Category Archives: Sewing jeans

Sewing fail: my third pair of Morgan jeans

I think it’s a well-known fact by now that I like sewing my own jeans. I might have mentioned it once or twice. So this pair of cropped Morgan jeans was supposed to be THE ONE, after making enough pairs to know exactly what I wanted to tweak to make them perfect. THE ONE, I tell you!

They look quite good, right?

But they were a big fat SEWING FAIL.

The first mistake was the fabric. I got so excited when I saw this lovely 100% cotton denim on the Fabrics Galore website, that I ordered it without checking the weight. It’s a 4oz denim, more of a chambray really, and I was so disappointed when it turned up. It went in the stash, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, but some crazy little voice told me to give the jeans a go with it anyway, since I didn’t really have anything else I wanted to use it for and I did want another pair of jeans. I really shouldn’t trust the crazy little voice…

So, spoiler: the main reason for the fail is that the fabric is not really heavy enough for jeans. But it doesn’t stop there…

In my last two pairs of Morgan jeans and both my Gingers, one thing I’ve noticed is that the pocket facing is a little small, and peeks out of the pocket when I sit down. I made a mental note to make the inside curve a bit larger next time. Should’ve made a written note… that was my next fail! As you can see from these photos, the pocket facing pulls quite a bit because the fabric isn’t heavy enough to keep it down.

I also used regular buttons on the button placket, as I was worried the fabric wouldn’t be quite strong enough to withstand jeans hardware, so the only proper jeans button is the one on the waistband.

That’s about the best thing I can say about the waistband, because…

The waistband was my biggest error. I didn’t have enough denim to use for the waistband lining, so I chose a quilting cotton that matched my pocket linings. Because it’s pretty lightweight for a waistband, and because there’s no stretch in the denim, I interfaced it to make it a bit sturdier. Good idea, I hear you cry, she’s got this jeans thing down to a fine art… but if you read my last post about Closet Case Patterns jeans, you’ll know I interfaced the waistband on my first pair of Gingers and had to unpick and re-do the whole thing because it made the waistband so uncomfortable. So why why why oh why did I do it again? Well, the Gingers use stretch denim, so the interfacing restricted the stretch. Morgan specifies no stretch, so I thought it would be a good idea. Too much thinking going on with these jeans – the waistband is so unforgiving, I might as well have interfaced it with steel rods.

To make matters worse, this wasn’t even the first time I’d stitched this waistband. Oh no, the first time I stitched it on with the wrong side facing out!

So I’d already spent an entire evening unpicking my extremely tiny stitches to re-attach the waistband. Pour me a gin…

The one thing I like about my waistband (there has to be something!) is that I attached the waistband to the waistband lining with a 3/8” seam rather than 5/8”. In my last two pairs I found the waistband a little too narrow, so this was a good way of adding extra depth without re-drawing the whole pattern piece. Every cloud…

OK, if we’re moving on to silver linings, here are some more:

Topstitching. Oh I love topstitching. As you can see from the close-ups, I use a short stitch for greater accuracy (I set my stitch length at 2.2). I also love the little flower stitch on my machine, so I measured out the length of a full flower motif, and marked on my back pockets where I’d have to start and finish the flower stitch to have four parallel flowers on each side. I think one of the reasons I’m so disappointed with the failure of these jeans is all the work that went into those pockets! But you can see from the second pic that even they are too flimsy once I’m wearing the jeans:

Next silver lining: while I was making these jeans, a perfectly timed little sewing tip landed in my inbox from the Colette Patterns “Snippets” email list. The suggestion is that you pass a length of thread through the corners of the area you’re topstitching (in this case, the waistband), and when you get to the corner you pull on the thread to stop the fabric getting chewed up by the feed dogs. I used topstitching thread to pull on, as it’s stronger and so wouldn’t break, and it worked perfectly! Then afterwards you just pull that thread out, and you’re left with a gorgeous topstitched corner.

(Yes, I marked my button placement with a biro. It was removed by shoving an awl through it to create the hole for the jeans button, so don’t hold it against me!)

