So, we’re like halfway through July now apparently. ERMAHGERD.
In my head, we’re still in March – because that’s when I left the office to go to NYC for our holibobs and I haven’t been back to work since. All my stuff is still sitting on my desk as I left it (hopefully), and the change of clothes I was planning to wear after cycling in on my first day back is still in my locker. Along with my shoes, toiletries and towel. Life paused for me at that point, and although the weeks are tickin’ on by, my mind hasn’t quite caught up yet.
So yeah. It’s all a bit insane in the membrane with regards to what month (or even day) it is right now. It’s like that weird period between Christmas and new year, but we’ve been living it for four months.
And then I went and changed the frequency of posts here on le blog, and really threw everything out of whack 😂
But here I am with a shiny new post! This one is jeans. Enemy of me as a sewist, but also as a human being. Jeans have been a source of drama in my wardrobe, for like ever. Having an hourglass shape with a smaller waist but huge hips – along with chunky ol’ thighs and calves – it was impossible to find a pair of jeans that fit me. If the waist fitted, there was no chance in hell I would get the jeans over my hips. If I bought them to fit my legs, I’d have so much spare fabric around the waist it was ridiculous. The same went for trousers – things that were made to fit ‘average’ legs were just so incompatible with my body shape. I suffered years of wearing uncomfortable skinny jeans when they were the only thing available in shops (they fitted my waist but cut off circulation everywhere else), and rejoiced when I discovered Mom jeans (yay for room in the thighs!).
Not wanting to be limited to what I could find in the shops (well, online, really, because let’s face it – clothes shopping in actual real stores is a special kind of hell) last year I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make something that fitted better. The journey so far hasn’t been all that much of a success, if I’m honest. For many reasons. Grab your cuppa and settle in, folks ☕️
These are the original, test-run pair of Dawns:
Made from a slightly stretchy corduroy, I made a size 10 at the waist and 12 in the hips/legs. The fit was… okay… but the fabric was a bit eugh – a polyester corduroy rather than a cotton one, which turned out to be a bad choice, because polyester. Coincidently, I happen to have a piece of cotton corduroy of the same colour in the stash, which will one day become a pair of trousers – maybe even a pair of Dawns… we’ll see 👀
So they were the trial run before I attempted the real deal… which are the bad boys I’m presenting to you today 💁🏻♀️
This time around I made a 10 through to 14 (instead of a 12), to give me a little more room in the leg and bum because where the corduroy had some stretch, this fabric had NONE. Actually, let’s talk about the fabric for a bit, because boring fabrics in ready to wear jeans was part of the reason I looked to make my own.
I spent aaaages browsing denim fabric online, but didn’t find a thing that was anywhere NEAR loud enough for me. SO MANY blues, indigos, a couple of rusty reds… NO PINK. And no leopard print. And if I’m honest, the one thing that’s missing in my wardrobe, jeans-wise, is a pair of hot pink leopard print mom jeans. But the problem with that, is that if you can’t find any of these in stores, and you can’t find hot pink leopard print denim to make them yourself, how do you get these in your life?
Spoonflower, that’s how – an idea that struck me after hours and hours of fruitless searching of t’interwebs for denim that apparently didn’t exist. I knew they were now doing their Dogwood Denim, so I thought I’d give it a try – I found a suitable pink leopard print design, and ordered a couple of metres.
When it arrived, I remembered instantly why I was always a bit meh over Spoonflower – their designs are printed onto a white base fabric. That means that my lovely hot pink denim is not pink on the inside – it’s in-your-face-bright-white. It actually bothered me enough that I thought about putting some pink dye in the washing machine to try and sort it out. Also, Spoonflower is not the cheapest option by a long shot (at an eye-watering £32.50 per metre 😱) but it was the only way that I was going to get those leopard jeans that I so badly wanted.
Straight out of the packet (as in, freshly dyed as well) the Dogwood Denim is suuuuuper stiff. You gotta prewash this bad boy fo sho. When mine came out of the machine I was a bit annoyed that a white crease line had appeared on it – this has happened to me in the past with black denim, and it was no less annoying the second time around, especially with the cost of this fabric. Thankfully it’s not toooo noticeable, but I’m gonna have to wash them inside out to prevent this happening again in the future *sighing already*
I bought two metres of fabric – slightly less than the pattern envelope of the Dawns recommends, but because the print doesn’t really look any different whichever way up you put it, I figured it wouldn’t really matter if I cut some of the leg parts upside down to save fabric. I can confirm, it did not matter 🙌🏻
With all my pieces cut, it was time to make the magic happen.
