Monday, February 22, 2010

I sewed them myyyyy waaaaaaaaaaaay.

I cannot believe I am standing here in jeans and a t-shirt made by my very own loving hands at home. Of all things to make for myself, it's the one where I think, "couldn't I just have gone out and bought these???"

Burda 09-2009-113

I had a lot of help with these jeans so will try to credit all the fabulous people who have shared their expertise:

Adjustments - following this guide here which I found via Dawn's summary of jeans sewing on Pattern Review. I lengthened the back crotch length their way, and did the flat butt wedge their way too. I think there are fewer wrinkles this time, but it's not a perfect solution. I'm going to try the Palmer/Pletsch lift and tuck next time, I think.

The lovely professional top stitching you see chez moi blog is courtesy of foot number 5 - the blind hemmer/edge stitch foot. It looks like I am a sewing goddess but I am totally an imposter because you just run the barb of the foot along the edge for a precise line of stitches.

From Brian (the seamster formerly known as "rocket boy") I learned that you should use plain thread matching to your fashion fabric in the bobbin. The small gap between the stitches makes the contrasting thread really "pop".

From Palmer/Pletsch I learned that you needn't bother changing threads and needles for jeans. Just sew the whole thing on one set of threads. So I did! Also, because top stitching needles are a size 14, they're already a good size and strength for denim so I found the needle sewed through many layers with no problems at all.

Annette from the Bernina shop recommends "strong" thread, rather than "topstitching thread" for jeans sewing.

From my favourite RTW pair of jeans I copied this idea for a double back belt loop.

I used a scrap of cotton shirting to line the pockets because I was using heavier fabric than was recommended.

This denim has 1% lycra which equates to about 5 % crosswise stretch, enough to provide better movement and recovery but without the down side of unflattering shaping. It was enough to make me worried about how the waist might stretch out though so I taped it with cotton twill tape. From the Jalie jeans pattern, I learned that it is a really good idea to sew the bottom of the facing seam allowance so you can get the exact amount you need to turn for the waistband.No more burned fingers with the iron trying to iron them accurately, the denim folds on the stitching line like a warmed knife through butter.

Why sew my own jeans? Now tell me, have you ever seen a back pocket design like this? No? I didn't think so.

Now to answer a couple of questions in the last comments:

Helen asked why I had listed Burda 42 as a 16. Simple, if you take a big 4 pattern (vogue, butterick etc) and look at a size 16 you will see "waist 76, hip 102" - if you look at a Burda 42 you see "waist 78, hip 102", so the Burda is just slightly bigger. The real difference is wearable ease - the big 4 use 3-4 inches for a semi-fitted style, Burda uses 1-2 inches for a fitted style. That's why I prefer sewing with Burda, because I find fitted clothing more flattering. I don't know why the big 4 make so many semi-fitted styles. Vanity - because you go down a size because of all the extra ease?

Judy asked about my front adjustment. Look at the picture of the woman wearing her perfect fit jeans. Look at the front crotch. Look at how the line pulls tight and folds of fabric fall around it. Is that not the most unfortunate place for folds of fabric to gather??? I mean REALLY. It means the front crotch curve is too high, and you simply lower it as it comes round the bend. I don't always have to make this adjustment - the curve is on the bias and stretches anyway, I only have to do it with fabrics with little give.

Costings: fabric, denim from Global fabrics, $32; strong thread $4.50, normal thread $3, tracing paper, $2, rivets $2, zipper $1.50, interfacing 50c = $45.50

This post is dedicated to my dad, who most certainly made things his own way, and who died a year ago Sunday (yesterday) .


  1. Great job on your jeans! And the back pockets are adorable.

  2. Awesome jeans and I love your back pockets!! Nice work and some great tips. Thanks!!

  3. LOOOOOOOOOOOVE the back pockets!! You are so clever!!!

  4. Way to go, girl! Jeans and t-shirts are iconic fashion items, so if you can get them right, you are laughin'. I love that back pocket. Thanks for all your tips. BTW what is "heavy thread"?

