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I want to start off by saying, I am in no way an expert in pants, either fitting or drafting. I have tinkered with pants throughout my sewing journey, but have always preferred sewing and wearing dresses. I just find them much easier for my brain to grasp.
The Start of My Jeans Making Saga
My first foray into sewing a pair of jeans was during my high school years. I did what I had done for all the other sewing projects that had sparked my curiosity before - I started by taking apart a pair of jeans that I already liked and that fit me well and drafting a pattern from them. I should note that at this point in my sewing practice, I didn't fully grasp the concept of seam allowances, zippers, or even the importance of a grain line. This lack of knowledge never stopped me, though, from simply trying things out and following my curiosity.
Needless to say, my first pair of jeans weren't a rousing success. They weren't terrible, but they definitely weren't magnificent either. I wouldn't attempt to sew jeans until I entered into my second year of college. For one of our final projects in our drafting class series, we were required to draft and sew a pair of pants. I don't know what possessed me to chose to draft and sew a pair of jeans, but I did it and I had a blast (at least in hindsight that's how I remember it going).
Again, I didn't really understand stretch at this point, but by now I had learned the importance of a grain line, how to install a zipper, and added in a decent amount of seam allowance. And I came out the other end with a nice red hot pair of jeans! Still, I had a lot to learn (and continue to).
Fast forward from I think 2011 to 2018 when I was finally ready to try jeans for the third time ever. This time, though, I used a pattern and sewed up a pair of the Ginger Jeans by Closet Core Patterns. I was absolutely amazed!
Even though these jeans weren't for me to keep, they were one of the proudest sewing moments of my life. They looked so professional and fit me so well (not perfectly, but that's ok)! I mean, it only took 7 years to gather the courage to try my hand at them again, but with the help of a pattern, I felt like my confidence was up just a bit.
From 2018 till now I have sewn around 6 pairs of jeans including (4) Dawn Jeans, (1) Ginger Jeans, (1) Ash Jeans, and (1) Morgan Jeans.
All have had varying levels of success. Four were sewn for myself, and of those four, I currently have two in my wardrobe, one of which is fairly new, and I consider a wearable toile. These are also the jeans I will be discussing today!
The Inspiration for this Series
All of that to say... getting to this point in my jeans sewing journey has been exactly that: A long and winding journey, indeed. Honestly, I hadn't thought much outside the fit of my jeans -- aside from the waist, hips, thighs and calves -- until I started seeing posts by @winmichele @minimalistmachinist and @sewnbyele online. Watching their stories really inspired me to do a deep dive into my own jeans fit and really begin to dissect how well they actually worked for me.
This is where the idea for this series has come about. I found their insights to be incredibly helpful and I hope by sharing my own experiences, I can add to the conversation in a way that helps others as they tackle the fit of their jeans as well. I know that everything I go over may not be relevant to every sewist on their jeans making journey, but hopefully some things will be helpful or informative!
Dawn Jeans: Toile #1
This year, I had a goal of making a few new pairs of jeans for myself. I currently only have one pair (the original Dawn's), and I have found myself using them for everything. This has led them to break in rather nicely, but at the same time, I have had to also repair them quite often as they get a lot of work, especially when I am out in the garden. It was my hope to sew up a few pairs specifically for outdoor use and a few for everyday use so that I could extend the life of my jeans.
To start, I measured myself in various areas that I believed would need alterations based on my past experience with the Dawn Jeans. My most recent measurements as of January 25th, 2020 were:
- Waist: 28.5" (72,4 cm)
- Hips: 39.5" (100,3 cm)
- Full Rise: 28" (71,1 cm)
- Thigh: 23" (58,4 cm)
- Calf: 14.75" (37,5 cm)
I then measured the pattern flat in these areas mentioned above to determine what alterations I needed to make to the pattern. The alterations I made to this first toile based on my flat measuring are as follows:
- Graded from a size 10 waist to 14 through hips down
- Added 1.75" (4.5 cm) to both the front AND back rise
- Used 1/2" (1,3 cm) seam allowances everywhere EXCEPT when joining the back yoke to the back pant leg
- Cut the long leg version
- Added an extra button to the fly due to the lengthened rise
- Change length of rise as it seems to be just a bit too long on me now.
In addition to these alterations, I stitched my grainlines onto my jeans toile as well as any place I hade measured or added length. So my jeans wound up looking something like this:
I wanted a visual representation of the alterations I was doing to help guide me and make decisions on possible future alterations. Next time, though, I will make sure to stitch with a darker thread as the pink thread I used is difficult to see (I guess this is a good thing because the grainlines are WAY off).
I noted a few of the issues I saw right off the bat in my IG stories, but I wanted to wear the jeans a bit to see if I noticed any new issues that hadn't made their presence known just yet. The complete list of grievances/ things I need to look in to include:
- Checking the Waistband measurement to the top edge of the pant measurement. A lot of people messaged me to say they had issues getting one side of their waistbands to fit on their jeans, which is something I experienced as well even though I did not alter between the top edge of the jeans and the waistband.
- Adjusting the balance of the leg - my grainline was out by about 1" (2,5 cm) but I am unsure if this is because of how I graded my jeans.
- Play around with pocket size + placement.
- Look into excess bagging at the knees - is this because of the balance line being off, the knee point being in the wrong spot, or a lack of space for my calves?
- Adjust pocket bags to be more like Ginger Jeans as I hate how the Dawn pockets always poke out.
As you can see, I have quite a bit to play around with and tweak. I will be focusing on just one or two of these issues at a time as I was once told that if you do too many alterations at once, you can wind up with a whole host of other issues and not know which change they came from. You can also sometimes fix one issue when solving another, which is always great fun!
I hope this post has helped and I can't wait to share what I *hopefully* will have discovered through my next toile! Until then, I would love to hear some of the issue you all are currently facing when making jeans. Is there anything that has you pulling your hair out? Or something that you recently discovered that helped fix an issue you were having? Let me know in the comments below!