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May 2, 2011

Jeans Sew-Along 1 -- Getting Started!

Welcome to the first day of the MPB Jeans Sew-Along!

For the next few weeks we're going to be making jeans together.  Whether you're a veteran or are sewing jeans for the first time, you're going to have fun and, I hope, learn something new about jeans and jeans construction.

Before we get started, a little useful info:
  • If you haven't already joined the Jeans Sew-Along Flickr group, please do.  The Flickr group is the best place to ask specific questions, not only of me, but of the other Sew-Along participants too.  You can also post photographs of your projects there, or start a jeans-related discussion topic.   You can join the group through Flickr, or by sending me an email directly (peterlappinnyc at gmail dot com).  You don't have to be a member to view the photos and comments, but you do have to join to contribute.
  • I'll likely be posting Sew-Along-related entries daily, which means I'll be moving along at a steady clip.  Please sew at a pace that works best for you.  There's absolutely no rush, and all the old posts will be accessible at any time.  If you don't get started until most of us have finished, no worries.  Work at your own pace.
  • I'm using Kwik Sew 3504, an in-print men's jeans pattern.  If you'd like to sew Kwik Sew 3504 with me, you can purchase this pattern through the Minneapolis-based Etsy Store Sewtropolis and domestic shipping is FREE.  You'll get the pattern for just $11.99.  The link is   (It currently shows the pattern as "sold."  Please contact Sewtropolis through Etsy; my understanding is that they will provide more.)  You are welcome to use the pattern of your choice and if you have questions I haven't addressed, you can post them in the Flickr group.  If I can't answer them, most likely someone else can.
  • I'm not making a true muslin but you may want to.  Since denim has unique properties, like a tendency to stretch out with repeated wearing as well as to shrink in the laundry, there are benefits to making your practice garment with it, or with another similar twill fabric.
Our goals today are:

 1. Familiarize ourselves with our pattern and read instructions carefully.  Do you have all the supplies you need?  Have you pre-shrunk your denim? 

2. Study some RTW jeans that fit (if you have any).  Tomorrow we are going to discuss fit and examine some commercially-made mens jeans closely.  We're also going to take our measurements.

3. If you are confident about which pattern size you need, you can go ahead and trace and cut (or cut directly) the pattern pieces.  If you're not, I'd hold off till we talk more about fit.

1. In my experience, Kwik Sew instructions are well-written and very detailed.  Whatever pattern you're using, make sure you examine the measurements for each size.

I like to study the whole pattern and note how the different sizes are drafted.

I'll be using both dark indigo denim and white non-stretch denim -- two separate pairs.  I've pre-shrunk them but may wash and dry them one more time (separately). 

2.  I have dug up some old jeans of mine and Michael's to use as models for construction, and to examine fit differences.  Since just about everybody owns a pair of jeans, it's a great idea to study how they're made.  Pattern instructions are useful, but seeing what a RTW pair of jeans looks like and how they are finished is invaluable.  There may be details you'll want to copy from the RTW pair that aren't included in your pattern instructions.  We'll be covering many of these details in the days ahead, including zipper flies vs. button flies.

3.  Having sewn Kwik Sew jeans in the past, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a size Small.  Nevertheless, I have decided to trace my front and back pieces.

I used canary yellow tracing paper, a roll of which I purchased at my local art supply store.  It's easy to work with and very sturdy. 

Here's the earlier Kwik Sew pattern I've used in the past, 2123, from 1991.  I originally took approximately 1.5" out of the rise of those.  It looks like Kwik Sew 3504 has a lower rise right out of the envelope.  We'll talk more about this tomorrow but remember: changes made to the front and back pieces also need to be made to the fly, fly shield and other corresponding pieces.

Friends, that's it for today.

Your assignment is to try on all the jeans you have.  Which ones fit best?  What's the difference between the jeans that fit and/or look best and the ones that don't?  How high on your waist do you like your jeans to sit?  Most people don't wear jeans at their real waist (the narrowest point) but rather a few inches below (sometimes many inches).  Nevertheless, I've noticed some jeans companies (like American Apparel) are started to show vintage-inspired jeans that reach all the way up to the top of the waistline.  Oye.

