Tag Archives: Jalie 2908

Do Over

Mom, you can't expect me to pose with my sister!

Although I love the idea of the Sew Weekly challenges—how fun, to be sewing something on the same theme as people all around the world!—I hardly ever actually do them, partly because I already have too much on my own list of projects, and partly because it usually takes me a lot longer than a week to go from theme/inspiration to an actual project idea, never mind a finished project. But every once in a (long) while the weekly theme coincides with something I’m already working on, and that was the case this week: Do Over.

Now, since I do over a LOT of patterns, this is not such a bit coincidence. But I’m still going to count it, because the project I finished this week, Tyo’s new jeans, is a do over on SO many levels.

Tyo's Ruched Jeans

1) Jalie 2908. Part of the do over is to revisit a pattern you’ve used before. This is easily my most-revisited pattern of all time, not least because it comes in sizes for both me and my kids.

2) I am re-visiting the skinny, ruched-leg detail I used on Syo’s most recent jeans

3) I am ALSO revisiting the cutout/underlay detailing from Tyo’s first, too-quickly-outgrown, pair of Jalie jeans.

… which basically means that there was nothing new or innovative about this project at all, which I think was probably NOT the idea of the theme, but oh, well. I’m still claiming it.

Some final thoughts: I added height to the rear crotch for Tyo’s booty. At the moment it’s a bit baggy there, so this wasn’t really necessary. On the other hand, she still has a fair bit of room to grow into these, so I’ll get back to you on that in another six months or so. Remember how I had pieced the waistband? I wound up only needing a small portion of extra and it works fine, but I’m a little puzzled that I needed any at all, since if anything my yoke tucks should have made the waistband too long for the jeans. Tyo’s jeans aren’t as strongly ruched at the ankle, mostly because I was trying to squeeze them out of a small amount of denim, so I could only extend the leg a small amount.

All right, I GUESS I can pose with my sister...

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Make me one too!

Tyo's jeans, Version II

Or, a further failure of selfishness.

The first pair of jeans I made, a year and a half or so ago, were from Jalie 2908, and were for Tyo. They turned out great (better, in hindsight, than the pair I made myself next), and fit Tyo like a dream.

For approximately a week before it got hot and they were abandoned for the summer, and by the end of her usual summer growth spurt they were thoroughly outgrown. I grumbled, re-measured, traced out her new size, and went on making any number of jeans for myself. In the intervening year and a bit, Syo got two pairs of jeans made just for her, and inherited Tyo’s original pair. So, really, Tyo had a fair bit of leverage going on when I finished Syo’s ruched jeans last week, and she instantly demanded her own pair.

In my defense, I already had these cut when the coat pattern from Zoe arrived. So really I had to finish my currently-underway project. I really did. And given that my sewing is currently of the one-seam-a-day variety, I’m doing pretty well to have these as far along as they are.

As per Tyo’s specifications, I combined the ruching from Syo’s recent pair with the same cut-out-over-plaid detailing of Tyo’s original pair (which was inspired by a RTW pair belonging to Syo… yeesh this gets confusing). And they’re skinny-ish. The plaid is the leftovers from Tyo’s purple shirt, which I also need to re-make in an appropriate size.

I re-measured Tyo and went up a size from the one I’d traced out for her last fall. She’s still closer to the smaller size, but I am not making another pair to be handed down instantly. So they’re not as snug as the RTW skinnies in Tyo’s wardrobe. The length isn’t quite as ample as I’d expected it to be, however, which may be a problem in the “growing into” department.

Anyway.

Pockets

I interfaced the plaid flannel with Armoweft to give it a bit of extra support without having to add a whole ‘nother layer of denim behind it (as I did in the first jeans). I think it’s a good compromise.  The yoke has a layer of flannel sandwiched between two layers of denim (even the Featherweight wasn’t happy stitching that), and once the waistband is in place I’ll snip around the top layer of denim. Once it’s washed a few times it’ll have a great fun frayed look. I suspect some distressing will be in order as well.

