Another pair of cycling jeans

I’ve made a lot of jeans since I started sewing 14 years ago. I remember I made my first pair before we even bought the boat, which would put them back in 2006 or 2007, and I really haven’t stopped since! I’ve probably made at least 10-15 pairs over the years, with various patterns and weights of denim, but my most recent pair with cycling-specific adaptations have been one of my favourites, so I wanted to have another pair of those in my wardrobe.

The majority of my jeans over the years have been made with Ditto Fabrics’ super freaking amazing Italian denims, and this traditional, non-stretch, dark dye was bought when I last visited their shop in December. It’s no coincidence that we’ve got another trip to Brighton planned in a few weeks so I can restock then…

2nd cycling jeans - turning

2nd cycling jeans - hands in pockets

I feel like I’ve said just about everything that can be said about sewing jeans over the years, so I’ll just keep this to the New and Essential info. The only real new part to this pair is that I used the leftover Liberty lawn from my recent Donna Karan shirt to line the waistband, pockets, and make the fly shield, so there’s a nice hint of luxury just for me.

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I made the same cycling adjustments as in my previous pair of jeans – namely, lengthening the back rise, adding knee pleats, and lengthening the legs. My only change here was to topstitch an inch or so along the knee pleats to reinforce these. Otherwise, they work great, and allow me to easily cycle around town without having to hike up my jeans from the thighs at the red lights.

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jeans - cycling knee pleats inside

2nd cycling jeans - foot up

See? Easy knee movements! Thanks, pleats!

Essential tips learned over the years:

  • Use Gutermann Upholstery thread, NOT topstitching thread, but use regular thread in the bobbin – keep the thick stuff to the needle only
  • I prefer bronze thread (Gutermann No448) for topstitching, as the gold looks too bright yellow IMHO
  • Life is too short for cheap rivets. Omg, buy from Junior’s daughter, they will change your jeans-sewing life. And trim the nail before hammering.
  • Having two machines – one for construction, threaded in navy, and one for topstitching, threaded in bronze – will save your sanity. My vintage hand-crank Singer does abso-freaking-lutely beautiful topstitching.
  • jeans vintage buttonholer

  • Stick with a fly-front technique you can remember. Loads of people go on about Sandra Betzina’s method, but for the life of me, I couldn’t quite internalise it without re-watching the video each time. I tried Burda’s method, and I just got it for some reason. Now I can sew a fly-front without even thinking about it.
  • Pre-wash your denim at least 2-3 times before cutting it, as it will shrink the first few times, and more in the length than across the grain.
  • Aim for your jeans to fit a little bit too tight – think “just washed jeans”. This means that as they loosen up when you wear them, they won’t end up too big (which eluded me for quite some time!)

jeans - fly with tailors shears

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This pair is a mismatch of an old Burda pattern, which has been morphed and changed around so much that the crotch curve is probably the only original thing left on it, so I opted to consider it more “self-drafted” and put a blue label on it.

2nd cycling jeans - side looking away

2nd cycling jeans - side view

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Also, you might recognise the ombré teeshirt here that I made earlier this summer!

2nd cycling jeans - back view

2nd cycling jeans - back pocket detail

I’m away in Berlin this week so please forgive any delays in responding to emails or approving comments!

17 Comments

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  1. 1
    Lauriana

    You are reminding me that I have to make another pair of jeans…
    And I wish I had two sewing machines to switch between sewing and topstitching. The re-threading drives me crazy but there is just not enough room on my sewing table on try out my grandmother’s antique.
    And I might try and use your knee pleat arrangement for my next pair of climbing trousers, the little darts I put in the old ones are just too small (I always cycle in regular clothes).
    One thing surprised me about the picture of the insides though: Unfinished seam allowances with cross-seams and topstitching in place? Won’t that cause problems later?
    I always flat-fell the seams I am topstitching anyway and serge the others as soon as they are sewn.
    Oh, and I don’t pre-wash jeans unless I am told it will shrink something like 10% or more. I just don’t hem before the first wash (just serge the edge) and cut a bit long. This way, you get that rippled wear effect in your flat-felled seams, which we all know from RTW, over time.

    • 2
      melissa

      Ooh, yes the knee room should help with climbing but you’ll also want a really deep crotch gusset to increase range of motion (and maybe best leave off the belt loops!). In regards to the seam allowances, I’ve done them this way on every pair of jeans I’ve ever made and never had any problems (I can’t even figure out what problems you might be referring to?). So yeah, it’s totally fine to just mock fell the seams!

      • 3
        Lauriana

        What problem? Well, fraying fabric of course! All denim I know is quite prone to unraveling at cut edges. I can see how the extra stitching lines from your topstitching would help to keep that in check but you don’t have those everywhere.

        Oh, and I have never made jeans specifically for climbing (I wouldn’t want jeans for indoor climbing or bouldering. Too hot) but I may try in the future when I go climbing on real rock more often. So far, I have worn old pairs of jeans made from experimental patterns which I had drafted with extra room at the hip and crotch (which does the same job as those gussets)

  2. 5
    Jane M

    Years ago I remember watching nearly blogger (I think Belinda, in Australia) fit and sew up a pair of jeans and I thought it was magic. Now I love seeing how you and so many others are just whipping up a new pair whenever they feel the urge. Such a powerful feeling to know you can make something work just for you, truly custom.

  3. 7
    skaapie

    Awesome Jeans! Hehehe, I also saw the unfinished internal seams and did a double take 🙂 Obviously Italian Denim from Ditto is way better quality than the stuff I get locally, coz mine also frays like crazy if I don’t finish the seams.
    Getting hold of my granny’s old singer was a revelation for me and top-stitching.
    And yip, great reminder that I’m also due for a new pair.

    • 9
      melissa

      I can’t recall exactly – I have a bunch in my drawer. I’ve found the ones with the metal shank to be FAR more robust than the metal & plastic ones. So usually I just look for the all-metal rather than brand name.

  4. 10
    Karen M.

    Your jeans look great, thank you for sharing all of your hard-earned tips to save us grief. The link for the rivets isn’t working. Do you think they changed it or they went out of business?

    • 11
      melissa

      oh no!! it was up when I wrote the post, I hope it’s just temporary and Junior’s daughter hasn’t given up the business! I would be bereft to lose my only source for good rivets!!

  5. 12
    Karen

    Do you have a way to contact her apart from the website? The link still isn’t working. They did have that awful flooding in Louisiana recently. Tailor Taylor has some buttons and rivets that look nice if she is out of business for good.

    • 13
      melissa

      Hi Karen. I dug out his daughter’s address from an email in 2014, and just dropped her a note to ask if she’s still in business or if the shop had moved elsewhere or what, so hopefully I’ll hear back soon!

  6. 15
    Laura

    Those jeans look fantastic! Perfect fit and so flattering. Do you add any padding or protection in the crotch area for cycling?

    • 16
      melissa

      thanks! No, since my commute is only 35min, I really don’t need padding. In general, if my ride is under an hour, I don’t bother with padding or even lycra (though I wear lycra to commute if it’s wet or hot out). You could always wear cycle-padded panties underneath if you wanted to, though.

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