Sunday, 15 March 2015

Jeans for DH

As you know, I spent 5 classes learning techniques to make jeans - the pockets,  fly zipped front etc.  The class didn't cover a full flat fell seam, only a version of a mock seam. Lyn, my tutor in the Thursday class, showed me how to do the proper one. So I was quite keen to incorporate this into the jeans I planned for DH.

I used a self drafted pattern originally based on the Sure Fit Design pants kit.  I modified the ladies' pant kit for a man and then further for jeans. I also incorporated  elements of the test jeans from the jeans class - particularly the pocket stay.

In addition,  I looked often at a real pair of jeans belonging to DH.  His jeans of course open opposite to mine and the instructions in the class and elsewhere were for ladies so I had to be careful to get the direction correct.

DH's needs, wants
Pretty basic!  Not tight fitting, likes looser. Likes very high waist (think Simon Cowell). Would like them to fit.  Doesn't want contrast topstitching. Wanted pocket stay when I offered this and he realised what it was. Wanted metal zipper and wanted it to be at least 7" long.  He's been involved at various stages deciding on pockets size,  placement,  number of belt loops etc. Chose the colour for thread and for serger thread - I had to buy as I didn't have right colour in my stash. I'm now using the overlocker much less than I originally thought.

I bought dark green denim with 2% stretch (though this wasn't obvious). I prepared it by washing it 3 times.  I didn't tumble as the instructions said not to.  This meant it got very crushed,  unfortunately.

Colour not correct in photo

I drew up a final version of my pattern (DH tried on a test muslin which fitted well). Last week I started to cut out the pattern but found I hadn't prepared enough fabric.  I wasn't able to cut the back leg. I had bought plenty of fabric and prepared more. With everything going on at the moment,  I've been a bit delayed. I only just managed to cut out the back legs at  class on Thursday.  I tried to iron the fabric there but the iron in class is poor. I did cut out but when I ironed the fabric at home,  had to alter one piece slightly.

While waiting for the rest of the fabric, I prepared the back pockets,  the front pockets and stay and the fly zipped front. I said the stretch wasn't noticeable but in fact the pocket edge had stretched slightly, though it has shrunk in with steaming.  And when I was working with the front crotch,  the stretch was very noticeable.

Can see waistband, back yoke, belt carriers, back pockets, topstitching
Front pocket - DH didn't want a coin pocket

There's loads of top stitching too. DH wanted self coloured top stitching. I bought some lovely Gutermann topstitching thread. However, my machine didn't like it and after having to take the shuttle out a few times after everything jammed up I gave up with it. I'm not sure what the problem was.  I had forgotten to take a topstitch needle but was using a denim needle and Lyn thought the thread was running freely .  Anyway,  I gave up on this occasion. I'm likely to try again with proper needle in my other machine - I've used topstitching thread with no problem previously. I had thought a denim needle was the best option but perhaps not. In the end, I stuck to using the ordinary Gutermann thread - just as well as I had only bought one reel and it's clear I would have needed far more. I hasn't quite realised just how much topstitching there is in jeans!

I had a few serger problems. Again,  I'm not sure why. The machine is due a good clean and I changed the needle in case it was bent (I found the needle threader wouldn't work - it still doesn't).  How often should I change the needle - how often do you change it? In the end, I found I had left the lever for roll hem disengaged. I really did have to read my instruction book, and changed cutting width, differential feed value, MTC and foot pressure - my stitch ended up ok but it took a lot of time. I haven't had that much experience with my overlocker, really.

I hadn't got the pattern correct for the fly and had to codge it a bit. This was my first,  if you don't count the tiny test jeans in class . It was wrong,  too, and I realised too late that I was copying this from that,  basically dissecting it to see how it worked (I found it hard to remember and we weren't given notes for all  the stages). I was making the jeans in class on Thursday.  I was really pleased with the zip,  how smooth it was and so on so it was only at the end if the class when I was checking the next step and expressed concern that Lyn looked at it and pointed out that it wasn't actually placed properly, as the zip needed to be lying further over.

Too late to change! If I even could. Lyn said the seam needed to be in the centre but that I could perhaps get away with my mistake by creating unequal seam allowances. Unfortunately,  I realised I didn't really follow her explanation. My error is perhaps why the crotch seam is a bit puckered and seems taut in places. Fortunately, DH finds it comfortable.