Pieced Waistband

As I was trying to squeeze the pair out of a denim remnant (I tend to buy 2 m lengths to make a pair for myself, so this is what’s left of that after I made my own jeans) I cut the waistband on the lengthwise grain (no stretch) and in two halves; again due to fabric shortage, I opted to face it in the flannel. Unfortunately, a quick fitting around Tyo’s hips on the weekend suggested that it was going to be a bit short, so I pieced a further bit on each end.  On the top left corner you can see the buttonhole where the buttonhole elastic will emerge from. At least this time I remembered to bind the edge of the waistband before attaching it. Much easier this way.  I feel like this is going to be a much more substantial waistband than the one on Syo’s pair… we’ll just have to see.

Darting yoke pattern piece. Only with two darts.

I made a couple of fit adjustments, although it’s not entirely clear how successful they were (I’ll get back to you once the waistband’s on). I curved in the yoke by a couple of cm (standard on Jalie 2908 unless you have a really flat butt, I think), and I increased the rear crotch length (height? depth?) by adding a wedge 1 cm wide at the CB seam, tapering to nothing at the side-seam. In theory, this gives Tyo a bit more (much needed) booty coverage.

It’s been nearly a week since my last post. I hate posting so infrequently, but that’s the state of things right now, and not likely to improve until later next year. I’m going to try to keep the blog limping along as long as I can, but at some point in the next few months the thesis s$&t will really hit the time-crunch fan, all semblance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle will go out the window, and I will be reduced to a twitching, zombie-like being stumbling around the house mumbling “cladistics is the answer and the problem!” and “intersubjectivity as a substitute for objectivity is flawed!”.

But in the mean-time, there are jeans.

And, hopefully soon, a coat.

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La Mode Syo

The cool kid.

Syo would like you to know that she’s far, far, too cool to be posing in her new jeans for her mom.

They are a little big. Not really satisfyingly skinny.

Syo’s mother would like you to know that Syo is going to have to deal, I am so totally done with making clothes that are outgrown a month later.

Now that that’s out of the way, a few final details:

Rear view. Oh, that's the shrug I made here

The pockets look good. I like my feature pocket.

Studs

The waistband is flabby as I didn’t bother to interface (and it’s cut on the cross, i.e. stretchy). However, there are now studs. I bought plain “Bachelor buttons” rather than jeans buttons this time, because I didn’t really feel like spending $8 for 8 buttons when I could buy four bachelor buttons for less than two. The bachelor buttons may be slightly wimpier than the (already flimsy) Dritz jeans buttons, but not too much. Someday when the perfect conjunction of money and motivation coincides, I will order some proper ones off the internets. Until then, my children will suffer. Syo wanted a snap anyway, but didn’t mention this until after the buttonhole was cut.

Fuzzy pockets

She really likes the fuzzy pocket-lining fabric. I’m thinking I should make a future pair lined in something similar… extra warm and extra cozy all in one.

Ruching

That gathered look has been achieved.

Got pug?

There are, however, few things cuter than a pug. Even a stuffed pug.

Also, I got the most awesome package in the mail today.

New pattern!

Yes, it’s that awesome 70s coat pattern Zoe made up last year and then recently decided to give away. I feel totally honoured and squee-tastic that she picked me (not to mention a little apprehensive. What if I stuff it up?). I am so excited. I’ve never made a Vogue pattern before. Bet you can’t guess which view I want to make. 😉

So I guess I know what my next project is. Aside from the pair of ruched jeans I’ve already cut out for Tyo, anyway.

 

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The Pants that Wouldn’t Be

Jeans

I’m never sure if famous Saskatchewan authors are really famous or just famous in Saskatchewan (OK, I’m reasonably certain Farley Mowat is Canada-famous-ish, anyway, as he only lived in Saskatchewan as a child), so here’s the book I’m referencing. It’s set in my hometown, albeit several decades before I got there.

ANYWAY, these jeans for Syo certainly seemed as if they didn’t want to be. I sewed the yoke on backwards. RRRRRIP. I sewed the waistband on inside-out. RRRIP. I forgot to bind the the inner edge of the waistband, which I have decided is by far my fave way to finish it, and had to rip the stitching at the ends of the waistband (RRRRIP), and then started sewing the binding on inside-out, and had to rip that, too. Basically, my head is too full of other things to really concentrate on my sewing right now, and it shows.

That being said, we got through it, so here’s the story of yet another pair of kids’ clothes, and yet another pair of Jalie 2908. For those who read this blog for cute dresses or stylish remakes of 70s patterns, I apologize. Again. (Incidentally, despite paying close to $20 for this pattern once shipping was included, cost per-garment is already barely more than my average thrift-store pattern, and continuing to drop. Win.)

