Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Thoughts on making my first pair of jeans

It's great to have completed my first pair of jeans.  There are things I would do differently next time but I am pleased with how well they turned out for a first attempt.  

I used the Sandra Betzina Vogue jeans pattern and this has two sets of pockets on the front of the jean.  This can create a lot of bulk.  I like how the pattern fits me but next time I will use a really lightweight cotton for the pocket linings, which should make construction a lot easier.

Confession time - I didn't hammer any seams.  I don't know if that makes me a bad sewalong participant ;)  I used different sewing machines for different parts of the construction with a Jeans 100 needle and a 90 topstitch needle.  Having tested out the fabric on my machines this worked well for me.  I used my Singer 99 to sew most of the seams,  my Bernina 830 record for installing the zip and my Elna 3007 for the topstitching.  I was very nicely surprised how well the Elna did with the topstitching. I kept expecting to have to hammer but found that if I kept the speed down at the tricky points and occasionally used the hand wheel over the thickest areas it seemed OK.  I didn't expect this first attempt to work so well so I think I just had a "try it and see" attitude.  Perhaps next time I will hammer in any case to flatten the seams. (Tempted to put a fabricland style animated gif of hammering here but won't :) I don't want anyone to get a headache.)

I will do some more experiments with my machines and think about buying some presser feet to help with topstitching as I can see I am going to be making jeans for myself and DH from now on (we always have trouble getting jeans long enough for him). I will make a turquoise pair for me and several pairs in indigo denim.  I will now be looking out for different weight denims as I wear jeans so often it would be good to have jeans in different fabrics to suit the season.

I will have to re-read the pattern instructions about finishing the waistband (perhaps others who have made these Sandra Betzina jeans could comment ) - I think I followed her instructions but found it difficult to get a good finish at the ends of the waistband on the inside.  When it was all turned after stitching I couldn't work out how she had meant the very end where the pressed up seams from the body meet the serged edge of the waistband to be finished in a tidy way.  I ended up after pressing and pressing using little hand stitches.  I am sure I must have missed some point in the instructions but it is a mystery to me right now.  I think I will look at the other jeans pattern I bought to see if I can find a way that works better for me.

I used a Singer Buttonhole attachment http://www.ismacs.net/singer_sewing_machine_company/manuals/lowshank.pdf to make some lovely samples of keyhole buttonholes.  After making a few samples with regular sewing thread I tried topstitching thread and that was a disaster and I had to carefully untangle a nest of thread and vintage buttonhole attachment, so not one to try at home! :)

I found some turquoise sewing thread that was close to the colour of my turquoise topstitching thread and used that to create the buttonhole on the waistband with the Singer attachment.  Despite creating wonderful samples I only just managed to make it on the actual waistband as when the machine was coming back towards the starting point it was struggling to move the thickness of fabric to create the zigzag stitch.  Next time I will definitely hammer the waistband seams before attempting to create the buttonhole with this attachment.

At the start of this project I put the following as my reasons for wanting to join in:

I wanted to join the Jeans sew-a-long for various reasons:-

I thought it would be a fun challenge and a good opportunity to share a challenge with other sewists.
It would help me prioritise finding time to do some sewing for me and to extend my skills.
I haven't made any fitted trousers and as I seem to live in Jeans, this would be a great challenge to solve.
The choice of jeans in 34"-35" leg length is limited and after watching Kenneth D King's  "Jean-ius!" course on Craftsy I would love to be able to make some Jeans in patterned fabrics.
It would be great to have Jeans that fit properly!
This project has been great fun, a good challenge and I have learned some new skills and most importantly I have learned to make time for my sewing - so a big thank you to vivienz for running this sewalong.

Monday, 27 May 2013


I'm not the first to finish by any means, that honour in this round of jeans making goes to Yankee Doodle, who finished about a week ago.  I bet she hasn't taken them off since as she says that they are super comfortable.  I've just finished mine this evening.  I made substantial progress at the start of the week and just needed to get my waist band on, add belt loops and finish the hems.

There are plenty of us who are at various stages.  Target dates seem like great things when you start out but, as I know only too well myself, life does get in the way sometimes.  However, nothing to be disheartened about as long as the jeans get finished at some point.

Here are a few photos to keep us all going, first up is Yankee Doodle sporting her new troos, the first of many we hope:

Here are her comments on the finished article:

Generally I'm very happy with my jeans. The fabric, oh I wish I could get some more. It's so soft and hangs so nicely, I love it.

Next time I will make them smaller. I think I was so afraid of making them too small that I went too far the other way. I'm just so used to jeans being too tight in the waist. Maybe the sizing would be just right for non stretch denim, but they are a bit on the baggy side. However, they sure FEEL good!!