When I stopped on Friday, I had attached the yokes and the two back pieces.  The two fronts were already attached via the zip. I stopped earlier than I really wanted to as the bobbin ran out and I needed to change over to my house rather than my class machine. I'd still to fell the inside seam and sew the outside seam and hem. Then I realised,  though,  I hadn't cut out a waistband or belt loops.

Saturday I wasn't feeling well and was busy so didn't get any sewing done. I had a fairly free run at it today. It's Mother's Day in the UK so I had phone calls from my daughters and to my mother and a delivery of lovely flowers. Eventually I got down to some sewing.

I thought it likely I could finish the jeans but I ran into a few problems. In the end, DH said he wasn't bothered about a fully felled seam and so I did mock fell seams as those were faster - I was running out of time and patience.

The biggest issue today was the thickness of fabric. The machine coped reasonably well apart from the buttonhole. I tested successfully several times but each time I tried to sew the real thing it failed. Too thick - and uneven. I did sew a buttonhole in the end but it isn't nicely placed.

I asked DH to borrow his thicker awl but he couldn't find it and said he didn't really want rivets. Maybe in the next pair.

I had said that if I managed to finish on Sunday, I'd put my jeans into the PR competition - there's a prize awarded randomly so if I'm in it I might win it! So, they're finished and I'll enter if I have a suitable photo and can stay awake long enough!

What have I learned?
I was over ambitious in not only trying to make my first pair of jeans but also to try to draft the pattern. However, I am attending a pattern drafting class and a jeans making class so it didn't seem that silly at the time. I've learned some new techniques, even if I didn't use them all in these jeans, and noted some things to avoid. I hasn't put enough balance marks in my pattern and I would rectify that next time. I did learn from my class waistband, though, and this one is much better. I think I should have graded and reduced the seams more than I did though. Also, though I don't know how to do it properly yet, I didn't insert the fly zipper correctly.
I didn't do felled seams in the end - just overlocked , folded and topstitched.

Did DH like the jeans?
Yes, he likes them and finds them comfortable. He decided against having his picture published so I don't have much.

Did they fit?
Not perfectly. The waist is slightly too big. DH always wears a belt so it's not a huge issue but of course if the belt is tightened, the fabric puckers. The pocket is puckered - I think the jeans are too tight at this point. So he has more curve than I gave him in these jeans! There is a bulge at the back just below the yoke and I think there is too much length of fabric there - a slight tuck would rectify for the next time.
Much worse with no belt - in retrospect, have I sewed yoke on upside down?
They look reasonably ok on if I look at them in the way I would usually look at DH's jeans rather than with a self critical eye. However, examining them from a dressmaking point of view - no, no, no!

Would I sew him more jeans?
Yes. I have more of this fabric as I bought 6 metres. I need to make some alterations to my pattern and am not sure if I would now use the commercial pattern I bought rather than my self drafted pattern - there were so many bits to get right and I haven't quite succeeded.

And just to add:
I briefly mentioned I had lots of trouble with the buttonhole. I put it down to the thickness of fabric and the fact that the Jean side was much thicker than the to the waistband. I couldn't try my little machine in class because it didn't do the kind of buttonhole you get in jeans. I took the waistband out, further trimmed the seams and generally smoothed out the overlap portion of the waistband. 

Then I tested some more buttonholes. Then onto the real fabric  - and more failure! Now I reckoned this was because maybe the fabric wasn't flowing freely as the bulk was to the right with the way my machine stitches buttonholes.

However, long story short, I found the needle had a barb (a new needle). When I changed the needle, I was able to stitch the buttonhole.

Question - can anyone tell me how you get really nice insides to buttonholes rather than the slightly raggy look I get?


  1. I think this is a mammoth effort for someone who is still learning. And the mistakes are just part of the learning process. And I think it quite brave of you to make something for someone else so early in your sewing days - and the result is quite wearable. The next pair will be easier.

    And overlockers always misbehave - mine is still naughty, although I am starting to learn it's tricks and ways...

    1. Thanks, Sarah Liz. Yes, the next pair will be easier, I'm sure. I choose to make them for DH because he has no real fit issues - he can buy off the peg (and doesn't try on!), though the results are a bit variable, IMO. So I thought it would be easier as I wouldn't have to contend with all the issues that beset me when fitting something for me. And the green denim (his colour) was a bargain! For sure, I learned a lot and that is very valuable.
      I'm sad to hear that I'm not likely to be able to tame my overlocker ant time soon - though I'll keep on trying!


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