I noticed the other week (as the weather declined to the point where leggings are really not seasonally appropriate any more, at least until we break out the snowpants for everyday use), that Syo is really wearing only one pair of jeans of the fifteen or so in her drawer.

Which, fortunately for her long-term survival, just happens to be the pair I made her last winter. The reason has more to do with them being skinnies than being made by me, but anyway. She needs warm pants, and if they have to be skinnies for her to wear them, skinnies they shall be. (Obviously Jalie 2908 is a flared pattern, not a skinny pattern. To fix this, I just folded in the edges of the flares.)

After some cogitation and contemplation, I decided I could re-use the same size pattern I used last winter. The first pair still fits, albeit more snugly than initially, but I had taken them in at least a couple of cm on each side, in an attempt to reach Syo-approved levels of skinniness. And there’s plenty of length that I had hemmed up in the first pair, too. So this’ll be the third pair I’ve made in this size (size K, not that it’s relevant).

The fabric has been sitting in stash since sometime last winter. It’s a thrift-store find, not exactly stretch-denim, but very stretchy and bottom-weight-y. It’s not a colour I particularly crave for myself, but I was pretty sure one or the other of the kids would like it. One side is severely faded, but the other side is fine (bonus points to the original owner who had it folded right-side-in.)

And so I set to work.

Feature Pocket

Just to be different, I decided to use the pocket I originally drafted up for my sailor pants last spring. Yup, my pocket. I based the size on it on the size of the pocket I use on my own Jalies, which is actually the pocket from the size K pattern, because I like my jeans-pockets small (I have this theory it will make my butt look bigger, which in my twisted little body-image world is a good thing). And I wanted to incorporate some piping, because I have some rather ratty thrift-store piping in a dusty blue that is kicking around the sewing room and the fact that it has stains every four inches along the length wouldn’t bother me on kids’ jeans.

So I planned to add piping lots of places—along the pockets (back and front), the outseam, maybe even the waistband. Then I promptly forgot except for on the back pockets. Oh, well. I really should write up lists of the modifications I’m planning to make. And then follow them.

You may, perhaps, notice that one of the back pockets is a feature pocket. Yes, it’s got topstitching the other hasn’t, and the colour is slightly lighter. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that I pressed and hemmed the top of it inside out. Nothing at all.

Ruched Front Leg

You may (hopefully not) remember that Tyo has a particularly stylish friend, who is embarrassingly close to being my style muse. Seriously, this kid has the best clothes. ALL the time. A lot of this is probably creditable to her mother, who is a good friend, too, but her mom’s style doesn’t particularly speak to me (not that she’s unstylish. Maybe it’s just our different body types). I stole the rear-calf dart from her. I won’t even get into the time we bought the same pair of knee-socks, or the stripey hand-warmers. And a few months ago, I was struck by some jeans she was wearing, which exaggerated that scrunched-at-the-bottom look so many skinny-jeans-wearers seem to go for. (This look doesn’t happen to me, at least with RTW pants, but that’s another issue). Basically, the front pant-leg is cut longer, and ruched to fit the back. Instant scrunch, half the bulk!

I added about 6″ of length, and initially planned to gather from just below the knee, but wound up concentrating the gathers in about the bottom 6″ of the leg as well, so although I was highly unscientific about it, I would guess that my gathering ratio is about 2:1. I tried to leave a bit un-gathered at the bottom for the hem, but I should’ve left a bit more. Gathering denim is about as fun as it sounds, and looks really weird in the process, but with a bit of pressing and perseverance it worked out in the end.

Interior waistband: Bound, buttoned, and elasticated.

I even remembered to put buttonholes on the inside waistband for the buttonhole elastic! Of course, I forgot to sew the buttons on at the same time, which isn’t really necessary but is a tad easier than doing it at the end. Incidentally, I decided to use some blue, sueded knit (left over from this skirt) for the pocket linings, mostly because I liked the colour match. Apparently soft, fuzzy pocket-linings are A Good Thing. Syo approves.

Bar tacks, good and bad (actually, these are all good ones).