I’d add another little tip here, too: the pattern instructions for both Morgan and Ginger have you start the topstitching at one of the corners. You couldn’t really pick a trickier place to start and end your topstitching (especially if you’re doing a backstitch or a lockstitch), so I prefer to start just above one of the side seams. I either start with a lockstitch, and then when I get back round to where I started, I lockstitch again, or I just start stitching with a normal stitch and then when I get back round to the start I carry on stitching over my original stitch line and then secure the threads on the inside. Both methods work well – the second one is easier, so it’s good if you’re new to topstitching or sewing jeans for the first time.

I also used the technique for turning out the waistband corners that I mentioned in an earlier blog post about sewing jeans – this time I folded the seam allowances down over the corner before turning it out, and it worked really well.

So there are many features of these jeans that I’m really pleased with, and yet they are one of the least wearable items in my wardrobe. I’ve tried wearing them out twice, and they just make me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. But who wants to end on a negative note? Here’s a picture of them in action at the seaside, shortly before they got soaked when I recklessly ran too far into the sea.

Till next time, sewing friends, and thanks for reading!

Streeeeetching myself: Eléonore stretch jeans by Jalie patterns

My love of sewing jeans has been documented here before: I really enjoy getting stuck into a bigger, more complex project amongst my quicker sews or as a break from drafting patterns. The jeans patterns I’ve worked with so far have both been by Closet Case Files: the Ginger skinnies and Morgan boyfriend jeans probably need no further introduction to most sewists these days! So you might think that I didn’t need another jeans pattern (ha! Can you ever have too many patterns?!), but I really liked the idea of a simpler style of jeans for casual everyday wear in the summer.

Enter the Jalie patterns Eléonore jeans. I’ve never used a Jalie pattern before, but I kind of loved them already: a mother-daughter team, bilingual English and French, based in Canada (OK, I’ve only been to Canada once but I loved it!), offering a range of patterns for the whole family… I’m sold before I even start. So even though I’m probably doing my jeans journey the wrong way round by starting with the Gingers and Morgans and then going for a simpler pull-on pair, I bought the PDF pattern and got sticking!

Anyway, I went for a size R – this was quite surprising to me, as it’s the smallest women’s size. I’m usually the second or third smallest when it comes to trousers/ skirts (I wear a UK size 10/ US size 6 on the bottom half!) However, I always trust the table of measurements, so R it was. My main worry was going to be hip splurge – the jeans are elasticated and I didn’t want to end up with muffin top if they were a bit tight. Trust in the table of measurements…

There was a lot riding on getting the size right, because I only had a yard of fabric! I couldn’t find in the UK any denim with the requisite 20% stretch that wasn’t a polyester blend, and I really wanted cotton for the summer. So I found this beautiful slub stretch denim at EmmaOneSock, an independent online fabric store in the US who I “met” on Instagram during the SewApril challenge (and who is one of our sponsors for Sleevefest!) Now, because you have to pay customs charges for anything over £15 in value coming into the UK, and because it worked out as just under £15 per yard, I could only order the one yard. At least it meant that I didn’t have to dither over whether to make the jeans or the capris – I only had enough fabric for the capris!!

So I got creative with my pattern piece placement to make sure I could get every pattern piece out of my precious yard (OK, tell me: do you use the cutting layouts? I rarely do, and they’re my least favourite thing to figure out when we’re drafting patterns!) Anyway, here are some inside and outside views of Eléonore in progress:

I really enjoyed sewing these jeans. They have a lot of the detail of making “real” jeans (like the topstitching, even down to the faux fly front) but come together much more quickly. If you want to make jeans but don’t want to launch straight into the Gingers/ Morgans of this world, these are a very good starting point. But, the big question: did they fit?

YES!!!!

OK, I have a couple of reservations. Firstly, there are instructions for altering these to make them “slim fit”. Now, I’m not sure how much slimmer these could get! They’re pretty skin-tight. And I don’t have disproportionately wide legs or anything! I wonder if this may be related to my surprise at having fallen in the smallest size for women? But the thing is, around the hips they fit PERFECTLY. I mean, I could not have asked for more. No hip splurge, no muffin top, they’re just lovely.

So if I were to size up and get the “non-slim fit”, presumably they’d be too loose over the hips. Conundrum.

The other detail I wasn’t so keen on is the length. When I sewed the hem as indicated, the capris hit just below the knee. Well, I think that’s just about the most unflattering place they could hit – right where my calf is widest. In fairness, I do a lot of cycling, so maybe my calves are bulkier there, but not abnormally so! Even so, they do look longer in the cover photo.

