Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans 5413

It’s always darkest before the dawn

I’d love to say that this week, I’ve finally aligned with the hot weather and I’m bringing you some super-summery super-comfy dress that I’ve made, but… I’m not. I’m still struggling on that front, but I do at least have a couple of patterns that are ready to go for their first trial. I say ‘ready to go‘, but I’m still waiting for the fabric to arrive (from India) for one of them, and for the other one I need to trace and add the seam allowances  – and we all know how fun that is ? This weekend though I’m gonna be throwing all other projects out the window (not literally) and instead bumping one of said summer dresses to the top of the queue, along with an Alexander Henry short sleeved shirt for the Handsome Husbeast. Because sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and that might just involve treating yo’self to sewing whatever the hell you want. Screw all those half-finished projects just weighin’ ya down, start something NEW!

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So what I am bringing you this week is my third stab at jeans-making. The Deer and Doe Safrans were first (but haven’t yet made it to the blog despite us taking the photos literally months ago), the Palo jeans from Breaking The Pattern were second, and now these Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans are third. Third time lucky? Yes, and no.

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I had all the heart-eyes for this pattern when I first saw it – I had already bought the Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case (because it was considered the best thing since sliced bread) but every time I looked at it I just felt meh. The rise wasn’t quite high enough for me, I didn’t want a skinny jean, and it just wasn’t the look I wanted. When I saw the Dawns, with their super high rise and retro rigid-denim requirements, I was SOLD. They were just like the RTW Mom jeans I’d been living in forever – I know this is like the worst picture of the jeans (thanks, ASOS) but they fit me really well and I LOVE them. If I can get my handmade ones as good as these, I’ll be proper happy.

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You get three styles of jeans in the Dawn envelope, plus one jean short option – although you ain’t gonna get me in a pair of shorts for nothin’. I only – just about (grudgingly) – wear cycle shorts these days because it’s too hot in leggings, otherwise I’d happily wear full-on leg-cover all year round.

I couldn’t find denim that I liked for these (and that means something that isn’t blue or black), so in the end, I went with a corduroy. It’s a poly corduroy, though, which I’m not too keen on. The outside is okay, but the inside of the fabric feels a bit weird. A bit plastic-y. I think I’d actually like to make them in a slightly chunkier cotton cord, for the winter, but I need to find the right colour. A rusty orange would be perfect – a proper retro vibe! I seem to be drawn to 70s and 80s style just lately  – I really want to make one of those t-shirts that have the contrast cuffs and collar, like the one on the right:

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(and if anyone knows where I might get one of those – LEMME KNOW ?)

I made the tapered leg version of the Dawns, because wide legs aren’t kind to me and skinny cuts don’t get around my enormous calves. The tapered cut is perfect ??

My corduroy fabric was stretch corduroy, even though the pattern calls for rigid fabrics. I figured a little bit of stretch couldn’t do any harm, right? It’d only make them more comfy to wear, surely… thankfully, this seems to have been the case and there were no ill effects from using the stretch fabric. So if you’ve got (slightly) stretch denim, you have my blessing to go ahead and use it to make the Dawns. The waistband – the one part that could get a little distorted with stretch fabric – is interfaced, so as long as you’re not using stretch interfacing (which you totally shouldn’t be) you’ll be a happy camper.

I used some leftover Liberty lawn for the pockets (offcuts from this shirt I made for the husbeast) and if you’re unfamiliar with the methods used for jeans pockets it will probably leave you a bit confused. There’s a lot of right-side-wrong-side buggeryness going on, and you feel like you’ve got the lining in the wrong way, but I promise you it will work out. You want the right side of the pocket fabric to be on the outside (so that you see it on the inside of the jeans) and the wrong side of the fabric to be inside the pocket bag where you put your hand. I can’t shake the feeling that that’s kinda wrong, because in my mind I want to see the nice fabric where I’m putting my hand (much the same as with a coat pocket lining) but that’s not the way with jeans, apparently ??‍♀️

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I followed the instructions for the fly but ended up with my buttonholes backwards – I still haven’t quite figured out why… and by ‘backwards’ I mean that the right side of the buttonhole was actually on the wrong side, once the fly was assembled. Really wasn’t impressed with this, as it’s one of the first few steps of the pattern! I ended up making two button fly pieces – ‘wrong’ one on the right, correct one on the left – but re-reading the instructions, I can’t actually see how my traced pattern piece would end up giving me what they show in the instructions. The buttonholes are on the wrong side of the template!

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I felt a little edgy with just three buttons on the fly (it doesn’t feel like many to hold my stomach in, and the RTW button-fly-jeans that I own have five – FIVE!) so I went halfway and did four, keeping the same placement of the top and bottom buttonhole, but putting two in the middle rather than just one.

