here begins the quest for great-fitting jeans

the holy grail of sewing (other than a couture wedding gown) would have to be jeans. jeans have been on my to-sew list for a long time, but frankly i was slightly afraid of failure so they kept getting pushed to the side. recently i picked up some $2/yd stretch corduroy on a crazy sale and decided to finally give jeans a try. i went with the ever-loved jalie 2908. i’ve made this pattern for my daughter twice and had great results, so i got to tracing off my own size.

(sorry about the awful pics… this dark color is super hard to photograph, so i overexposed the pics in order to see the details i’m talking about.)

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right now i’m about 75% happy, so i thought i would talk fitting. i’m not a pants-fitting expert, so what i say here is simply my own personal experience, and stuff i’ve picked up from fitting books. feel free to chime in if i say something that sounds totally off!

to begin, i wanted skinny jeans (i know… i’m using corduroy, not denim, but we’re just calling them jeans since they have the same stretch and design details) so i took some measurements from my everyday jeans to give me a starting point. the pattern is already fit with negative ease through the thigh, so most of the tapering came from the knee down. i did have to bring the back outside seam in a little right before the knee, but from there i tapered in symmetrically. i also added 1 1/2″ to the length. the leg shape i’m happy with, though i may try to reduce the under-bum wrinkling.

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now for some crotch talk! ugh, can we as the creative type come up with a better term than crotch??? for realz people. this needs to happen. anyways… off the bat i added a wedge to increase the back rise by 3/4″ (i’ve seen this called a “full bottom adjustment” hahaha the only FBA i’ll ever need!). this worked well, and the overall crotch seam length i’m happy with.

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so what’s this 25% i’m not happy with? i have this wedge of fabric just kinda hanging out below the fly. it doesn’t really show up in pics the way it does when i’m looking in the mirror, but this is something that definitely does not occur in my RTW jeans.

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i think i have two issues here: one—the pants aren’t sitting close enough in the front, and two—i have a “prominent thigh” pulling the fabric out, which is more obvious in profile.

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i think if i adjust the front crotch curve to be flatter, most of my issues will be solved. reducing the front curve will inadvertently add width to the front of the leg, making room for my prominent front thigh.

the waistband on this pattern is the straight cut, fold over type. it is cut on the bias and interfaced with stretch fusible. i didn’t feel like messing with a new curved waistband, but i will on my next attempt. by the time i got to the waistband i knew these were in “wearable muslin” territory so i didn’t sweat it. for round two, i plan to baste on a straight piece of muslin, then take darts in around until it sits flat, and use that to draft a custom waistband. i understand jalie’s idea of keeping some stretch in the waistband, but i just don’t think it will ever keep its shape.

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obligatory back shot… pear much?

as far as sizing, i cut the size corresponding to my hip measurement. my waist falls about 1-2 sizes down, so during fitting i took 3/4″ out of the CB, and another 3/8-1/2″ total from the side seams. the rule of thumb is choose a size based on your toughest to fit area (hip/thigh) and make simple adjustments to the rest. realistically i think i have a handle on what i need to do next, and i’m very optimistic! for further authenticity, i ordered some rivets and tack buttons (from taylortailor.com). i put one rivet in on the coin pocket to see how it worked and it was kind of a hassle. i think i’ll have to pull out the drill to get a good clean hole for the rivet post.

anyone else trying out jeans? sometimes i feel a little nutty going to all this trouble, but in all honesty i’ve always had to settle for good enough in RTW. with that in perspective, it’s not so nutty. in the words of the always inspiring Carolyn… “be your own sweatshop, yo!”

on a completely different topic, i want to introduce my baby sister, Monica to you guys! she shares my sewing obsession and we constantly talk sewing and consult each other when we need opinions. she’s been sewing for several years and just started up her own blog called seams right to me. her first garment post is an archer button up, so obviously she has great taste. if you feel inclined to add another blog to your reader, go show her some love!

—lisa g.

