As I’ve chronicled my adventures in jeans construction over the last few weeks on social media I’ve received a wide range of responses. The responses from my non-sewing friends ranged from “Why are you making flare jeans?” to “I’m obsessed with Jane Birkin and flare jeans!!!!” The feedback from my sewing friends, with respect to my wavy waistband issues, ranged from “Eat a cheeseburger” to “Check out this tutorial on steamed crossgrain waistbands with hand stitching.”
I don’t know if flares jeans are en vogue right now but I think they’re indisputably iconic so I wanted to give the Birkin Flares by Lauren Dahl a try. I also heard nothing but fantastic things about this pattern specifically. After finishing this pattern I can fill you in on the best kept secret in the sewing community: Jeans aren’t that hard. You need a few specialty things but if you have the right needles, a good pattern, and WonderTape you can sew your own jeans.
|| TIPS ||
There are a couple things that I learned the hard way. They’re very random and ones that more seasoned seamstresses already know I’m sure. I pride this sewing blog on being honest and documenting mistakes so you don’t have to make them.
- Clean and oil your machine before you start. Unless you’ve JUST oiled it, I would highly recommend doing this before starting on this project. I got into a scary situation with my beloved Bernina that resulted in a very surgical removal of my needle using tools that shouldn’t be used on sewing machines. (My husband was staring at me with raised eyebrows). I don’t like to re-live it, actually. Just clean and oil it. It wasn’t the denim or the machine, it was my negligence, so don’t let that antidote deter you.
- Keep changing your needle. The denim I used was pretty course and your needle wears down quickly. As a rule of thumb, and this might be a little overkill, but I would use one needle for the back construction and topstitching, another for the front construction and topstitching, and a third one for the belt loop bar tacks. If you don’t want to use three needles that’s understandable but I would highly recommend using a brand new needle going into battle with those belt loop bar tacks. You’ll be sewing through seven layers of denim….which I found to be much easier to sew after I oiled my machine.
- Use hump jumpers for those thick areas like your bar tacks. They will be a lot cleaner.
- Use that hammer as Lauren describes. It most definitely helps.
- Use WonderTape or 1/4″ quilter’s tape for your topstitching. I was able to do my topstitching a lot straighter and more consistently when I used my 1/4″ WonderTape.
- Buy a lot of top stitching thread, especially if this is your first pair. There’s a good chance you’ll be ripping some topstitching out. Because this is an honest sewing blog, I’ll embarrassingly admit that I had to buy four spools. I was a little bit of a perfectionist with my topstitching though.
- I used tracing paper for the design on my pockets. By using tracing paper it’s really easy to get a perfectly mirrored design. Pin the mirrored images to the pockets and sew on top of the tracing paper. Easy peasy!
- I would interface the waistband and I used Pelon SF101 on mine. I know that the pattern doesn’t mention to do this but I got a wavy waistband when I topstitched my first one (more on this below). Let me tell you, you don’t want to remove a top stitched, understitched waistband. I had to rip through three separate stitching lines to get it off. Boo.
- Use a jeweler’s bench or a piece of metal when installing your rivets and button. I used IndieSew’s Tutorial.
- Have a little faith! You can sew jeans, too!
|| THE PATTERN ||
I am SO happy that I made my first pair of jeans using this pattern. The instructions were thorough and the illustrations were very clear. I posted on social media a couple times how I hit a few speed bumps and how my daughter heard me say “Shoot” a lot making these but it really did go smoothly considering this was a brand new construction for me. (Disclosure: I was using stronger language than “shoot” during the surgical removal of the stuck needle from my machine.) It went smoothly because of the quality of the pattern. Once I started reading through the instructions I was relieved to see that Lauren provided information on:
- Stitch lengths and types for topstitching and bar tacks
- Types of needles
- How to make a quick muslin
- General tips for sewing with denim
The pattern really does walk you through the whole process…and I need that.
I am beyond happy with the fit of the jeans. My waist and hip measurements are 28″ and 38″ and so I sewed up a Size 28 with those exact measurements and the fit is perfect! I didn’t change one single thing to the shape of the pattern pieces or seam allowances and the jeans are so, so comfortable. I used a 10.5 oz slub denim with 3% spandex from Joann’s. I bought it because of the stretch content and I like the texture it has. It was cheap and so I fully intended it to be a muslin pair…. and before I knew it I was burning my blog initials into my leather tag.
Making jeans is a really fun creative process because there are SO many fun details that you can create. I spent way too much time deciding on top stitching thread color but am very happy with the gold color (Gutterman’s 865). I did blue bartacks to match my blue Les Fleurs rayon from Cotton and Steel that I used for the pockets and I had a lot of fun developing the topstitching design on my back pockets. This was a sewing success and I’m officially addicted to making jeans now.
|| MODIFICATIONS ||
The only modification I made was a different construction of the waistband. As I mentioned, my first waistband turned out wavy once I topstitched it. I do not fault the pattern or the prescribed construction for this, I think maybe something was off on my tension or my denim just needed slightly more stability. I don’t know exactly, water under the bridge. For my second waistband I used a method that was given to me by Amber from @soisewedthis. To know Amber is to know a wealth of sewing knowledge. The method uses a steamed crossgrain waistband and is described on the Curvy Sewing Collective Blog. It worked beautifully! In essence you cut your waistband on the cross grain and use a healthy amount of steam to form a curve on the waistband. It was fun manipulating the fabric like that. I would recommend it!
I also used Amber’s recommended construction for the waistband which is as follows:
- Press one long side of the waistband by 5/8″ to the wrong side. This will make it easier to fold under.
- Sew waistband and facing together. Press seam toward facing. Understitch seam to facing.
- Sew facing to inside of jeans. Press seam towards facing. Understitch seam to facing.
- Turn waistband right side out.
- Fold waistband to the front and fold under edge that you previously pressed.
|| EMPOWERMENT ||
Bottom line: If I can make jeans, then you can make jeans. No scoffing, head-shaking, or “yeah, rights”. It’s true. Jeans are not that hard and it just take a little practice, patience, and a good pattern like this one. Just try it, you’ll surprise yourself.
Happy Jeans Making!