My little buttonhole-gauge thingy, which I only invested in about a year ago, is an absolute LEGEND for this kind of stuff ?? Bye bye complicated calculations to work out buttonhole spacing, hello simples-ness.

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I used keyhole buttonholes instead of a rectangular buttonhole, at one end (the end where the button sits) there’s a circle instead of corners. It’s good for jeans buttons that have a circular shank – it allows the fabric to sit a little bit flatter around it.

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The one thing I will say about this pattern is that there are lots and lots and lots of switching between regular thread and topstitch thread. LOTS. Did I say there were lots? I was going to go for golden (as in, like traditional jeans) topstitch thread but instead went for purple… I wasn’t sure if I’d like the look of such a contrast-y topstitch thread, but I think it would have actually looked okay. I couldn’t get buttonholes stitched in topstitch thread – my machine just kept on eating it up, even on straight lines. I mean, LOOK AT THIS CARNAGE ON THE REVERSE SIDE:

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It was a total game of Russian roulette as to whether I was gonna turn over the fabric and see normal stitching, or an absolute birds nest. I’d say that two out of three times it was a birds nest ? Probably should have used a topstitch needle, though I’m sceptical it would have made a difference…

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I chose not to follow the pattern markings for pockets, instead getting them placed on my bum once the trousers were mostly complete… and then relying on the husbeast’s opinion (and photos) to decide on final placement. I have no idea how my final position compares with the pattern markings – they’re probably in the same place, and I faffed about for nothing ? Oh, and Pro Tip on topstitching the pockets in place – make sure your pocket lining is held out of the way, or you’ll end up redoing a whole line of topstitching and swearing in the process.

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I was pretty pleased with my topstitching on the fly though – I mean, check it out, it looks pretty fly…  ?

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Seriously though, it’s pretty sweet. It was at that point I wished I’d used a contrasting thread so that you could actually see it! I also amazed myself that I managed to get the topstitching on the back yoke lined up:

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I used an awl to poke holes for the rivets (basically a sharp pointy metal thing that you could not only take someone’s eye out with but probably also kill them) – there’s really no other way around this, you’re gonna need the tool. Especially in places (like on the back pockets) where you’re trying to poke through what feels like about 100 layers of fabric. Despite putting the hole where I wanted it, the rivet ended up slightly off nearly every single time ?

(I could possibly blame the husbeast for this, as he was the one that actually installed the rivets.)

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I took my jeans to the next level with a cool leather patch on the back – you get the template included in the pattern pieces, which I thought was a nice touch. I used a pretty ombré pink-purple-orange scrap of leather that we had laying around, which I was really happy with, only to find that the colour came off the leather after the jeans went through the wash… And now it’s a muddy grey colour. Oh well ?

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I graded one size bigger at the legs than at the waist, and although the fit is fine at the waistband I could definitely do with sizing up at least one more size in the leg. Even with the stretch in the corduroy, they are still very tight – if these were rigid denim I don’t think I’d even get them on. I’m actually thinking about doing a full seat adjustment for the next pair – although that seems a bit scary ? I’ve got the same problem with these as I had with the Palo jeans – a baggy yoke just below the waistband, which I’ll try and sort out next time around.

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Despite the few little niggles with these, I’m actually pretty happy with them for a first attempt. I really like this style of jeans, so I’m going to call this pair my toile. I’m not sure I’ll wear them too much – because the poly fabric feels a bit clammy and sweaty – but they’ve definitely fulfilled their purpose of determining whether the pattern would be suitable for me. And it would. I’ve bought some hot pink leopard denim for the next pair – I had to get it from Spoonflower, so it was a bit spendy, but I couldn’t find any cool patterned denim online (and believe me I searched a LOT of stores ?)

If you’re on the fence about making your first pair of jeans, I can recommend the Dawns. I’m not the most experienced at trouser-making but managed to get a pretty good finish. This was the first Megan Nielsen pattern I’ve used, and I was pretty happy with it and the level of detail in the instructions (despite the dodgy fly buttonholes, as mentioned above). I’ve since made the Rowan Tee, and although the finished garment was a bit meh, there was nothing actually wrong with the pattern, so I’d be willing to try more from their range – but nothing else really catches my eye just yet. I keep trying to seek out smaller indie pattern companies, so if you have any faves, let me know!??

