A Closetful of Jeans

Over the past few months, I’d noticed that despite having many pair of jeans, I was drawn to the same 2 or 3 pairs of jeans everyday, and I had been running into problems figuring out what to wear when all three pairs were in the wash. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that all three pairs were jeans that I’d made, and that I had no intention of wearing the closet-full of store bought jeans for anything other than yard work or puttering around the house. Partially inspired by the great timing of Pattern Review’s One Pattern, Many Looks contest, I decided to donate all of the old jeans that I hadn’t been wearing and replace them with better-fitting, me-made jeans.

The One Pattern, Many Looks contest challenges you to use one pattern to make 2 or more different garments without making any substantive changes to the pattern itself. The goal is to use different fabrics, trims, embellishments, etc. to create a variety of different looks without needing to go through the fitting and alterations process for each item. For the contest, in the case of self-drafted patterns such as my jeans, the first pair made counts as the base pattern, which determines what you can and cannot change in subsequent versions. In preparation for me jeans-making spree, I tweaked my base jeans pattern a bit, adjusting the grainlines, rise, and pocket curve. Because my pattern is for stretch denim, and each stretch denim stretches differently, I had been basting each pair together, tweaking for fit, making note of the correct seam allowances and where needed deviating from the norm, and then carefully un-stitching everything before sewing them up for real. With the first pair that I made for the contest, I changed my construction order, making it easier to adjust the fit with less seam-ripping.

I used my tnt jeans pattern, which I made a few years ago using Kenneth King’s Craftsy class, and tweak for fit every few months. I ended up making 5 pairs of jeans during the month that this contest ran.

This pair is a medium-weight stretch denim from FabricMart Fabrics. If I remember correctly, it was Marc Jacobs fabric. The back of the fabric is primarily white, and I thought about doing some sort of color blocking to play up the reversibility of the denim, but decided to stick with the more classic, solid color and subtle tone-on-tone topstitching. Since they were pretty basic once sewn, I decided to add a bit of embroidery to the back pockets, and a second decorative button and loop (non-functioning, purely decorative) to the front to give them a bit more personality without making them too casual.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic bright gold on dark denim look on jeans, so for my take on “classic, dark wash jeans”, I went with a goldish-brown for my topstitching and the embroidery on the back pockets. The ‘contrast’ stitching became a bit less contrast and more subtle after the first run through the wash, and I’m hoping it doesn’t lose any more brightness in the future. Other than that, they are pretty much your standard jeans, without the coin pocket (which I’ve never seen the point of and rarely put on any of my jeans). The denim is a medium-weight stretch denim that I got more than a year ago from FabricMart Fabrics.

Since my attempt at a dark wash jean with contrast stitching sort of flopped, I decided to go with a definite contrast for this pair, in an effort to make a more casual pair of jeans. I ‘auditioned’ a variety of colors on a scrap of fabric before settling on two lines of stitching for most topstitched seams: a thick white thread closest to the seam and two strands of blue variegated threads for the second row. I used the bolder of the two variegated threads for the embroidery on the back pockets. With the exception of the back pockets, the fabric/thread combination isn’t quite as ‘in your face’ as I had expected, and I like the finished product a lot more than I expected.

Made with Black Bebe Diagonal Twill-Weave Knit from FabricMart, this is my take on the jeggings/yoga pant craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. After basting most of the pants together to see how much I had to adjust due to using a knit rather than a woven (turns out, not at all with this fabric), I realized that these actually slightly resembled slacks rather than jeans. So, following that thought, I left off the back patch pockets, changed the front pockets to slash pockets rather than the classic jeans pocket curve, and eliminated some of the classic jeans topstitching. The stretch of this fabric also allowed me to eliminate the traditional zippered/button fly for a faux fly and make pull-on, elastic waist pants. For the elastic waistband, I used my regular contour waistband pattern piece, and added a narrow strip of elastic to the top seam. Since it was elastic waist, I also left off the belt loops for a smoother fit.

Inspired by these buttons, I decided to make something a little more fun than a standard black jean with black stitching, and went with a medium-weight charcoal black denim, light grey-blue contrast stitching with a hint of shine (embroidery thread). To further show off the buttons, I added buttoned flaps to the back pockets. Well, really faux flaps, as I like the look of flapped/buttoned pockets, but in reality like my pockets to be easily accessible and get frustrated when I have to unbutton a pocket to slip my phone in. I sewed the flaps first, then serged the top edge of the flap into the facing of the pocket so that I would maintain the look of a separate flap, but would have an open pocket. The button goes through both the flap and the patch pocket but not through the back of the jeans.

