Tag Archives: jeans

Sewing jeans, and imperfection

So, when my best jeans went through in the knee, I decided it was a sign from the universe–make some new jeans!  I had decided a while back to try the Morgan Jeans from Closet Case Patterns.  I settled on using up some topstitching thread I had from taking up Dad’s jeans (I needed to buy a second reel part way through), some traditional style Japanese cotton bought in Kyoto for the pocket linings and waistband facing, and part of a dead shirt for interfacing.  The denim came from The Drapery (yes, a local bricks and mortar store!) and as they had Closet Case jeans hardware kits, I invested in one of those too. The staff were kind and gave sensible though understated advice, like confirming my sense of which size to make. I like that place and the fine women who run it very much, even though in my heart of hearts I think I should just STAY AWAY and never buy fabric again.  Well.  I’m not going to be free of contradictions anytime soon.

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I made these while I was quite unwell.  Pattern assembly and cutting out took me 4 hours!  However I discovered that the extremely slow pace of my progress did result in some good looking topstitching and a lot of close attention to the pattern, and ill as I was, switching between threads for seams and topstitching did not trouble me like it often would.

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They came together really well.  I have made jeans before (with mixed success) and I have made button fly pants before, so that was a help too. I decided on washing the fabric three times prior to cutting, ten degrees hotter than I usually would–as my most successful previous pairs of jeans shrank to impossibly small after being made, despite pre-shrinking.

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Now, there are some things that I notice I am prone to when I make my own clothes, and I believe other people who sew might be prone to them as well.

It’s easy to notice all the things you did badly when you are the maker.  News flash: while some clothes are made in a factory far, far away by someone you have never met, mistakes do happen and imperfection results.  I have had plenty of purchased clothes that have defects, including some that required mending I could easily accomplish, and some that had a defect that became apparent after one or two washes that was not really capable of mending without wholesale reconstruction.  Needless to say, I’ve had loads of secondhand clothes that require mending as soon as they get to my place. Well, sometimes I make clothes that are imperfect.  And sometimes I do something stupid that requires mending soon after they are completed–in this pair I machine tacked the front pockets closed during making to prevent wiggling, and then managed to rip out the tacking and the top stitching.  Oh, joy.  But you know?  Imperfection is part of life and there is really no reason clothes you make yourself will or should be perfect.

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Then there is the question of fit.  I doubt I am alone in finding that jeans sold in stores don’t fit me all that well.  One fine reason to make your own is skipping the bit where you try on 20 pairs and hate them all, and maybe also notice you don’t like yourself much.  Oh, sexism, you make appearance the measure of a woman in a way my mind refuses to accept but that evidently has a grip on my feelings, and consequently you make self-kindness so challenging to accomplish. Oh, sexism, you make it seem that a woman should care more about how she looks than how healthy she is, and that alone makes me hate and resist you.

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The pairs of jeans I’ve bought over the years new and secondhand often don’t fit all that well, but for some reason they get a pass and my handmade clothing doesn’t. Nothing rational about that.  I measured myself up, selected my size and resisted the urge to make a size larger.  I made just one adjustment, right at centre back just below the waistband, where jeans normally stick out a whole lot, requiring a belt. I have been told by my mother that this is because I have a sway back, whatever that is, and by sales assistants it’s because I have a big butt.  Whatever, this minor adjustment meant these jeans were the right shape for my particular body, three cheers!  They did wrinkle under the seat, which my pants fitting book tells me is due to “thighus giganticus”.  Oh, internalised sexism, that has women talking to one another this way! I don’t like you much. If feeling bad about ourselves could make us better people, more confident sewers, or even slimmer, the world would be a different place.

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I was so happy about the fact these fit me better than any pair I’ve bought in years (that’s the test, right?) that I made another pair, very slowly and over several weeks.  This time, I decided on more ease, provided by making the same adjustment at CB but stitching the main outer seams with 0.5 cm seam allowance rather than the 1.5 cm allowed in the pattern.  They are even better, as I seem to have come home from Japan smaller than usual and returned to my customary more generous size since. I also decided on a different colour of topstitching thread.

