Sewing jeans: Making samples

topstitchingthread

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.

needle&thread

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.

140808_rivetandbutton

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…

UFO Busting: Self-drafted A-line skirt

I proudly present what may very well be the best fitting skirt I have ever had. I made the pattern following (most of the) instructions from Craftsy’s “Design and sew an a-line skirt” class. The fit of this skirt is so much better than any RTW skirt I have been able to find. The main reason I hardly ever used to wear a skirt is that I simply didn’t have any good fitting ones. Usually, when I tried on a RTW skirt it was either way too large at the waist or way too tight at the hip. Now I want to make lots more!

Denim A-line skirt

This quite simple skirt turned into an UFO because I probably used inaccurate measurements when I drafted my first pattern months ago. My muslin looked hideous. I decided to toss it and start from scratch. This time, I marked the exact location of my waist, hip and desired hem line on my body so that I would be sure to measure in the right location and also have accurate waist-hip and waist-hemline measurements.

I still had to tweak the side seam between waist and hip quite a bit in my muslin because the difference between those two measurements is quite large due to my pear shape. Perhaps I could get it to fit even better in that region in a next version but for now I’m very pleased with how it looks.

A-line skirt with inset pocketInstead of making a very basic skirt I wanted something a bit more special, so I added a facing, cut up the front and back to do some colour blocking and added inset pockets. How to draft this type of pocket isn’t included in the class but I very much prefer this pocket over the options provided in the class. For example, I detest inseam pockets. Seriously, they always gape and then stand out a little bit from your body and since they’re usually located in the hip region of a skirt or dress they draw extra attention to your hips. I think it is safe to assume that over 90% of Western women does not want to draw extra attention to her hips. So, my advice is to avoid inseam pockets like the plague. It’s not difficult to add inset pockets to an existing pattern, although with hindsight I should probably have made mine a little deeper.

Facing

For the skirt fabric I used pieces of cut up old jeans. I have collected a selection of old worn jeans that I occasionally cut up into pieces and use to make stuff. When I pulled out my stash I discovered I had 14(!) pairs that I hadn’t yet cut into, which, even to me, seems like a somewhat ridiculous amount. Most worn jeans still have areas where the fabric is in very good condition, most often the back of the lower part of the leg. You want to avoid using parts that are clearly worn and the knees. Most denim nowadays contains some spandex and the knees in old jeans have usually become stretched out and baggy. For this skirt I used fabric from 5 different pairs and I really like how they work together. For the facing and pocket lining I used a floral cotton. The facing is interfaced with medium weight woven interfacing.

denim A-line skirtSome of you may have been wondering when I was ever going to post a project for which I used my new overlocker and coverstitch machine. Right now! I finished the seam allowances with a 3-thread overlock stitch and I think the inside now looks very nice and it was so much faster than what I used to do before. The hem was finished with a 2 needle coverstitch and I also really like how that turned out.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Largest revelations during the skirt drafting stage:

  • I do not need darts in the skirt front (which is actually a very good thing because it reduces the number of darts to sew by a whopping 50%!). Instead I lowered the top of the skirt a little bit at the centre front to ensure that the top of the whole skirt would be parallel to the floor.
  • Pinning a back dart on yourself while simultaneously trying to look in a mirror to see what you are doing puts you at serious risk of a strain injury.
  • My back darts needed to be quite a bit longer than I originally thought they should be.

140201_A-lineskirt4I did find this Craftsy class useful but I thought the teacher was a bit too happy. If you want to learn how to draft a simple skirt it is a good option though and if you start out with the right measurements you’ll most likely end up with a very nice fitting skirt. However, would I buy a skirt drafting class today I would most likely get the “Pattern making basics: The skirt sloper” class as that one seems to be much more versatile. I might still get it, I really want to learn more about pattern drafting, I thoroughly enjoy the process and dress making is even more fun when your finished garments actually fit well.