Tomorrow we're going to talk about fit and RTW jeans.  If you have questions or comments, please leave them below, or in our Flickr group.

Have a great day and see you tomorrow!


  1. Woohoo! Off to look at my (insane and sprawling) wardrobe of jeans.

  2. I'm using Jalie 968. You know, what the selfish one calls the "Holy f*** sh*** jeans". I traced it out last night, but upon reading the reviews over on Pattern Review, I've decided that I need to remeasure Little Bit to make sure it'll fit. I may end up going one size up and then making the waistband adjustable.

  3. I'll be following along, not actively participating, but I look forward to all the jeans posts.

    Word is one should pre-wash/dry denim and twill at least 3 times, to allow for its progressive shrinking characteristic. Even then, I still hem jeans on the long side because they always seem to shrink just a bit more in length.

  4. I'm in on this one. Will have to look at patterns in the stash tonight, but am leaning towards McCall's Palmer & Pletch jeans.

  5. Hi Bratling, the Jalie jeans that the selfish one made were 2908 not 968, 2908 are boot cut and intended for stretch denim, 968 (which I am making) are straight legged and made from non-stretch denim.

  6. Yay! I'm still not sure if I'll manage to sew any jeans this month, but I will definitely be reading along for all the great tips!

    @ Bratling as well, if that's a child size of the Jalie stretch jeans (2908), I would agree with going up a size. At least in the kids' size I have made, the fit is more like in the adult jeans than the rather loose kid example on the picture. Which is fine except they outgrow it way too fast! Though if you really are using 968, I have no idea ;).

    Also, Peter, I just blogged the dress from the pattern I won in your giveaway a few weeks back! Yay!

  7. My denim is in the dryer as I type! I have stretch denim for me, and non-stretch for hubs (who continues to roll his eyes about the whole project, and act ungrateful... if that continues, well, that will just be his bad luck.) I'm using the same Kwik-Sew pattern you are, so I'm excited!

  8. I will be following along (though not sewing jeans at this time) because I am hoping to make some fabulous jeans for DH soon.

  9. Try on my jeans? Let's not and say we did, ha. I currently have one pair that sorta fits -- hence why I'm so eager to make my own!

    I have my pattern, McCall M5392, which is out of print. It's designed for a straight-leg fitted jean using stretch denim, which is the style I'm going for. It does have a cut-on fly, which is probably the less professional option, but I'll stick with what I know for this project. I already cut it out some time ago to make a muslin (which I lost) so I've cut out another muslin and will be sewing it up soon -- maybe even today! Pretty sure already that I'm going to have to lengthen the legs on the final pair and change the waistband.

  10. I'm excited to lurk in on this project. Don't sew clothes (bad experience), only quilts, but your site gives me several chuckles a day. Thanks for staying cheerful. Inspiring.

  11. Even though this May is the worst time for me to be sewing and I probably won't get to make any jeans I'll be following along. I love making jeans so much! I'm really craving a pair of light denim wide leg jeans for this summer.

    Also, I always wash and dry my denim 3 times on the hottest setting and sometimes it *still* shrinks.

  12. Oh I ADORE American Apparels new jeans. I love the high waist! If you look at a lot of the hip huggers girls wear you will see it makes them look 10 pounds larger in the tummy. This is because putting a band around the largest part of you is going to bring focus to the largest part of you. I put my waistband for my jeans at my waist, and the complements started rolling in. Everyone thought I lost 15 pounds overnight. You can use a belt in the mirror and see what I mean. Now if you are a super thin, tall girl that can wear anything, you can get away with a hip band. And I hate you.

  13. Trying to locate the Jalie 968 with no luck. Will probably be using mccalls perfect fit jeans 5142 and make the boot leg and straight leg. And compare them to a pair I love but they are just too beat up to wear anymore.
    I've never made jeans...wooo and hoo

  14. Jeans look like fun, I'm just starting out with clothes so maybe a bit advanced, but I'll be reading with interest.

  15. I'm sewing jeans for the first time. I just realized I washed my denim, but hung them dry, instead of putting them in the drier, where the finished jeans would be going. So I need to wash them again.
    It seems to me, I would like my jeans lower rise, and a little tighter than it seems in the picture (and by comparing widths between RTW and the pattern). I stress about it a bit, but hope it will work out well.
    Good luck to us all.