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Next week on the blog is my Make Nine update – because we’re already into the second half of the year so it’s about time I took stock of where I was… probably nowhere near halfway buttttt ??‍♀️

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39 thoughts on “It’s always darkest before the dawn

  1. Rivets scare me ? I’ve not tried to make trousers yet. It seems hard, and yet I’m still slogging along with the Jasika blazer, which is probably the most complicated thing I will ever make, so I should probably suck it up ?. If I ever do make any, it will be your fault as you keep saying it’s not too bad!!


    1. It’s really not too bad – HONESTLY ?
      I mean, I go steaming into coats with wild abandon, but trousers are WAY easier. I mean, the legs are (usually) just two pieces each – sew them together and you’re like 80% done ??
      And the rivets are super simples! You just make the hole, put the two sides together and then smack it with a hammer ?? I mean, I was like SUPER scared of making trousers and I’m not sure what I was worried about. The main thing is all the fitting issues that come with them – much more than with any other garment I think ??‍♀️
      Go onnnnnnnnn, do it ??


  2. Your jeans look fab. I’m not nearly brave enough to attempt making my own jeans. I love the way you give the warts and all info about your makes. Loose, summer trousers are next on the list for me.


    1. Ahh thank you Bren! ?
      Honestly, I was super scared of making ‘proper’ jeans but these – apart from the backwards button fly drama – were actually okay. I mean, sure- you get like a hundred fit issues with trousers, but they’re not too bad to actually make ??
      I always try to give a true account of the making process, because I find that so many blogs just focus on the finished thing and don’t dare to mention that they had hiccups along the way (even if those hiccups were me being a doofus and sewing the pocket linings into the topstitching ?)
      Oh I’d love a nice pair of loose summer trousers – I’ve been eyeing up the Arenite’s for a while but never actually got round to making a start on them (or even buying any fabric for them ??‍♀️). Which pattern are you going for? ?


  3. Those are most impressive! Keep the inspiration coming! My graduation outfit turned out very well, by the way, but even though the event is done & dusted now I have not put the pattern pieces and leftover fabric out of sight… finishing is a weird feeling for a born procrastinator. It’s the fact that you present us with finished and WORN items that I find most motivating! Well done, the jeans look amazing on you.


    1. Ahh thanks lovely Fiona! ??
      I do always try to finish things, even if I realise that things are turning out WAY unexpectedly ? At least then I can try and figure out why I don’t like them, and hopefully avoid making the same mistake again! Not everything I make gets it’s own place in the wardrobe, but I enjoy the making process nonetheless ?
      So glad to hear that your graduation outfit came out well! Whoop! Now that you’re on a sewing high, what will you be making next?!


  4. These look amazing on you ? it was a great choice of colour in the end. I also had the same problem with the button fly, so now that you also say that, I think the pattern piece might be wrong. We should maybe drop them a line to say that. I had issues fitting mine as I made a quick toile with a duvet cover and couldn’t get it past my bum. Then I had to go up two sizes, but when I made them in the thick rigid denim, they were too big and I ended up trimming away a good inch or more all around ? I contacted them and they tried to help, but I just need to buy some cheap denim to try (or use scraps of old jeans) and get the fit perfect


    1. Thank you Andreia! ?
      I’m so glad to hear it wasn’t just me being a div with the button fly ??‍♀️??‍♀️ Yes, maybe I should email them about that.
      At least you made a toile…I didn’t even bother ?? That’s odd that you had to make such large adjustments though. My corduroy didn’t have *that* much stretch but at least it was a small amount of give just incase I couldn’t get in them… it was my safety net ? I’m actually pretty excited to make my next pair, I want to perfect the fit and then make ALL THE JEANS!


  5. They look great! I have some corduroy left from a project and now I want to make trousers too, hope I have enough fabric though!

    Btw, I’ve tried to subscribe to your mailing list several times, but I don’t think it’s working? I never get any emails or a confirmation one…


    1. Thanks Karin! Corduroy is one of my favourite fabrics… it just reminds me of Autumn for some reason. And winter too, I guess.
      Hmm that’s really odd… I just got the husbeast to test it and he got the email come through – perhaps your email provider is sending me to your junk mail folder?! ? You should receive an email where you have to click ‘confirm’. Have a check through your junk mail, and if the email isn’t there I’ll see if I can ask the subscription people for some help! ?


  6. These look great. I’d be delighted if I made these and they looked this good. I wonder if the poly nature has prevented the cord relaxing like a cotton fibre would? Thanks for great review.


    1. Thanks Sarah! ?
      Ah, I hadn’t thought of that – I wonder if they do build some ‘relaxing ease’ into the pattern ?
      I’ve got some cotton denim for my next pair, so I’m excited to make them and see how they come out! Wondering whether to try the full seat adjustment, or if going up a size in the hip/leg would work – my RTW pair fit fine and they don’t have a FSA ??‍♀️


    1. Thank you Nancy! ? Even though they aren’t perfect, they are MUCH better than I imagined my first pair of jeans would be! I’m looking forward to making my second pair ??