For whatever reason, I had zig-zag curse with this fabric. My vintage buttonholer was disagreeing with the Featherweight when I went to put in a keyhole button (not unusual for jeans buttons, but still frustrating since this fabric wasn’t terribly thick). My Janome is never terribly happy with topstitching thread, and this time was no different as I tried to do bar-tacks. One or two would go well, and then something would happen with the thread looping or the bobbin tension and the next one would be truly and utterly hideous. There was also a needle-breaking incident that locked up the entire machine and required turning the machine upside down and shaking it to fix (I think a piece of needle lodged in the mechanism)

And then, in one final curve-ball, as I went to install rivets and a jeans button, I realized I’m out of jeans buttons.

So final, modeled pics will have to wait until I can pick some of those up.

In the mean-time, I’m considering experimenting with some more distressing. I think it would look cool to highlight the ruching, and somehow it’s far less frightening on pants for my kid.

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Yawn…

Jeans

Jeans are done.

They’re fine.

The Back

Buttonhole FAIL.

There was the requisite “OMFG how the HECK are these ever going to fit?” moment. There was the usual buttonhole drama (Featherweight and vintage buttonholer were not up to the task, although they might have done better had I remembered to put the presser foot down). There was the “crap, I think I cut these belt-loops too short” moment, followed by the “Wow, those belt-loops are way too big” moment.

Side view

There’s always a bit of drama involved in attaching the waistband on stretch denim jeans. OK, there’s always a bit of drama when I do it, anyway. This is because the jeans denim stretches, the heavily-interfaced waistband doesn’t, and how the HECK is this supposed to work? (Incidentally, if you look at low-rise RTW stretch jeans, often the main jeans denim is stretched to fit the waistband. This looks funny and square on the hanger, but just fine once they’re on the body). One of these days I’ll finish killing one of my precious pairs of Buffalo Jeans and autopsy the waistband to find out what, if anything, they put in there, because it sure works better than anything I’ve tried so far.

Waistband, opened up to show interfacing, before being attached.

Sometimes I sew waistband and jeans together flat. Sometimes I stretch the jeans denim just a little bit. I did that today, and it worked out. Sewing them together flat works better if you haven’t interfaced the waistband as much as I did  this time (but then you end up with a flabby waistband). Observations of my favourite RTW pairs suggest that when the regular denim stretches 50%, the waistband stretches only about 10%. Possibly dark and necromantic powers are involved.

Waistband with bound edge, before being attached

I used the bind-the-inside-waistband method this time. It’s simple and much less futzy than slip-stitching down the inside or, worst, trying to topstitch it in place from the outside.

Pocket and back belt-loop

Although I loved using the Featherweight for my topstitching, I’m thinking with thread like this (which my Janome didn’t object to… probably helps that she’s freshly serviced, though) I should use a stretch stitch from the Janome for the pocket embroidery. I keep hearing threads go “snap” back there, plus I think it would make a smoother silhouette if the stitches were stretchier.

The finished front: button, bar-tack, belt loops, and rivets.

I think I actually managed to put the button in the right place so the fly doesn’t try to gape open. I actually saw a gizmo a little while back being sold (I think in a gas-station) that would extend your jeans waistband—basically a loop that buttons to your buttonhole—and, having been pondering flies that lie smooth and zippers staying up, stared at it in amazement. It would never work. The fly would have to stay open.

Well, I know some people do this when they’re pregnant (hair elastics work well, I’m told… I was not that ingenious and just wore overalls). This requires a long top to cover it, though. The gizmo made no mention of the long top. Maybe it was assumed.

Now, the four-million-dollar question: should I try my hand at distressing them? I’m getting a little bored of plain dark-wash, but on the other hand am I brave enough to take bleach and sandpaper and pumice to my brand new jeans?

In other news…

I got a birthday present! Heather of Sewing on Pins made up my birthday pattern as a top! Yay, happy dance. (And she didn’t hate it, even though she thought she would! Yay!) (Incidentally, while I naturally want you all to go make up a version RIGHT NOW, when it’s not your style/season/you have something better to do you don’t actually have to.)

Anyway, have a hedgehog! And a great week. 🙂

Superfluous hedgehog.

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Jalie 2908 version 67 80 342 897 893 (and other projects)

Does there reach a point where you’ve made up the same pattern so many times it’s not worth reblogging? I hope not.

