Today, alas, is our final day of sew-a-long. We will be constructing the side seams, hems, waistband, and belt carriers. And while today is certainly image-heavy, it’s a piece of cake. Not to mention I have a few tricks up my sleeve with that waistband that will probably influence every waistband you sew!
So first, let’s get these legs joined so we have an actual pair of pants! Believe it or not, it is very easy to sew up pants incorrectly here. The simpler the pants and the shorter the inseam (as in for child and toddler pants), the easier this is to do, as essentially you have kite-shaped pieces you’re sewing together. However, for grownup or larger-child jeans, you’re not likely to do this. Remembering that one of the goals of construction is to have clean finishes on the inside of the jeans, I first serge then secure the serge at the crotch curve for the jean back:
Now, the order in which you sew inseams and outseams depends mostly on your design concepts. If you have an outseam you want topstitched, sew the outseams first. Topstitching on the flat is far easier than topstitching once the leg is closed! In my case, I finished the inseams first, then outseams, then pressed the outseams open using a sleeve board in the inside of the leg.
Here are my inseams, sewn then serged:
And here is my outseam:
Pressing the ousteams open: notice again, I have made selvedge denim jeans which have the trademark outseam detail:
Looking inside the jean, you see the side seams pressed open. You can use steam, pressure – or even a hammer to reduce the bulk at the pocket. This is also the location of a rivet. You can set the rivet now, or when the jeans are finished.
Hemming the jeans: you can do this now, or after you apply the waistband. Since the pair of jeans I’m working on now is a child’s jeans, I am building in extra length for growing room so I know the length I want the jean. You may want to try your jean on yourself or the client – either with or without the waistband – to mark jean length. Remember, even prewashed denim can continue to shrink. I probably would leave 1″ extra in jeans with only one prewash of the denim.
For the jean hem: first, steam-press the first hem fold:
Steam or starch the second fold and begin sewing the hem. You can sew from the public side of the jean or the inside of the jean. Again, remember your design elements; since these jeans are meant to be worn turned-up, I used my topstitching thread on the inner seamline and a fabric-matching regular-weight thread on the public side of the jean:
Now it is time for the waistband!
I am going to warn you, I am fussy as hell about the waistband. But these methods yield good-looking results, a waistband that performs well – and one that is very comfortable. Taking a look at RTW jeans you won’t see such exacting methods!
I cut strips of denim and waistband facing 2 3/8″ wide, and on the crossgrain. This will yield me a 1 1/4″ finished width. (The math: the finished width of waistband plus [seam allowance times two] plus 1/8″ for the turn of the fabric.) As for the length of the waistband, you want to have plenty of waistband to work with. Usually, hip girth of garment plus 10″ is just fine. Depending on the size of jean and the width of your yardage (and whether you’re trying to conserve yardage), you might need two strips to make the full waistband length. That is fine – just make sure to cut them on the crossgrain, and join them in what will be the center back seam:
Now here’s a fun part. We are going to take our strips of waistband and waistband facing, and steam them while stretching them into a curve (similar to our pocket stay). This takes time, and no small amount of pulling force:
Next, turn and press the waistband facing outer curve (the convex curve) up the distance of your seam allowance:
Now stitch the waistband and waistband facing strips together, at the inner curve (what will be the top edge of the jean):
Understitch this seam – catching all seam allowances to the waistband facing:
It’s rather amazing how much curve we can get into our crosswise grain! This is going to make for a waistband that hangs beautifully and feels great:
Next, pin the waistband, right-sides together, to the jean body. Stitch together, starting and stopping right where the jean body ends at the fly. When starting this seam, lengthen the stitch length and carefully backstitch. After about three inches, reduce stitching to the regular 2.5mm stitching length.
Now, flip the waistband up, close the fly, and make sure the waistband matches at the closure of the jean. If it doesn’t, remove the long stitches we made and adjust accordingly. Stitch that length of the seam more securely at 2.5mm once you are satisfied with the alignment.
Trim down the fly bulk
Press carefully at the waistband-jean body join, flipping all seam allowances toward the waistband:
Now, flip the waistband facing to the waistband, right-sides together, and pin. We’ll be sewing the short end of the waistband in a moment:
I stitch from the top of the waistband toward the jean, and make sure not to leave thread-tails at the waistband-jean join:
Now grade and clip, leaving the waistband jean seam allowance longest. Cut through the top fold right up to the stitching line:
Turn the waistband right-side out, and use a bone folder (or if you’re reckless and hardcore, your scissor points!) to push the waistband corners out. Now, it’s time to topstitch – making sure you’re catching that folded edge of the waistband facing while you do (if you don’t have a favorite way to secure your waistband facing inside the jean, read on a bit before you decide what to do). For this topstitching, I used top thread the color of the garment, and bobbin thread the color of the waistband facing:
So here’s the thing about the waistband facing. The most professional result will be hand-stitched, with waxed thread and invisible-stitches. This looks beautiful, trust me! Anything sewn from the topside will not yield perfect results on the inside, unless by a fluke. That said, even the sloppiest of my jean waistband topstitching looks better than RTW results. So whether you use pins, or some kind of fusible, to secure that waistband facing – if you machine-stitch from the topside you won’t have perfect results. If you need perfect results – secure the waistband facing with handstitching.
Next, mark your waistband carrier points.
Cut a strip lengthwise, [three times the desired carrier width] +1/8″. For the length of the strip, multiply the number of carriers times the length of each carrier, which is [desired carrier width] + [two times seam allowance] + 1/8″. This isn’t rocket science – but I will say, it is easy to accidentally make carriers that are too small to comfortably house the belt one wears, especially if one wears a masculine-style or wide belt. It’s best to test first, as always.
Cut the strips, and then press the seam allowances down with plenty of steam. Fold the seam allowances over a template, or mark with chalk, to get precise results:
Now, topstitch these carriers to the jean. And of course, out of the whole jean, this final step ends up being one of the more annoying aspects of construction.
First: go slow, and follow a marked position on the carrier fold. Use another folded piece of denim under the back part of the machine foot, to get good leverage (shown below: I am using another carrier). And finally: hold those pesky thread tails away, and leave long thread tails so you can knot them and hide them within the jean. I know, I know. This means doing that four times per each belt carrier! But I promise, those little details are pretty dern good-looking when you’re done!
Can you believe it? You just finished a pair of jeans! Good job!
If you’ve enjoyed the sew-a-long, no matter when you found it or how long ago you started, then I am very glad! You can best help out by emailing me with feedback – especially if you find errata, or something that isn’t clear. Please also consider a donation if I’ve helped you in any way.
Thank you for your support!