My Summer of Basics: jeans sewing
I have never been able to get stylish jeans that fit me. Ever. Two years ago, after a particularly dispiriting changing room session, I decided there had to be a better way and found Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns and her Ginger Jeans (obviously nothing to do with Made At Ginjer jeans!). I decided to make my own jeans. I snagged some budget stretch denim, all the findings and jeans top stitching threads and then immediately lost my nerve.
In the mean time, I’ve been massively inspired by Fringe Association’s Karen Templeman and her #summerofbasics sew-along. It has helped me reappraise my own sewing and align it towards what I really need in my wardrobe, which is a pair of well-fitting jeans. In fact, I’m rather hoping to extend this process and make 2017 my year of basics.
Two caveats to that bold statement. This autumn I will finally get cracking on that pea coat I promised to make for the long-suffering Mr Ginjer. I am also planning to knit a Fair Isle hoodie for me. More on those in future posts.
Everything sat in my stash till this summer when my ill-fitting shop-bought jeans finally bit the dust. It was a wearable muslin or bust. Digging out the fabric again, I was horrified by the colour and weird texture. No great style vibes there. After several bio washes, a whitener soak (bumping up my environmental impact a notch), and drying in bright sunlight, the fabric had a bit more life to it. There was not much stretch to it, but now I’m not sure if the original material was always like this, or my heavy-handed laundering inflicted this.
Don’t skimp on the fabric
Note to self. I will not be a cheap-skate with jeans fabric again. I have already snapped up some blue textured Italian designer denim and some smooth deep black denim from the Fabric Godmother for the next pairs. The Closet Case patterns method is to baste fit as you go and as long as you trace off the size that corresponds to your body measurements and have enough fabric in case you have to re-cut a back yoke or a waistband, if needed, you are good to go.
I armed myself with some amazing Closet Case Patterns support materials. I highly recommend 15 Common Fitting Adjustments (a download for Closet Case newsletter subscribers) and Heather Lou’s e-book The Definitive Guide: Sewing Your Own Jeans and her blog sewalong. The support is brilliant. Clear instructions and images. It was just like having Heather in the room with me. I also used her Killer Booty Pockets. This down load has 33 pocket top stitching designs, to help you personalise your back pockets.
I never wear skinny jeans but, going completely crazy, I decided my first attempt would be the skinny mid-rise variation. I cut out a size 12 at the waist grading to 10 from the hips. In addition, I selected some vintage-look floral quilting cotton the pocket bags and waistband lining, old gold Guttermann jeans top stitching thread and dark red regular thread to jazz up the interior stitching and the bar tacks.
It proved to be a pretty straight-forward sew. I really enjoyed the zen of focusing on all that top stitching. My machine coped pretty well with the heavy materials. It only threw a hissy fit when it came to bar tacking with top stitching thread. I comprised with regular thread and a very close zig-zag to approximate bar-tacking.
Improving the fit
I basted the jeans to try the fit. Some candid snaps by Mr G helped me analyse what I could do to improve fit and optimise back pocket positions. Thankfully the fit adjustments were nothing major. I let out the centre and side seams a tad to allow for more ease and eating. I also made the front crotch curve a little shallower and gave myself a little more room at the thing inseam. This helped eliminate the drag lines at the crotch. My reduction of the centre seam allowance gave me some angst when it came to the fly facing and inserting the zip. Next time I will cut a straight size 12 and adjust the crotch curve.
The only other obstacle was the buttonhole in the waistband. I knew my machine would not cope with this and decided to hand stitch. Luckily my preparations for the upcoming pea coat stood me in good stead. I had some gimp thread to help raise and plump out the buttonhole stitching, a key hole punch, a buttonhole chisel and watched (multiple times) the brilliant video by The Yorkshire Tailor, How to make Handmade button Holes.
After some practice buttonholes I took the plunge on my jeans. I was pretty pleased with the initial result. I have since decided to unpick the buttonhole and re-do it. Multiple wears later, I have realised I did not put my stitches close enough together, especially around the “keyhole” end. The gimp was not fully secured and the buttonhole now looks pretty rubbish. But I know I can improve on this effort.
The Yorkshire Tailor says you need to do 100 buttonholes before you really crack the technique. I don’t know if I will get to 100 buttonholes before I come to do the pea coat, but I am planning to go for it. Obsessive or what!
These jeans are definitely the best I have had and have become a staple in my wardrobe. I’m really looking forward to sewing more.