Just another set of Jalie Jeans

Anyway, on the weekend between tromping up and down the creek, I managed to cut out my next set of jeans. I would’ve started stitching them up, too, but I discovered unexpectedly that I was out of topstitching thread. How is this possible? Probably I’ve just mislaid it somewhere. So I had to wait until I could pop by a sewing store. Fortunately (or not) Sewing World, the peddler of fabric scissors crack, is right by the train station on my way home from work. They sell a LOT of thread. Much of it aimed at embroidery machines, but anyway. I was able to pick up a couple of spools—my usual Gutterman jeans thread, and some cotton topstitching-type-thread in a somewhat darker gold. I really like the colour, but I’m a bit hesitant about the cotton thread’s strength. I’ve had issues of thread-failure on my self-stitched jeans before, not in the topstitching thread, but in the regular threads. But all the previous topstitching threads I’ve used have been polyester. Hmm. Probably I’ll try it anyway, but now if it craps out after six months I’ll be able to tell myself “I told you so.”

For all the good that will do.

Tyo's Nightgown

The kids have also picked out their next projects. Tyo wants a nightgown to replace some of the ones she’s outgrown the last little while. The plan is to use Kwik Sew 2893, a raglan-sleeved tee (and another thrift-store find), and extend it to nightgown length. Maybe add some shaping to the bottom, like on view C there. This is some fabric she picked out for making her teddy bear (did I ever blog her teddybear? We stuffed it with rice so you can throw it in the microwave and use it as a heating pad). Let’s just say that I have no qualms about letting her do whatever she wants with it, as long as it gets it out of my stash. 😉

Syo just wants  a quick sundress of the shirr-the-top-of-the-rectangle variety, out of the leftover fabric from my niece’s Mini-me (or is that Minnie-me?) dress. I think there’s enough. Of course, sundress season is largely if not completely past, but when has that ever stopped me? (Plus she’d probably wear it, happily, over T-shirt and jeans, to school all winter).

I keep talking (whining) about all the time we’re spending at the creek. I shouldn’t complain, it beats sitting around the house in front of the TV, which is what the rest of the family does the majority of the time (I, on the other hand, am far more virtuous and sit in front of the sewing machine, or the computer.) And it’s a good excuse not to get any housework done, at all. But it really cuts into the sewing time. Anyway, I suspect last weekend was the last of the creek-walking—the water gets VERY COLD VERY QUICKLY this close to the mountains, so I thought I’d share some pictures. Just because I can.

The Creek

Building with Rocks

Yay! Rocks!

Yay, fish!

You may now return to your regularly scheduled sewing blogs. I’ll get to that soon, I promise.

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One year of jeans

Unsewing 😦

Since the picture above  constitutes the grand total of my (un)sewing the last couple of days, I thought I’d talk about jeans.

First me-made jeans for me, ever.

I just checked back and realized it’s been over a year since I made my first pair of jeans for myself! Wow. Where did that time go?  Geez, I was so darned proud of that first pair. Funny considering I really hate wearing them now, although more because of the fabric, which I never did like, than anything else.

Anyway, inspired by Carolyn’s autopsy of her recently-deceased black jeans, I thought I’d muse self-indulgently a bit over one of my favourite things to stitch up.

Depending on how you count it, I’ve now made seven or eight pairs of jeans for myself. Nine if you count the Lekala sailor shorts. These fall into two categories, stretch and non-stretch. Since I made my first pair of non-stretch jeans not that long ago, I can’t really comment on quality, so today I’ll just be talking about my stretch jeans, all of which are based on the infamous Jalie 2908 pattern. You can find all the Jalie jeans posts here, or all the jeans posts ever here.

I picked this pattern because it was highly recommended on PatternReview.com for something approaching the kind of jeans I like to wear, which are low-rise, tight-fitting stretch denim. The Jalie pattern is mid-rise, close fitting, stretch flares. From my reading, I was pretty sure that I would be making several stylistic modifications, and probably a couple of fit ones as well. For style, I would be lowering the rise and reducing the leg-flare to a straight-below-the-knee style (something I’d found in a single RTW pair back in 2004 or so and been looking for ever since that one beloved pair went to the great closet in the sky), and probably going down a size as, based on the models in the photo, I thought the jeans as pictured were a little loose for stretch denim (your mileage may vary.) For fit, I expected to dart the yoke and add, oh, 5″ of length to the leg or so.

