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Apr 25, 2019

I'm Sewing Again!

Readers, I'm back at the sewing machine(s)!

I took a few months off and instead of sewing, I read a lot of fiction.  Here's most of what I read--all enjoyable--in no particular order:

Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber
Show Boat by Edna Ferber
So Big by Edna Ferber
Cimarron by Edna Ferber
Giant by Edna Ferber
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The King's General by Daphne Du Maurier
Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann
Will You Ever Forgive Me by Lee Israel
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Still Me by JoJo Moyes
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I also watched a lot of old movies, but that's for another post.

This month I finally felt the sewing itch again so I plunged right in (I'm not taking a class at FIT this semester).  I decided to make myself some jeans, something I haven't done in years (like 4).  Instead of using my tried-and-true Kwik Sew jeans pattern (K3504), which if truth be told, was always a little full in the back thigh, I decided to trace a jeans pattern from my most recent Japanese men's pattern book acquisition (top pic), with patterns designed by Toshio Kaneko.  I bought my copy at Kinokuniya bookstore but it's also usually available on Etsy.  Hunt around and I'm sure you'll find it.

One of the things that I like about the pattern is that the side seams are cut straight, so it's perfect for selvage denim (the high quality kind that's woven on a narrow loom and whose selvage is often decorative).  I ended up making mine from some indigo denim I picked up a while back at Mood Fabrics.  Nice quality if not the true fancy selvage stuff.

First, however, I needed to trace my pattern and make a muslin. I generally trace with canary yellow tracing paper I purchase at my local art supply store.  I traced the size Medium, which seemed closest to my measurements.  Seam allowances must be added to these patterns.  Rather than following the book's suggestions (some allowances wider, some narrower), I just added 1/2" seam allowances throughout, which worked just fine.

The muslin turned into a pair of white twill shorts made from a remnant in my stash.  Even though they fit pretty well, I ended up making a few changes to the pattern as a result.  I took 1/2" out of the front and back rise, and added 1/2" width to the inside front and back legs.  I don't have skinny legs and I hate the feel of a stovepipe fit and I don't find it flattering either.

If you've never used one of these pattern books, they're entirely in Japanese (this one, however, does exist in a French translation) but the diagrams are clear enough so that you don't need to know Japanese to follow the instructions.  That said, it definitely helps to know how to construct a pair of jeans.

The white shorts turned out cute and wearable.  I'm looking forward to getting a lot of use out of them this summer.

Now I was ready to tackle my indigo denim.  Naturally I prewashed it, but I've heard of people prewashing as many as three times to get all the shrinkage out.  I find with my me-made jeans they generally shrink only in length (usually about 1-2").  Whatever horizontal shrinkage occurs seems to stretch out when I wear them.

I made my pockets out of some old gingham shirting I had in my stash.  Just to keep things clean on the inside I used French seams on the pockets rather than stitching and serging the seam allowance.

I sewed these jeans mainly on my Singer 15-91 and Bernina 930.  The Bernina had trouble stitching a bar tack at the top of my belt loops so I used my Singer 401a, which is gear driven.  It handled the job easily.  For topstitching, I used Tex-60 thread from Sil Thread in the Garment District.  The color is a medium gold.

I also wanted to add rivets.  I had some in my stash in silver and a nickel finish (branded Elie Tahari for some reason; I think these came from Daytona Trim).  I used the Tahari's.

I find that a "spacer" is often necessary to keep the rivet well fastened.  I made my spacers from a few layers of denim (below).  Of course, you can trim the spacer if you want to; I trimmed mine just a little.

It took me a couple of days to make the jeans but I sewed many hours each day.  As anyone who has made jeans knows, it's a lot of work!

I really like the result -- the jeans fit well and are very comfortable.  I still haven't hemmed them; I may wait to wash and dry them one more time before I do.

I could have left a smidge more room at the top of the jeans zipper: I hate when you can see the zipper pull sticking out of the fly.  All you have to do is lean the top of the zipper a bit away from center front when you're attaching it to your fly, not more than 1/4".  But I was looking at some ready-to-wear jeans in some store windows today and they have exactly the same issue so I don't feel so bad!

These are from Theory--not a cheap brand!

These are from Club Monaco:

Nobody's perfect!

And that's it, readers.

In addition to sewing more, I hope to be blogging more as well. 

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Love them. I've made 1 pair a few years ago and I really enjoyed the process. Maybe I need to make some more :)

  2. They look really great, Peter. The top stitching is so crisp. Nice reading list, too— so many were made into movies which I guess is not a coincidence. Also big congratulations on the announcement in Threads! I was so excited to see that.

  3. They came out really well!! And I've been wondering where to buy that amber thread for altering jeans. Hope I can find the business you mentioned.

    1. Gutermann 968 topstich thread might be worth a look, too.

  4. First, EXCITED that you are back!!! You are a certain kind of sunshine, and frankly, this world has been lacking anything remotely resembling you.

    Next, those pockets! The fabric, the fit, and the finish - all impressive.

    The spacer "tip" is something great to know.

    Can't wait to see what you do next.

    One of your FANS!!!!!!!!

  5. The spacer!! That's a new one for me. Wonderful blog. Keep up the great work. I've always wanted to make a pair of jeans for myself. Where is a great place online to purchase jean or denim material? I'm very remote and so don't have access to the wonderful fabrics I used to be able to get when I lived in SF.

  6. Great to see you sewing again Peter!

  7. welcome back! your jeans look great. I never would have thought of the spacer!

  8. Love that you are sewing and sharing again!!

  9. I have found that for clear directions, one Japanese drawing is worth a thousand words! Welcome back.

  10. You always do the most beautiful topstitching!

  11. They are great jeans Peter, fabulous topstitching as usual! Thanks for the tip on the rivet spacer and to leave them unhemmed for shrinkage. I've just made some and your reminder is perfect timing!

  12. Wow. What a great sewing job and a terrific fit. Just goes to show how patience can lead to a great outcome. Congrats on these well-made jeans; looking forward to more posts about future makes.

  13. Not that the rest of them don't fit :) but you achieved a really nice fit on the back leg!

  14. just so pleased to see your name in my inbox! Love the shorts and the jeans,looking forward to seeing your posts again.

  15. Love the jeans!! Glad to see you posting again! I have booked my ticket for my first trip to NYC. The highlight of my trip will be summer MPB Day extravaganza in August. I can't wait. Small town girl hitting the big city!

    1. That's great. I look forward to meeting you, Becky!

  16. Beautiful top stitching, great denim and they look really good on you. Definitely worth the effort of making your own when you get such a result.

  17. I loved the jeans and they look fantastic on you! Definitely going to try this.


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