Vacation! (well.. almost)

I bought some black denim today (with stretch – ugh) and have high hopes to make a new pair of jeans tomorrow. Why? Because I’m on semi-vacation and I have free time!!! It’s just some 1% spandex black denim from Joann’s but the discount was crazy low and I wanted to keep playing jeans ;o)

Last night was a very big event for work – a colonial tavern dinner – and it was a smashing success, thanks to so many great volunteers who brought an 18th century house to life for the evening.  But.. phew! am I glad that it’s over. I’ve spent much of today sleeping and resting. And just to add a bit  of  fun, I’ve also started some new medication for arm & leg pain that is making me just a little bit loopy!  Driving (and thinking coherently) is out of the question for the first hour or two after each one.

This will make life interesting if nothing else!

There is one more work day on Saturday (outside and in the rain no less) and then a lovely eight days of making my own schedule.  And yes it will most certainly include some sewing! Dresses and jeans galore  – and just maybe some tops to go with all those jeans…

a very expensive pair of jeans, finis!

Crummy picture. Yummy jeans!

Happy dance! I’m wearing my new jeans!!

I was a bit annoyed after the rear fitting issues I discovered last night but another hour or so of sewing today and it’s all forgotten…

It was a bit of work to take out the back seam topstitching, and in fact, I had to do it 3 times – twice due to refining the back seam fit, and once because I forgot to check the stitch length before topstitching. In case you’ve ever wondered, small topstitching (2.5) on jeans looks really dumb. No getting around it – don’t bother experimenting! For what it’s worth, a stitch length of 3.25 worked perfectly with my Gutermann topstitching thread. The tension was increased slightly depending on how many layers of denim I was sewing at any particular time.

These are now a mess inside... but who can tell when I'm wearing them?

Since I opted to do the back seam adjustments with all the other seams in place, I had to hand finish the threads for the topstitching. This meant pulling threads to the inside, tying them off and then threading them back through the seams.

I then re-topstitched (or re-re-re-topstitched) the back seam since it took me a few tries to get the jeans fitted to my liking below the waistband.

The hem length was perfect – just enough to turn up the suggested 1″. We’ll see how they do after being worn and washed a few times. The belt loops were pretty straight-forward although this is another area that doesn’t have much detail in the directions. I admit, not much is needed – but again, I didn’t want to have to think! In the end, both ends were turned under about 1/2″, topstitched straight across 1/8″ away from the fold, and I lined up the bottom fold wherever it looked best, keeping it loose enough to actually hold a belt.

Yes, I need better pictures. But still the jeans look good!

Hmm… what else? Ahh, yes… pockets! I opted for the cotton print lined version… worked just fine and placed according to the directions. I did wait until the jeans were fully constructed so I could test the placement which made them a bit trickier to sew.  No photos of the back view – partially because I forgot and partially because there’s no reason to draw attention to that side. However, they don’t look so bad from the back either. Enough said! ;o)

This is probably the quickest turn around time for a project in years. Clearly new jeans were long overdue! I’m still wearing them… and doing the happy dance!!!

A few gripes:

  • Although I will undoubtedly make another pair using this pattern, the back yoke & back seam area still need to be refined for my figure.  (But that’s my issue not the pattern!)
  • It would be easiest to have two machines set up simultaneously – one for topstitching and one for seams. It got really annoying switching the threads and settings back and forth every few steps.
  • Next time I will head the advice to serge all edges in advance. They all need it and it really would speed up the rest of the construction process. Stitch and learn!
  • Even after two washings, the blue dye is affecting the topstitching thread. I’m going for 3 or 4 pre-washes next time.
  • Inseam and upper outseam could use some topstitching. I think I’ll pick a favorite pair of jeans to mimic next time. While I do love these pair, they could be even better!

Had enough yet? Now I just need to remember all this for next time! And yes, there will most certainly be a next time.

a very expensive pair of jeans

So jeans really can fit! (but only after a few trys)

Several weeks (or perhaps months) ago I was inspired but all the ‘I sewed my own jeans’ posts on various blogs that I ordered the J. Stern Designs jeans pattern and some lovely medium weight denim from Fabric.com in an ‘antique blue’ shade. I washed and dried the fabric and it’s been sitting patiently on top of the dryer until this weekend.

Any excuse to play with different stitch patterns... but at least the 'pocket' held for fitting purposes

I’m not sure what got in to me, but after checking my most recent set of measurements, I decided to dive in, trace off the pattern in a size 12 and make up a muslin.  For the muslin, I just faked the pocketsand the front fly so that there was enough together that I could check the fit. Overall I was mightily impressed – the size 12 seemed to be a great fit, particularly in the length – the knee marking hit perfectly (and I’m 5’8” so things don’t always work out that way!) and the front rise, which is on the low side, looked and felt comfortable.

The back side was (and is) another story. Big hips. Small waist. A pain in the @$$ to fit. No pun intended.

I opted to raise the back rise of the jean and used the pattern designer’s excellent instructions from her blog. With full hips and small waist… low rise just equals major gaping in the rear. Neither comfortable nor attractive! I’ll spare you the details of what the muslin looked like in that area. End story is that I added 1″ to my back pattern to increase the rise which I thought would do the trick. I also shortened the leg length from the knee to the hem by about 1.5″ since I really wanted to wear these jeans with flats and sandals.