Burberry Brit- Inspired Outfit

Since I’ve started making my own clothes, I’ve found that I enjoy browsing catalogs/websites searching for inspiration. Back in the beginning of March, we got a thick Bloomingdales catalog in the mail (they were advertising some upcoming sale, if I recall correctly). Out of the entire catalog (which was close to an inch thick), I tore out about 6 pages of things I liked – either in color, silhouette, or style. Apparently I liked one complete outfit much more than I realized I did because it kept popping back into my head off and on for the next few weeks. Even through I’ve never been a huge fan of stripes or polka dots, these fabrics started catching my eye – in other garments, in store windows, and in fabric shops (the most dangerous place known to woman). When I saw the Barganista Fashionista challenge on Pattern Review, I knew that I had to make this outfit that had so constantly wiggled its way into my subconscious.

At the time I began this project, I couldn’t find photos of any of the three pieces online. About midway through the month, they did appear on Bloomingdales’ website. However, the blazer has the stripes going in the opposite direction (vertical rather than horizontal) and the pockets are a bit different. I like the horizontal stripes much better, so I decided to stick with the original magazine photo rather than the photos from the website.

These pieces are:
Burberry Brit White and Navy Striped Blazer: $465
White and Navy Polka Dot Sweater: $350
Navy Highcross Skinny Trousers: $325
The total cost for this outfit is $1,140

With Needle And Thread - Burberry Inspired Outfit

For my outfit, I started with the blazer, which seemed like the most time-consuming piece. Since I’ve never worked with stripes, it seemed like darts rather than princess seams would be the better choice. So, I started looking for a pattern that would suit these needs. I ended up using Lekala 5018, a classic darted blazer and making a few tweaks to make it look more like the inspiration blazer, The fabric is, I believe a cotton canvas type home decor fabric that my mom picked up at a flea market several years ago. She got a bolt that had about 7 yards for $5 ($.072 per yard). While the inspiration jacket claims to be navy stripes, the first time I saw the photo, I was sure they were teal stripes, and a perfect match for my fabric. I still like the teal stripes.

As far as the pattern goes, it fit well “out of the envelope” and I only had to make a few fitting tweaks: removing some ease from the sleeve head and narrowing the sleeve by about an inch. I also lowered the break of the lapel and curved the front hem rather than using the straight lines of the pattern. I decided not to line this jacket, and instead drafted a back facing to attach to the front facings/lapels. Even after washing, this fabric is rather stiff and bulky, so I decided to simply serge all of the raw edges around the hems/sleeves/facings. I opted against shoulder pads, going for more a dressy jean jacket type feel, and used random white buttons from my stash. This was my first time working with striped fabric, and I am fairly happy with how the stripes lined up throughout the jacket.

I had planned on making patch pockets with flaps, as in the inspiration photo, and even cut them out, but didn’t like the way they fit on my jacket, so I decided to leave off the pockets. Yay for making clothes yourself and being able to do whatever you want with the finished look.

Cost: $1.94
Fabric: $0.72 x 2 yards = $1.44
Notions: 2 3/4″ buttons from my stash, $0.55

It was harder than I thought it would be to find a white with dark dots polka dot fabric. I finally found a white polka dot cotton jersey at lowpricefabric.com. I ordered the fabric (1 yard at $4.00) on a Saturday and had the top finished the following Friday. I did deviate from the original inspiration a bit in this piece. The Burberry top was a long sleeve sweater, and since Summer is quickly coming (and it’s a relatively warm Spring), I went for 3/4 length sleeves. I used my tnt knit top pattern, NL 6735, in which I have made the armscye smaller, changed the angle of the shoulder, removed ease from the sleeve head and sleeve, raised the neckline, and removed some ease from the sideseams through the waist area. I gave my top a banded neckline, and used my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves and bottom hem.

Cost:$4.00
Fabric: $4.00 x 1 yard = $4.00
Notions: none

In the inspiration photo, it looked like the model was wearing dark skinny jeans, so that is what I decided to make (coincidentally, dark skinny jeans have been on my ‘to make’ list for several months, so that is one thing to cross off). When the pants finally appeared online, I realized that they actually aren’t jeans, but decided to stick with my jeans anyway. The jeans were easily the most expensive undertaking for this outfit, though that’s not saying much. I used a dark denim that I bought last year from Fabric.com. The pattern is my tnt jeans pattern that I made using Kenneth King’s Jeanious class on Craftsy, and have used many times before. My pattern is a cross between straight and bootcut legs, and I wanted tapered legs. Since all stretch denims seem to stretch differently, I baste the legs on every pair before stitching the inseam/sideseam, which provides me with the perfect opportunity to tweak the seam allowances all along the leg for a custom tapered fit. I’ve found that I like a skirt/slacks zipper better than the traditional jeans zipper because the pulls are typically less bulky and are less likely to create ridges along the fly.

Cost: $11.86
Fabric: 6.98 x 1.5 yards = 10.47
notions: basic 7″ zipper and jeans button from my stash, both of which I bought in bulk several months ago, $.039

Total cost for all 3 items: 17.85
Total percent savings: 98.4%

The Jeans Saga (Craftsy Course and a Finished Pair of Jeans)

I quite enjoyed Kenneth King’s Craftsy course, Jeanius, an online video class that teaches you how to make a jeans pattern using a pair of jeans you already own that fit well.  He breaks the jeans into logical steps, and explains things clearly.  My one complaint with the class was that the brown fabric he used in the videos made it hard to see the details on my computer.