Here are a few pics of my own efforts.  I'm afraid that my assistant is sorting out the jungle garden so no shots of me wearing them, but I can assure you that they fit very nicely indeed.  Such a revelation compared with RTW for me.  Unless I find myself unable to sew, I'm never buying jeans again.  To tell the truth, even if I couldn't make them, I'd rather pay a talented seamstress to make some for me!

Construction wasn't all plain sailing - not surprising, really.  I broke a needle trying to get my topstitching done.  It was a topstitching needle, but only a 90 and clearly not up to the job of piercing its way through all those layers of denim, so I swapped for a proper jeans needle, a 130, and that was much better.  

I made use of my hammer, too.  I whacked the tops of the belt loops before stitching; think of a denim tenderiser rather than a steak tenderiser.  It's exactly the same principle, though, of breaking the fibres so that the needle can go through the layers more easily.  

To do the bar tacks across the top section of the belt loops on the waistband, you are asking a lot of any domestic machine: 

  • the belt loop is 3 layers (top, bottom, enclosed seam allowance); 
  • this is folded  double (another 3 layers); 
  • this is then attached to the waistband (at least another 2 layers, or if it lies over the inner seam allowance, another 4 layers).  
  • So, we have a minimum of 8 or maximum of 10 layers of cloth. 
It's a wonder you don't need to attach a harpoon instead of a needle to go through that lot!

So am I pleased with my jeans?  You betcha!  

Will I change anything for next time?  Definitely!

  • I'm not entirely happy with how I've curved the bottom of the waistband above the leg side seam and need to distribute this more evenly. 
  •  I also need to place the back pockets slightly more widely.  I was working on the principle that if they were closer together I'd make a bit of a trompe l'oeil and make my bum appear a little less wide - my jury is out on this but I think I'll try altering the placement a smidge on the next pair.  
  • The legs are reasonably tight on the upper thigh, but my denim has stretch and I anticipate a little give as I wear, but I've made careful note of this as my next ones have no stretch.  Great for holding you in, but not if you nearly cut yourself in two when you try to sit down.

I previously made the Vogue Sandra Betzina jeans and these are from Ottobre magazine - to be honest, I really can't choose between the two and like them both equally.  I've decided that this is a good rather than a bad thing, as I now have 2 quite different jeans patterns that I really like.  A happy bunny, indeed.  My new jeans are already booked for a number of social engagements (I'm just going along as the wearer, you understand), and they will hopefully be accompanied by a lovely new jacket to do them justice.

Hot off the press, turquoise has just finished her very lovely jeans.  As I type, I'm already developing jean envy.  She has used a heavy weight white denim, and check out her two coloured topstitching detail - way to go, turquoise!  Another success, then, as these were her first pair, too, and she's already planning the next ones.  She'll have to, though, as if they were my jeans, I'd wear them to death over the summer!

Here are her photos:

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

How time marches on - here we are in the construction section already.  I have to plead guilty to having cut out my jeans by the skin of my teeth as May was a very busy month for me, with family 50th and 80th birthdays, weddings and rock gigs in Amsterdam.  Phew!

I tend to function in workable chaos for most of the time and I can't be tidy if I try.  Most of the time, this isn't a problem, but when I've been away from the sewing stuff for any length of time I can't find a thing for at least a couple of hours and other items disappear for longer.  Amongst other bits and pieces, I lost the pocketing for my jeans - couldn't find the stuff anywhere.  However, I was able to find a very nice substitute and cracked on.

I'm working on the jeans from last autumn/winter's Ottobre magazine - 5/2012.  These are straight legged and a fairly standard design, but I altered the slope of the front pockets to be more flattering to my pear shape.  I also changed the design of the topstitching on the rear pockets, as well as deepening the yoke.  The denim I'm using is from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton, I purchased it last year but didn't get around to conquering my jeans block till this year.  The denim has quite a strong vertical line to it - I'm not sure what the technical description is.  It has a little bit of stretch.