I managed to cut the button fly the correct way around this time (but had to flip the pattern piece over to do this – dramas explained in previous pair post!) and for some reason got totally carried away and interfaced this piece, even though the thickness of the denim definitely did NOT require this, and I don’t even think it’s mentioned at all in the instructions. Oh well, I guess the buttons will just be *extra* secure 🤷🏻♀️
I bought some jeans buttons off eBay for a few quid, and it’s just not right if you make your own jeans and don’t go totally out there with the pocket bags – so I obliged with some astronaut-kitty-cat fabric that I’ve been hoarding for a while (which although I bought as an offcut, is actually a duvet cover from Asda 😂)
I levelled up with this pair and followed the tutorials on the Megan Nielsen site for flat-felled seams on the inside of the leg. Sure, it took a really long time to fold and press and pin and stitch, but it does look good. Well, it does apart from the fact that I used black thread, which you can see on the inside against the white fabric 🤦🏻♀️ I also french seamed the pocket bags rather than just overlocking the exposed edges, but I had a moment and went wrong somewhere because on one bag the seam is inside the pocket, and on the other it’s outside?! But let’s ignore that for the minute and look at my CAT ASTRONAUT POCKET BAGS 🤩🤩🤩
The black overlocking and stitching on the inside looks a bit messy (okay, a lot messy) against the white fabric – I should have really changed the thread in my machines to white, but I was about 70% of the way through before that really dawned on me. Yes, I know that no one’s going to see the inside, but I’m kicking myself for such a rookie mistake that could have been easily avoided 🤦🏻♀️
The fly instructions of the Dawns are very clear (despite the confusion around the orientation of the fly piece) and for a first-timer at jeans, they are definitely sufficient to get you through it.
I decided to jazz this pair up a bit with some sequin stars that I cut out of a dress that I got for £1 in an ASOS sale (I used to work in the same building as their head office, and sometimes they would have sales of their excess stock for staff and if you were quick, you could get your name on the list and get in to score a few pieces), which I bought because it was pretty but in reality, I was never gonna wear. I cut out the stars I wanted, folded the netting to the reverse and stitched in place, and then sloooooowwwly machine stitched the stars to the pocket and gold faux leather label. I learned my lesson on the last pair of Dawns when I used a cool oil-slick leather label which lost all colour in the wash and is now a manky swamp green colour. Yay.
The jeans actually come together really quickly once you’ve got the fly and pockets in place (because let’s face it – hardly more than just a quick whizz up and down the leg seams is all that remains), but it is DEFO worth basting the legs because even if you know what you think the correct seam allowance should be to fit your legs, each fabric is different (and also: weight gain) so CHECK YO SEAMS. I know I’m the first one to sack off some basting or just faffiness in general, but basting the outer leg seams before committing is well worth your time.
I tried on the jeans having stitched the outside leg seams at 5/8″, and they felt pretty snug so I decided to go with half-inch instead. I was left with a masssssssiivvvve gaping bit at the centre back waist though – and I thought about taking some of the slack out with some darts. But, on fitting the waistband around my waist and deciding that I didn’t want it to be any smaller, I thought that maybe I shouldn’t take any out of the back if I was going to have to make the waistband smaller to match it. But then, I had the bright idea to measure the waistband against the raw top edge of the jeans – and the waistband was too short 😱 By like, about an inch. Not even just *slightly* short – well short. How?! I’d stay stitched as instructed right at the start, so I couldn’t figure out how the jeans had got so out of shape. I guess this was why I had the massive gape at the back. I didn’t have this problem with the corduroy pair… was it the denim? I couldn’t be sure. I guess I’ll never know.
But I knew I needed to fix this mismatch between the waistband and the top of the jeans, pronto.
I measured one inch wide by 2 inch deep darts equal distance from centre back, and sewed them. This helped the situation, but gave me a weird poofy little bubble at the bottom of the dart. To get rid of this, I restitched the dart all the way down to the bottom of the yoke. Better – but it still looked a bit weird – it’d have to do. I was well aware that these were going to be put under a lot of strain from my ass, so I topstitched them down on the outside as well, for good measure!
With that drama averted, it was time to put on the waistband – which thankfully now matched up with the circumference of the top of the jeans. It’s a bit of a mission getting your topstitching on the front corners of the waistband because of all of the seam allowances (pro tip: trim ’em), but if you go slowly it should be okay (and if I haven’t mentioned it yet, you should defo be using a denim needle for this. You’ll soon know if you’re not, because it’ll snap. Ask me how I know 😂). The belt loops are another kind of evil – trying to get an even, straight bar tack to sew them down with is damn near impossible. I always find that the layers are just so thick that the fabric doesn’t feed very well, so you end up giving it a little encouragement (read: a yank through the machine) and then you end up with a properly uneven bar tack with a gap in the middle. Thinner denims and corduroys go through the machine better, but this ‘real’ denim was a drama queen when it came to the bar tacks. Just do your best and move on.