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44 thoughts on “here begins the quest for great-fitting jeans

  1. Linda Turske says:

    I took a jeans/pants fittin class with Sandra Betzina once and for my large thighs she has be add a half inch to the crotch/inside leg. I then tapered it in to meet the exisitin pattern lin about 2 inches down…. is that clear as mud? That helped with the pulling I always had at the thing area…. I have no idea on the fold you have at the crotch area. And full butt adjustments I do not relate to.. I have FLAT butt adjustments to make! LOL 🙂

  2. Mrs.Smith says:

    I have yet to even consider tackling jeans…but on the pants that I’ve made I have to take a wedge from center front – pretty much the opposite of what you did to the back (I have to make the full booty adjustment too though!) 🙂 For me, it’s normally remove 1 1/2″ (3/4″ overlap) in front and add 1″ to the back. I have yet to adjust for my prominent thighs.

    I like to take the front wedge out through the zipper area; yes, it leaves me with insanely short zippers but I don’t have the front crotch bagginess anymore.

  3. I made it!! says:

    Gosh last time I sewed a pair of pants I was in grade 8. Yes THAT long ago. There were pink polyester and horrid, but I wore them anyway. I haven’t made a pair of pants or anything of the likes since. Maybe that should be one of my goals for 2014?

  4. gingermakes says:

    Oh man, jeans are so scary! But these look great! I can’t believe they’re your first pair– they’re really pretty spot on! Crotch depth and whatnot just seems so mysterious and worriesome!

  5. Chris says:

    I think you are a couple of steps ahead of me in the jeans-sewing game! I made my first pair just recently (as yet unblogged) and I know I need to do some slight fitting adjustments in the crotch area (oh yes, please, let’s find another word for this!!!). The trouble is I have no idea which ones, but I think I might have prominent thighs as well, so I will google “flattening the front crotch curve” with interest. I like the way you adjusted the leg, by the way. That’s kinda what I am aiming for as well.

    • lisa g says:

      i picked up some fitting ideas from Sarah Veblen’s “complete photo guide to perfect fitting.” there’s a couple pages at the very end that address the shape of the crotch curve, so that book might be helpful to you also!

  6. Mika says:

    These look really good! I can’t help with the fit issues – I just make it up as I go along, tucking and slashing and whatever until I end up with something decent. I can’t wait to see your next pair!

  7. Meigan says:

    These are an awesome first pair of jeans! I have made 3 pairs also using Jalie 2908, and have vowed not to put the waistband on the bias-it stretches out too much! I have a similar shape to you: pear with prominent thighs and I also get that weird fold in my RTW jeans. I made the higher waisted version of the Jalie so they don’t slip down at all and that fold is minimal. I will be curious to follow your jean making quest and progress!

    • lisa g says:

      i do think the poorly fitting waistband contributes to the problem since the pants just can’t anchor on the body. after taking pics i put a belt on and that improved things a tad.

  8. grabill says:

    Those jeans are really good for a first run through! If you figure out the below-fly-fold thing, please please pretty please post about it. Any time I try to buy RTW pants for work they always have that crazy flap-bag to an extreme degree. I’d love to know how to fix it.

  9. MsTegan says:

    I want to jump on the printed skinny jeans bandwagon so badly but because I have a 35″ inseam it’s more like the printed capri bandwagon. I am scared to death to try sewing fitted pants since all of the patterns I see on burdastyle end up skinny on bottom but floofy on top. Floofy is the technical term. Thanks for this — I can relate!

  10. Tia Dia says:

    Your front crotch is too long. If the RTW jeans don’t have the extra fabric, why not compare the length of the RTW front with the Jalie? I have to shorten the front on pants by about 1″, and length (or do an FBA). I have the wrinkling on the back legs, too, but haven’t quite figured out how to solve it. These look AMAZE for the first go! Congrats!

    • lisa g says:

      thanks! i did compare the front rise and the jalie was a tad longer, but the rise on my comparison jeans is lower than i was going for. i suspect that my pelvis tilts back more than the jalie accounts for. at any rate, can’t wait to get another pair made!

  11. Patti says:

    The pants are looking great! To fix some of the back wrinkles, try adding a bit to outer seam at the upper thigh level. See how the wrinkles slant up to the outer seam? They are trying to grab some room. Add a wedge to the outer seam and remove from the hem to keep the lenght correct. I would start with 1/4″.

  12. crab&bee says:

    Yay, jeans! I think yours look great – the leg shape looks especially nice. After my pleated pantscapades, my sights are set on making a pair of skinny jeans – very similar to what you made.

