Thursday, July 25, 2013

What I Learned from Sewing Jeans - Butterick 5682


Sewing friends. Needle and thREAD friends. Have you ever been at a place where you felt the urge to take your sewing to the next level? Improve your skills? Take on more challenging projects? Well that's me lately. I mean, I love a quick and easy sew, don't get me wrong, but I'm also a bit ambitious by nature combined with a touch of perfectionism ... and so a jeans pattern caught my eye and I thought, what have I got to lose? 

Butterick 5682
Butterick 5682

I even went so far as to sign-up for an online jeans class and make a muslin for my son. I thought I'd start with him. He's like 6ft tall but has a waist the size of a twig and finding jeans long enough but skinny enough is such a challenge. Plus he's always wearing out those darn knees! So I was certainly motivated to learn to sew jeans. I figured I'd practice on a pair for him, then when I had it perfected I could sew some for me. I never made it past the muslin, life got in the way, and that was a year ago.

Then a couple weeks ago, a friend was over flipping through my patterns and pulled out Butterick 5682, looked at me and said, Jeans? Really? Um, yeah! 

Later that night the sewing mood hit me; I cut out the pattern and sewed them up the next day. 

I sewed the slim ankle-length version. I love a cropped pant! Can be casual or dressy. And by the way, I will only ever show you a back-view in the name of sewing. Because I'm dedicated to the craft.

Sewing friends, I loved every minute. This could seriously shake up my life. Like the mug rugs. Really.

So here are a few things I learned from my first pair of jeans, in no particular order:

Tip 1: Have a just-do-it attitude.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I always say. If you buy the denim on sale (and its readily available that way) you probably have less than $20 invested. Even if they end up to be not your favorite pair of pants, you have learned a ton in the process.  

Roll 'em up! I pretty much live in capris when the weather is good. 

Tip 2: Wash/dry the denim like a million times before you cut and sew. Or at least fifteen.
I learned this in the online course and it really does help to shrink and soften it up off the bolt. The denim I used I believe was a 10oz with a little bit of spandex for stretch. Its pretty thick and sturdy, great for fall. I've already purchased an 8oz stretch for the next pair to try a lighter weight. But if you go with 6oz, you'll get jeggings, so ... you know ... choose wisely.

Tip 3: Cut your size according to the stated finished garment measurements. 
These are usually printed on the pattern tissue itself. No fudging your measurements either. Not worth it. 
On the other hand, I've found that you can't go by the "general" measurements pattern companies use to size their patterns. They are out of date and not reflective of today's average woman. Those measurements are a leetle bit craaaaazy! Just stick with what's printed on the tissue for the actual size of the actual garment you are actually constructing - in this case the hip and waist. If the waist measurement is not stated, cut out the waistband from muslin and see if it goes around your waist with a little extra for seam allowance. Easy peasy.

Tip 4: Have a favorite pair of jeans close-by.
This was so handy. I must have referred to the jeans at every step - from looking at pocket placement, top-stitching & double-topstitching, bartacks placement, and where the belt loops were situated. Even though all this info is in your pattern instructions, its helpful to have a visual reference. It especially helps you to navigate the fly when you're constructing it, 'cause that can be most confusing. 

Tip 5: Use a jeans needle and change it a couple of times during the project. 
Especially when you sew on the belt loops at the very end. By then your needle is really dull but it has to chug through six layers of denim back and forth. As soon as I changed the needle, my machine handled the belt loops easily.

Tip 6: Use a longer stitch length when topstitching (like a 3 or 4)so it shows up.
I did not use a special topstitching thread, just a nice whitish-gray poly. I have since read that a cotton is better for topstitching because its a fluffier fiber. Hmmm.

And speaking of topstitching? So.Fun.!! Its almost the best part about sewing jeans. Its time-consuming, but worth it for the look. Because no topstitching = not real jeans.

Tip 7: Have fun with the waistband facing and pocket lining by using a fabric you love.
The pattern would have you cut everything out of denim. Boring. Of course I lined mine with Amy Butler. Was there ever any doubt? Ahhh, you know me so well. I love my jeans even more because of this little burst of colour on the inside. Smile. 

