January 09, 2019

Jeans Making Made Easy: Tips and Tricks

Jeans-Making: Tips, Tricks and Sewalongs

Hi Everyone!

I’m here today to give you a little prep for your jeans boxes, which should have arrived for all our US customers and are on the way for our Canadian ones.

Jeans making is an endeavor. I’m not denying that. But I think it’s one of the best ways to challenge yourself as a sewer and thankfully there are lots of great resources on the internet to help you on your jeans making journey.

In this post, I’m going to cover some tricks and tips that I’ve picked up and I’m going to refer you to a whole host of links that will guide you during the process.

First up, there are two complete sew-alongs for our boxes. The first is for the Ginger Jeans in our Medium Weight Box and the second is for the Ash Jeans in our Heavyweight Box.

Ginger Jeans Sewalong      Ash Jeans Sewalong

And guess what!? The jeans making process is pretty universal, so if you’ve got the Lightweight and Curvy Boxes and are fretting that there are no sew-alongs for the Morgan and Ames Jeans, don’t get yourself down. The other sew-alongs will cover the same ground and will be super helpful.

Fitting Jeans

Now, let’s talk about the things we fear when making jeans. I think the biggest is fitting. Heck, even though I’ve made a bunch of pairs of pants, I still find fitting a big source of anxiety in my sewing. My first tip, as with every pattern that you’ve never tried before, is to make a test garment. Not only does it give you a chance to find fitting issues, but it’s also like a practice run for the construction process. So, win-win! Just keep in mind, for every pattern but the Morgan Jeans, you’re going to want to either use fabric with stretch for your test garment, or at the very least, account for the stretch of your denim when fitting. For the Ginger Jeans that I made for these boxes, that meant that even though my test pair fit really well, I ended up taking in the outseam by ½” due to the stretch of the denim.

Closet Case: Fitting Jeans      Fitting Pants

It’s really difficult to go through every fitting issue you may run into in one post, and that’s why your best guide for fitting is from Closet Case, one specifically for Jeans and the other for pants in general. It covers some pretty common issues, how to diagnose them and how to adjust your pattern. For me, that meant a sway back adjustment and reducing the rise of the jeans. For you, it may be something completely different because every body is different.

There are other things you can do to improve your fit, the most popular being taking a crotch length measurement. And I’ve also seen recommendations to get a crotch shape. There’s a relatively easy and cheap method for doing this with tin foil and a rubberband. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard good things.

Measuring Crotch Curve

Once you’ve got your test garment made and your fitting adjustments in hand, I’ve got some other tips and tricks to making the most of your box. 


First up: prepping your fabric. The denim making process results in a fabric that has a lot of stiffness and some residue on it, so before doing anything else, make sure you wash your fabric. I know sometimes I skip this step if I’m especially impatient to start a project, but if you do that with denim, you’ll regret it. The other benefit of pre-washing is that (1) denim shrinks A LOT and (2) the indigo dye bleeds like you wouldn’t believe. Just cutting the fabric for these boxes left me with blue hands. In fact, if you have indigo denim in your boxes, I’d recommend washing your fabric several times before cutting to get any extra dye out of your fabric.

Next, before you cut, it’s really important with denim to true your fabric. Except for the broken weave in our Curvy Box, all the denim has a diagonal twill weave and this means that grain the fabric has a tendency distort in order to follow the diagonal. To get your grain back to a straight parallel to your selvedge, you’re going to want to grab the two corners that are opposite the twill diagonal and tug hard. You may even have to do this a couple times to get the grain true. This may seem like an extra step, but you’ll appreciate it when you wear your jeans because without it, you’re much more likely to get leg twist on your finished pair. Also, if you can’t quite picture what I’m saying on how to true fabric, check out this video:

The other thing that you might want to do before cutting is distressing your denim. Distressing can be done before cutting, if you want your whole fabric bleached or faded, or after sewing your pair, if you want rips, frays or worn edges. Megan Nielsen, who provided the Ash Jeans pattern, has a really great tutorial on how to do this on her site, and even if you don’t distress this pair, it’s a great read to give you ideas on what you can do with your next project.

Distressing your denim

Now, once you’re ready to start sewing, jeans making means topstitching, which is perhaps the second most daunting thing about the process besides fitting. It’s just so visible, so I think lots of people believe it has to be perfect. But honestly, when was the last time you stared at someone’s jeans to see if the stitching is even? I can assure you if a small stretch of topstitching is a little off, no one is going to notice.

Jeans-making: Tips, Tricks and Sewalongs

But if you’re a perfectionist like me, there are a few things to do that can ensure better topstitching. First, go slowly. If you’re worried, change the speed on your sewing machine and just proceed smoothly and slowly as you stitch. Second, lengthen your stitch length. Most machines are set around 2.5 mm for their default stitch, but I’ve found with my machine that 3.5 looks better for topstitching. And I found this out by making a little test patch trying out different lengths until I found one that I liked. Finally, don’t use topstitch thread on your bobbin. I don’t know about you, but I tried this once and my machine freaked out. It just couldn’t handle the bulk of the thread. So now, I use regular thread on the bobbin and topstitching thread on the top thread. The only caveat about this is that you have to make sure you sew your flat-fell seams from the right side, otherwise your lovely topstitching thread will be on the wrong side of your fabric. And that would be no good.

Topstitching Tips from Cashmerette      Topstitching Tips from Colette

And now, last but not least, the final part of jeans making is the hardware. Attaching the buttons and rivets takes a little bit of skill, but it’s also really fun because you get to hit things with a hammer. What you’re going to need is a hard, flat surface on which you can hammer. For the lucky Heavyweight Box subscribers, they got a handy anvil in their boxes, but for the rest of us, a great alternative is the back of a cast iron pan. You want something that won’t dent or buckle. I tell you this from experience when I tried to attach a jeans button by hammering on a piece of wood. The wood just flattened and my buttons bent and it was a total disaster. But good news, we’ve given you an extra button and extra rivets so you can practice!

The basics of attaching the hardware is that you make a hole with an awl or something similar, insert the button or rivet and hammer the cap in place. Easy, right? It’s especially easy if you follow the tutorials that we’ve provided. Closet Case has some great tips here, as does Taylor Tailor, who covers how to ensure that your rivets are the right length. And Closet Case also has a video! You can check it out below.

Installing Jeans Hardware      Installing Jeans Rivets

And that’s it! I hope I’ve covered everything you need to get started with your jeans making. But if there’s something that I missed and you have questions, feel free to contact us. You’ll find the link to our contact page at the bottom of this blog post.

Oh, and two more things!

Once you make your jeans, we’d love to see them. You can tag us on Instagram with #sewneedlesharp.

And lastly, if you want to know more about jeans in general, the podcast Articles of Interest has a great history of denim and blue jeans. It's a really fascinating listen!

Articles of Interest Podcast: Blue Jeans

And with that, I say, happy jeans-making and happy sewing!!


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