So I unpicked my hems and made them narrower, and the end result is more mid-calf, as in the cover pic. I do have long legs for my height (along with a ridiculously short torso), so that could be a factor, as could (once again) the fact that I ended up using the smallest size, as like most patterns the length increases with the size. In all honesty, I would have preferred another inch on the finished garment. But given my fabric constraints, it wouldn’t have been possible even if the pattern piece had been longer, so it’s by no means a complaint!

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with these. I’d make them again in the full length, but I think I’d call them “jeggings” rather than jeans! They have certainly withstood the stretch test: I did some yoga poses, some bending, and some curling up, and not a single stitch popped. If that isn’t a result, I don’t know what is…

Sewing jeans: Ginger and Morgan (Closet Case Patterns)

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If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know that I love making jeans. I started making my own earlier this year, when I noticed that all my RTW jeans seemed to be giving up the ghost simultaneously, like they’d all decided together that they wanted to retire en masse. In fairness to my jeans, they were all purchased circa 2009-10, so apart from my two pregnancies when they got a bit of a rest, they had been working very hard for quite some time.

First off I just tried to find new ones. I don’t know whether styles have changed since I last bought jeans, or whether I’m just more picky about fit now that I sew for myself, but nothing felt great. So I decided to take the plunge and buy a couple of patterns I’d had my eye on for some time: The Ginger skinny jeans and the Morgan boyfriend jeans by Closet Case Patterns.

I made my first pair of Ginger skinnies before I used social media, so I don’t have any photos of the construction process, but this is the finished result:

This is the low rise fit with no alterations, so I was pretty chuffed as you can imagine. If you’re planning on making jeans, set aside some time: I’d say these took me about 9 hours in total (though my later ones have gone together a bit quicker as I’m used to the instructions now). The one thing I regretted was having interfaced the waistband: the instructions recommend it for the high rise version, but leave it up to you for the low rise version. Well, it was like having a band of steel round my abdomen every time I sat down (in case there is any doubt, this is not my preferred fit ;)). So I unpicked the waistband and ordered some new denim to make another, skipping the interfacing. That worked much better, though I ran out of topstitching thread so thought I’d just hammer the button on and then redo the topstitching another time… what a fool! You can’t topstitch once the button is on, and you can’t remove the button. So my first pair of jeans are wearable but have an odd-looking only-topstitched-along-the-bottom-edge waistband, so I try to wear them only with longer length tops (note strategic angle of this pic!) They are also a little tight fitting at the back of the knee (you can just see a bit of wrinkling in the photo), so I find that after a whole day wearing them I quite look forward to taking them off.

You can see that they don’t have much give over the knees, though I’m happy to report that so far no stitching has popped open when I move around!

Lesson noted for the next pair of Gingers…

The next jeans I tried were the more relaxed fitting Morgan boyfriend jeans. Again, they fitted straight out of the packet, and I like them even more than the Gingers (which is high praise indeed!) I made this Capri version out of gorgeous organic denim by Amandine Cha.

it’s fully reversible and I do slightly prefer the darker side (which you can see in the turnups), but I made these using the lighter side because I’d already made my husband a pair of shorts in the darker side and didn’t want to go all “Howard and Hilda”…

This still makes me laugh 30 years on! To see Howard and Hilda in all their matchy-matchy splendour, look for old videos of “Ever Decreasing Circles” on YouTube 🙂

The mistake I made was with the buttons. I hadn’t clocked this with the Gingers as they have a zip fly, so I hammered in my jeans buttons to correspond to the centre of the buttonhole, as I would with ordinary buttons. But because there’s so much pressure pulling on the buttons, this makes the fly gape a little. At first I didn’t realise this was the issue, I thought I must have just gained a little weight!! So I didn’t realise I should rectify it for my second pair, which followed quite swiftly:

I’m ambivalent about these ones, but take full responsibility for my own ambivalence: the pattern calls for denim with no stretch, but I had a length of the stretch denim left after my second waistband attempt, and so I thought it might make for a super-comfy pair of jeans if I used the stretch denim on the boyfriend cut. Well, it does, they are indeed super-comfy, but they’re also not the most flattering, as they just look a bit too big (you can see it more on the photo of the back). BUT, how gorgeous is the red topstitching?