My topstitching thread is Coats extra strong thread, shade 6690.  It's a strong mustard yellow and looks good on the dark indigo denim.  I'm making a second pair of these jeans in non-stretch black twill and have been trying out different contrast threads for this, too.  Here are the topstitching tests:

The back pockets on these jeans are asymmetrical - of course, I cut out two the same.  Duuhh!  Fortunately, I'd added a nice extra bit of seam allowance on the top edge that gave enough room for a correction:

A little word about my zip.  I bought a bag full of zips from a haberdashers in London late last year and there are lots of metal zips in them.  Until I had a go at men's tailoring last year, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a curved zip - I'm sure you can guess which type I have a bag full of!  Here it is, in all its curving glory:

I've got quite a lot of the construction done now.  Before getting the sewing machine out, I overlocked all edges that would be exposed.  Most instructions tell you to do this as you go along, but I'm a bit tight on space in my loft and constantly putting away one machine to take another out is a bit of a pain so I prefer to do this en masse.  Besides, there's plenty of swapping between normal thread & needle and the topstitching arrangement during the rest of construction to keep busy.  This is what my modified front pocket and positioned coin pocket look like:

I'm using Prym 9mm rivets to reinforce various points.  I bought the pliers that Prym make some months ago and can be used with their various poppers, eyelets and rivets, etc.  They were just over £15 but I've used them many times now and they are very good - much better than those little press things that come in the fastening packs.

The front fly construction wasn't too arduous.  There are a couple of tricky bits to watch for, both concerning the zip.  When you're sewing the fly, where you'd usually just sew straight over a nylon zip without too much thought, you can't do this with a metal one.  If you're lucky, you'll just break your needle.  If not, you'll jam your machine and have sharp, pointy needle shrapnel flying at your face.  When you get to the bit where you sew across the zip, gently hand wheel over the danger area, then continue as usual.

So here are some pics of where I'm up to so far.  I need to add the belt loops (already sewn), interface my waistband facing, add the waistband to the jeans and finish the belt loops.  The very last will be to sew a buttonhole and add the jeans button.  Jobs for tomorrow evening.

Looking at this pic of the front, I forgot to say that I had some trouble with getting my machine to do effective bar tacks.  Rather than re-do it countless times on the machine, I opted for the old fashioned method of needle, thread and thimble.  Quick, easy and effective!

Here's the back view - my pockets aren't perfect as they're not quite a mirror image of each other, but they're good enough.  I was going to add some little fabric tags, but decided that there's enough going on here with all the topstitching and rivets.  My apologies if you get a stiff neck looking at this - I can't figure out how to rotate the image on the blog!

Finally, here's the topstitching on the inseam:

That's all for now, folks, more later in the week.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Materials for jeans sewalong

I am planning to make the toile from this white cotton drill and then dye them turquoise. I was hoping to dye the fabric first but the dye seems to be taking an age to arrive - we'll see maybe I can still do that if it arrives in the next few days - but I don't want to get behind so I may just have to go with it as it is and try dyeing afterwards.

There is an option on the pattern to have zips on the pockets.  I haven't really decided about pockets yet and will have to make several practice ones, so I have bought some extra zips just in case I do choose that option.  I am going to use Vogue 1034 but without all the button bling :) I am hoping to learn to do some good topstitching and have bought lots of colours of topstitching thread for future projects so I had better start practising.

This is some non stretch denim from fabricland.  It was really creased when it came out of the tumble dryer but it looks a lot better now it has been pressed.  I am hoping I have enough of this african wax fabric remnant for the pockets etc. but if not I will buy some quilting cotton.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Here's the latest post from Anne Martine - great progress.
I’ve now cut out my toile fabric, photo here - it has a slight stretch and feels like a brushed denim.
As I mentioned in the Remnant Box thread, I invariably have problems when taking my measurements and comparing them to the pattern, I think my brain somehow becomes scrambled and this was no exception! I took my measurement from front waist to back waist under the crutch, but this was way bigger that the same measurement on the pattern even with the waistband added on. It was only after I had cut the pattern pieces to put in an insert that it dawned on me that I had forgotten to add in the yoke!  What a numpty!
I cut the waistband at size 16 and tapered down to a 14 at the top of the legs.
Anyway, all done now so I’m looking forward to putting this together to see if I have that right and what other adjustments will be needed.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Materials gathered

I'm very pleased to be part of this Great Jeans Party Sewalong.
Meet my fabric - lightweight brown canvas from a remnant bin at Abakhan, all nice and wrinkly after having been through the washer a few times.

I'll be using the green quilting cotton for the inside of the waistband and the pocket bags.

I'm hoping the fly insertion goes well enough so that the red zip isn't on show, but just in case, I'll be pretending it is a design feature and using the red thread for topstitching.

There is a choice of jeans buttons from the local market - a sort of coppery one and a sort of brassy one.
(Rivets to follow).

I've not really worn jeans since having children because I'm just not happy with the way they fit.
Back in the day (oh how my children love it when I use this phrase!), so when I was the same age as my eldest is now (19), my idea of "good fit" in a pair of jeans was if I had to lie down flat on the floor to do them up.
Those days are well and truly gone (along with the matching body sadly), these days I've got different ideas about what "good fit" means for me.

