Sallie of Sallie-Oh is one awesome awesome lady. She’s more than just another blog “friend,” she’s a fellow Philadelphian (well, not anymore but she used to be, which is good enough in my book). Our emails back and forth cover more than blogging garb. We chat about familiar Philly neighborhoods, yummy Philly eats, and the bittersweet move of the Barnes Foundation (it houses more Degas than the Louvre!) from the suburbs to the city. What I love most about Sallie is that all of her creations look store bought and RTW and never homemade. Her most recent creation, IKAT printed dress, looked like it would be sold in an Anthropologie store. The print was vibrant and we both agreed that even though the silhouette was simple, it made a huge statement. My favorite creation of hers is a pair of jeans she made at the beginning of spring. Because of the distressing techniques and specialized machinery that goes into jean making, it’s hard for any home sewer, even a skilled one, to sew a good looking pair of jeans. Uh-uh hunny. Not according to Sallie. Her jeans were stunning. A dark wash, the topstitching looked stellar and a slim cut, the silhouette looked sharp. So when we went back and forth on topics for this guest post, it’s no surprise we were both gung ho on a topic about jeans. So today, Sallie will share tips she learned while sewing her jeans. Take it away Sallie…
1) There are some things that RTW jeans get right, like the styling. It’s been my experience that the jeans I’ll wear the most are the ones that just look like a freaking pair of jeans! Nothing more. Nothing less. And that’s where it’s great to turn to RTW to get tips on the styling.
While sewing my jeans I kept a few of my RTW pairs by my machine to look at things like:
- Topstitching-thread color, placement, and width (if a double row of topstitching)
- seam finishes for pockets, inseam, and outer seam
- The mechanics of the fly
- Belt loops – placement, and how they’re made and attached
- Bar tacks – where they’re at and what they’re purpose is
The combination of all these details are endless, and are great things to play with for more personality, but I found that following my RTW jeans as a guideline gave me the most professional results.2) Finding a perfect pants pattern is hard enough – don’t kill yourself trying to find the perfect jeans pattern. Did you spend months and countless numbers of muslins trying to get the fit right on your Colette Clover pants (ahem)? Maybe you have another TNT pattern you’ve been using as dress trousers? Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you actually own a pair of pants (any pants!) that fit you well?
These are all great places to start making your own jeans. Sure there are patterns out there specifically for jeans (Jalie, for instance) but you don’t need them. With a few simple pattern adjustments (like front pocket shaping and adding a front zip fly) you can turn any pants pattern into a pair of jeans. If you’ve ever come across a pattern, or a RTW pair of pants that fits you well in the crotch and butt, you’re good to go! Fitting the center front and center back seams are the hardest, so try to avoid that if at all possible. But fitting the hips, waist and legs is easy peasy! Which brings me to…
3) What if your favorite pair of pants (or pants pattern) is wide legged and you want to make a skinny jean? No problemo. It’s pretty easy to taper the side seams on a pants pattern, but there are a few things you should consider first.
- Fabric. A really narrow leg will only really work with denim (or other bottom weight fabric) that has some stretch. On the flip side, a stretch denim on a wide leg jean might be useless, and may even make your jeans stretch out of shape quickly.
- How skinny is too skinny? This is another great time to turn to RTW. Already got a pair of skinny jeans? Just measure the foot opening. Or turn to my number one resource, the Internet. I love sites like Madewell that give you fun facts about their jeans, like inseam length and leg opening width. These are all great things to keep in mind if you’re going for a specific style, and will also help your handmade jeans look current (if that’s your thing).
- If you don’t have a serger, consider flat-felling your major seams. Especially center back, the back yolk (if you have one) and the inseam. A flat-felled seam is more time consuming, but it’s ridiculously strong.
- If you do have a serger, sew your seam first, then serge the raw edges. This gives your seams a nice, double row of stitching for extra strength.
- While topstitching may seem just decorative, it also provides additional strength to those high stress seams. So I know it’s a pain to keep rethreading your machine with topstitching thread, but at the minimum, do it for your CF and CB seam and your waistband.
5) Sewing jeans gets pretty bulky. You’re working with a lot of layers of medium to heavy weight fabric. You’ll have an easier time of it if you use a jeans needle or a 100/16 needle for the especially bulky areas. Also, if it sounds like your machine wants to die going over a particularly thick patch (like the belt loops) just take it easy and use the hand wheel. A well-placed piece of poster paper or cardboard to flatten out an area (or bit of hammering) can also be effective. Also, trim, trim, trim those seam allowances – especially in the waistband!
6) To get a perfectly even and symmetrical double row of topstitching its best to use a double needle (they come in different widths, so refer to your RTW jeans to see what width you like best) If your machine isn’t set up for a double needle (mine wasn’t, I had to buy an extra part) have no fear, you can still get a nice straight row. Just draw in some guidelines for yourself with chalk and a ruler before you stitch. I find this most helpful when stitching down the back patch pockets.
And finally! A roundup of links I’ve found extremely helpful in my jeans making endeavors!
- This is a series of posts that Peter Lappin of Male Pattern Boldness did on a jeans sew-a-long. He’s sewing men’s jeans, but the information he covers is universal – and priceless!
- Already got a pair of jeans (or pants) you love and that fit you well? Kenneth King does a class on Craftsy teaching you how to reverse engineer your favorite jeans.
- Taylor Tailor has a great post on how to insert jeans rivets – and even better – he sells them in his supply shop (along with just about everything else you’ll need)!
- This store sells jeans rivets galore – and yes it’s in bulk, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you go through them! Also, if you’re getting serious about this jean-making business, they sell a press for professional rivet insertion. (Don’t think I didn’t consider it…)
- Colette Patterns Pants fitting cheat sheet is gold for getting a nice fit (especially for pants-sewing beginners)
- Colette Patterns tutorial for making a flat-felled seam
- A series of tutorials I did on my blog showing you how to draft and sew a zip front fly (and pockets)
And that’s it!! Go forth and make thee some awesome jeans!!
A huge thank-you to Maddie for asking me to be a part of this series of guest posts!! Maddie, you are one rocking lady, and an endless source of inspiration!!