Category Archives: Jeans

Wear-in your handmade jeans in five minutes

I’ve got a bit of a confession. I’ve got quite the stock of handmade jeans now – Gingers, Safrans, more Gingers – but they don’t tend to get worn as often as my trusty RTW pairs. The reason was always they they felt too crispy-new, too uniformly-coloured, with none of that lovely age (or slightly less lovely artificial ageing/distressing) of my favourite vintage or store-bought pairs.

So why did nobody tell me how fast and easy it was to get a lovely soft, faded, subtly-patina’ed finish on brand new handmade jeans, with nothing but a bit of sandpaper and five minutes of elbow grease? I’ve just turned three pairs of handmade jeans from meh to dreamy in a weekend.

Here’s how I did it. I got some fairly heavy-grade sandpaper out of our DIY cupboard and wrapped it around my hand. A sanding block would probably do the trick, too. I put the jeans on and simply started buffing away at the areas I wanted to fade and distress. I started around the front pockets, fly and waistband, then took long strokes down the inseam and outer seams. Then I crouched down (this is where you start to feel pretty silly) and rubbed the paper down my front thigh, down to the knees and calf. Finally I took it over the back waistband, back pockets and centre back seam.

The trick is to start with a little pressure and build it up. Hold the fabric fairly taut where you want a smooth fade and let it wrinkle and bunch a bit where you want whiskers to form. You also may want to put some paper or plastic sheeting down before you start as you’ll get indigo ‘rubbings’ falling off.

Finally, you can take the jeans off, check over for any bits that don’t feel uniform and scrub away a little more. I hung the jeans over the edge of my ironing board or over a tailor’s ham for this bit.

Here’s the same thing on my Cone Mills denim Gingers. This effect might not be for everyone, but I know I’m going to get a lot more wear out of these jeans now they feel soft and worn-in.

Safran jeans

Deer and Doe Safran 2

Allo! I’ve been on the jeansmaking train again – it’s never too long between denim sessions chez Katie. This time it was external forces guiding me, because Deer and Doe sent over a pre-release of their new Safran jeans and pants sewing pattern to road-test and review. I’ve tried a lot of skinny jeans patterns by this point – Burdas, Style Arcs, Closet Case Files – so how do Safran stack up?

Deer and Doe Safran 4

The main difference is that the Safrans are lower on traditional jeans-style details and instead tread the line towards more classic skinny trousers. Depending on fabric type you could make quite smart minimal cigarette pants in, say, a black sateen, or go ahead with denim and add plenty of topstitching for more of a jeans look. I went down the middle, using a crisp mid-blue denim but without much extra detailing.

safran

The pattern comes with two views – A has belt loops, back pockets, a full length leg and instructions for topstitch detailing; B leaves off those details and has a just-above-ankle length. I used mostly view A with the length of view B, however I left the hems raw and staggered them slightly so the back is a bit longer. It’s a look I’ve seen in RTW that I like a lot – and hey, no hemming – bonus!

Deer and Doe Safran 11

A few things of note while I sewed up the pattern:

Deer and Doe Safran 1

Fabric: You’ll definitely want to heed the fabric recommendations and look for something with 20%+ stretch, because there’s plenty of negative ease factored into the hip measurement. I made a toile in lower stretch denim and while I could just about zip them up, I couldn’t move very far! My final denim is medium weight with about 20% stretch, from Woolcrest Textiles.

Deer and Doe Safran 3

Sizing: I’m a 38/40 in D&D dresses and cut 40 at the waist, 42 at the hip and 38 in the lower leg. The seam allowances are a generous 5/8″ so you have some fitting wiggle room; I always baste jeans up and try them on before before final sewing as each different denim means the fit will vary a little. I could also probably take a look at a few adjustments around the crotch and knees to fix some of those wrinkles. But I really like them proportionally – the rise length is great and there’s a nice curvy waistband that stays put on the low natural waist and doesn’t gape, despite there being no back yoke or darts.

Deer and Doe Safran 9

Pockets: The welted slash pockets are a nice detail that are interesting/challenging to sew and actually functionally easier to use than traditional curved jeans pockets. I’d recommend using a pocket lining fabric either with a similar stretch factor to your main fabric, or cutting your pocket lining pieces on the bias so they have some natural give. Using nonstretch cotton for lining can sometimes lead to weird distortion and drag marks, especially if you’re generous of hip like me.

Deer and Doe Safran 10

Fly: The included fly instructions are different to those I’ve seen before. I tried to follow them on my toile and didn’t like the result much – the zip was only just covered by the overlap – so I deferred back to my favourite Sandra Betzina method. Overall the instructions are clear and detailed but not too hand-holdy, which works for me.

Deer and Doe Safran 5

There’s lots more details and other tester versions of the Safran pattern on the Deer & Doe blog and they’re planning a series of tutorials and tips. From my point of view, if you like the adaptability of the style go to from jeans to pants, it’s a really nice versatile pattern. Just be sure to get streeeetchy fabric!

