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…
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.
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.
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.
- 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!)
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.
Also, you might recognise the ombré teeshirt here that I made earlier this summer!
I’m away in Berlin this week so please forgive any delays in responding to emails or approving comments!