MAKING YOUR OWN JEANS: MY TIPS AND TRICKS
You know, making jeans is not so scary..
Imagine having the perfect pair of jeans. Perfect fit, perfect shape, perfect denim.. all of those things because they were made just for you!
Since the sewing bug really took hold of me, I have been lusting after all the gorgeously hand made jeans that scatter across my instagram feed. Inspired by this and with a drive to get a good pair of jeans (something I have really struggled with since having kids), my over confident sewing self got stuck into planning my jeans.
At this point, I had never sewn jeans, nor even pants with a fly so I was running a bit blind. Determined though, I got stuck into my research and have now finished up two pairs.. one not so perfect, and one pair much closer to the holy grail!
In making these, I have learnt some valuable lessons along the way and a heap of little tricks that I wanted to share. Whether you are already sewing jeans or also contemplating your first pair, hopefully my advice (and mistakes) will help you on your way.
1. Choose your pattern carefully
It makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it, but before I got started I hadn’t realised that jeans patterns are generally made specifically for either rigid or stretch denim.
This scuppered my plans to make the MN Ash jeans as I had bought rigid denim.. woops. It all worked out well in the end though as I discovered the gorgeous 101 jeans and skinny jeans are dead right?!
If you are going for a stretch pattern, make sure your jeans stretch enough by checking the stretch requirements in the pattern.
2.muslin, muslin, muslin
I’m not a big fan of making muslins, and it’s been a while since I did some proper pants fitting.
This was a big mistake brewing for me and my first pair as I didn’t stop to check the muslin properly. I missed that I needed a swayback adjustment, more grading from the waist to the hips, a crotch adjustment and leg length changes.
Take the time to properly check your muslin before you cut into the good stuff. After all, if a perfect fit pair of jeans is what you are after, this is the most important step. For me, lesson learned!
3. Slow up and take just one step at a time
Making jeans isn’t a quick sew process. Take breaks when you are tired and remember each step in the instructions is just that, one step.
Personally I don’t read ahead in the guides and literally go along bit by bit. I think this helps to make it all feel manageable. I don’t get overwhelmed or worry about trickier steps I might have seen later on.
4. Use the Pattern Designers Resources
For every one of the patterns I looked at, the designer has created a sew along guide. This can be invaluable if you just need to break the step down a bit more, or look at a photo of how they have everything positioned. Have these on hand as you go before you get too frustrated with what you are doing.
5. choose easy topstitch colours
The first pair I made was grey denim, and I used the Gutterman silver denim thread for my topstitching. To my eyes, it had come out better than expected and so as I moved onto my second pair I decided to go for something more contrasting. I shouldn’t have.
Althugh my top stitching is pretty straight, they are places where I struggled to get the thicker denim through and the length of the stitches changed. They are in places that won’t show, but I do kind of wish I had selected a black thread.
Hold off on the high contrast until you are a bit more experienced than I was!
6. Use your presser foot to keep your stitching straight
Make a point to know the distance from your needle ( in both left aligned and centre positions) to the edge of your foot. Use this as your guide. Your denim fabrics heavier seams will like to default against the edges, so use these to your advantage.
My Bernette B38 is 5mm from centre to the edge of my open toe foot (my preferred presser foot) and so I can use this to line up super straight and super well distanced top stitching.
7. Chalk your seam lines on dark denim
Sometimes I find the light really tricky, especially when sewing darker fabrics, To make sure I can see the seam line properly, I have started to draw a chalk line in the ditch of the seam. Not only does this help me to see the seam, bit it really helps me to stay on track when I’m topstitching.
Ask for help…
As I went into my first pair of jeans make, I asked on an instagram story what advice people had for me. I got some great tips and so am sharing them with you here:
- Buy more topstiching thread than you think you will need – @onlylivinggirltx
- Take your time and enjoy the process – @designparvicky
- When it comes to sewing over bulky layers, use a hammer to hammer them down first – @fab_rikk_ (I wish I had remembered this one when I was sewing!!)
- Go slooow on the top stitching and baste the side seams and inner seams before committing – @alenesews
- Go Slow on the zipper fly top stitching and draw yourself a nice guide – @ovella_designs
- Make sure you cut the legs on the grainline or they will twist when you walk – @inspired.chick
- Don’t expect the first pair to be perfect – @alexislaurak … and it wasn’t!
- My machine hates top stitching thread. If yours does too try upholstery thread – @almitamade
and the best…
- Just have wine on hand – @justjulielou
Work With Me
These are really fantastic tips and several of them are things I’ve not heard or read before. thank you!
Thanks Louise! I hope they give you some oomph to get started on yours 😉 If I can do it, you totally can!
Wow! You are a very smart ladt to FIGURE all this out in 2 years. My GMA tsught me to sew on a viking. We BASTED EVERYTHING! I can still see the sun in the seWing room on a warm August AFTERNOON…..and hear the sounds of her TOWNHOUSE cOmmunity.
thank you. That’s so lovely that you have those memories!! Basting is always a good thing 😉