  16. Thanks you two. I was thinking of going up a size for that reason. I mean, I already figured out how to make the waistband adjustable, anyway. I figure I make a 3, make the waistband adjustable, and then it'll last for a bit. But I need to remeasure, anyway. Little Bit is tall, so I need to make sure that they're long enough!

    Regena, check and ebay. Last I saw, they had them. Jeans seem to be suspiciously missing from the Jalie website.

    And now to go wash my denim again. I did it once. Didn't realize you needed to do it multiple times.

  17. Have been looking forward this project. I have made two patterns from a pair of mens Lee Ripley jeans. One copying the original and the other with narrower shorter leg to get the "boyfriend look". Hope to make one complete pair at least.

  18. I'm a fan of high-waisted pants. They give my belly lots more room to move.

    I've already started on my pants (we're a day ahead in australia). And since this will be the second thing I've ever sewed, I'm going to go straight into a medium from the pattern. Still don't feel comfortable altering patterns yet.

  19. I'm going to save my jeans until late summer/early fall. I'm an instant gratification kind of gal and it's already hot enough in NC to not want to wear jeans on a regular basis. I will definitely be watching the process with interest and referring back when I start my jeans project.

  20. Regena, I believe I found Jalie 968 for you, in the UK.

  21. I'll lurk and look on with much interest, especially when you get to sewing the fly. I'm happy with my one pair of RTW jeans at present, but I’m working on pleat-front trousers in a very ravelly wool crepe and I always find the geometry of the fly a challenge. I'm sure I'll learn a lot from the sewalonger discussions on this and other issues. May the good fairies guide your scissors, your seam intersections never defeat the presser foot and your needles never snap!

  22. Wow making jeans good luck with all that ;-)) I just wanted to say Hi I found you via Helga von Trollop and i must say i am impressed. It is so good to see you sewing and using vintage sewing machines they are a joy to work on how many do you own? Have fun, dee ;-))

  23. with regard to the height of the rise/waistband... I recently discovered a couple of pairs of GAP jeans in my wardrobe that I bought in the US on my honeymoon 20 years ago. To my amazement, they're my size again (or rather, I'm their size again) - but the problem is they're so high waisted that the waistband cuts into my lapband port (below the ribs, and just above my natural waist) so I can't wear them comfortably. Oh well... maybe if I lose some more weight...

  24. I've been on a diet for 25 years (I was a chubby boy) and while to the world I now seem completely height/weight proportionate (I was even called skinny a few weeks ago... that's what friends are for!) I still live with the constant obsession that baggy pants and clothes that start to drip off me are proof that I am losing weight, while clothes that fit properly make me feel self-conscious and f... - rhymes with hAT.

    While completing my assignment and trying on all my jeans, I realize that my favorite pairs and the ones I wear most often are the most ill-fitting ones, while the ones that others say make me look good only venture out of my apartment for brief attempts.

    So dilemma; should I make properly fitting ones or up the size a notch? As they are my first go at denim, I doubt they will turn out perfectly so I am almost leaning towards making a bigger pair I'll be comfortable in and wear to make bagel and coffee runs in the morning at least... thoughts?

    I wish this pattern were talking back to me...

  25. Eli, that's a tough question. I'm inclined to say, go with the pair you'll wear more often.

  26. I've just been doing Jennifer Stern's jeans class on Pattern Review and have almost finished my first pair of jeans. So I've done a 'sew-ahead' but I'm really eager to be tuning in to your sew-along because I know that I'll pick up lots of tips and ideas for my second pair!

  27. Hi Peter! 6 years late to the party but I'm about to embark on creating my own jeans so I'm thankful I found this guide. Might be a novice question but I didnt see anyone else ask it, Where did you buy your denim fabric?



    1. Honestly I don't remember but Mood has a good selection.


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