Before we start, I can tell you a little about my sew-alongs. They are relatively detailed, and talk quite a bit about construction theory and tailoring values. They aren’t especially “cookie-cutter” sew-alongs and you may find the posts a bit longer than typical offerings. That said, I have had many satisfied “customers” (I don’t charge for these, or use ads or affiliate links) tell me they learned so much from these posts. Comments like this keep me motivated to be as detailed as possible!
Let’s get started!
The only way to get a perfect fit – I repeat the ONLY way to get perfect fit – especially for something like jeans which involve crotch curves – is to make a muslin (also called a wadding). This means, essentially, a practice garment made in fabrics similar in weight, drape, stretch, and hand to the intended final fabrics (also called fashion fabrics). In Kenneth D. King’s Jean-Ius Craftsy class – which I reference often when talking about jeans – he discusses how to adjust (in Lessons 4 and 5). Briefly, for jeans, you want to sew up the back yoke to the back pieces, sew up the front (without a front pocket), put a simple zipper closure in, and baste up the inseam, outseam, and crotch. You can correct all major fit issues from just this simple muslin fitting.
But – I rarely do that. I make a lot of wearable muslins. For one thing, when it comes to Bootstrap I have had a great fit every time. Secondly, I don’t like “wasting” fabric on a wadding, and I know that making a well-finished garment will find someone to call it home. I donate to friends, and to a local women’s shelter, when something I make isn’t quite the right fit. It’s a rare enough occurrence I’m happy doing it that way.
If you decide to make a muslin and have any questions about this – please comment below.
Now – let’s get started!
Your denim and pocketing should (likely) be prewashed before you cut and mark it. Did you know there are some jeans that aren’t washed – at all, ever? We aren’t dipping our toe into that controversy. These jeans will be handled like most jeans, which means we need to wash our fabrics (the denim, and the cotton for waistband and pocket fabrics) and dry. To do this, I serge-finish the raw edges of my yardage and wash and dry, frequently opening the dryer to make sure the fabric isn’t knotting up. Instead of pressing, I simply remove the yardage from the dryer and lay it out on my cutting table. I allow it to rest ten minutes while I prepare my paper pattern.
Preparing the pattern
In order to prepare our paper pattern, we’re going to do four things:
- Add seam allowance width
- Generate our own fly shield and facing
- Trace a back pocket with facing, and our own topstitching pattern
- Label other pattern pieces (e.g. yoke) as needed
If you’re going to use a tracing wheel and tracing medium (as I do), make sure to tape the lines you’ll be tracing over, so you don’t shred your pattern.
So – why add seam allowance width? Because that will give us the best option in case we need to let the jeans out (commonly, in the hip area, if we do it at all). Below, you can see I’ve added 1/4″ to the 3/8″ seam allowance, for a total of 5/8″”:
I know fly shields and facings can be confusing. Even though zippered fly fronts are very simple, it doesn’t seem so when you are new to jeans or trousers. Briefly, the facing will reside on the side of the pant that is outermost (in this case, the left-hand side of the jean). The facing provides strength, and a finished edge for the overlap. The shield, is right up against the body, on the right-side of the pant. You can omit a shield, but it’s a great way to keep zipper teeth from snagging either skin or underwear.
So, I didn’t use Vado’s fly shield and facing – I made my own. To do this, I first draw my topstitching, and add a seam allowance. Below, you see two red lines. The innermost line represents the topstitching on the jean – I like about a 1 1/4″ width from the center front . At 1/2″ from this line, I added the seam allowance for the facing piece. Since I will be cutting out a facing to go on the inside of the left front, I would tracee this shape, then place this pattern piece right on top of the wrong side of the fabric to cut my facing. If you’re ever confused, you can either cut a mirror piece of the facing, or just decide you don’t care as, unless you have a noticeably two-sided fabric, no one will notice if you have a wrong-side up facing on the inside of the jean.
Now – set these aside and let’s cut and mark our fabrics.
In last year’s DEM JEANS sew-along, I talk quite a bit about jean layout. We are cutting essentially the same way, with a major difference being the waistband (I’ll talk about that in a minute). I really like the Vado pattern because of the little notches at the knee position. Very handy!
So – let’s talk about the waistband. Now when I look at jean layout online, I see patterns placing a waistband piece with the length of the band extending along the fabric’s lengthwise grain. This will work, but it isn’t my preferred method. When I have a straight waistband (a waistband piece that is a long skinny rectangle), I cut a cross-grain waistband so I can steam it into a curve. These jeans are different still, in that the waistband is curved, not straight. After cutting, I marked the waistband with the more-than-average set of markings (very handy!) on the Vado pattern:
(You can also see I allowed a little extra width on my curved waistband front edges.)
I snipped 1/8″ in at the notches (below left in photo), and marked my belt carrier position as well:
And let’s mark our back yoke. Yoke pieces are fascinating, because they can be almost any shape, and exist on many different grain orientations! For this reason, I mark a couple arrows – on the bottom right of the piece, “CB” (for “center back”), and a direction aiming “up” (in other words, toward the waistband). I usually pin the paper pattern piece to my fabric pieces, to make sure I don’t flip my yokes before I stitch them in place.
Now it’s time to cut pocket bags! I mark the notches with a tiny snip (there are three notches on each pocket bag). I also tear two 10″ long, 1″ strips on the crossgrain (shown below). These will become my pocket stays. You will end up addicted to pocket stays! :
Next, I steam the heck out of these crossgrain strips. See what a great curve I’m getting here (below, right)? While I”m at it, I press up 1/2″ at the bottom curved edge of the waistband (below, left):
Time to mark the back pocket positions! Here, using thread tacks:
And here – on the pocket overlay’s wrong side – I’ve marked the coin pocket position using a tracing wheel and wax. Using tacks, and wax tracing, are just two methods for very accurate pocket placement:
Next I took the original back pocket, and added my own topstitching motifs.
Let’s talk about that a moment.
Did you know the “batwing”, or arcuate stitching on Levi’s is the oldest-known clothing trademark in America? Levis, arguably still the best-known jean in the world, have gone through many changes (a few of them from the 1930s to the 1960s are summarized in this video):
There are a billion ways you can topstitch the back pocket, but I used the generic Levi method. If you aren’t confident about your topstitching ability, make sure to add ALL topstitching lines to the pattern piece, and trace them all on your jean pocket pieces. It’s a little arduous, but it yields great results.
Remember our facing? Here we’ve cut it out. I always add a little length to the top of the facing, to make sure it’s not short when it comes time to affix the waistband:
I mark that little connection dot – a very important mark! and cut at an angle – as shown below. You’ll see why when we construct our fly.
That little dot on the fly facing is going to join the front of the jean. This is the most important intersection on the jean. I marked it on both front pieces, using thread tacks:
Finally, you can trace or thread-baste your hem foldlines at this point, too. Since the jean has a curved hem, this would be wise. Below you see later on in the jean construction – I’ve folded up 3/16″ past my basted hem fold line. After I hem the jeans, I remove the basting:
So – we are prepped!
Next we’ll start construction! We begin with our front pockets, which are always fun.