So, I’m pretty much due for a new pair of jeans. It’s been over a year, believe it or not, since I last made myself a pair, and not because I’ve stopped wearing my me-made jeans or anything. But apparently when you have more than two or three pairs in rotation, jeans last a lot longer. Who knew. But there’s some red denim in stash that’s getting louder and louder…
Anyway, as my me-made jeans age and acquire that broken-in appearance that’s so much a part of the jeans look (to the point where we pay hundreds of dollars for a good worn finish), I’ve noticed one subtle, yet nagging difference between my me-mades and storebought jeans.
It’s the ripple.
You know what I mean. The way the fabric between the two lines of topstitching makes this little repeating wave, which wears into bands of light and dark. It also happens along the non-topstitched edge of the outseam, wherever the seam allowance habitually falls.
And it doesn’t happen, (or barely, barely happens) even after years of wear, on my me-made jeans. Now my first thought, of course, was “what sophisticated little wear-roller are they running along all the seams in their big jeans factories?!?” Then, of course, my brain kicked in—this feature is far too universal (especially on my husband’s sturdy work-wear, no-fancy-finish jeans) to not be inherent in something about the jeans-making process.
And then it hit me. (Hush, I can be slow if I want to.)
Shrinking. Because, like a good little sewist, I pre-shrink my fabric and then construct my pants, whereas commercial jeans, from what I understand, are shrunk after construction. (Can you imagine trying to launder huge industrial rolls of denim?) So that characteristic ripple is probably the result of post-stitching shrinkage. Which is why my jeans have comparatively little ripple (and if I was really good and pre-washed my denim multiple times, as is often recommended, they probably wouldn’t have any ripple at all), and even brand-new dark-washes from the store, like the ones above on the right in the left picture above (how’s that for confusing), have a well-developed ripple.
Now, I’m not so concerned about this for the red jeans, but in general it’s bugging me. And it’s bugging me more the more I think about it. It’s one of those legitimacy issues. Jeans are supposed to have it. If my jeans don’t, they’re not “real jeans”. Which, yes, is all in my head. But it’s still one of those things, y’know.
So yeah, I’m seriously considering, when I run through my current set of denims (most of which have been pre-washed already), trying to enlarge my pattern so I can shrink my jeans after construction.
Bad idea? Probably. Even with doing test-swatches. I mean, from what I understand it took jeans companies ages to figure out how to wash their jeans and still get consistent sizing, which is why, at least in North America, they didn’t usually sell pre-washed jeans until the 80s (or sometime thereabouts.) My mom talks about how you always bought so many inches larger in the waist and longer in the leg than you needed, and just hoped that it would work out when it came out of the wash.
But I want the ripple, dammit. And I don’t want to have to sit there and sandpaper each individual fold by hand.
So what do you think? Is the ripple worth it?