leg has increased by 3% and the outside has decreased by 2% ... we've technically skewed the entire pattern ... not by a huge amount, but enough to create ripples.


Now I started with a dead straight gently fitted block. Most people try to eliminate the side seam because they want a really fitted result and used a pattern skewed towards the inside leg before they even join the two pieces together ... in one case they had a difference of 8% inside and 6% outside before they went and tried to fit it even closer, resulting in some pretty serious and numerous ripples.

We need to remember where the original pattern started and why it was made that way before we go ahead and distort it ... and we seriously need to think what will happen when we keep adding more and more tension to fix things. Sometimes less tension and fitting gives a closer and smoother look.

If you think about non-stretch patterns, we create a close fit by shaping with darts ... contouring the fabric around the body shapes. The closer we want the fit to be, the more panels we need to use.

Simply because a fabric stretches, doesn't mean we no longer need to create panels for a close fit. Indeed the more we try to create a closer fit without panels the more we distort the various lines of tension within the fabric. The key to eliminating ripples is an even tension across the entire garment (say that to yourself several times). If you want to depend on stretch and not panels for a close fit then you're not going to have an even tension and you're going to get ripples ... which are then amplified during movement.

Eliminating seams while trying for a closer fit do NOT go hand in hand! They are compounding problems.

The other minor issue then is using much heavier weight fabrics in leggings. When you increase the weight of the fabric significantly you need to drop the negative ease! (change the pattern when you change the fabric) It's OK generally for cotton/spandex yoga pants, not OK for poly or nylon/spandex.


Question from Tanya Marie:  Does adding a triangle gusset to the crotch, on a pattern with no side seam, help with evening out the tension? Would that count as a panel? Moreover, with no side seam, by adding a panel to the inner leg, is that another solution to ease and even tension?

Answer: The ripples are caused by distorting the pattern into a parallelogram and then lengthening one side relative to the other. It doesn't change distortion in the leg by inserting a gusset at the crotch ... the distortion is obviously still there ... and between the waist and hips. The gusset does help with excessive tension in the gymnast style leggings where all for panels normally come together and it also creates a better shape for the crotch ... but it does nothing for this particular problem.

The narrow inside leg panel some people use does help to a very limited extent but you still have the distortion to deal with. That inside leg panel would need to come all the way to CF and CB to eliminate the distortion completely ... ie; instead of side and inside leg seams you now have front and back leg seams ... The leg is in two equal halves.


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