Speaking of waistbands, don't shy away from adding a jeans button. They are really easy to do, and come in a kit. I'm not talking snaps here. I'm referring to a button specifically attached to jeans right through the layers. I've written a tutorial on installing a jean button right here.

Tip 8: Think twice about interfacing the waistband.
OK, so the waistband for jeans is cut as a slight curve because our bodies are curved. Its not just a straight strip of fabric that wraps around your waist. But when fabric is cut on a curve, you run the risk of bias stretch, and for that reason you interface your waistband. To eliminate stretch. Only problem? You eliminate stretch.  


Sigh. I interfaced not only my waistband, but my waistband facing as well. I will say no more.

Tip 9: Check for online reviews. 
I always always always scour the internet for reviews before making a pattern, and by far my favorite site is  Reviews for this pattern indicated the sizing runs on the larger side, and the fly facing is too short. I took these into account. 

Tip 10: Baste together the legs (side seams/crotch) and back yoke, then try on for fit. 
You'll get a good idea if you're on the right track for fit. And while you need to remove the basting to go back and sew the jeans up properly, the time invested is worth it. Oh wait - you're actually supposed to baste together a muslin first. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, in this case I just relied on the pattern measurements and did a basted fit instead. It worked just fine for me.

Pedicure needed.

So there you have it, my foray into the world of jeans. What do you think? Would you ever try to make a pair? 

In other sewing news, a friend is coming over tonight and we are working on designing and drafting our own A-line skirts. Happy place, here.

As for reading, I'm in a bit of a reading rut. I can't seem to get into a good book, and having trouble concentrating. So much on my mind these days I guess, but I'm an avid reader and I miss it. Maybe a weekend of camping will jumpstart things for me. Less distractions, more s'mores.  

Make sure to head on over to Elizabeth's and check out what others are sewing and reading.



  1. YOU GO GIRL!!! Those look AMAZING! This jeans class ~ was it the Craftsy one, or is there some other fabulous jeans class? Or do I not need to bother with a class and just refer to your tips? (in the event I ever get so bold...)

    Ok ~ about the waistband - next time will you interface neither? Hmmm.... wonder what you could do that would provide stability, but a smidge of stretch...

    I am so stinkin' impressed! :D

    Have fun tonight (and who had time to paint their toenails when they are SEWING THEIR OWN JEANS??)

    1. Oh Tracy, thank you :). The online class last year was the J.Stern class on the pattern platform, and it was really quite good! But after making this pair, I did start the Jean-ius class on craftsy. I can't believe over 5,000 people have purchased it, can you? Anyway, I think I'll learn lots from this class, but it was good for me to just dive in and make the jeans so I have a better sense of it all.

      Next time, I will for sure not interface the facing. I'm undecided about the waistband itself.

  2. Ummmmm...I'm a bit too impressed for words here. (Great self pics, by the way.) Out of curiosity, what kind of sewing machine do you use? I have a basic Bernina and it cannot handle bulk of any kind which is a real shame because, clearly, I need to start making jeans :o).

  3. Thanks so much Liz! And yes, you should totally make a pair of jeans - maybe a maternity version? I think that would be fun!! So I also have a Bernina and I absolutely love love love it. Its the 820, my dh gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago and I never would have purchased it on my own, just drooled from afar. Before that though, I sewed on a Pfaff for years and those things do chug through bulk for sure!

    1. Hmmm. I have a 1008 (a gift from my mom when I got married), but now that I think about it, I've never had it serviced and I've had it for almost 9 years. I betcha I just need to take it in.

  4. Um yeah?? I bow down to you and your sewing prowess!!! What an amazing job! Still learning the basics here... When I grow up I want to be as good as you!

    1. Oh you are so sweet! Its more about tip #! than anything else haha!! When are you coming over to sew??? We have to plan a night soon!!

  5. Wow!!!!!!!Impressive sewing and cute jeans :)


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