Here’s the thing. I didn’t even know I had problems with RTW jeans until I sewed Ginger Jeans.
While jeans-buying had never been my favourite thing, I had never found it immensely difficult. Likely owing to the fact that I’ve got low standards, I’d been pretty satisfied with my RTW jeans until this point in my life.
Then I made Ginger Jeans.
And everything changed.
All jeans are not created equal
You see, I’d always thought that certain things were just an inevitable feature of jeans.
I thought that if I wanted jeans to be comfortable enough to not to want to tear them off the moment I walked in the door (ask me about the time I did this and then discovered that my mother-in-law was unexpectedly visiting…), I would have to buy them with a little bit of waistband wriggle room. And so, of course, they would slip down. When I climbed stairs. When I moved. So I would have to wear a belt.
I thought that was just the way it was.
Alternatively, if I was determined not to wear a belt, I had to buy my jeans tight. As in only-for-standing-up-and-definitely-for-eating tight.
I really thought that these were just immutable characteristics of jeans. I held these truths to be self-evident: jeans either slip down or are really, really tight.
Then I made Ginger Jeans.
What’s in an inch?
Here is what has astounded me most about making my own jeans.
All that was needed to make a pair of jeans that fit my body well was a tiny little tweak. Turns out, I need to take in about an inch from the centre back area of the waistband of a typical pair of jeans. This enables me to have jeans which don’t slip down but, at the same time, also avoid strangling my stomach and hips.
A slightly shorter, more curved waist band was all I needed for a level of jeans comfort that I never even dreamed possible.
In other words, Ginger Jeans have been a total game-changer.
Sew Your Dream Jeans Workshop
I sewed my Ginger Jeans with the help of the Sew Your Dream Jeans online workshop offered by Closet Case Patterns.
In all honesty, I was a bit ambivalent as to whether or not to purchase the class. I had never done an online class before and, truth be told, I had always been sceptical of online classes. I always asked myself, what’s really the difference between an online class and a free Youtube video?
In addition, Closet Case Patterns offer comprehensive instructions and a brilliant Ginger Jeans sewalong. I wondered, what would the class really offer me that I couldn’t already get for free?
Just to complicate things further, there was also a step by step jeans sewing e-book for sale from Closet Case Patterns. I wondered which one would be better for me, the e-book or the online class?
I was eventually sold on the class simply because it included the mid-rise Ginger jeans pattern. This was the pattern I had been planning on purchasing anyway. So I figured that once I removed the cost of the pattern, I was paying a relatively small amount extra in order to engage in the “experiment” of my first ever online sewing class.
I am extremely happy that I did so.
The added value of interaction
When I was wondering about whether or not to do the online Sew Your Dream Jeans workshop, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that, in an online class, you can ask questions.
I guess that’s just the mindset of an introvert who never puts her hand up in class. Well, no scary hand-raising required here. Just type out a question and a rapid expert response will come. Most of the time, Heather’s responses were very rapid – within 15 minutes or so (although sometimes it did take longer, a couple of days, for a response, pretty reasonable still given the vagaries of time differences and the fact that I do most of my sewing on the weekend!).
I found this interaction to be the main value-added of the class. I only asked a few questions, but being able to do so, really made a difference to my process. The main thing that I found invaluable was that I could upload a photo and get fitting advice in response.
And the importance of breaking it down
I also found that watching the videos really helped me to embrace a “just break it down and take it slow” mentality. This is something with which I often struggle when sewing. When I see a set of written instructions the “high-achiever student” part of me takes over. I went to demonstrate success by tearing through to the end of them as quickly as possible.
Predictably, that doesn’t always lead to the best sewing outcomes.
Approaching this project through the vehicle of an online course freed me from this mental temptation.
As a result, I really, really, really enjoyed sewing these Ginger Jeans!
I have heard people describe jeans-sewing as a bit of a slog or time consuming, but the bite-sized chunk approach of the Sew Your Dream Jeans workshop meant that this wasn’t my experience at all.
So getting to my Ginger Jeans
The fabric for my Ginger Jeans is a 9 oz light blue stretch denim from Guthrie and Ghani. It’s very comfortable to wear and was easy to sew with. It’s a bit on the lighter side, so my pair are really more of a spring/summer/autumn pair of jeans.
I haven’t really worn this colour jeans since I was a kid. But, having recently bought a bunch of RTW jeans in grey and dark indigo, I couldn’t justify making a pair in my usual colours.
So I opted to try for something different. In the end, I like this pair of Ginger Jeans as a comfy, more casual option, although the colour is still maybe a bit “Mom jeans”.
Ginger Jeans = Piece of cake
The thing that really surprised me about making these Ginger jeans was that it was not difficult.
Yeah, I know. Whatever.
Before I’d made them, I used to roll my eyes when people said it’s not that hard. But it’s true. I’m going to stop trying to convince you though because I know from experience that you just won’t believe me until you do it yourself!
My jeans are size 10 at the waist and a size 12 from the hip down. My measurements were actually closest to a size 14 from the hip down. After hearing Heather’s advice that, when between sizes, it is usually safe to size down, I decided to live dangerously and cut a 12.
Top of the top stitch
Ginger jeans are such a tried and tested pattern that there isn’t much I can say about the process that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by better sewists.