Oh – and nearly forgot. The waistband was also too big at the top edge so I made a dart in my muslin at the side seams to increase the curve. Transferred to the waistband and waistband facing pattern and voila… snugger waistband! [Edit: after reviewing the muslin fitting pictures… I can’t bring myself to post them. Hello insecurity! Sigh. )

After pressing my denim and falling ever more deeply in love with the dark blue color and finish (pictures coming, really!) I got all the piece cut out. I wish I could remember how much I bought because I have a lot left over – possibly enough for a second pair. But that will have to wait a bit longer!

For the pocket linings and facings, I dug out some great block printed Indian cotton from my 18th century repro fabric stash. Love, love, love the effect! Goes so well with denim!

So onto the construction. I did review the jeans tip and techniques on Pattern Review for some pointers but mostly I just followed the pattern instructions blindly. I should mention that I opted for the J. Stern pattern rather than widely lauded Jalie pattern because I specifically wanted to work with non-stretch denim.  I like my jeans made of plain old cotton denim!

The instructions were good, but there were a few places a bit more information could have been helpful. It helped to have a pair of jeans handy for reference while I was making this pair. The front fly made sense once you started doing it – but it was tougher to wrap my head around  when just reading the steps. Also, the instructions indicate that a coin pocket should be added to the left and right pockets, yet most jeans only have one on the right side, and illustrations for other later steps reflect this. I opted for just one on the right side.

Trust me... this looks better than the muslin did! This is pre-waistband and post-back seam alteration #1

Also, there was no mention of what to do with the inseam and side seams once sewn together. By looking at the envelope cover, I was able to confirm that they aren’t topstitched, but it wasn’t entirely clear if anything else need to be done – such as stitch them again for strength, press to one side, etc. A minor detail and hardly critical, I just like knowing every last intended detail. Sometime I just don’t want to have to think for myself when sewing!

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself… in my spare weekend time I made the jeans from start to finish, with the exception of the hem, button and buttonhole. The center back seam was adjusted once to take in the yoke area about an inch, prior to adding the waistband. I was hoping this would help the jeans fit closer against my lower back. Sadly, I ignored my better judgment – and the odd angle of the new back seam – and went ahead and finished the waistband.

The end result… the jeans are gorgeous in the front – great fit, great details, great length. The back… not so much. There’s a weird  section of extra fabric below the yoke at center back – I knew it was there and yet just kind of hoped it would work out when all was said and done.  It did not. So… tomorrow I’ll pick out the topstitching of the center back seam, take it in further (and in an straight line this time), and replace the topstitching. I’m reasonably certain this can all be done without affecting the other seams – I’ll just need to finish some of the threads by hand to avoid having to backstitch in awkward place.

So, hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll have a stunning pair of new jeans… and better yet, a perfected pattern so that I can keep churning them out! I may even remember to take the camera out of the car and add some pictures ;o)

As to why the jeans were so expensive. Well, umm, I’d been wanting a new serger for some time, and um, well, a basic enough one was on sale at JoAnn’s – a mere 5 minute drive from home. Nothing like instant gratification, eh? And jeans really do look SO much better when you finish them with a serger on the inside… so, shopping I did go.

And now I can’t wait to keep playing on it!

a great white driving coat and hat, part troix

I think I’m gonna need to practice my French numbers… I’ll be lucky if there are less than six or seven (or should that be sept?) posts to finish this project!

Note the all important iced coffee on the ledge... it was truly motivating!

I had a burst of energy last weekend and made some major progress on the coat… and if my luck holds, I’ll have more time to work on it tomorrow, too. It’s actually starting to look like a coat – and that’s making me want to finish it.  That and we have a sewing club meeting on Thursday and I REALLY want to move on to a more interesting (and authentic!) project. The photo isn’t so great and it has sort of 1960s Elvis collar feel at the moment… but I assure you it is starting to look pretty!

One of the things that had slowed me down was the simple fact that I decided to use a hong kong seam finish on all the interior seams. Partly for practice, partly for durability and aesthetics. But this meant needing lots and lots and lots of bias tape! A month or two ago I had treated myself to the bias strip cutter machine from Simplicity (no, not the official name but I don’t have the box in front of me!) and once you get it set up properly… wow, can you create miles of bias strips in minutes! In all it probably took 15-20 minutes of cutting enough strips to bind the seams. Actually applying the strips took considerably longer.

I remember this being a bigger pile… the strips were cut from some kind of synthetic satin leftover from a past project

I did find that you need to do one side of the seam at a time to get a good finish – although that may have something to do with this particularly binding fabric. In any case, it worked best to apply it to the right side of one seam, press it perfectly, then go back, finish that side and do the first step on the opposite side of the seam. Press again, then finish the second side. It was good practice… but I’m not sure I’ll use the technique for such longgggg seams again.

I was so careful with the trim... even making sure the overs & unders were symetrical for each flap.

Applying the trim was much more fun! I started with preparing the pocket flaps  and then lightly tracing the trim pattern onto the right side of each finished pocket flap The trim was pinned in place at each corner point of the pattern, and then I permanently secured it in place with a wide machine zig-zag stitch. This worked pretty well, even without any special trim feet for the machine. I jumped ahead and trimmed the collar… but sadly this turned out to be a mistake. It’s supposed to be trimmed after it’s sewn to coat as the trim extends down through the lapels, too. Oops!

This was when the frustration on this project started to kick in again and I began cutting more corners. I opted to sew the pocket flaps to the coat, without the welting strips or pocket pieces. It doesn’t look too bad… but I think if I start this again when I have more energy, I probably will undo the pocket flaps and the collar trim… and follow the directions properly!

But let’s see what happens in the morning, shall we?