And I couldn’t resist playing around with one of the decorative stitches on my machine for the back pocket detail. I attached the buttons as I had done the previous time, and again there was that gaping at the fly, even though the jeans were actually quite roomy on me. And the penny finally dropped (OK OK, what I really mean is I showed it to my husband and he explained it to me): the buttons need to be attached at the furthest point of the buttonhole in order to sit perfectly.

This is the face of someone who spent ages getting a fly perfectly installed, only to hammer the buttons in the wrong place.

So onwards to the next pair of Gingers, armed with all the lessons learned.

When I finally got round to starting these, I couldn’t remember whether I’d cut out Gingers or Morgans! Turned out the jeans were Gingers and the pockets were Morgans. I still have no idea why.

For this pair I reduced the seam allowance around the knee to 3/8”, and it has given me plenty of ease to wear them comfortably all day.

I also went for red topstitching again (thanks to some encouragement from my Instafriends!), and although in the end I couldn’t use that lovely faux leather trim, I did get happy with the rivets:

Is it just me, or does it feel a bit wrong to spend hours making a garment and then punch holes in it so that you can poke your rivets through?!

I also decided to assemble and attach the waistband with a 3/8” seam allowance, as on my other pair I did notice a little bit of hip splurge, and let’s face it, no-one needs to see that. So it was a bit of a punt, but I gave it a go and I’m so unbelievably happy with this tiny modification! The rise is just perfect for me. The one thing I wish I’d done is put two buttons on the waistband (one above the other) since it’s now 1/2″ deeper, so that’ll be how I do the next pair. At least I got the button placement right, finally!

Hello, most favourite jeans ever!

Also, my favourite little tip for the waistband: as is usually the case with turning out a point, the instructions advise you to snip diagonally across the corner, making sure that you don’t cut into the stitches. But just before I sewed this waistband, I was pulling down my favourite pair of RTW jeans and I noticed something (I’m not the only one who inspects RTW clothing to see how it’s constructed, you all do that too right?!):

That’s what a RTW buttonhole looks like after 9 years of tireless service 😉

See that bulge in each corner, that looks square-shaped? That’s not a clipped-off corner, that’s all the seam allowance folded over inside the waistband corner. So I thought I’d give it a go, as I’m always quite nervous about how long those clipped corners will last before they start fraying. Plus this would involve no cutting or sewing, so the worst that could happen was that it wouldn’t work and I just would follow the instructions.

So I sewed the waistband and waistband lining right sides together as instructed, but then instead of clipping the corner, I grabbed hold of it with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, turned the waistband right side out with the other, and used my point turner to get the insides sitting flat and the corner looking neat. And it worked! I don’t know how this would work on a point that isn’t a right angle, but I’m so pleased with it as a little trick for this (or any) waistband. No need to worry about cutting too close to the stitches or about the corner fraying!

Yippee!

If you look very closely in this pic, you can see that the top of the waistband above the button flips outwards a bit – hence my desire to put two buttons on next time. I”m sure it won’t be long before I’m making Ginger #3…

 

But for now, the next stop in my jeans adventure is the Jalie Eléonore pull-on jeans. I’m really excited to try a different style, and will report back soon on how that goes!

I’ve finally washed my fabric. It’s all crinkly now and needs a good press. Photo taken of unwashed and unwrinkled stretch denim in all its glory.

Thanks for reading my adventures in sewing jeans, have a great end of the week and till soon!

My sewing story

And so I find myself writing my first ever blog post. It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, but here I am, and I hope you’ll stay with me! Rather than launch straight into my makes, I thought I’d talk a bit about how I came to be here, so you can get to know me a little. I’d love it if you’d leave me comments so I can get to know you too! Bear with me for a couple of paragraphs, and then I’ll stick some photos in 🙂

I started sewing as a child: my mum taught me to hand sew, and I did a lot of embroidery and made stuffed toys and accessories. As a teenager, my sewing adventures were along the lines of ‘cut the calf seams of my jeans to insert corduroy godets and make flares’ or ‘chop off my jeans at the hip to make mini shorts’… accessorised with carefully pre-scuffed Doc Marten boots of course. It was the 1990s, after all…

