Sometimes you have to just close yourself into your sewing room, try to block out the world, and just make. This weekend I closed myself in my sewing cave and emerged on Sunday with a new pair of jeans and a teeshirt.
Let’s start with the jeans – I’ve lost track, but these are probably at least the 10-15th pair of jeans I’ve sewn myself, so I pretty much know what I want and how to achieve it by now. I usually try to make at least a pair a year, as they seem to live for just over a year of hard wear before the inner thighs inevitably start to wear thin and they’re relegated into “boat work jeans”.
I’ve been wearing the pair I made last March heavily since then, and since I started cycling to work in January, I’ve been thinking of a few ways I could tweak my next pair to make them even more cycle-friendly (while still looking mostly like “normal jeans”).
Knee pleats for added ease in cycling!
I tested a few of the concepts in a pair sewn in an aqua Japanese twill covered in cats a few months ago, but some of the features I ultimately rejected (like shifting the inseam forward for greater range of motion), some I modified (like moving the knee pleats down a good 6 inches!), and some I kept the same (like lengthening the legs and increasing the back rise to account for a seated cycling stance). The cat pair were only meant to be a fun but wearable muslin, and they’ve done their job admirably!
I sewed the kitty #fabric into #jeans! These are an unusually wild print for #trousers but I wanted a chance to try out some #cycling-specific drafting tweaks ahead of cutting into my Italian #denim. Apart from forgetting to lengthen for my freakishly long thighs (oops), these are pretty great! Fabric is from Tomato in #Tokyo (before you ask! 😉) #sewing #isew #selfdrafted #jeans #activewear #indiesewing #cat #neko #nofilter
Since I’ve made jeans so many times, I’ve shared a lot of tips in the past, but if I had to to distil my Top Jeans Sewing Tips:
- Buy quality denim. IMHO, the absolute best denim comes from Ditto Fabrics, who source amazing Italian denims (and what I’ve used for my last 5 or so pairs)
- Pre-wash your denim. A lot. I know, I like the raw denim look, too, but denim shrinks considerably, so wash (and dry) at least twice before you cut into it, or the legs will shrink up after the first few washes
- Use Gutermann “Upholstery” thread (AKA “Extra Strong”) in the grey spool, NOT the “Topstitching” thread (in the green spool), which is often too thick for your machine. And use regular thread in the bobbin. I didn’t say it makes sense, just trust me on this.
- Set up a separate topstitching machine if you can, or else you’ll be spending more time re-threading your machine than actually sewing or pressing. I love using my vintage hand crank Singer for topstitching as it makes a beautiful straight stitch (and buttonhole!)
- Use quilting cotton for pocket linings, waistband facing, and the fly shield – it cuts down on bulk and is a nice touch that’s “just for you”. Also it’s a nice way to use up random scraps!
- 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!)
- Throw away whatever jeans rivets you bought from that sewing shop. Yes, throw them in the bin right now. They’re terrible quality, will come apart as you wear them, and likely rip holes into your coat linings and tops (yes, really). It’s just not worth it. These rivets are the best quality – exactly like ready-to-wear jeans, and I have yet to have any fail or damage my clothing. I wrote a tutorial about how to install them here, as trimming the nail is key!
I was asked a bunch on Instagram what pattern I used here, but it’s a bit hard to say – the crotch curve started off as a Burda magazine pattern, but I’ve redrafted the legs, hips, waistband, and pretty much everything else since then, plus I made all my cycling adjustments, and I prefer to do my pocket yokes and fly front in my own way, so I think it’s closer to being a self-drafted than anything else. But I can recommend Named’s Jamie Jeans (stretch denim), or Closet Case Files’s Ginger (stretch denim) or Morgan (non-stretch denim) patterns.
Oh, and the top! This was just a quick make as I love my mustard viscose jersey Drape Drape top I made back in 2012, and pretty much every time I wear it (which is like at least once a fortnight) I think “oh I should really make a few more of these!”).
So I took some purple cotton jersey gifted to me by my friend Claire (how well does she know my colours!?!) and whipped one up (raising the neckline as before – as drafted it is scandalously low!!). It’s only got two seams, a neckband, and some hems, so it’s an hour start to finish for me (if that).
This one fits a bit tighter than my mustard one though, as this jersey doesn’t have anywhere near as much stretch. So it’s a little closer in the waist than I was expecting, and I had to open up the right arm slit and re-hem it since it felt too tight on my arm. But still very wearable, and a good “interesting basic” to have in my wardrobe.
But not bad for a weekend’s sewing, and I’m further inspired to sew down my stash of amazing fabrics, and make more clothes which can do double-duty for cycling and workwear!