I didn’t sew for my kids when they were little. I think I made one sundress-type-thingy for Tyo when she was two, and as sundress-thingies go, it was not impressive. So sewing in these extremely small sizes is a bit new to me.
But, a few weeks before Christmas, my Stylish Sister-in-Law happened to mention that she has a terrible time finding pants for her youngest daughter, who is one of those waifish children with the waist-size of a one-year-old and the leg-length of, well, at least a two year old. (Seriously, child is 3.5 years right now and hasn’t broken 30 lbs. Maybe not even 25. I’m pretty sure Tyo was that weight at a year.)
Now, unfortunately, this conversation didn’t take place enough before Christmas that I could actually put together a pair of very little (but relatively long) jeans as a present for the Waif. But now that I’m home and seeking fresh avenues for procrastination, it seemed like the perfect project.
Also, I got to try an experiment—how many sewing machines can you use on one pair of jeans?
The answer, at the moment, is three, plus the serger. If that weren’t the absolute maximum number of machines I can have set up at any one time, it might well have been more.I did the main construction on my Featherweight, and the topstitching and embroidery on the “new” Pfaff 360. The upside of using the Pfaff for the topstitching (and it has an excellent straight stitch, even with no straight-stitch plate) is that I can switch it to zig-zags for the bar-tacks without having to re-thread anything. The downside of this is that the tension settings for a straight stitch with topstitching thread (very high) vs. a zig-zag stitch with topstitchings thread (much lower) are very different, and I kept forgetting to switch back. So I had to re-stitch several areas, and wasted a lot of precious topstitching thread in the process. At least it’s easy to pick out when there’s huge loops on the back because the tension was too low. I used the White for a regular-thread zig-zag to attach the front yoke to the front pocket lining, since that was easier than re-threading the Pfaff (or I told myself it was…). If I’d gone with applique embelishment, I would probably have used the White for that, too. (Incidentally, while I still love my modern, basic Janome, it’s so very, very nice to have machines that can handle the tension required for topstitching through denim.)
Now, kids jeans are fun. Not so much because they’re little (although that doesn’t hurt), but because you can use the most whimsical, off-the-wall details. And jeans, let’s face it, are all about the details. The basic construction is both monotonous and intermittently fiddly—adding the details is where the fun comes in.
After some experimentation, I settled on free-motion embroidery and flat “piping” for this particular pair. I opted to use the remnant of fabric from my Cream Spice Capris of last summer, since neither of my children seem particularly intrigued by it and I won’t be the one who has to keep them clean.*
The pattern, as always, is Jalie 2908. I cannot explain to you how awesome it is that the Jalie patterns come in umpteen sizes. For the Waif, I traced off the size 2 (F, the smallest size), but used the size 3 (G) length. I then re-checked my measurements and realized that the hip measurement I had for her (49 cm) is well below the hip-size of the 2 (56 cm), even allowing for any growth she might have done in the four months or so since I measured her. (However, as I discovered sewing my first pair of jeans for Tyo, you do want to go a bit big for the kids sizes in this pattern, if only so they don’t outgrow them in five minutes. Although again, I’m curious if this is the same in the really little patterns or if they’re drafted with more ease. The picture of the girl on the pattern envelope certainly looks like her jeans have a lot more ease than the adult version.) So I took 1 cm lengthwise tucks out of the back and front pattern pieces (avoiding the pockets to make my life easier), which should reduce the width by 4 cm total, a reasonable amount. I forgot to narrow the back pockets by the same amount, which did come bite me in the ass later, but we’ll get to that.
To change things up,
After some experimentation and a lot of trial stitching, I hit on my strategy for embellishment. For the piping, I made some bias roughly 3 cm wide and folded it in half. I tested adding a cord, but decided I liked a flat, soft insert better—a little more flexible for the small niece, although it is a bit trickier to get even and it comes out a little wide. I played around with applique, but wasn’t satisfied with the look with my particular thread and fabric colours. Maybe when I make a pair for Waif’s older sister, Fyon. Instead, I went with some freehand embroidery hearts. I outlined each heart once or twice, for a sketchy, crayon-drawing sort of look. Also, that’s about all I’m capable of for freehand embroidery. Not my forte (although I’m sure hooping the fabric and doing the embroidery first would probably improve things at least somewhat. As it was, I ironed wash-away stabilizer onto the back of the denim, used the same little foot and settings as my mending extravaganza, and went to town.
Now here’s the thing. I could have gone with a more precise design (perhaps not hearts) and created more-computer-quality-looking embroidery. Personally, I rather like the freehand/wobbly look (and there are plenty of jeans out there that have machined versions of this look). But it’s one of those things that could, in the right eyes, just make these cute little jeans look tacky and home-made. Not so much because they’re on jeans, but because they’re on homemade jeans. I’m choosing to reject this opinion; hopefully Stylish will, too.
I made some other alterations that are kinda standard at this point for making 2908 kids’ jeans. I curved in the yoke a bit more (easy since I was already putting a tuck in it), although not as much as I often do as Waif’s bottom is considerably less curvaceous than, say, Tyo’s. (She seems to take after her father in the that department, as Stylish, her mother, is the embodiment of what I think Tyo’s going to look like when she grows up. At least from the neck down.). I cut the waistband in long, narrow pieces rather than short, wide pieces with a back seam, and used my pocketing/piping fabric for the inner facing. This reduces bulk, but mostly I just like the flash of colour it adds to the inside. I bound the bottom of the band with more bias tape, as that’s every so much easier than trying to fold it under and have things come out nicely. And, I added buttonholes to insert adjustable buttonhole elastic, easily the best invention for kids’ pants in the last 20 years. (Tyo is going to have such a hard time finding pants that fit once she outgrows the ones that come with buttonhole elastic)
I remembered this time to add a change-pocket, although given the teensy-weensy size of the jeans it’s strictly decorative. I opted for piping only along the top of the rear pockets, and did a much better job of finishing the edges of it this time—you need to fold the ends over at a 45° angle so that once everything’s in place and stitched down there’s a smooth edge and no joogly bits sticking up. As per usual, I positioned my pockets after stitching the CB seam, so they’d be centred around the topstitching rather than around the rear seam itself.
Remember how I said I didn’t shrink the pockets when I narrowed the red of the pants?
This, combined with the general tininess of the jeans, means once the outseam was all stitched up, the 1-cm (or less) offset on the one side was enough to put the left pocket right against the side-seam, while there’s about 1 cm of space between pocket and side-seam on the right.
I am not going to try to fix this, even if I could. But note to self—when smallening a pattern, smallen** the pockets, too. Even when you’re lazy.
Final details. I decided to try a heavy-duty snap for the front closure, as several of the children of my acquaintance seem to prefer these (let’s face it, the traditional jeans fly with button for small and even medium-sized kids is not really a good idea). I always find snap-insertion a bit haphazard, and I’m a little worried it will pop open, but I suppose time will tell.
As I did on the Cream Spice Capris, I added piping to the edge of the belt-loops, just to look pretty.
And as that’s probably way more than ANYONE wants to read about a pair of jeans for a preschooler, I’ll sign off.
*Lest you accuse me of cruelty to my sister-in-law, I’ll point out that I am making it for my younger niece, so she won’t have to try to keep it unstained through two whole children. Also, she dresses them in white pants all the time, so really she’s asking for it. But then she’s a lot more together on the whole “homemaking” thing than I am…
**I can make up words if I want to.