In my twenties I mostly exercised my sewing skills by sewing on the odd button and raising or lengthening hems. The sewing highlight of those years was a fancy dress outfit: I was living in Paris at the time, and my friend had a themed party where we all had to come dressed as characters from Beatles songs (to this day I think it was the best theme ever). So off I went to a little fabric shop in Montmartre, and bought 3 metres of cheap black fabric with silver stars all over it. Equipped with one small needle and a reel of thread, I made a floor-length strapless gown with a corseted back and a train, added some cheap sparkly jewellery, and ta-da: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I caught the metro there with Lady Madonna and Penny Lane, obviously…

Through my twenties and early thirties I bought a lot of ‘disposable’ fashion, buying for the sake of buying, and not really thinking much about process or waste. Then when I was pregnant with my first child and found out we were expecting a baby girl, suddenly I wanted to sew for her the way my mum had done for me. So we grabbed a bunch of old pillowcases, sat in front of my mum’s machine, and she kept me at it until I could sew. I couldn’t be more grateful.

So there I was, sewing baby clothes (on a new machine – a birthday gift from my parents), and loving seeing my daughter in things I had made for her (mostly by Simplicity and Butterick, if you’re interested!)

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And then I thought, why not sew for myself?

Enter the Sorbetto top from Colette Patterns. Around this time I was doing LOOOONG breastfeeds for my daughter, and I had plenty of time to read ‘sewing theory’ and sewing blogs with one hand while nursing her with the other. So I got my head round darts, bias binding, and all the rest of it, and took the plunge. 6 Sorbetto tops later, I was ready to call myself a sewist. I started with fairly simple designs: Colette’s Laurel and Sencha, a few Simplicity tops and skirts, and some projects from the Great British Sewing Bee books (this was when GBSB was starting out, perfect timing for me!)

And then I was pregnant again. So my handmade clothes didn’t fit my burgeoning belly and boobs any more, and I went back to sewing for my daughter, as well as whipping up a few maternity dresses and tops.

(I don’t know why pregnancy made me go all-out for pink…)

When our baby boy was born, my first projects for him were self-drafted trousers when he was at that awkward stage of being too big for his 0-3 month clothes but swamped by his 3-6 month ones. Then I discovered Oliver and S, and made his baptism outfit from their Lullaby Layette pattern (mine was a sleeveless Deer and Doe Aubépine :)).

Around this time, I discovered jersey… and I’ve never looked back. 90% of my makes are now in knit fabrics, with my favourites being the Marianne by Christine Haynes, Mesa and Winona by Seamwork, the Camas blouse from Thread Theory, and the wonderful Skater dress from Tanya Whelan’s superb book Sew many dresses sew little time.

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As for my favourite makes for children, there are plenty to show you soon, but for now I’ll give a shout-out to the Snapdragon dress from Sew like my mom and the Kensington t-shirt from Hey June Handmade…

OK, so there are a few exceptions to my “jersey rules” mantra: the top one is JEANS. I am so grateful to Heather of Closet Case Patterns for her Ginger and Morgan designs. And I also like jackets, especially the (for me much-missed) Pavot by Deer and Doe and the Secret Agent Trench by Oliver and S. I’ll blog about all of those another day.

(Less-than-perfect pics of my oh-so-beautiful Ginger jeans… I took them before I decided to start a blog! Better ones to come soon, I promise!)

It’s my love of jersey that kick-started my search for the perfect t-shirt. I tried so many, but there wasn’t one that made me stop my search. So I studied pattern drafting while my husband, a professional computer whizz, studied CAD (computer assisted design). We brought the two together, and Valentine and Stitch patterns was born. Watch this space for more on that, but for now here’s a little peek at one of my designs for children…

And so here I am, the newest sewing blogger on the block. At first I just started reading blogs to get a sense of how particular patterns would fit, and whether they would suit me. I didn’t think blogging was something I’d do myself (so many excuses: how will I set it up? When will I find the time? Who will want to read it anyway?) But I started to feel like I knew these people, and so here I am, hoping to connect with you, and to give something back to the sewing community that has given me so much.

Thank you for reading my first blog post, and I hope you’ll keep coming back!