      • crab&bee says:

        Those pleated pants did take the better part of a year to get under control so who knows how jeans will go! I’m tempted to just take the pleats out and use the same (ugh, sorry!) crotch curve. And, I’m pretty nervous about trying rivets and jeans buttons! It is a journey indeed.

  13. Gail says:

    I think they look fantastic. And I bet in real life, you’re very rarely standing still, so no one is going to notice that little wedge 😉 Thanks for all the info – I don’t have jeans on my list yet, but may in the future, and if so I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this!

    • lisa g says:

      you’re exactly right, and as long as i’m wearing a belt to anchor them (the waistband is totally worthless…) i feel no shame in wearing them out of the house. in fact they’re really comfy! i think using a non-traditional denim (corduroy or other stretch twill) makes for great baby steps before doing the real deal.

  14. ThreadTime says:

    I agree with you on the front crotch, but other than that these look awesome. I’m preparing to make jeans, but it will have to wait till I finish a couple projects. I took a few Craftsy classes I thought really good. Betzina has a pants fitting class that address all the issues you talk about. And Kenneth King addresses the waistband. He actually creates straight waistbands (on bias if I remember right) and irons the curve into it. I’m gonna try that one.
    (I actually posted my reviews of a couple jeans classes here http://threadtime.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/sewing-your-own-jeans/)
    Have fun and good luck,
    Ramona

    • lisa g says:

      thanks for all the helpful info, i’ll be checking out your blog for your future jeans! i should really bite the bullet and pay for some of the online courses, i’m sure they would come in handy!

  15. Andrea says:

    I am going to closely follow your adventures in jeans making. Hoping to try pants this year so I totally appreciate the detail you go into about fit. Love that “FBA” for the bottom part of the body and I suspect I’ll be needing that too. And hey, totally hear you about the word “crotch”!

  16. poppykettle says:

    A noble quest! And one I’ve yet to embark on with any seriousness. Seems to me you’re doing pretty well, with really only that folding over of fabric at the front crotch, which I have no doubt you’ll be able to eliminate from your next pair! I find a slightly curved waistband to be ever so much more comfortable than a straight one… but it does become such a fabric hog that way.
    After making the one pair of jeans I have made – I was blown away by just how much the fabric affects the fit. AND then after a few wears I was being seriously judgemental about the fit, only to go back to my RTW jeans… and all of a sudden I was seeing fit issues I’d never even noticed before. Wierd how it’s so easy to be critical of the thing I’ve produced yet not even notice the same issue in an existing pair of pants!
    But in all seriousness – I think this is a pretty awesome outcome for a first trip on the pantaloon merry-go-round. They look pretty smashing 🙂

    • lisa g says:

      that is so true! the RTW gets a pass for it’s flaws, but our own makes… perfection only! i realized some cheap RTW tees i’ve been wearing have terribly floppy neckline bands that i never noticed until recently. that would never be okay for something i made! we all need to cut ourselves some slack. anyways, i’m pretty encouraged by the jeans progress… now i need to find fabric for round two!

  17. Carolyn says:

    Looking forward to seeing how these come out! I have no pants-making experience and am kind of terrified of them, so I applaud you diving in and tackling fitting issues. Go Lisa!

  18. aleah says:

    I admire you taking a leap with a new pattern, but I was not that brave – as a fellow Thurlow lover I wanted to let you know that I made a successful pair of skinny cords with the Thurlow pattern! I traced off the top of the Thurlow pieces, then laid out a pair of skinny jean capris that I love the leg fit on and traced them from the crotch down. And believe it or not it worked! I imagine you could do the same now with the leg of this pattern and the crotch curve and waistband of the Thurlows. They’re not very jeans-like on the top, but for my next pair I’m thinking I’ll convert the back darts to a yoke and curve the pockets to a jean shape. Hey, I found a pant pattern that fits, I’m not going to start all over!

    • lisa g says:

      that’s good to know! although, i think i had a similar crotch curve issue on the thurlow, it’s just less bothersome given that it is more trouser than jeans. i imagine a pattern alteration from dart to yoke will be a piece of cake. good luck!

  19. sew shannon says:

    I am working on Jeans, too! Almost done with my first pair!! I toke Angela Wolf’s Jean class on Crafsty and found it to be incredibly helpful!

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