  5. Hehe, those pockets made my day! You got an excellent fit on the jeans.

  6. Can you buy jeans that fit? I love the pockets.

  7. AAAAAAAARGH! They're great! I love the sausage-dog pockets!!!!!

    What a great selection of tips. I'm going to have to get onto those Prym rivets, I'd assume we'd have them over here in Oz too at our Bernina shops, I've never seen them at our regular fabric chainstores so I leave off rivets on my jeans and just do a little bar-tack to reinforce corners... I want proper rivets! Love that tip about the waistband under-turn too. It's a similar principle to what you do turning under the collarband on a shirt!
    And I will have to try that with the fabric-matching bobbin-thread- makes sense!

  8. Wow. I am really impressed with that outfit. Those jeans are spectacular. I am always in awe of people who can make pants like that!

  9. If you could buy an outfit just like that would you? Or would you still make it, if just for the sheer joy of making THOSE POCKETS! I'd still make it. You can't buy that kind of pleasure.

    I'd never thought of doing fun stuff on pockets till I saw your coffee cups, but I love these even more.

    Thanks for the explanation. I had trouble visualizing where you were talking about altering the crotch curve. Next question - how'd you do the daschund (sp?) embroidery? I have my own method, but I always like to see how other people do it.

  10. Love those pockets! I think it's terrific to sew jeans. You can get a perfect fit, and use any appropriate fabric. I love veleteen jeans in winter. I can't buy a t-shirt that I like. Sewing is a good thing. Congratulations! Nice tribue to your father.

  11. Great detail! Worth making yourself for that individual touch!

  12. You look like a power woman in those jeans. Top stitching is top class comme toujour.

  13. Got to love those sewing terms: 'the flat butt wedge' and the 'Palmer/Pletsch lift and tuck'. Don't they sound like plastic surgery? I definitely need a lift and tuck. Jeans are awesome and I bet Benjy loves the sausage dog. You'll have all the kids at playcentre following along behind for a look.

  14. Can you tell me what t-shirt pattern you used? I'm built similarly and all my t-shirt attempts have been spectacular failures.

  15. These are great and I adore your pockets.

  16. Hello,

    Noticed that you live in Auckland and thought I'd give you a heads up about a wee fabric sale - up on Dominion Rd next to the Sallies and Jabberwocky there's a designer clothing sale (Chapel is the brand, never heard of it myself) and they've got some great fabric for $2 a metre. Only a few bolts but nice quality stuff and the lady was pretty generous with her cutting!

    Love the jeans, BTW. I don't have the patience for that!

  17. Love the daschund pocket stitching, so cool! And I'm glad to know that I wasn't really being lazy not chaning the bobbin thread when I topstitch in a different colour, it's the proper way to do it!

  18. Brava!! Jeans that fit you--the holy grail of sewing.

  19. Your pockets are the best - how do you come up with such ideas?
    I now cannot get "My Way" out of my head, although I am now singing YOUR altered version!!
    You did a great job on this pair of jeans. They get to be something of an obsession, don't they? It is like this thing you must conquer.
    Your shirt looks great also.

  20. Dear maryanna - this year I am imagining myself sewing a pair of trousers for myself. If I imagine it long enough and hard enough the fairy princess of sewing will come and give me a personalised tutorial.

    I love your instructions and how you describe not only how you make the adjustments but why. You are such a good teacher

  21. thanks for the lycra sewing tips. i might go and see if I can find a walking foot. Marg

  22. The jeans came out just right! I got a big smile when I saw those back pockets. I remember that lovely skirt you made one year ago, with its colorful inverted pleat, and I love that you've made another garment with an element of pure joy sewn right in. I'm not sure you're much of a hugger, but I would hug you right now. ;)

  23. Yes, you could have bought this. But then again it's a huge job finding any jeans that fit at all if you're more than 12 years old, and it's a huge job finding t-shirts that don't look terrible if you have more than A cups. So on balance, being able to make your own jeans and t-shirts is really, really nice.

  24. Late comment but I'm reading back through your blog and thoroughly enjoying it and I'm in awe of all the beautiful things you sew while modestly describing yourself as a hobby sewer. I just wanted to say I couldn't believe the "perfect fit" pictures in the link you posted. I was reading that article assuming they were the before pictures :)

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