Me and these jeans were in a battle, and they *almost* won.
But it wasn’t because of the pattern- Heather’s Ginger Skinny Jeans in view B (high waist) was so excellent, as all her other patterns have been so far, and I am so thankful to her for introducing this daunting task and giving all her readers/fans a challenge. I would never have thought that I could sew a pair of jeans before, but when you have an accomplished seamster rooting for you and constantly insisting that YOU CAN DO IT, it’s hard to not at least ATTEMPT to rise to the occasion.
So it wasn’t the pattern that tried to destroy me, but rather my machines. That top stitching, dude. THAT TOP STITCHING! To make the most aesthetically pleasing top stitching on denim, you have to use this extra thick thread in your machine- that is what gives the detailed stitches on a pair of jeans their signature look. But that thick ass thread? It doesn’t really care what your jeans look like. It doesn’t want to cooperate with the bobbin thread underneath. It doesn’t care what the tension on your machine is. It doesn’t care if you unthread it and then stick it another machine, and then ANOTHER machine- it’s gonna act up on you regardless, like an angry pre-pubescent teenager. Weirdly enough, I had more success with the thick thread when used with my double topstitching needle than I did with a single needle. I cannot tell you how many extra hours were spent on these jeans just futzing with the machine tension and changing out the bobbin thread and then replacing it with the thick thread and then practicing on scrap denim to see if I had fixed the issue. I wont bore you (any more) with how frustrated and angry I felt, but just know that these jeans would have been a much more satisfying make if I were a sewing machine wizard.
That said, the actual jeans part of this project was really fun, and after every step I accomplished I would have a mini celebration with myself (“a coin pocket! WOW! “-electric slide- “a zip fly! WOW!” -roger rabbit-). I cut out a size 4 in the hips and a 6 in the waist, which is the opposite of what my intuition told me. I always have to cut out and grade between a smaller waist and bigger hip, but in the fitting section of the jeans sew along, Heather suggested not going down a size in the waist because it might be too tight and uncomfortable. I took her advice, but after basting the jeans together, the waist was huge, gaping several inches in the back, and I realized that I could probably have gone down to a 2 in the waist and still had room to spare. But I am so glad I didn’t grade between a size 2 and 4. With Heather’s instructions, I re-drafted my waist and yoke pieces, doing the slash and spread method to make the pieces fit to my measurements.
This is the first time I had ever done this kind of pattern adjustment on a pants project, and my amateur self initially slashed and spread all the pattern pieces without making sure that the lengths were the same as the original pattern, so I had to cut them out for a third time; essentially my waist and yoke pieces all remained the same length, but they had a much more dramatic curve in the pieces to accommodate the difference between my hip (larger) and waist (smaller)- it was a really informative and effective step to tackle, because the fit ended up being the most perfect that I have ever had compared to my expensive RTW jeans which are always too big in the waist no matter the fit. I am so glad I did the extra work and redrafted the pattern pieces as opposed to cutting out different sizes and grading them together. I just don’t think the fit would have been as complimentary.
Throughout this process, I would get frustrated with the top stitching not looking the way I imagined it should, or having tiny little parts of the denim gape a bit or just not lay as flat as I feel like they would in a pair of RTW denim, but then I would remember Heather’s post in which she tried to convince us not to obsess over making a perfect pair of jeans. Perfection is an unattainable goal for the most of us, and I realized how silly it was to be so hard on myself while tackling a completely new project without making a muslin that I had never ever before attempted- if I saw this project through to the end and the jeans were even remotely wearable, I knew that should be counted as a success. Don’t worry about making a perfect pair of jeans’. Such a simple piece of advice, yet it made all the difference to my process, and kept me moving forward instead of getting stuck or giving up.
In the last few major steps of the jean making process, right around where I was topstitching the bulk of the button area on the waistband, my sewing machine (VERY inaccurately named ‘Denim SEW-lution) went kaput. It could handle the stitching in two layers of denim, but it just couldn’t get through the super thick seams where several layers of denim were present. I broke two single needles, then my double needle, and then there was a weird whirring noise, followed by a metal-clashing-on-metal rhythm that sounded every time my needle went down into the plate; I knew that my machine was no longer in a healthy place.
I pulled out my backup machine, a very simple but sturdy Brother, the first sewing machine I had ever owned. But it couldn’t get through the bulky seams either. I was so stumped. What the hell do I do?? I was so close to the finish line, but none of my three sewing machines had the power to see me through to the end! And then I remembered that there was a time BEFORE sewing machines, a time BEFORE electricity, where women and men, aided by the dull glow of candlelight, would sew all their clothing by hand. I pulled out my thimble, loaded my thickest hand sewing needle with my bulky thread, and began to topstitch my waistband by hand. Then I finished attaching my back pockets by hand. Then I hemmed up my legs. By hand. Sewed on my belt loops. By hand. It took a few hours, and my fingers and and right hand were pretty sore afterwards, and I had drawn blood in my thumbs more than any human should have to endure in a short span of time, but…I DID IT! I finished the topstitching on the jeans, and honestly, you can’t tell which parts I hand sewed just by looking at them. It took very careful spacing and a lot of attention to consistency, but it was indeed impossible. And weirdly therapeutic.
Now that this project is over, and my hands have healed and I have a better perspective of the process, I can tell you that I am truly thrilled with how great these jeans came out. Honestly, half way through I figured that the jeans wouldn’t look very good on, but that this would be a cool experiment in thrusting myself into uncharted (to me) territory. So you can imagine what a fantastic surprise it was for me to finally pull these jeans up and feel SO GOOD IN THEM. And feel like I LOOKED so good in them. I am used to skinny jeans fitting so snugly that they are uncomfortable and impossible to bend in, but these, though a little tight at first wearing, have relaxed into a really excellent slim fitting but livable look, without bagging too much in the knees and booty area. Here are a few shots of the finished product on. To give a better view of the awesome waist shaping, I wore a crop top that I made a while ago (long story with this one- it was supposed to be a romper and wouldn’t even fit over my hips, so I turned it into a cute crop top instead. Okay, that actually wasn’t a long story at all). I definitely feel like I am channeling a bit of greased lightning in this getup, which is fun, and also weird since I would probably never leave the house in this outfit cause…a little bit too tight and too much skin for me to feel comfortable in public. But for a photoshoot? Fuck, yeah!
When I make these jeans again, I probably wont do much different with them- will keep the size adjustments in the waist, but might use zippers on the ankles to give them an even slimmer and elongated look. I am nervous to try different denims- I purchased the jeans kit that ClosetCaseFiles and WorkRoomSocial sold from their sites, and it included a super high quality denim with all the notions necessary for the completion of the garment. I am afraid of not successfully finding a denim with this perfect amount of stretch/give/softness. But I am sure I will figure it out. I figured a LOT of stuff out in this process, and I have knocked off a huge scary project from my sewing bucket list. Thanks so much to Heather at ClosetCaseFiles for the amazing pattern and accompanying sew-along. I absolutely could not have done this without your enthusiasm and virtual support!
As for my old Denim Sewlution, I will probably retire her and finally invest in a heavy duty Janome that I have had my eye on. I am sure I could get her serviced and up to working speed again. But I bought her for $40 used in Vancouver several years ago…I am not sure if I am willing to put more money into getting her tired self fixed than I did into buying her in the first place. All except for one of my sewing machines were purchased used, which has been absolutely fine, but it would be nice to get a top of the line machine with no one else’s sewing history marked in it already.