How are you all? I’ve made myself a new pair of jeans. I decided to take it slow and try to make this pair really something special. I had a pair that were really something special … then the zip bust on me! I’ve replaced zips before, trust me I’ve done everything in my power to unpick it all, but I must have thrown so much thread into them during construction, they seem… impenetrable… impossible… unmendable! I’ll have another go at them one day, but in the meantime, new jeans.
When I make a pair of jeans, I can’t help but see it as an opportunity to have a go at doing something fancy on the back pockets. After I posted a photo of my latest pair on Instagram back in October it was suggested I do a post on how I do it… (thanks Julian, it’s taken me a while, but here goes…)
First off these are the three different types of settings I might use to achieve a decent looking topstitch:
- If I’m feeling brave (as my machine doesn’t seem to like it much) Topstitch thread and a topstitch needle.
- Most often I’ll use a double thread through the needle (load up a bobbin to the extra spool spindle and thread both threads through the machine as normal).
- Lastly, in the past I’ve used a single thread on top and the triple stretch stitch on my machine to mimic the weight of topstitching.
Always ‘up’ your stitch length to topstitch jeans: Anything from 3-4mm (Personally, I’m currently in favour of 4mm)
If I haven’t got a clue what design I’d like, first I get my paper ready and outline around 6 pocket shapes. They don’t have to be the same size as the pocket, but it helps if you keep them to scale. My first attempt was pretty traditional…
Pocket #1: Curves
I played around with curves and angles until I settled on a basic loop. I chalked it on and stitched it with one of the decorative stitches on my machine (… I’m not sure what the stitch is called, but it does a regular stitch then a thick one. )
Pocket #2: Initials
Next time I played around with the lines until I had the idea to stylise my initials (A.M.) like a heart beat monitor. Once I’d sketched and decided, I transferred the design onto a piece of card the same size as the pocket pattern piece. If your initial sketch is to scale, you can use a grid to help upscale it.
Once I’ve got the template, I look for where to cut it. This one just needs the points poking through to mark the lines, then I join them up with chalk and sew it on. The topstitching on these was done using two threads through the needle. As it’s lettering, this design isn’t reversible so I kept it the same on both pockets. I’ve tried a few different ways of marking and actually prefer a chalk wheel marker like this one* to the washable crayon pictured. If I’m working on light fabrics I always reach for the frixion pens.
Pocket #3: Scissors
For the next pair (the ones that now have a broken zip) I wanted to step it up a bit and decided on a scissor motif. Again, I drew a scale template, then cut out the shape to chalk around. I had concerns about making an exact reversed replica on the other pocket so decided to just do the one! I took a deep breath and just sewed it all in one go!
Pocket #4: Needle & Thread
I’d really held myself a hostage to fortune now, and wanted to step it up another notch on my fourth pair… I drew a simple needle and thread design. To keep it accurate, I made two templates. One of the thread, I put a notch where the needle intersects. Then another one for the needle, marking the start, stop & angle.
This one was easy to flip over for the other pocket. I used yellow for the thread as it was my topstitching thread anyway. And somehow I had a spool of silver thread in my box which was perfect for the needle.
Pocket #5: Dog
Next, I wanted to try something a bit grander. I love dogs and thought I’d try a pooch-pocket. I had a quick google of dog pictures and sketched a few designs out. I’m not exactly a grade A student when it comes to art, and I discovered that once I’d reduced them to basic lines, most of my favourite dogs didn’t look like dogs anymore! But this fellah worked…
So, again, I made a template and chalked it in. A few deep breaths, a few thread changes, not too much swearing and I was there!
Pocket #6: Rainbow Machine
Finally, there’s my rainbow sewing machine denim shorts. This one was sewn up with rainbow thread and varying widths of zigzag stitch. Back in July I wrote a whole series on how I made my jeans and this pocket features there.
How To Sew Jeans…
Honestly…? This post is getting long enough and I haven’t even got to my new jeans yet! Follow the JeanJourney link if you want the full low-down of how I put my jeans together.
It was these jeans that inspired me to design my rainbow sewing machine pins* – I’m so happy with these, follow the link if you’d fancy one (#ad)
So when it came to the new pair, I thought long and hard and decided that I really missed the scissors from that tragic 3rd pair. In lieu of fixing them, I would make them again, neater, fancier and better than ever… Andrews’ Scissor Jeans Mach II! In fact, pair seven! I really can’t believe I’ve made seven pairs of denim jeans (including shorts) since I’ve been sewing. Shame on me, I really should have nailed the fit by now!
It should be noted: even if you’re using a pattern that has fitted perfectly in the past, a different denim will not come out the same, some fitting adjustments may still be necessary
… I wish I could take my own advice and check the seat seam before top stitching it. This pair could probably do with being taken in a smidge at the waist, but then they’d more than likely be too tight fresh from a wash. Anyway, that’s all done now.
Pocket #7: Scissors Again!
I sewed the scissors exactly the same way as above. This time I was a bit braver and put a reversed scissor on the opposite pocket.
I used the jeans pattern from last years’ Ottobre Family magazine – seen Last here in green twill with Peacock Pockets! And a very nice selvedge denim that I’d picked up from the bargain loft in Misan West (Goldhawk Road). The back patch is a scrap of washable paper (last seen here!) and I chose some of this lovely green gingham for the pocket linings, picked up on the same trip as the denim (the rest is still waiting to become a shirt…)
I made them over the recent London heatwave, but with the fluctuating weather we have here, I have had them on once or twice.
So there they are, my new jeans! Now I see the back properly (I really should do more muslins and fitting photos!) I think I should lower the yoke over my backside a bit: there’s a bit of a ripple in the fabric where I curve in a bit before my jeans do. Still, the fit is fantastic everywhere else, so much more so than any of my old RTW ones from my pre-sewing days so I’m not going to get hung up on that.
The big difference I made on this pair from all the others is that I used a 4mm top stitch instead of my usual 3mm. I’m much happier with the results. I’m not using topstitch thread; I’ve got two threads running through my needle.
I often have trouble with buttonholes on jeans. Something to do with all the bulk. But I trimmed these ones right back at the seams and set my machine to a snails’ pace. I also worked the other way around from usual; from the inside of the buttonhole towards the edge of the waistband. This, and the gentle nudge I manually gave the buttonhole foot every time the needle came out ( … and the gentle tug I gave it on the way back…) all added up to a decent buttonhole! Needless to say I have fray-checked it to within an inch of It’s life!
I still haven’t got around to putting the rivets on, but that can wait… one day I’ll be in the mood.
Until next time,
Notes to self:
- Sketch pocket ideas to scale – it helps.
- Trace into however many templates necessary.
- Mark carefully with chalk roller and transfer to the other side.
- Stitch carefully!
- Always baste the seat seam first to check the fit.
- Take 1cm off the top of the back pattern pieces – add it to the base of the yoke… on pair EIGHT!