Procedure for putting dart in yoke pattern piece. A small amount of additional width can be trimmed at the centre back (step 4) if necessary; alternatively, two darts could be used to spread the amount removed over a more gentle curve.

At the time I was a bit perplexed by why the Jalie jeans were drafted with such a flat butt. It seemed like pretty much everyone needed to modify the yoke, and the lady behind Jalie even has a tutorial out there on how to do the fix, both during construction and on the pattern for your next pair. Then I watched (well, over the phone) my mom try to make flat-seat adjustments on some pants she made back in the winter.

Best pair ever.

WAY harder than just taking a little dart out of the yoke. So. Yoke-dart for the win.

Anyway.

Jeans are actually not terribly difficult to make. Denim, even stretch denim, is a lovely fabric to work with, sturdy and well behaved. Where you run into trouble is:

  1. bulk
  2. topstitching.
  3. fly
So, let’s start with 1.

Bulk:

Denim is thick. Good denim is thicker. In a few places, like where the yokes meed the centre-back seam, you’ll be stitching through up to eight layers (more if you’re doing proper felled seams). If you’re lucky enough to have a chew-through-nails-clunk-over-everything vintage or industrial machine, you’re probably good to go. If, like me (up until a week ago) you don’t, you will probably need to resort to a few tricks.
  1. Clapper/point presser and hammer

    The clapper. This is one of those unfinished blocks of smooth wood, often topped with a point presser. You iron your seam, get it good and steams up, and then press and hold this on top until it cools down. It’s amazing how much more this flattens out fabric than ironing alone—I know I was always pressing the iron on longer than I should and then scorching my fingers trying to push things down after taking the iron off. Trust me, the clapper is better.

  2. A hammer. Yes, you heard me. Technically this is best done with a rubber mallet, as a metal hammer has a tendency to break some of the fibres around the edges. A sharp-edged rock-hammer even more. Although probably most of you don’t have rock-hammers lying around, so you won’t run into this problem. Anyway, hammering a bulky seam also flattens it, even more dramatically than the clapepr, just be careful you don’t put holes in your fabric. Especially if it’s a thin denim. [Rock-hammer pic]
  3. Handwheel. Most of the thick spots in jeans are going over seams, and don’t last very long. A lot of places where the machine motor jams up and just won’t go through all the layers, you can carefully handwheel a stitch or two to get it started, or even get you past the trouple spot completely.

Jalie 2908 made skinny

Topstitching:

Presumably my topstitching woes are over now that I have the Featherweight, but topstitching on my modern Janome was certainly an adventure. There are several options I’ve used at different times. Generally the advice is to use regular thread in the bobbin, regardless of what you’re doing with the top thread. Topstitching generally looks better with a slightly longer stitch; I usually use 3mm for mine. Backstitching on topstitching can look messy, and many people recommend pulling the ends to the inside and knotting afterwards. I’ve experimented with both ways and came to the conclusion that the messy backstitch is, for me, more secure, usually not noticeable, and certainly not any more unsightly than some of my other topstitch booboos. Your mileage may vary.
    1. Two threads through the needle. If you can rig your machine to hold two spools, then hold the threads together and thread the machine as usual. This gives the top side of the stitch more oomph, plus you can use any regular thread, which gives you an extra-wide colour range to choose from.
    2. Triple stitch. Sometimes called (at least by me) a “stretch straight stitch”, this is where your machine takes two stitches forward, then one stitch back all the way along. The symbol on my Janome looks like this: ||| Basically, it ends up stitching each stitch twice, looking (ideally) just like #1. The down-side is that sometimes the forward and back stitches don’t line up perfectly, and if you don’t turn corners (say, on the pockets) just after the 1st forward stitch, it will take a stitch back after and make your corner look messy. The up-sides are: like #1 you have every colour imaginable to choose from; the top and the bottom look the same; and for stretch denim, this stitch has a bit of stretch to it.
    3. Heavy duty thread (including Coats & Clark Heavy Duty, buttonhole thread, and Guterman Jeans or upholstery thread). This heavier thread has a more striking appearance than regular-stitched regular thread, and looks more like “regular” jeans topstitching. You will probably need to turn up the tension a bit (do some tests) but my Janome handles this kind of thread quite well.
    4. Topstitching thread.

