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!