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.

My New Go-Tos – Jeans and a Top

As soon as I finished my white jeans (blogged here) in July, I realized that neutral jeans other than the typical light and dark blue denim were sorely missing from my closet. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to add more options to my wardrobe, starting with tan jeans. Much to my surprise, it was very difficult to find tan/beige stretch denim. I even contemplated buying a pair of RTW jeans in a large size and cutting them up to make mine. I ended up finding one shade of tan stretch denim at fabric.com a few weeks ago. It isn’t quite as dark a tan as I’d hoped for, and the finished jeans look a bit more spring/summer-y than autumn-y, but I’m glad they’re done and in my closet now. I must have just been looking in the wrong season, because now that I’m done, I’m seeing tan stretch denim frequently.

This is my TNT (tried and true) jeans pattern, with a contoured waistband that I borrowed from a random pattern in my stash – though I don’t remember which it was now. I think with the next pair, I’ll probably use the 3 piece, stitched waistband from Jalie 2561. Even though that puts seams in that aren’t in most jeans waistbands, it seems to give a snugger fit and to stay put without a belt. It’s rare that I wear a tucked-in shirt with jeans, and when I do, I wear a belt anyway, so no one will see the extra seams, or so I hope.

As I was making the back pockets, I had a not-so-fleeting worry that especially in my petite size, these jeans may wind up looking like school uniform pants, particularly if I ever wear them with some sort of collared shirt. So, I decided to add a bit of embroidery/ decorative stitching to the back pockets. Though with the thread I used, you can barely see it, I used one of the decorative stitches on my Babylock machine combined with a few rows of straight stitching. Regardless of whether or not anyone else notices it, I like knowing that it’s there. And just may use this same design detail on another pair when I make something with contrasting topstitching.

Also shown here is my now-several-months-old-and-never-blogged favorite short sleeve top, based on the Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top. I omitted both center front and center back seams, as well as the scarf. To hem, I just folded up the knit fabric and ran the sleeves, hem, and neck edges through my coverstitch machine. I think I need a bit of work coverstitching in corners/vs, but that’s just an excuse to make more tops.

These are the first two items in my Autumn 6Pac collection based on the 2013 6-Piece Autumn Collection (6PAC) Sew-Along (August-October) thread on Stitcher’s Guild dedicated to 6-piece collections of basic wardrobe items, complete with seasonal guidelines. Items 3 and 4 are almost done, so stay tuned for more on them shortly.

Summer 2013 6PAC – Completed

I finally got pictures of my 6PAC. I’d been using my brother’s tripod, but he loaned it to a friend…so I enlisted him as a photographer instead. Which, of course, means that I was a bit rushed and didn’t style/accessorize at all.

I ended up with a nearly entirely different 6pac than I set out to create. I really wanted a white drapey cardigan, but tried 3 patterns that did nothing for me. Then, I decided that I really would never wear a navy jacket, so I nixed that one. Also ended up with three different tops than were in my original plan. But…I really like what I ended up with and have been wearing every piece a lot.

I ended up with:

1. White jeans – my own self-drafted pattern

2. Blue jeans with embroidered back pockets and grey topstitching – my own self-drafted pattern

3. Green-grey jacket – Simplicity 1919

4. Striped sleeved tank – Simplicity 1613

5. Blue-green wavy knit top – Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top (without the scarf)

6. White drapey top with faux shrug – Simplicity 2364

Some comments on the patterns:

Simplicity 1919 runs a bit big. The first one I made was a size 12 in a knit fabric. When making knit tops, I usually use size 10. In a woven like the green jacket above, I went up to a 14, which fits great. I love the subtle peplum and princess seams in this pattern. I would love to make this jacket again, but wonder if it is too unique – and if the peplum detail will make it go out of style faster. Regardless, I am very happy with this jacket.