      Thread setup for dealing with mega topstitching thread: wrap around the little round bobbin-winding doohickey before threading as usual. Actual Guterman Topstitching thread not shown.

      By this I’m referring to the Guterman Tops-titching thread, which is the thickest of the threads I’ve found. It’s also a bit “fluffier” than, the heavy-duty threads above. But it comes in a wide range of colours and looks really striking. My Janome has major problems with this thread, which basically come down to the tension. The highest tension setting on my machine is too low. Possibly I could adjust the bobbin tension to compensate, but when stitching jeans on a single machine you’re re-threading just about every other seam. I wouldn’t want to add constant bobbin-adjusting to that procedure. Eventually, I came up with a sneaky tension fix where I wrap the thread once around the bobbin-feeder, which has its own little tension disk, before threading as normal. This increased the tension significantly, to the point where I could actually keep the regular tension pretty close to its normal setting. The other problem I have with this thread is it often gets snarled in the bobbin in the first couple of stitches. I found it was possible to keep this from happening by holding on (firmly!) to the tail of the thread when starting the seam.

Topstitching feet: 1) 1/4" edge-stitcher; 2) rolled-hem foot; 3) blind-hem foot

Topstitching foot. There are a lot of different sewing-machine feet that will work for topstitching, but your standard zig-zag foot is not the

Straight stitch foot (on Featherweight) and adjustable zipper foot. Both have open toes and can work well for topstitching.

best. Basically you want something with an open toe, so you can see precisely where the needle is on your fabric, and edges you can line up to get a consistent width. I don’t recommend trying to twin-needle denim, although I did hem some jeans this way early on—you’re liable to break at least one needle, at which point it gets very expensive very fast. My favourite topstitching foot is an actual edge-stitching foot with a handy keel (mine cost five or six bucks), but an ordinary straight-stitch foot like the kind that my Featherweight has also works really well. A blind-hemming foot works well in theory, but my particular foot the movable keel has a tendency to wander along its screw over long seams, which is less than useful, and it’s hard to re-set it to a precise width. My rolled-hem foot actually worked surprisingly well—just ignore the little scroll part and it’s got sides the right width and some handy grooves in the bottom. This was my favourite until I got the edge-stitch foot.

Fly:

I don’t have a HUGE number of tips on stitching up the fly.
  1. Find the tutorial that works for you. I have good luck with Debbie Cook’s; if you’re a video person (I’m not), Sandra Betzina’s video on the Threads website also comes highly recommended.
  2. Keep a RTW pair on hand for reference. This makes it much easier to keep track of which side to topstitch and stuff like that.
  3. Interface the fly, either with something fusible or with fabric from a front pocket extension. It will be a much happier fly later on if it’s a little more substantial.
  4. TRUST THE FLY. This is one I’ve only recently come around to. After you’ve got your fly constructed and your waistband on, it’s very tempting to try and tweak your fit that last little bit by moving the button one way or the other. Don’t. The button needs to sit so its shank is just at the end of your buttonhole. If you try to mess with this, you will end up with a gaping fly.
My own jeans have ranged from barely wearable to being far and away my favourite pair. I wish I could say there was a consistent improvement in this, or that I’d made the absolute perfect jeans even ones. I haven’t.  But I have had a lot of fun, and gotten some very wearable jeans for a lot less than I would pay at the store. There’s a lot of things RTW jeans have that I can’t imitate—fabrics I can’t find, embroidery I can’t do. My next step will be hunting down some really quality buttons and rivets, as the ones I can get locally are slightly sub-par, or at least, not quite right for jeans. I haven’t even tried my hand at distressing any of my me-made jeans, although I won’t totally rule it out in the future. But there’s plenty of other neat touches I can add, and thinking of what little detail will make that next pair special is one of my favourite things about making jeans. If you can pick up a pair at Walmart and are good to go, then making your own jeans probably won’t be your thing. But if, like me, you’re picky, hard to fit, or get stressed out trying to find that perfect style, making your own can be both fun and money-saving. I’m one of those people who regularly spends over $100 on new jeans, and I can’t reliably find any at the thrift store that are long enough and haven’t been worn to ribbons. Even paying full-price for quality denim, I can cut that price in half, and be just as happy—or happier—with the final product.
Damn. Now I want to make some more jeans.

Jeans!

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