I’m going to confess something, and it’s kind of a dirty little secret…
I’ve never actually sewn a pair of trousers or jeans.
I’ve made quite a few summer dresses, loads of skirts, lots of random gifts and crafty things, several costumes, and a few truly enormous toys. But I drew the line at sewing pants.
I tried sewing a pair of shorts once. Once. About five or six years ago. Back when I was still pretty new this whole sewing thing, and there weren’t a whole lot of fitting resources or much information on making your own jeans and trousers on the internet.
I was nervous but optimistic.
The construction went together beautifully. Hooray, I was making shorts!
When it came time to try them on to them I stepped into the bedroom, put one leg in, then the other, Wow! I can’t wait to wear these! They look like real shorts!
Then turned around to face the full length mirror and…
Worst. Camel. Toe. Ever.
Guys, I can’t even begin to describe what exactly was going on with the fit of those shorts. Let’s just say it was baaaaad.
I’d decided to just go for it – you know the drill when you’re feeling really excited about a project. Didn’t make a muslin, used some really nice turquoise twill, spent a good amount of time tracing, cutting out, and sewing everything together. I was pretty bummed out. And dealing with all those fit issues at the time just seemed… insane.
So those poor little turquoise shorts got tossed into my little Unfinished Sewing Projects Corner of Shame until I was ready to try and deal with those crazy fitting issues. That took a really long time. They actually moved with us, twice, before I was ready to acknowledge failed sewing project defeat. I finally got rid of them before our last move across the country. That was a good choice.
I’ve wanted to try sewing a pair of jeans or trousers many times since then, but always seem to get distracted by other projects. Then, last year, Heather from Closet Case Patterns released the Morgan Jeans pattern, a boyfriend-fit style jean with a button-fly that was meant for non-stretch denim, and that was the one to tempt me back into making pants.
In January, I added it to my 2017 Make Nine list and committed to it.
Sooooo here we go!
These are technically my “wearable muslin jeans” since they’re my very first pair. Admittedly, there are still a few fit issues (which I’ll discuss in a minute), but overall, I’m pretty pleased with them.
As I was making them, I decided to play with my machine and add a bit of embroidery.
It started with the coin pocket and then sort of just evolved from there…
Just underneath the front pocket on the opposite side for a bit of balance, sporadically down the sides of jeans, just above the cuffs…
I made a bunch of swatches and discovered that using thicker topstitching thread with a jeans needle adds a really cool handmade look to the stitches.
Bonus: If you shift and wiggle the fabric very slightly as you’re working on bits, you can get an even more handcrafted-looking messy effect. I kind of like that.
I’m still going to wear these around for a little while to break them in and see how much they stretch out over time, but I think that for the next pair I’m going to try something called a flat pubis adjustment to see if that might help with some of the lines on the front.
There was another issue as well… and this one is… kind of embarrassing.
I’m ninety percent sure that somehow I sewed the back yoke pieces on upside down. Yep. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m pretty sure that it did. I made a few fitting changes to the waistband and yoke and after I basted everything together and checked the fit the second time, the fit was smooth and everything looked good, but… once everything was sewn together and finished… silly, silly mistake.
By the time I realized my mistake, I’d already sewn up the sides and finished everything, so I had to get a little creative. So I added darts. Trust me, it looks a little awkward, but it’s lot better than the big gap in the waistband that was there before.
And honestly, I’m a tough fit with jeans anyway, and I’ve definitely had a few pairs of ready-to-wear jeans that fit worse.
So be careful with those yoke pieces, peeps! Don’t do what I did. Especially if you make a lot of adjustments.
In the meantime though, I think these jeans are still completely wearable. I’ll probably just wear them with longer shirts, like this.
Shhhhhh… It’s all good.
A few more fitting details for those who are interested:
According to the sizing chart on the back of the pattern, I fell into this sizing: 2/4 waist and sz 10/12 hips.
But… like I said, I have a really tough time with fit for ready-to-wear jeans too, wearing anything from a 26-28 depending on the brand. And I almost always have a problem with the waistband gaping in the back with jeans that fit in the hip.
So, after looking over the measurements listed on the pattern again, and hearing from a few people to size down if you want a slimmer fit, I decided to go with a straight size 6 and work from there. Luckily, that was a good place to start.
After basting everything together and checking the fit, I had excess fabric in the yoke and at the back of the waistband, just like in a lot of ready-to-wear. This is where Heather’s Sewing Your Own Jeans ebook really came in handy (and this post on her blog – it’s from the Ginger Jeans sewalong, but I found it to be really helpful for diagnosing fit issues on the Morgans too). I was able to quickly determine that I needed a swayback/more pronounced difference between waist and hip adjustment. I ended up darting out one inch of excess in the yoke piece and then darting out 1.5″ of excess in two places on the waistband (for a total of 3″), which also added more curve to the waistband.
After re-basting everything and checking the fit the second time it was a success! No more gaping waistband!
And then I sewed them on upside down, but… as you know, that’s another story!
A little peek at the button fly… and the only seam that I forgot to finish! Whoops!
By the way, the non-stretch denim fabric and the copper buttons came from one of the denim kits from Workroom Social. That denim is really nice! I tried distressing with sandpaper in spots as I was putting everything together and I’m really curious to see how they change and fade in spots after a few washes.
You use the less colorful side of your fabric on the interior of the pockets, so the more colorful side can be enjoyed when you put on your jeans.
See? Like this!
The pockets are made from a Liberty of London print I had in my stash from back when I made this top.
It’s still one of my all-time favorite designs from them. The bright, happy colors and fun print always makes me smile.
I like it so much that I decided to add it to the waistband patch, too! Now I kind of want to add this detail to every pair of jeans that I make.
I used a small, soft piece of black leather and stitched the little heart fabric piece on top first. Then, I sewed everything onto the jeans, backstitching here and there and even sewing over stitches three times in a few places in order to keep with the handmade vibe that’s going on with the rest of the embroidery on the jeans.
After the patch was sewn onto the jeans, I picked at the edges of the Liberty of London fabric to fray it and intentionally left the rough hem so it should should continue to fray and wear in more over time.
Controlled messiness. Organized chaos. Imperfectly perfect.
As an artist and as a person, I’ve learned to embrace these things.
It makes life so much more interesting.
So… with all that being said – if you’ve been waffling over trying your hand at sewing a pair of jeans, my suggestion is to just jump right in and do it! Even though I had to make several adjustments (and made several mistakes along the way), the fitting process was a lot easier than I expected and actually ended up being quite fun. Even if you don’t get a perfectly fitting pair the first time (I know mine aren’t there yet either!), you will probably still wind up with a totally wearable first pair as well as the confidence and knowledge to help make your next pair even better.
I can totally see why everyone says that jeans making is so addicting now. I already have a few more pairs planned and I’m completely up for the challenge of getting an even better fitting and better constructed pair next time.
Have you tried making jeans? What’s your favorite pattern? Are you #TeamStretchDenim or #TeamNonStretchDenim? #TeamButtonFly or #TeamZipFly all the way?
Thanks for reading!