This is the third time that I’ve made Simplicity 2364. You can see my first attempt here, from several months ago. Between the two versions, I went down from a 12 to a 10, and the pattern fits much better. I really like the combination of the shrug and draped neckline. This pattern comes together very easily – and I love that the neckline is finished during the sewing process – so there is no extra hemming to be done at the end.

I initially bought Simplicity 1613 for the twisted neckline t-shirt, which was included in my original 6pac plan. However, once I made up the shirt, I didn’t like the busy neckline. I think there was just too much going on in too small an area on me. Since I had the pattern, I decided to try the other view included. I didn’t make a muslin – just cut into my ‘real’ fabric and hoped it worked – and it did. I used a striped stretch lace, intending to wear this top over a tank top. I don’t know that this is really my style, and it will likely get the least amount of wear of anything in this 6pac. But, the pattern was very easy to sew, and if I do find myself wearing the shirt a lot, would not hesitate to make it again in another color.

Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top is a free pattern that can be found on Fabric.com. I’ve made this top several times, and love all of them. In this version (and most that I’ve made), I eliminated both the center front and center back seams, left off the scarf detail, and shortened the top by several inches. I really like the fit of this pattern, and it has become my go-to cut-on sleeve pattern.

The Jeans – I love having a tnt jeans pattern. It’s great fun to make a pattern that I know will fit right, where I can focus on the details and creative design rather than on fit. Note to self when making white jeans in the future: use a thin, white fabric for the pocket bags and test before sewing to make sure they don’t show through too much. After sewing much of the white jeans together, I realized that the pocket bags showed through majorly. I ended up cutting off the pocket bags at the end of the facing. About all that will fit in the pockets now is some change or a stick of gum, but I don’t use my pockets much anyway.

SWAP 2013: Sunset on the Beach

I have officially completed Artisans Square/Stitchers Guild SWAP 2013. Sewing has been done for several weeks. Photos were submitted two days ago. For background on SWAP, see my previous post or Stitcher’s Guild.

I am calling my 2013 SWAP “Sunset on the Beach.” The first collection was inspired by the colors of sunset while the second collection was inspired by colors seen on the beach. Combined, you get “Sunset on the Beach.” Both collections are meant to be casual/dressy casual.

My linking piece is a black ponte knit jacket that works with both colorways, inspired by White House Black Market’s tiered ruffle jacket. I started with Simplicity 1919 and redrafted the front pieces to fit the stand collar and ruffle lines.

Sunset collection consists of:

  • Red skinny jeans, modified from my self-drafted jeans pattern in a lightweight stretch denim
  • Jeans from my self-drafted jeans pattern in a medium blue stretch denim with dark red topstitching and embroidered back pockets to fit with the colors of the sunset theme
  • A red knit top, made with Hot Patterns Festival Fringe, a free pattern on fabric.com, although I didn’t follow the instructions and sewed the scarf piece on differently to hid the raw edges
  • A multi-color floral smocked ITY print top, made with New Look 6735, without the neckband
  • A modified purchased multicolor variegated tank top that I cut apart, then used like fabric using the main pieces from New Look 6735

Sunset on the Beach SWAP 2013: The Sunset Collection

Beach collection includes:

  • A black ponte knit skirt, Butterick 5566 in a black ponte knit (same as the linking jacket). I eliminated the zipper and used an elastic faced waistband.
  • A polka dot elastic waist skirt, self-drafted (if it even counts as drafting – I cut a piece of elastic the size of my waist and sewed fabric to it without even measuring the fabric)
  • A white lightweight knit top, made from Hot Patterns Festival Fringe, a free pattern on fabric.com, without the scarf detail. I added a hand-tacked rope of twisted fabric to give the neckline more visual interest.
  • A sand colored top in a smocked-look knit that really had very little stretch to it, made again with a neckband-less New Look 6735
  • A missoni-esque variegated sweater-type knit top in shades of blue and green, made with New Look 6735

Sunset on the Beach SWAP 2013: The Beach Collection

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.