Frayed Cone Mills Gingers

Ginger jeans

I dug out the Ginger jeans pattern again because I’ve had some lush denim kicking around my stash for ages and really fancied trying a few tweaks out based on some RTW window-shopping inspiration. With the high waist and cropped frayed hems it’s about as close to the ‘mom jean’ trend as I’ll allow myself to go – and another tick off my to-sew list board.

Ginger jeans

These are view B of Ginger, the high waisted skinny leg ones, the only difference being about 4″ chopped off the length and about 3/8″ more ease at each side seam for a non-skintight look. I cut the legs with the pattern pieces butted up to the cut edge of the denim: after being through the prewash it had a good amount of artful natural fray. I cut the top of the back pockets on a raw edge too.

Ginger jeans

Ginger jeans

For a change I did three lines of topstitching along the yoke and inseam using regular thread in pale grey and my machine’s triple stitch function to make it stand out nicely. I like how it looks on the seams but it didn’t work so well for the fly topstitching: the back-and-forth action made it go a bit wobbly around the curve. I ripped out my first go (it’s not a fun stitch to rip) and it’s still not looking super great. Funny how those things get less important once you actually start wearing your new pants though, eh?

Ginger jeans

Ginger jeans

Ginger jeans

The denim is the famous Cone Mills stuff, which Katie of Handmade Threads / Threadbare Fabrics kindly gave to me when I met up with her in LA last October. I’m not sure which weight and colourway it is, but it’s quite lightweight with plenty of stretch in a dark charcoaly-indigo shade. It’s *insanely* comfortable: when I tried the jeans on partway through construction I didn’t even want to take them back off. I really hope they keep their shape as promised!

Ginger jeans

Pretty guts using scraps of ikat-printed rayon for the pockets and to bind the inner waistband and fly shield.

Ginger jeans

I admit I do still have a RTW jean habit, mainly due to not being able to find the right sort of denim to sew my own. But after several demoralising try-ons of styles like this in the shops I was so happy to dig into this lovely denim and make myself a pair that fits just right and is 100% unique. And if anyone knows a great stockist for true solid stretch denims in indigo or black please do let me know…

Double denim

Well, my slow fashion coat-making fun has stalled because Republique du Chiffon are getting into the spirit with suitably slow shipping and my Bernadette paper pattern hasn’t shown up yet. While I wait to get started, I’ve been bashing out a much-needed couple of pairs of jeans. It would’ve been inconceivable a while ago that making jeans could be a mind-switch-off type of project, but I’ve made so many now and have my TNT patterns all set so it really is quite relaxing. Plus they’re just great for doing a little bit here and there as there are clear processes and break points during the making.

Ginger jeans

These are another pair of Gingers; the high waist View B variation. My first pair of blue Gingers were sort of a wearable toile and not quite right – a few fitting quirks and the denim was not stretchy enough, so they’ve been donated. My lovely black pair however are a wardrobe staple and I knew I wanted a replacement blue pair soonish.

Ginger jeans

I got this super stretchy solid blue denim from B&J Fabrics in New York which did the trick nicely. I also made a small fitting tweak, tracing the crotch curve from View A onto View B, which seems to have helpd with the whiskering I got in my first pair.

Ginger jeans
Jeans

Otherwise a dead simple sew. I made life easier by using regular navy thread to topstitch and just serging the raw seams. The pockets and fly shield binding are made from leftover rayon from the top I’m wearing (a beautiful new-release pattern that I’ll write more about soon!): ah, that warm sewist feeling when your shirt matches your jeans guts, amirite.

Burda jeans

Burda jeans

This second pair is another repeat pattern, a second pair of Burda 6978s. I wear my first pair to death – they have held up really well, haven’t bagged or lost colour and are just so comfortable – so I really wanted a slight variation to get more wardrobe mileage. However it turned out that the loose fit looked a bit weird in a stretch denim as opposed to the rigid one of my first pair, so I just kept taking them in until they ended up a bit more skinny than boyfriend fit in the end. I actually love how they look though, so it’s all good. I cut the hems just on the ankle bone as I find this length works better both with all my shoes and I’m constantly cuffing all my other jeans.

Burda jeans

I bought this cotton-spandex denim online from Guthrie Ghani (it’s now sold out) – I was pretty excited when I found it because the subtle ‘feather bubble’ print is exactly the same as a pair of my favourite old RTW Gap jeans which are now completely worn out and too small. It feels nice quality with plenty of stretch recovery, however despite prewashing, it bled indigo all over my hands as I worked with it so I need to chuck the finished jeans into a wash with salt to try and fix the dye.

Jeans

Old and new! :D And oh god, just realised I placed one the belt loops wrong from looking at this photo. Where’s my unpicker…

Burda boyfriend jeans

Burda jeans

Spring’s hit London! And I have yet more jeans to show you. Sorry. At least they’re a new pattern and a slightly different shape to previous pairs! These are my Minerva blogger network project for April, and I used their 100% cotton 7.5oz black denim, which is a great basic light-medium weight denim with no stretch but a bit of ‘give’.

Burda jeans

The pattern I used is Burda 6798, a ‘boyfriend’ type style with a low waist, shaped back pockets, front hip darts, and options for either a buttoned or zip fly.

