Jeans. The staple of just about everyone’s wardrobe since the 70s. They come in various guises, colours and lengths but we cannot get enough of them. Since their introduction as basic workwear they have undergone dramatic transformations in style, detail and of course, the fabric they’re made of. The quest for the perfect pair of jeans is rather like the Quest for the Holy Grail. We’d do anything to find them, including shelling out large amouts of money on designer jeans. But us sewists are the lucky ones, we can make our own!
I’ve made jeans for the girls before, but never made a “proper” pair for myself. I bought a couple of Hot Patterns jeans, came very short with the one and gave up on the idea. Then the Closet Case Gingers came along & I bought the PDF immediately. I even bought fabric, but when it came to the crunch I chickened out of actually making them. I just wasn’t convinced about the styling and fitting – that they’d look good on me. I’d already justified the purchase of the pattern, I was going to use the skinny version for the girls, of course…
In the intervening months I bought more stretch denim, black, caramel & beautiful blue. They liked my stash, too happy there to ever come out & be used.
The style is always the thing I get stuck on. I like a straight leg, but you just cannot beat a bootcut or flare to make your legs look longer, or to balance out a larger body/hip. I buy bootcut jeans whenever I can and love a flare. My ordinary trousers can attest to that! Then in December I started seeing flared jeans aplenty on the internet. Sewists were making flared jeans! Where is that pattern! I NEEDED it!
I bought the Baste + Gather Birkin Flared Jeans on my birthday at the end of December (getting Mr W to print the pattern on A0 at the office, ssshhhh). I had the fabric, I had the pattern. Just to make it up… Now Daughter No1 is safely wandering around Thailand with a rucksack of handmade goodies to wear, I can turn my attention to sewing for myself again, and JEANS are on the top of the list!
I started tracing the pattern last week, finishing on Monday this week and finally making a half toile. I really wanted to check the fit around the top half, the length wasn’t a big worry. I made the size 35, based on my waist measurement. Apparently the hip should have been a size lower, but I have a bum & tum to fit into that space and with 3inches (7.5cm) negative ease, I wasn’t taking any chances!! After the toile I decided to add a little (5mm) to the inseam on both legs to accommodate wide thighs and curved out a little extra on the CB seat seam. I also wanted to change the opening of the fly from the right to the left. All of my trousers are left hand opening, & I can’t explain how confused I was trying to open and close the toile with my right hand! Silly, yes?? The rest seemed ok & I couldn’t wait to start!
I chose a dark charcoal denim with 2% lycra from the stash. I’d bought it from Croft Mill Fabrics around this time last year! It has a fabulous handle, soft on the underside, and a slight sheen to it. I thought it would be perfect as a slightly dressier look than “normal” coloured denim. Threads, zip & button were all from the stash.
I really like the instructions for this pattern. All are well written and illustrated and you really cannot go wrong with them. I think quite a few pairs of jeans were taken apart to provide the exact level of detail that has gone into this pattern. It’s the best way to learn to make things – take something apart and see how it was put together in the first place! I used white pocketing for the pockets and instead of simply sewing the bottom seam and overlocking, I make some quick French seams. Hopefully this should be stronger, depending on what I decide to jam into my pockets!
The fly is inserted in a way that not many sewists will be used to, it’s a method used mostly in industry for men’s wear. But it’s well described and goes together well. The only thing I’d say is, if you have the right length zip (I had 5″) you will not have to cut off anything, pliers will be unnecessary and you will skim past the bottom end of the zip with your topstitching.
Topstitching…… I don’t use topstitching thread most of the time but for jeans you need that thicker thread for a more authentic look. I have in my needle box a twin denim needle, perfect for accurate double lines of topstitching on the perfect jeans. Except my Bernina didn’t like it at all. It allowed me the satisfaction of neatly stitched pocket top edges and then stopped. Any more attempts resulted in a hissy fit and a nice lump of thread under the fabric. Similar effects happened when trying to use a single row of topstitching. I have to add here that I didn’t use a topstitching needle. That’s one thing I didn’t have to hand and the local haberdashery didn’t stock so exotic an item. The stitching looks ok from the top, but when you turn the fabric over there’s a lovely collection of loops of topstitch thread and the bobbin thread is ineffective. I tried tightening the bobbin tension but nothing worked. Just to show how perverse my fabulous Bernina is, it was perfectly happy for me to use the jeans twin needle with normal thread in one needle and topstitch thread in the other. Machines! *throws hands in the air*
There is even a little trick to make sure the centre back seam still looks like it’s in the centre, topstitching and all. You place one back leg piece 1cm away from the other, then stitch at the normal 1.5cm seam, once you iron the seams in one direction and turn it over to the right side, you’ve (hopefully) got a matching yoke seam and what appears to be an even placement of the pockets. Topstitching can seriously throw the symmetry off, even if it all measures the same, visually it’s tricky!
But seriously folks, my misbehaving machine was the only issue I had with the construction of these jeans. That and my over-enthusiastic estimation of the length of my legs! I measured the inseam of 34inches (84cm) with my boots on and determined it was a good length for me… Erm, nope! I chopped off 8cm and turned up 2.5 for the hem! I didn’t have to worry about loosing too much of the flare (there’s plenty!) thank goodness. I have now used the shortening lines to take out 2cm in the mid-thigh and another 2 mid-calf. The remainder will come off the bottom, it’ll be fine! ;)
Once on, the jeans are so good! The high waist, and it is high, ensures no muffin top, HURRAY! In photos of other versions of the jeans the waistand doesn’t to be as high as it is on me, but the lower edge of the waistband sits on the top of my hip bones, so it cannot go any lower if it is to be a high or natural waist. But I likes it! I didn’t think I’d be going back to waistlines on the natural waist ever, but I might be persuaded now.
By the way, that’s a new tee! Made last night after a day of gallivanting, I needed to do something productive. Luckily it was already cut out the night before so all it needed was a little Vilene bias tape for the shoulder seams and it was good to go! The pattern is a self drafted one. I shortened the sleeve from the original version which I wore to the dreaded wedding in December. The fabric is the most beautiful viscose jersey from Ditto Fabrics, the drape is fabulous and it’s so soft!! It’s my second make for the summer (who said I was wishing the year away??)
Mr W likes these jeans, says the fit is really good, so I must have done something right! :) Apparently there will be an “add-on” for this pattern which involved making the legs into skinnies. Could be interesting. I’d prefer a straight leg myself, and with a fit around the top as good as this one, playing with the legs to make millions of pairs of jeans will be so much more fun!
ps, this is my just-in-time sumbission for Jeans in January!