  7. Pretty! I always wear my colored pants to pieces, always versitile!
    pattern companies.. I have been buying indie patterns but the wordiness and irregular drafting (not all of them of course) makes me look at them and then promptly go to the burda stash. Burda draft for my butt ??‍♀️ but I really like the aestethic of Ralph Pink.


    1. Thanks Elizabet! ? Black trousers is just TOO boring for me ? (even though they coordinate with more things… I guess).
      Yes! I do eye up a few of Ralph Pink’s patterns, but I’m not sure I can carry them off. One day I might try one, just to see ??‍♀️ I really feel like I should give Burda a better chance – a lot of people get some really great makes from their patterns. I’m never sure though whether I should be subscribing to their magazine though or browsing their website – where do you get your Burda patterns from?


  8. You impress me with the advanced projects you take on. Good job on these jeans; it’s too bad the fabric is not comfortable. (Is it a small club that dislikes polyester? For summer T-shirts, I try to avoid even Spandex [or similar] in my cotton!

    Two pieces of unasked for advice: I have seen a few posts on Instagram recently recommending the use of Guterman extra strong thread for topstitching. Maybe that would play nicer?

    I think (now, I haven’t made trousers, and may be talking out of them, but) that the wobble on the back yoke might be taken care of by reducing the length (height) of that piece.

    Is your summer dress going to be a Kielo, by any chance? 😉


    1. Thanks Rebecca! ? I’m actually pretty happy with how these turned out – I do like a good pair of cord trousers, but I’m thinking I might like a chunky cord better than this fine needlecord. I might also feel different once I’ve made a pair and got them on ? I just don’t really like polyester because it’s tends to be sweaty and not breathable, it’s bad for the environment and I don’t really like the feel of it against my skin ?
      Hmm I wonder which topstitch thread I have… it’s definitely Gutermann but I’m not sure which thread exactly… I’m gonna go check it out ? I just don’t understand why it had such a hissy fit ??‍♀️
      Looking at the pictures of these jeans and the Palo’s, the ripples are actually slightly different. On the Palo jeans, the ripples were vertical – on the Dawns, it’s horizontal. I have a REALLY high waist, so shortening the rise doesn’t feel like the direction I should be heading in… but then that makes me think that it’s compensating for something else. I feel like the back gets pulled downwards a bit, because there’s not enough room for my bum (hence the idea to do a full seat adjustment), and perhaps the front rise isn’t high enough and this is also sending the back waistband out of whack ? ah man, I dunno. I think it’s gonna be trial and error ?
      And I’m pleased to report that the summer dress is NOT a Kielo! ???


  9. Haha, I recently made some jeans for the first time and the backwards pocket fabric thing seemed too weird to me so I went rogue and reversed it. Shhh, don’t tell anyone!

    As Rebecca suggests above, I used Gutermann extra strong thread as a halfway house between normal thread and topstitch thread (thanks to Thread Theory for suggesting it in their pattern!). Not a hint of the dreaded topstitch thread tangles I’m usually wary of. It doesn’t quite have the aesthetic of proper topstitch thread but it’s not far off, especially with a contrast colour maybe? The other bonus I found is that I could bung it in the bobbin too, which topstitch thread would not be happy with at all!


    1. Hi Zak! Ooh, which jeans did you make? The whole pocket thing really is a head doer isn’t it, you feel like you should trust the instructions but it all just seems SO WRONG ?
      I’ve now moved over to the ‘extra strong’ thread (just used it on the Quadra jeans for the husband and it was ??????) but I’ve also now been recommended Mara 70. I use Mara 100 for normal sewing, so will give the 70 a try – a LOT of people have recommended it so based on all these good opinions I’m basically expecting magic from it ??


  10. I made a pair of Quadras as a sewtester, then afterwards I made a pair of Fulfords with snazzy white topstitching in that extra strong thread. The two are exactly the same construction, but just shaped a bit differently for a different fit. I’ll definitely make some more Fulfords, Maybe having been a teenager in the nineties means my subconscious brain prefers their slightly less fitted shape to the trendy modern cut of the Quadras. 😉


    1. Ooh I’ve just finished my first pair of Quadras! They turned out quite well, apart from some fit issues around the waist which I’ll try and work out on the next pair ? The husband I think would prefer the slightly more fitted look of the Quadras over the Fulfords, but I am 100% Team Loose Jeans ? Skinny jeans just don’t fit my shape, and I much prefer a bit of breathing room around my legs!


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