Burda jeans

Generally Burda patterns fit well on me out of the packet, and this wasn’t an exception. I cut a 14/40 to account for my hip size but ended up sewing the outer seams with a very large seam allowance as they turned out too big, so I’d say size down if you’re on a cusp. I graded down to the second-smallest size below the knee to slim the calves and ankle down, and took 2″ off the length.

I’ll just take this opportunity again to say if the fitting part is putting you off sewing trousers – don’t let it! Honestly, I think I’m making so many pants at the moment because I find them so much easier to fit than dresses. They’re also much simpler to baste and adjust as you go without needing to worry about lining or fastenings. And I don’t even have a straightforward lower half to fit, since there’s a 13″ difference between my waist and hip. Pants sermon of the day over!

Burda jeans

Pleasingly the curved waistband and back yoke of the 6798s fits perfectly with no fiddling – no gapeage at all to deal with. Burda pants patterns are constructed in such a way that it’s easy to alter the back seam right up until the end though, so you can adjust on the fly for a perfect fit. The back pocket shape is a fun change, and I really like where the low waistline hits. The slight puckering you see below the waistband, by the way, is partly because I eased in the waistband tightly to keep it snug and partly because I hadn’t removed the hand-basting I always do to secure the inner waistband before topstitching. I’ve taken it out now and the puckers have smoothed themselves out with a bit of wear.

Burda jeans

I didn’t use the instructions at all because I’ve made so many jeans now I have my ways, ha. I cut-on the fly extension piece and sewed the fly per the Ginger instructions. I do however really like how Burda do the pocket stay/holster, it’s less bulky since just one layer goes right to the fly. I flat-felled the yoke and inseam and serged the other seams.

Burda jeans

I haven’t really worn non-skinny jeans for ages, so I’ve been gathering some ideas for how to wear these. I think they look best with the cuff rolled to show a bit of ankle, so any day it’s warm enough that’s how I’ll wear them – here’s how I wore them on a slightly cooler day. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up making another pair of these sometime – they’re in regular rotation already, being super comfortable, cycle-friendly and fun to make to boot.

Black and blue Gingers

Ginger jeans

When I made my first pair of Ginger jeans, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had another go. I whipped out two more pairs right after getting those fast-gratification overlocker projects out of my system. You’ll perhaps remember I said I printed view A (low-rise stovepipe leg) by accident last time instead of view B – so this time I did manage to print the correct view and try the high-rise skinny leg option. I made these two pairs in quick succession, and it’s interesting to compare the results using two fairly different fabrics.

Ginger jeans

I jumped in to the first pair without a toile, feeling pretty confident that the fit would be close enough that I could make some on-the-fly changes to perfect ’em. The fabric for this first pair is a lovely light-medium weight denim from Cloth House‘s Soho shop with only about 1% stretch, so I cut a straight size ten all over to compensate.

Ginger jeans

I’m pretty happy with the fit! The legs are unaltered and the perfect amount of skinny for me. I took my usual wedge out of the CB yoke and curved the waistband more to account for my comparatively small waist (not quite enough actually as they are still a bit loose at the waist). There will always be wrinkles in a fabric with little stretch, so I’m not losing sleep over them.

Ginger jeans

I didn’t use special topstitching thread this time, just a pale blue regular thread, so it isn’t super great looking but I do love the scallop detail on the back pockets, which is just one of my machine’s built-in stitches. Pretty and zero effort!

Ginger jeans

Umm, the leopard head rivets? I found them on eBay and was just desperate to use them, even though frankly they look a bit silly on this pair.

Ginger jeans

I’m pleased with the finish inside, where I tried a few new techniques to get a more luxe result. The seams are flat-felled where possible: at the crotch, yoke and inseam. I thought flat-felling would be a real extra effort but it’s not too bad at all and really makes the jeans feel more special to wear.

Ginger jeans

I also included a pocket stay/extension, drafted using the great directions here and made from a leftover scrap of tana lawn. I would bear in mind that if your denim has stretch, you’ll want to pick a fabric for the stay with the same kind of stretch. I think this rigid lawn against my stretch denim is causing slight pulls across the stomach area.

Ginger jeans

I made up a second pair immediately to fix my minor fitting issues, grading the waist down a size and curving the waistband some more. This pair uses another Cloth House fabric, but it’s a super stretchy twill which I think is better suited to the pattern. It’s got a kind of brushed moleskin finish on the inside so they feel absolutely amazing to wear – like plushy, cosy leggings.

Ginger jeans

Ginger jeans

Also not to toot my own, but I nailed the fit, right? *fist pump emoji* I could get super fussy about the crotch and back wrinkles, but these are as close to perfect as it’ll get I think.

Ginger jeans

In fact these are probably one of the top five things I’ve made – I think they sweep the board of well-made, good fit, and a totally wearable wardrobe classic. And they were super enjoyable to make to boot – I love working with black on black for some reason (though good daylight is a must) and took the effort to make flat-felled seams and pretty topstitching even though it’s barely noticeable. Thank you Heather Lou for enabling my dream jeans!