When it comes to installing rivets through thick layers of denim, that’s another ballache. You will definitely need an awl to stab the holes, and then you can say goodbye to the skin on your fingers as you try to wrangle the rivet through the many layers of fabric. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
The fabric is nice to look at, but it falls short in practicality. When I basted the legs at 5/8″ and decided to unpick and sew at half-inch instead, you could see little white dots where I’d removed the basting stitches. Washing and wearing them has definitely faded the print as well – they’ve got more of a ‘vintage’ look now. And they also don’t appear to have softened enough for my liking. Annoyingly, where the seams have come under any strain (ie, just with wearing them), you can see the white fabric base peeping through. Pfffffff.
There are some weird fit issues going on with this version – they are slightly too baggy on the hips (and there is too much fabric around the front stomach area which poofs out in an unflattering way) but they feel tight around the front of the thighs and walking up stairs is a problem. I keep wanting to yank ’em up in order to be able to move my leg better… not sure what this means, adjustment wise?!
If I’m honest, I’m a little underwhelmed with the jeans in general. The white fabric on the inside really bothers me, more than it should, but I can’t find ‘real’ denim in the prints or colours that I want. It would be nice if the denim had just a *little* stretch (or was even just a little bit softer) because comfort. Like the activewear leggings I made which would have been 100% better constructed if I had access to the industrial machinery they are normally made on, I feel like these jeans are very much home-made.
I think I’m maybe just a bit high-maintenance, jeans wise – I’ve never really had any jeans that fit well, apart from the one embroidered Alice and Olivia pair I now have and the curvy-super-high-waist jeggings from American Eagle that coincidently also came from NYC. It’s so refreshing to find a brand where ‘curvy’ actually means curvy rather than ‘plus-size’ (American Eagle define it as more room through the hip and thigh, which is *precisely* what I want). Usually, when I see ‘curvy’ jeans for sale I get really excited, only to find out that actually, they mean plus size. You can be curvy at any size, don’t they know?! Anyway. I’ve got precisely those three pairs of jeans that fit me only (all store-bought) and so I just rotate those.*
*I mean, I say that I have three pairs of jeans that fit me, but by this point in lockdown I think the chance of me needing to buy some fat jeans is extremely likely, so it could be that I actually have zero pairs that fit me right now 🤔
Will I make another pair of my own? Maybe. I’m not sure. I’m underwhelmed with my attempts so far, and it’s dependent on whether I can find a suitable fabric – a good colour, cotton (or at least mostly cotton), with a little stretch. If I can’t find a worthy fabric, I’m not spending the time making any more pairs of jeans because I’ll likely just end up disappointed again. I would really like a nice burnt orange pair, but I can’t find the right shade of denim – there’s a narrow line between ‘brown’ and ‘tangerine’ and we all know how risky buying online is, colour-wise. I even looked in every single fabric store in NYC’s garment district and even they didn’t have any.
In other news, I’m pleased to report that I have been spending some time at the sewing machine! Butttt… it’s not clothing 😱 I’ve started my Skyline Quilt! and I’m loving it. Really loving it. I’ve only done like four blocks, though – a few of the big star blocks:
I feel like I could get addicted (in fact, I may already be) because now I want to make this one too:
Isn’t it so pretty! I love the little mountains 😍
I discovered that there are loads of free quilt patterns on the Art Gallery website (which is where I found that one), and then I realised that quilting can become a VERY expensive hobby, VERY quickly 😨😂
I’m still reading as well, I finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (LOVED it), then I read Number Nine Dream by David Mitchell (didn’t like it, despite really liking the film adaptation of his other book Cloud Atlas), and I’m very nearly at the end of A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles (meh, but better than Number Nine Dream). Next up is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and my Amazon list is about twenty books long so I think I’m good for a few more weeks at least! But, I’m always open to book recommendations so hit me up with your faves (and if you have any tips on how to make quilting less expensive, give me those too!)
I hope all is well in your little corner of the world… I always love to hear from you guys so feel free to say hey in the comments 🥰
For now, I’ll leave you with the pics of the finished jeans – enjoy! 💕(and if you’re nervous about making jeans I have just three words for you – GO FOR IT 💪🏻)
Happy Sunday guys ✌🏻
Next time on the blog: I’m doing a bumper round-up – Make Nine progress, and a look back at the next lot of makes to see whether they’re being worn 👀 Subscribe below to have my posts drop straight into your inbox for your reading pleasure 🙌🏻