The only things I can say is a few words of “what-no-to-do”, mostly related to top stitching.
First, I had read most people say they needed 3 spools of top stitching thread to complete their Ginger Jeans. I read this advice and thought, “nah, 2 will be fine”. My assertion being based on, well, nothing. So I only ordered 2 spools.
Then I had to sit around and wait for a week while a third spool arrived in the mail because I rapidly ran out of the first 2.
So buy 3 spools of top stitching thread.
Armpits of golden thread
The other silly thing I did is that I tried to use a twin needle for topstitching (albeit, one specifically designed for jeans).
When watching the sewalong and online class, I didn’t understand why everyone sewed two separate parallel lines instead of just using a twin needle. I had thought that, at minimum, it should be useful for straight lines. The class mentions not using twin needles because they are expensive and prone to breakage, but these didn’t seem like compelling reasons.
So I decided to try to top stitch my Ginger Jeans with a twin needle.
I would now like to offer a definitive reason as to why you shouldn’t do this. Unless you have a wonderful industrial strength sewing machine, a twin needle just isn’t strong enough to sew through the bulk of multiple layers of (often interfaced) denim. Even a jeans twin needle. It just couldn’t do it.
I was up to my armpits in golden thread nests every time I tried to use my twin needle.
Further, if you only have one sewing machine (I’m so jealous of the fact that there are apparently people out there who have multiple sewing machines!), you will already be changing a lot between regular and top stitching thread. Since you don’t use top stitching thread in the bobbin case, this isn’t too difficult. But, if you also had to change the needle for each transition, it would become a real pain in the butt very quickly.
Oh and one more “dont do this”. I decided to top stitch the top of my waistband, before attaching it to my Ginger jeans (contrary to Heather’s instructions). This doesn’t work. It means that you cannot properly turn out the corners of your front waistband.
So what did work?
Umm, well, everything else.
I really can’t describe how satisfying this was to sew and how well everything came together.
I still can’t quite believe it.
Really, I can jump up and down, bend, squat. The waistband just doesn’t slip down. But I can still breathe too.
Getting back to techniques and details, one thing I found invaluable was sometimes just backstitching back and forth instead of trying to do bar tacks because my machine couldn’t handle them very wall.
I also used, for the first time ever, my brand new clapper from Merchant & Mills, which made a huuuuge difference to this project. Usually, I hate the ironing aspect of sewing. For some reason, however, Closet Case Patterns always make me appreciate it more. I had the same feeling when sewing my Kalle shirt dress. There is something about Close Case Patterns which just inspire me to not just want to finish, but to want to do it well.
I guess Closet Case just brings out my best inner sewist!
Also, for the record, for installing my rivets, I couldn’t find a metallic surface to use. I’m happy to report that installing rivets against a brick was also effective. This brick has now been officially designated as my jeans-sewing brick. That’s a thing, right?
A bunch of knees?
As you can see from the photos, I have some excess fabric around the knee that I am as yet to diagnose precisely.
The length of the jeans ended up being a bit too much for me, so I will definitely shorten by about an inch next time round. Since the knee-bunching is signficantly reduced when I roll the cuffs up shorter, perhaps this will make a difference?
Beyond that, I am tossing up whether I need either a full-calf adjustment or a knock-knee adjustment. I’ve never really thought of myself as having either of these problems but I didn’t even know it was possible to have jeans that were comfortable without needing to be held up by a belt. In other words, what do I know?
Any ideas on the knees front are most welcome!
I also have a few radiating lines from the crotch. I’m again not entirely sure of the diagnosis. One time when I wear them, they look like they radiate downwards, then the next time they appear more upwards or horizontal. Given my uncertainty, my plan is to just keep wearing them for a little longer to try to understand better what’s happening in the crotch! They are, however, extraordinarily comfortable in that department!!
Some sewing philosophy
Sewing Ginger Jeans left me musing a bit about why I sew. Jeans is definitely an area where RTW is readily available and much cheaper.
Let’s face it, good quality denim is expensive. And that’s even before you take into account the amount of time you spend on the project.
Yet, I don’t hesitate to say that I will never buy RTW jeans again.
In fact, I now have a parallel sewing queue dedicated entirely to jeans. I have ordered some holy grail Cone Mills denim from Threadbare Fabrics and am planning on sewing my way through the denim rainbow.
First, I found jeans-making oddly empowering, even more so than regular sewing. It felt liberating to reclaim a basic staple and make it comfortably my own in a way that I never thought possible.
Plus, jeans are so ubiquitous. The easy availability of inexpensive jeans is really a symbol of our materialist consumer culture. “Taking back” ownership of this clothing item by making my own homemade version feels like the ultimate fight back against disposable fashion.
It’s also all about provenance. Whilst I would like to be able to sew only with fabrics and products which are 100% ethically sourced, in reality, I find this impossible. The provenance of fabrics is often hard to trace. My local fabric store usually can’t even tell me where a fabric was produced, let alone under what conditions. I look forward to more jeans sewing using fabrics like Cone denim, where I can actually know where my denim was milled.
Ginger Jeans give me control over my body and what I choose to put on it. This feels doubly important for such a frequently worn item of clothing.
Plus, they look alright too…