So as promised, here is the epic post about the jeans I made, with all the stuff I can remember. Be warned, it’s pretty boring if you’re not interested in making this pattern, so you might want to go and read something more interesting instead.
Now they’re not perfect, but I’ve been wearing them loads. Here I am enjoying the many and varied delights of Basingstoke station in the rain, and in my jeans.
One thing – I’m sorry, but the pictures for this post are still pretty rubbish. We haven’t seen the sun here for 6 months, it feels like winter in the Game of Thrones universe, and quality photos are a distant memory. Also these are all from my phone so they’re slightly crap. But I was fed up with waiting to get this post up, so hopefully you can put up with it.
I lost the pocket piece that came with the Burda pattern, so I just copied the ones on my favourite Uniqlo pair. They’re very tapered at both sides, especially towards the back seam. This seems pretty common on skinny jeans – these Acne ones have the same shape.
In terms of pocket placement, I relied heavily on this informative post about avoiding ‘long butt’. The basic theory is that you sew the pockets right at the curve of your posterior, avoiding the illusion that your bum is ridiculously long and drawn-out, which is not a good look on anyone.
You can see that the back seam is a bit puckered. This is because I tapered it in too sharply at the top. I’ve drawn in a smoother curve for next time. Next time I’d also sew the pockets a bit closer together.
It used to be that sewing your own jeans would always result in a tragically handmade look. How would you get the fading and whiskering at home, the rivets, the weird embroidery?
Luckily, following 8 years of despotic rule by our skinny jean overloads, these things are TOTALLY UNCOOL. In fact they’re so uncool, they are starting to come round the other side and wearing a faded 90s pair of light blue denim will gain you massive style points in Dalston. For normal people though, I reckon the solid-colour/minimal embellishment style will stay in for a good few years.
The denim I used was this one from Tissu Fabrics. I think it’s actually a bit too heavy and high quality for the type of jeans I was trying to make. When I look at my Uniqlo jeans, the fabric is very thin and stretchy, and black on the underside.
It’s hard to buy stretch denim and stretch trouser fabric in UK shops. I managed to get some from Mandors when I was up there at Christmas but they don’t sell online, annoyingly. Another good option looks like the Fabricland website. I know it’s insane-looking but if you’re not epileptic you should check it out, they actually have a lot of nice stuff. Check out this page for stretch denim, and this page for stretch cottons in loads of random colours including ‘mango’.
Altering the pattern
So basically I just sewed and hoped.
I did take a customised trousers course a few years ago at the now sadly defunct Oh Sew Brixton, where they took all your measurements and plugged them into a programme that spat out a personalised trouser pattern. Unfortunately, the style was not really my thing (wide, straight-legged trousers), but I did compare the crotch curve on the Burda pattern with the curve on the personalised pattern and tried to make them look similar.
I also narrowed the legs right down, again using my Uniqlo jeans as a guide (just measured each leg and then transferred that to the pattern, plus seam allowance).
I added two inches length to the legs, but it turns out that most of my height must be in my torso rather than my legs, cos they were too long.
The fit is pretty good, but not perfect. I have folds underneath the bum, and they are a bit too high-waisted. There are some wrinkles at the crotch, as you can sort of see in the photos, but they come and go with movement so I’m not that worried about it.
For my next version, I’m shortening the crotch-length by 3cm, which I hope will solve the folds (you can see how to do that here on Sunni’s website). I have also ‘scooped’ out the back crotch cuve a little bit, but I’m not going to elaborate on that because I probably did it wrong. Search patternreview.com for ‘scooping’ and you’ll find loads of baffling information.
Sewing the pattern
So the fly instructions, as usual with Burda, were incomprehensible. They might as well have been in Spanish for all the sense I could make of them. Instead, I used this excellent jeans fly tutorial by Stitches and Seams. You need to draft a fly shield as there isn’t one included in the pattern.
I added a little coin pocket, and sewed the legs up in a slightly different order – inside seams first (then overlocked and top-stitched), then the crotch seam, then the zipper, then the outside legs, and finally the back. The great thing about this pattern is there is a seam in the back waistband to make fitting easier. Thank you Burda! But not for your fly instructions. They were awful.
The strange world of trouser fitting
I will say this about trouser fitting. Researching it online is a short slide to an endless vortex of confusing fitting wrinkles and weirdly-named pattern adjustments (‘clown-butt’, ‘fish-eye’). There is no escape.
Sewing trousers forces you to closely visualise in 3D areas of your body you never gave a second thought to. You’ll start to diagnose yourself with knock knees, bow legs, short crotch, flat bum, high seat, etc etc etc. You’ll find yourself frantically googling weird search terms, peering closely at blog photos of disembodied legs wearing muslin and denim, and combing online shops to examine images of models wearing trousers.
Try and stay strong. Remember, that weird wrinkle you’re obsessing over is unnoticeable by 99% of the population.
Here is a list of dumb mistakes I made, in the hope that others can benefit from my stupidity.
- I forgot that if you add a fly shield, you need to make the waistband longer to match. So, don’t be like me. I didn’t have any fabric left so I basically stretched my waistband to fit, which made it a bit ripply.
- The waistband pattern piece includes the facing – you interface it then fold it in half lengthways. This is great, except that I forgot that if you taper the back seam and waistband in, you need to have a waistband facing that tapers out to match it. Handmade by Carolyn explains this better than I can here. Next time I will make a 8 piece waistband (two fronts and two backs, plus facings for all of them) to make fitting easier. I could do with taking in the side seams a bit.
- I installed a rivet button on the wrong side….TWICE. It took a lot of messing around with pliers to get it off, I can tell you that.
- I sewed the buttonhole vertically – it should be horizontally, obviously.
I used a plastic zipper, but next time I’m using a metal trouser zipper for sure. Apparently you can shorten them by removing teeth with a pair of pliers if you can’t get the exact right length. I will report back.
I sewed the pocket linings in a very thin cotton.
The pockets have extensions that reach towards the fly front. However Burda tell you to trim one side down, for some reason to do with their strange fly installation method. Don’t do this – just incorporate both extensions into the zipper when you sew it. It’s like built-in Spanx!
I got my button here from Jaycotts, along with some rivets that I hope to use in future. I am wary of sewing that involves hammering after my last experience, but the neighbours will just have to put up with it.
Haircut – not actually jeans related
You may also notice I’ve had a big old haircut. It was done by Rockalily on Kingsland Road, and they were lovely, and I’m really pleased with it. However I was a bit disconcerted to realise it’s exactly the same as the haircut I had from ages 6-12. Evidence:
I guess classic ‘dos never go out of style (not sure about dodgy coral smocks though…)