And by this time I knew that I’d had a user fail on the hardware kit the first time and noticed another thing: why had I bought this (admittedly lovely and functional) hardware rather than using what I already had?  Still invested in consumption and overlooking the fact I never show my waistband off and I’m the only one who sees these fastenings?  On the second pair I used a hammer-on jeans button from the op shop (more in the pack if I have done a bad job of installing it) and some almost matching buttons for the fly, from stash.  And there we have it, the top end of my regular-wear wardrobe restored!

 

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Jeans

Some time ago–you know, about the point when I finished the major jumper project–I started making a pair of jeans.  Please understand I finished that jumper in June.  Perhaps I started the jeans in July.  But it is now October.  Say no more.  This is the one picture I took of the process.  I do usually think of the blog when I’m making something, and try to take the odd photo.  This was quite a fail.  But here is a freshly applied pocket, with bonus chalk marks.

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These jeans arose from a few different motivations.  I am still asking myself whether I can buy less, and whether I might just stop buying new clothes, certainly the mass produced kind.  It’s a thought experiment, don’t panic.  One of the things that makes me feel this goal may be over ambitious, is jeans.  I love them, I wear them whenever possible, and you know, I have made them, but I find it difficult and even more than that, I find it a bit scary.  On the other hand, two pairs of jeans have made it to the gardening only department (which takes a LOT, in my case).  And one more is only just behind them.  I am running out of jeans while not buying jeans.  This winter it led to my wearing woolen pants I had made to work quite a bit–no bad thing.  But jeans.

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I decided after listening to a friend about the benefits of craftsy, that one approach to my confidence issues would be to do some training.  So I enrolled for a class on craftsy and surprised myself by not really liking it much even though it seemed like something I should enjoy.  And for all kinds of irrelevant reasons that I myself thought were silly reasons not to have the benefit of the learning.  I learned a couple of things that really helped (and I can still finish the class one day and learn more!) But I also had a pile of new thoughts.  I remembered all over again that many of my feelings about clothes are really feelings about my body, and how sad it is that there is so much money to be made making us feel bad this way–because there is a lot of invitation to feel less than loving toward one’s own body in this society.  Especially if you grew up female.

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I remembered all the ill fitting and less than perfect jeans I have owned and worn to rags.  Why do the jeans I make have to be perfect?  Maybe they don’t.  And so on.  So, I made the jeans.  I already had two patterns that I had bought in the past and not made.  So speaking of not buying stuff, I chose between them and settled on Vogue 7608.  I like the level of instruction offered by the designer and they sounded like the kind of jeans I might like to wear.  I made the pockets.  No problem.  I set the zipper and constructed the fly (those instructions were awesomely good).  Then, sewed the whole thing together to try-on-stage and found that these ‘below waist’ jeans were only below waist if you understand that they were half way up my ribs at the front.  Below waist as understood in the late 1970s or early 1980s, perhaps.  Not below my waist, however.  Perhaps I am not the shape contemplated by the designer, and indeed, I have had this pointed out to me when buying jeans in shops…. which has occasionally had me in tears.  So, in a genius move that long time readers will recognise, I put them aside for weeks.

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Then came the afternoon I did all the adjusting I could do.  When I measured the curve on these jeans I found it was 5 cm longer at the front than my current favourites.  Quite a bit!  Note to self, next time try measuring this before cutting out.  I did all the adjusting I could figure out, and my overlocker suffered a discombobulation that required a trip to the shop (for a new belt).  Then, I put them down for some more weeks until one day a friend came over.  She is a tailor with loads of experience.  I tried them on and actually, she pronounced them very good, complimented my topstitching and we both agreed that the adjustment had been quite successful, and that I could make the ‘waistband’ (it isn’t really a waistband) narrower and help things along.

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So over the course of the following week, I finished them.  Not perfect, but wearable, and jeans.  Made from denim I already had, with thread I already had, and a brown zipper (who will see it?) and an op shop jeans button from a pack that made it sound like I needed a patented tool.  No, I just needed a hammer and a block of wood.  Good outcome!  A further realisation was that I always make pants that are too big.  Even when I measure and compare with the pattern.  In this case I feel sure there is a lot of ease to allow for adjustment.  But for some reason I am allergic to making things that fit.  So… it seems I need more practice!  Perhaps I should try the other pattern…

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