I like to think I'm a very open-minded person, but in many ways I'm quite traditional and jeans fit is one of the ways. Unless you're dancing around a pole, please keep your appendectomy scar covered.
You've probably heard that the high-waisted look is coming back, primarily for gals but it's only a matter of time for us guys. On a certain type of figure I like this look. It's also the one I grew up with.
How jeans should fit is a personal question and better hashed out in our Jeans Sew-Along Flickr group. Age, body type, lifestyle, and personality all come into play here. Personally, I find jeans that come up to my true waist to feel confining, especially when I sit down. I prefer my jeans to hit approximately 3" below my navel, give or take 1".
I'm more particular about where the back waistband hits. I'm 5'7", which is considered short here in the USA, and if the rise is too high in back, I think it really shortens me and also looks dated. Way out West, where someone might conceivably be sitting on a horse (or a mechanical bull), this look is still in vogue.
Too high for me (These are a 30" x 30" -- Helmut Lang via the dumpster):
I prefer this fit (these are Levi 511's, also 30" x 30") though they reveal a bit of love handle and cut me in the seat.
These Banana Republic jeans, ALSO size 30" x 30", are both too big and too high. Commercial sizing means nothing these days.
More about fit below; let's move on.
Our goals for today are:
1. Take your basic pants measurements: waist (true waist or jeans-height waist), hips, inseam, rise (crotch to waist). Do you know which jeans pattern size you'll be using?
2. Trace and/or cut your pattern pieces, making necessary adjustments to them.
3. Test needles and thread on your jeans fabric.
1. Did you try on your jeans yesterday like I asked you to? Do you have a sense of what looks and feels good with regard to fit?
Let's take our basic measurements.
My true waist is about 30". But I don't wear my jeans up there, as you already know.
My "jeans" waist is roughly 33". But I know from experience that this does not mean I should cut the size Medium jeans: I'd swim in those. I'll still cut the Small, but I may give myself a little extra room through the hips; I'll probably do this by narrowing the seam allowance a bit when I sew.
My hips are about 37" -- still within Small range according to the KS pattern, but barely.
This is the way I measure my rise; not sure if it's orthodox but it works for me. From top of back waistband down under to front top of waistband, we're talking 22". I'll also measure the distance from center crotch seam (where the flat-felled seams intersect) to both top of front waistband and top of back waistband on a pair of pants (whose fit I like) themselves and check that against the pattern.
Your inseam is from that inside crotch point down to where you want the bottom of your pants to go. Better too long than too short as jeans will shrink a bit. I only hem after multiple dryings.
2. Basic adjustments to pattern pieces. On the Kwik Sew pattern (and most patterns) there are designated places (horizontal lines) where you make changes if you're lengthening/shortening the legs and/or rise. If you're tracing your pattern pieces, please include this line too.
I've made pants where I thought, well, I'll just make the changes to the rise when I'm attaching the waistband. Then I ended up with side pockets too narrow to fit my hands inside.
Remember these? I could maybe squeeze in three fingers.
Remember, too, that adjustments made in the fly area will have to me made to all other pattern pieces that intersect that area.
3. This is the time to experiment with thread and needles.
Yesterday I bought my topstitching thread at Sil Thread. You can order from them online, did you know that? They have 200 colors!
I tested it using my Featherweight and it works great. You want something thick enough to show up well but not so thick as too screw up your sewing machine. I sew jeans with a size 14 or 18 needle -- it's a stronger needle for thicker fabrics and the eye is large enough to accommodate thicker thread.
Test your needle and thread with multiple layers of denim. Make sure your machine is up to the task.
Friends, I think that's enough for today, don't you? Tomorrow we'll start cutting fabric. A few of you have recommended pre-shrinking denim more than once and that sounds like a good idea, especially if you routinely dry you jeans in the dryer.
All sorts of fun conversations are going on in the Flickr group -- check it out!
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!