I guess if you had to put a label on my body shape it would be pear shaped. If I try on ready to wear (RTW) jeans that fit around the derriere then the waistband is too big and they dip down at the back in a way that could so easily become the dreaded "builder's bum" if they're low rise. So they stay in the shop.

I'm aiming to eliminate any risk of builder's bum, and will be making my jeans a medium rise just an inch or so below my waist for added security.

The other main fitting challenge I have is that the side seams curve towards the front on the upper thighs. I would so like a lovely vertical seam that lies straight from waist to floor.

I don't expect the first pair to be a masterpiece - so meet my next pair of jeans-to-be: 7oz indigo denim from Fabricland (also nice and creased from washing and drying), with some more quilting cotton and another red zip. Traditional orange topstitching for this pair I think.

By this stage you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'm working on having red zips as my "signature style" - I'd love to say this is the case but it would be a big fat fib. They're just what I happen to have in my stash that is the right size (job lot of mixed zips from an ebay seller a while ago). 'Bout time they were put to good use.

Time to meet my tools.
  • A large flexible rule (90cm) so I can have a bash at the "fishbowl" method for adjusting the crotch curve on the pattern.
  • Cutting mat and rotary cutter
  • Nice heavy shears
  • tracing wheel
  • hammer
  • basting tape (double sided sticky tape stuff to help with the zip insertion - as taught by Celia Banks)
  • my pattern of choice - Butterick B5682 (already bought this last year before the sew along was announced)

not pictured is the remnant roll of curtain fabric (of similar weight to the canvas) that I plan to use for toiles

Choices Choices....
 I'm NOT great with deciding between different options. Given the chance I will dither. A LOT! So I'm glad we have some deadlines to help push me along.
(Please feel free to remind me I said this later on when the deadlines whoosh past and I'm still trouserless...)

The pattern gives several choices for leg styles. I'll probably do a slight bootleg or a straight leg but I'm open to suggestions.

Am in denial about pockets - won't be even thinking about them until much later on.

I've tried to be good and source most of the things from my stash...for example I didn't buy another pattern despite being very tempted by some of the ones on the list.....but I admit I got a bit distracted by topstitching thread - meet the pretty culprits on the right.

I reckon I must have enough topstitching thread for 10 pairs of jeans!

The in-your-face-orange is almost neon and was in a £1 basket at Abakhan. It was a punt and I'm looking forward to experimenting with it.

Couldn't resist the varigated blue thread after seeing it demonstrated on a trouser fitting course - yes, that's right, I'm blaming YOU Moley ;-)

I guess I better get a wriggle on now and catch up with the schedule and do some sorting out of that pattern and my fishbowl.......

Friday, 19 April 2013

Snip, snip, snippety-snip!  The toile stage approaches this weekend, so hopefully everyone has the basics of their pattern sorted and their test fabric washed and ready to go.

I cut out my Ottobre jeans pattern earlier this week and made some style adjustments as I went.  I was following some of the very helpful advice that Morgan provided for the style pages, re. rise, yoke and pockets.  The front pockets on the pattern are quite horizontal - not a good look for me as it points directly outwards to my distant outer perimeter, as it were.  I've changed them to be more diagonal instead, deepening them on the side seam.  I've recut the pocket facing and pocket bag pieces to reflect the new shape.  Also, note on the side seam of the front leg the slightly different lines for left and right legs - my right leg is 1" larger than my left at the very top of my thigh, enough that I need to make an allowance for this in the garment.  If, like me, you have large or prominent thighs, it's worth measuring just in case you aren't symmetrical either.

Here's a shot of the alteration I made to the back yoke - it doesn't look like much on the toile, but it should be sufficient to give a more flattering line for me at the back.

I haven't cut my back pockets yet as I want to concentrate on the fit of my jeans first.  Once I'm happy with that, then I'll think about where to slap the pockets.  I'll be adding a page to the blog shortly with some more super advice from Morgan on pocket styles and positioning.

A couple of final things.  When you're transferring markings to your toile from the paper pattern, don't forget to transfer your grainlines and make them longer, if possible.  Seems obvious, but it's a mistake that I've made a few times in the past and although you can guess where the straight grain is, it's just easier to get it done at the start.  The other one is about metal jeans zips.  If you haven't used these before, I'll be adding some handy hints on them as they are disastrous to sew over and will break your needle, unlike a forgiving nylon zip.  You won't need pliers or any special implements for dealing with them, just a slightly different method for shortening them if you need to do so.