Sewing jeans: Making samples


Do you ever get started enthusiastically on a project and then suddenly lose steam? That’s what happened with my muslin process. I was a bit tired and didn’t have much time so not much progress was made and now I have to motivate myself to get back to it. I have finished muslin 4 though and I think I’m really close to getting a good fit. I’ll probably write about it after the weekend. Now I want to show you another part of the sewing process, collecting all the materials and testing out different techniques before using them on the actual garment.


Also important: a supply of fresh denim needles!

I already bought some denim and matching thread for this project a while ago. All my RTW jeans are blue so I thought it would be fun to use a different colour for this pair and chose grey. I like how the fabric looks and feels, but it is quite lightweight so probably more suitable to wear in summer than winter (so I’d better hurry up making these!).

In Angela Wolff’s Craftsy class she shows how to distress denim with sandpaper to get that worn look that most RTW jeans have. I wasn’t really sure how well that would work on my fabric so I tested it and it’s not a success. It makes the fabric fuzzy which doesn’t look very pretty so for this pair I’ll give the distressing part a miss. I’ll have to try it on something else though!

Fabric on the left is not distressed, fabric on the right was distressed with sandpaper.

Fabric on the left is not distressed, fabric on the right was distressed with sandpaper. It’s turned a bit fuzzy.

I my opinion topstitching in contrasting thread is one of the scary parts of sewing jeans. It is so visible and if it isn’t done right it can really brand your make as homemade. For my jeans I bought two colours of Coats Epic 40 thread to try out. Black and a brown that is really close to black. First I tried which stitch length would look best and decided on 4.0. I also tried some stitches to use on the back pocket embroidery (another scary part…). I used the black thread for my samples but I think in the end I prefer the brownish thread over the black one because it is a little more subtle. I’ll have to practise a bit more though to get my double rows of topstitching consistent before I attempt this on the actual jeans.

stitch length

I also tried a keyhole buttonhole.

In bag making one trick to make your bag look professional is to throw some metal hardware at it and I think this might be true for jeans as well. I bought some metal rivets and jeans buttons that I can apply with my Prym pliers. Rivets are typically used in jeans to reinforce pocket corners. I got enough of both in each packet that I could try them out to see how well they behave when I apply them. It worked surprisingly well. It also made me realise that I have to think how I want the button oriented before I put it into the fabric. I think my jeans will feature at least a couple of rivets.


I am not yet ready to get started on my jeans because I still need to perfect the fit but I think I do have everything I need to finish this pair. I’ve also already made some design decisions, like which thread to use for the topstitching and what stitch length to use. This will speed up the sewing process because I won’t have to stop to test this anymore. I also don’t have to quit in the middle of a sewing frenzy because I forgot to buy a zipper (I have a huge stash of zippers and something is bound to be suitable). Testing these things also makes for a nice change from making muslins.

This fabric was distressed before topstitching. It's also fuzzy.

This fabric was distressed before topstitching. It’s also fuzzy.

Do you generally make samples before trying something new?

I'll need to experiment some more...

I’ll need to experiment some more…

19 comments on “Sewing jeans: Making samples

  1. sewbusylizzy says:

    Fantastic post! Really thoughtful & helpful. Loved it

  2. Simona says:

    So detailed! You have a lot of patience! Forth muslin? Waw! I would have given up after the second one! Looking forward to see your finished jeans ! 😄

    • Emmely says:

      I’ve wanted good fitting jeans for so long that I hope the end result will be worth all the effort that was put in. At least I’m already learning a lot from this whole process…

  3. KerryCan says:

    This is a seriously complicated project–I hope it all pays off! I guess once you perfect all the details, though, you’ll be able to make as many pairs of jeans as you’ll ever need!

  4. Marianne K says:

    Yes to making samples! For a double row of topstitching I always use two different feet. For the line closest to the seam I use a foot with a little guiding device (Bernina #5, can’t beat that for edgestiching). For the second line I use a regular foot, placing the side of the foot along the first line of stitching. Depending on the desired distance between the two lines I place the needle right, centre or left. Very consistent!

    • Emmely says:

      I think I’ll do something similar to get it consistent. Just have to try which combination of feet will give me the best results.

  5. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Kerry’s “seriously complicated project” describes this perfectly. I greatly admire your efforts, but must confess to not being a jeans person meself. Nevertheless, I admire all your skill and hard work!
    Suggest perhaps you’re just getting a second wind. And after all this experimentation — necessary for the purpose! — will come back to it refreshed and on the march again!

    xx del, with her own currently put aside project in black & white ;-)

  6. onedabbles says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the finished jeans after all the work you’ve put in. I do enough samples to feel confident to start and tend to do more as I go along. Good luck with these jeans and thanks for sharing the knowledge.

  7. I hope I’m not posting twice now – my first reply disappeared…. Are you going to sew a design on the pockets? That would be my challenge, I don’t do much fancy stitch work!

  8. Selma says:

    To be honest, I hardly ever make samples. Resulting in wavy butonholes en having to unpick regularly. So making samples would be much wiser…..
    For double rows I sometimes use twin needles. Downside of them is that they only come in certain widths, for jeans it looks better when its wider than the affailable sizes. And they tend to break easily, so it only works well on thinner fabrics.

    • Emmely says:

      For buttonholes I definitely always make samples, they are just too much of a pain to unpick! I thought about using a twin needle (or coverstitch) for the inseam but I am worried that those stitches will not be strong enough for jeans…

  9. […] muslin to post BUT you must go and read all the jeans fitting posts and amazing detail over on Infectiousstitches. Go over there and read the June, July, August posts! In fact her posts about everything is very […]

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