The jeans I didn’t want to make

Unlike the subject of my last post, jeans are arguably something I need, um, pretty badly. I have technically three me-made pairs still in rotation, but two of those have been out for mending most of the last year, and the remaining workhorse pair is of a fairly thin super-stretchy denim that’s rapidly approaching widespread systems failure. And at both of the perpetually-mending pairs are getting snug.

Now, two of those pairs are Closet Core Ginger jeans (the high-waisted, skinny version). But I was pretty sure it was time to up-size my pattern (and pretty sure I had mislaid some if not all of the pieces of my old printout anyway). So I dutifully got it reprinted… but then thought, why not make up the other view?

Back when I bought the Ginger Jeans pattern (not long after it first came out, if I recall correctly), view A was exactly what I was looking for in a pair of jeans—low-rise waist, stovepipe leg. But by that point I had already modded the snot out of Jalie 2908 to get that fit that I wanted, so I just kept on using that pattern. When I did finally try out the Gingers, it was to test out the high-waisted view… which worked fairly well, but both versions were made in extra-super-stretchy fabric (which really minimizes fit issues, at least), and the high waist, while more fashionably appropriate these days, doesn’t give me that nipped-in, round-butt look that makes them so cute on other people. I just look like I go straight up from hip to waist, like a cylinder.

Now, the biggest factor in my cooling relationship with denim has been that as my body has changed over the last ten (and especially last three) years, I haven’t been able to find a style that makes me feel cute the way they used to. I have too much muffin-top these days for the low rise (which is terribly passé, too, don’t you know), high rise just makes me look like a box… oh, and mid-rise, on my body shape, just rides down to sit in the “low rise” position. Much easier to just find a cute dress or skirt.

Anyway, I decided, since I wasn’t really excited about ANY style of jeans, to go back to my old standby. Low-rise; at least it can be covered by shirts, and the stovepipe legs seem like they would go well with the modern looser jeans aesthetic. (Also, as low rises go, I’d call this one pretty moderate, which is what I suspected. The fly zip is at least 4” long!)

So I put on my big girl pants, re-measured myself, didn’t quite faint at the pattern size that number put me into, and then went to work.

A dig through my stash turned up this piece of really nice stretch denim, already pre-washed. Sturdy (about 10oz at a guess), but very stretchy. I BELIEVE it’s the Cone Mills denim I got from Closet Core as a jeans kit ages ago. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to cut into it for a project I was, frankly, kind of dreading, but there it is. It also wasn’t doing me any good sitting in stash, and it promised to be pleasant to work with even if I wasn’t thrilled with the results.

I made three pre-emptive changes to the pattern: lengthened the leg by 1” (to go from a 32” inseam to a 33” inseam), raising the back rise height by about 1”, and taking some tucks in the shaped waistband to make it more strongly curved, particularly in the back portion, where I tend to be most curvy. It’s still not as curvy as the modified one I used before, but it seems to work. These are most of my “standard” fit alterations, but I didn’t make them on my previous Gingers (except for the leg length anyway) because of the high waist and the extremely stretchy denim I was using.

I also took the time to cut out all the leg pieces in a single layer. I’ve ignored this advice countless times, and almost always had one twisting leg on my jeans, and just endured it as the price of laziness. It’s early days yet, but I’d say they do, in fact, twist very little, at least.

I followed the pattern instructions to fully baste it together to try on, and I’m glad I did as it let me make some major changes to the crotch curve: mainly, I needed a MUCH curvier front crotch to avoid camel-toe (also an issue in my high-waisted versions, but less intense because of the super-stretchy fabrics), and I took in the CB seam about 1” at the waistband, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the curve. If I do another version, I would curve the yoke as well by adding some little darts like so:

Man I miss having the time to make helpful diagrams like this for my blog posts.

Which is exactly the same thing I did, extensively, to the yoke of my Jalie Jeans pattern, actually. So it’s nice when things are consistent. I might add a bit more height to the back rise, as well—but maybe through the yoke since I’ve already added 1” to the lower piece. I could’ve recut the yokes but I just decided to ease them in to the waistband, which also works.

Basting first let me make these tweaks, which was great. It’s not hard to tweak the side-seams at the end of jeans construction, but at that point you’ve got two rows of topstitching in the crotch and inseams and those are not going anywhere.

Construction wise, I did most of the sewing on my mom’s Featherweight machine (long story, but the short of it is that her machine is at my house and mine is not. This was not on purpose). I got it into my head to try doing the topstitching on my coverstitch, which was a mixed bag. It was nice to do long straight sections with the twin needles, but it’s hard to go slow and I didn’t like the lack of reverse. So I did the pockets, fly, and waistband topstitching on the Featherweight as well. I did a not-terrible job of matching my stitch length, but there are definitely some subtle differences. It also made for a LOT of rethreading, especially since I only had two spools of topstitching thread (this was just Guterman extra-strong, I didn’t want to complicate things by using actual topstitching thread) so one of them had to keep going back and forth between the coverstitch and the Featherweight. I only broke out my modern Janome (which needs a spa day BADLY) for the bar tacks and buttonhole at the very end. For that part I used a coordinating regular thread, though it’s not quite a perfect match so maybe I should’ve gone for a contrast.