The jeans I used in this course came from the kids section and fit much better than any juniors or womens jeans that I’ve tried on. These jeans have the distinction of being one of 3 pairs of jeans that I’ve ever bought that did not have to be significantly shortened.  I got them at Kohls on sale, on sale with an extra coupon, so they were like $10.  I love the way they fit, but I don’t love the bold topstitching (not the traditional jeans yellow-gold, but a mix of white and brown) or the very apparent fading on the front and back thighs.  In short, I think they look like kids jeans.

I watched all the videos before starting to make my pattern, which I think helped me figure out who all the pieces he had us make actually came together.  The pieces that I ended up with after copying the pattern from my favorite jeans looked completely different from both the McCall’s and Butterick patterns that I had previously looked at.  No wonder I had such trouble with the McCall’s pattern.

That’s not to say that my pattern didn’t need some tweaks and alteration; it did.  The yoke was too large and the back rise wasn’t high enough, so the yoke seam felt like my pants were constantly falling down even though they are not nearly as low-rise as what’s in stores. I had large folds under the seat and some pulls/wrinkles in the front that I didn’t like. The back gaped majorly; there was a several inch gap between my back and the waistband.

While the first pair I made, in a nearly black denim with black topstitching is wearable, it needs a belt to stay put, and I don’t always want to wear a belt.  When I made them in a regular denim, with colored topstitching, I started to really notice the flaws mentioned above. I figure that if I’m putting all this effort into making a pair of jeans, I really want them to fit well. Not perfect, but relatively close.

I went ahead and finished the blue denim pair with the too-big yoke. Of course, between when I started, when I got frustrated with the fit, and when I finished, I lost the piece that I had cut for belt loops, so this pair is belt loop-less, and a smidge too loose in the waist. Still wearable, though, especially if I tuck a tank top/cami in, then leave my shirt untucked.  I have since changed the yoke and waistband, and my next version looks like the back will fit a lot better.

WithNeedleAndThread First Jeans

The other problem I ran into was buttonholes.  I did most of the sewing on these on my Singer 15-22, which is a straight stitch only machine.  I tried doing a buttonhole on my computerized Babylock, but the machine ate my denim.  Three times.  So, I ordered a vintage Singer buttonholer on ebay to go with the 15-22.  Then spent the next two weeks waiting impatiently for my package. This buttonholer easily made pretty buttonholes in several layers of denim with no problem at all.

I think I’m on a jeans making marathon now that I have my pattern worked out. I have plans for another pair with the standard yellow-gold topstitching (hemmed for flats, since the ones above are hemmed for heels), one with red topstitching and embroidered detailing on the pockets, one pair that is red denim, and maybe another pair of ‘dressier’ jeans with black denim and neutral topstitching.

The Jeans Saga (Muslins, Muslins, and More Muslins)

I’ve never been impulsive.  I try to think everything through.  Which, I guess is why it has taken me so long to make progress on my jeans.  I have been almost obsessively studying jeans and learning about their construction for the past several months.  I’ve been reading about them online and in books, looking at them in both high- and low-end stores, and covertly checking out the jeans on people that I see walking down the street.  All in my quest to make the “perfect” fitting pair of jeans.

Armed with McCall’s 6610, Butterick 5682, and Kenneth King’s Craftsy course, Jeanius, I began working on my first muslin. Since none of my current jeans had quite the fit I was hoping for, I started with McCall’s 6610, a relatively new pattern that had one glowing review on patternreview.com and several good reviews on various blogs. I should have been able to guess right off the bat that this pattern wouldn’t work for me, but I didn’t listen to the measurements (neither mine, nor the ones on the pattern) and went ahead and traced the smallest option. To start with, the pattern pieces were almost as tall as I am. Even after following their petite alterations suggestions, the pattern was a good 8+ inches too long (and also way too loose/baggy and all around too big, but that’s another matter). After sewing up the muslin, and standing in front of a mirror, I decided that no amount of moving fabric around would help the pants become anything close to wearable.

Not wanting a repeat of this, instead of making a muslin of Butterick 5682, I simply looked at the pattern pieces in comparison with the McCall’s 6610 pieces. They were just as ginormous. I guess there’s a reason I have such trouble buying RTW clothes. I’m just too tiny.
Since the Butterick pattern was just as big as the McCall’s, I decided to change course and try copying a pattern from my current jeans with the Craftsy course.

After weeks of working on my jeans pattern, all I have to show for my work is a huge pile of muslins on the floor. Which roughly equates to 8 different muslins that I consider ill-fitting failures for one reason or another. And none of which are special enough to warrant taking and posting any photos.

I’m still working with the jeans pattern from the Craftsy class.   I think I almost have a working pattern and/or a wearable muslin (after numerous unwearable muslins). I’m happy enough with what I got from that to give the pattern its own post, so look for that in the next few days.