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!
I’m so happy with the results and when I posted this picture on instagram last April it proved to be one of my most popular posts (… until MrA started BBQ-ing in his underwear 😂)
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!
Today, I saw a very fashionable jeans in an online store. The price is very cheap, but his seller is in China. I would like to ask you to give me some advice.http://jingguan.ebcoo.net/product/casual-vintage-jeans/
Hi, I’m sorry, I think I’m more suited to give advice on making jeans than buying them! But my mother always said: If you buy cheap, you buy twice. 🙏
I gave up on topstitching thread on my machine, using upholstery thread instead, which works much better. However, I have discovered that the Metafil needle from Bernina works with topstitching thread – hooray! I adore these jeans and the gorgeous scissors. I’m pleased to see that you used the fabrics that you bought when I was with you. I feel a bit invested!!
I can’t believe I have so many different types of needle, but not one of those!
I was thinking of you while I made them isn’t that funny! Glad you’re having fun in NY xx
You are wickedly talented! I can’t pick a favorite pocket…all are super awesome. I’ve never made jeans. Too scared. Your post was the first I’ve read today and because of it, it has started a very inspiring day! Thank you for sharing your talents. WOW. 🙂
What a fantastic compliment, thank you so much 👍🙏😀
Just speaking the truth! Have a lovely day Andrew! 🙂
Thank you, you too 🙏
Those tumbling scissors are just the coolest for the pockets. Love that you let them go both ways. Great info about double thread and the longer stitch length. I have never made jeans but with your inspiring design and technical details I might just give it a go. Your jeans are so good and such a great fit.
Thank you so much Blanca! You should definitely try jeans, with your attention to detail you’d sail through 👍👏🙏
Your jean’s fit is spot on and your practice pose impressive. 👍 I love those scissor pockets – they “fit” your professional and private lives!
Thank you! I’m really happy with how they’ve turned out 👍 the denim is quite robust, so hopefully they’ll last a while!
Love these! Your attention to detail is amazing. I’m trying to finish up a few small projects within the week, and I’ve got a jeans pattern, denim and all the notions lined up and ready to go… wish me luck!
Oh wow, good luck with your jeans! Take your time with them & I’m sure they’ll turn out great 👍🙏👏🤞😃
Thought I would add one additional item: johanna at thelaststitch.com has some good tutorials on jeans making. She also does a really nice buttonhole with just using a zigzag stitch and no buttonhole/program.
Thank you, I saw that, she had some good techniques 👍👏
Nice jeans and they fit you well. Love to see you try some denim with lycra and go for a skinny jean pattern. When I make jeans I usually have 2 sewing machines setup, one for top stitching with top stitching thread or 2 spool, i either use a 4.5 mm stitch length or 6 stitches per inch on my old heavy duty kenmore. I use an edge stitch foot and blind stitch foot to help me get perfect top stitching. I use to do all flat felled seams but only do that now on the yoke and the back. The inner seam i have resorted to serging since top stitching over that the point where everything covers together is tuff. My other sewing machine is used to seaming everything together, zipper install etc. I have resorted to using my serger for the side and inner leg seams. Of all my sewing machines my old kenmore has the power to top stitch thru all thoses thickness of denim and bartack with out any difficulties.
You’re lucky to have the machines and the space 😅 … sadly my old Elna is still at Tony’s Sewing Centre… I think he’s forgotten about me!
All great pockets! My favorite may be the dog with the bit of ‘mixed media’, rivets! The jeans fit looks really good, too. Narrow without being overfitted at all!
👍 love a bit of mixed-media! 😁👏 thanks, yeah, they feel like a good fit 🙏
I love your pocket details – I think the dog has to be my favourite.
I’ve only made one pair of jeans so far which turned out quite well but I’ve got the denim for another pair when the weather cools down a bit (I’m in South West France) and, for the pesky buttonhole problem, I’ve invested in a buttonhole stabiliser plate for my machine which will hopefully help.
Thank you. Yes, it’s a bit hot here for them (sporadically!) but that won’t last!!
I have one of those stabilisers, I’m guilty of trying it once and putting it away… I should get it back out… 👍🙏
Nothing like a personalised back pocket detail 😀 I like to use one of my hand cranked vintage machines for little details like this as it gives me better control over where the stitches end up!
How do you make sure you stay inline with your marks around the curves especially?
I hold my breath and go really slowly! X