I actually liked the pockets better pre-bar tack.

I sewed the side-seams with a fairly generous seam allowance, and wound up taking them in 1/4” more after that—and I’m fighting the urge to take them in more, telling myself we’re going for a slouchy boyfriend aesthetic as opposed to the sprayed-on-skinny look I’ve been pursuing since I got my first pair of stretch denim jeans in 2000.

I did interface the waistband, but I used a knit interfacing. So a belt is definitely a necessity for wearing with them.

And… I don’t know if I feel cute in them, but the process was pretty satisfying especially considering what a tragic mess the last pair I did was, and I did wear them for basically a week straight after finishing. I didn’t feel rushed because I wasn’t super excited for the end product, so I guess that was a win? I was also stupidly sick while making these, so they got worked on in five to fifteen minute bursts between lying down while the twins watched obscene amounts of questionable kids YouTube programming.

I do think I could’ve taken in the hip and thigh another 1/4” or so on each side, but I don’t know if I will now that they’re completed. I do, however, think that I’ll wear the snot out of them—my casual wardrobe hasn’t been strong in the last ten years, but it’s particularly terrible right now.



Filed under Sewing

16 responses to “The jeans I didn’t want to make

  1. I think they look terrific. Wishing you the time and space to make many helpful diagrams in the future. 🙂

  2. These turned out great! Jeans are one of those things I really wish I enjoyed sewing, because it can be super hard and/or expensive to find a pair that fits. I’m also quite cylinder shaped, and struggle to figure out exactly what I need for them to look cute. I’m 5’2″, with a super short torso, a bit more belly than I’d like to admit, and the closest thing I have to a waist is basically my underbust. But I don’t want jeans going that high!

    • Yep, that sounds about right—I’m taller, but still a short torso distinctly cylindrical these days. I feel you. At least I enjoy the process, usually. Denim is a nice fabric to sew with.

  3. caroline beckenhaupt

    I think these look fabulous on you! TY so much for sharing the deets on your make. I love that you ‘splain it all so well. Best to you.

  4. Your jeans look great. I’m going to refer to your fitting when I make jeans again next year. A real achievement considering you were sick and twins!

  5. Barbara Lewis Showell

    Your “cylinder shape” sure looks different than mine, with my 32” waist and 35” hips at my most fittest, 20 mile running active army youth. My waistbands couldn’t imagine a dart, lol.
    I’ve never heard to cut out Jean legs individually, but it kinda makes sense. One thing I always HATED trying to do by myself especially, and now it’s been forever since I heard anyone mention it is straightening the fabric grain before cutting. Do people no longer do this? Why not?

    • Well, there are definitely degrees! I was kinda cylindrical at my slimmest, more classically curvy when I gained some weight in my 30s, but with the 40s I’ve hit a point where my waist is no longer the smallest part of my torso, anyway. I do have a pronounced swayback, so it’s a bit of a curved and lumpy cylinder 😉, which does give me the illusion of having a butt, at least. 😂 I have read about straightening the grain of fabrics but I don’t know if I ever actually felt the need to do it myself… I think the thing with denim is the twill weave kind of warps itself, so no matter how carefully you straighten it can still be off. Your mileage may vary, of course. 😉

      • OK but low rise are absolutely back in and I’d you already like them DANG ahead of the rest of us. For the record I think they look cute and neither super slouchy nor super tight.

        • 😂 well according to my kids the trends are so all over the place these days you should just wear whatever you like. Which is probably the right call, anyway. Thank you!

  6. Looking forward to jeans weather. When you get them to fit, they fit better than anything. I’m on version 11 of my jeans, and I gave up on the yoke and added DARTS. Two Sets. Big Bootee. I’ve tried regraining denim and it just won’t, so i cut out one damn piece at a time with an eye to where the grain is actually going, and only get a little twist. And I always staystitch the back crotch curve immediately after cutting.

    It’s supposed to rain this weekend….:)

    • Yeah it’s hard to go back to storebought fit. My oldest daughter has a hell of a time buying jeans to fit but she also doesn’t like sewing and I’m not willing to completely make them for her, so… 🤷🏻‍♀️

  7. The look great! Love hearing all the details, even if it sounds like it wasn’t the most fun sewing project of all time (with being sick, especially). Hopefully it’s ends up being a good starting point for future projects, and it sounds like it is already getting a fair amount of wear time!

    • It was a good solid project and I’m glad to have completed it! I wore them for like a week straight after they were done, so they’ll definitely serve a purpose in my wardrobe.

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