Dudes, let’s talk about these jeans.
I know I’m late to the “OMG I can actually sew jeans” bandwagon. But that makes it NO LESS TRIUMPHANT.
I started sewing in the pre-online-fabric-store era, where you were pretty much stuck with whatever denim you could source locally, and the only denim you could source locally was rough, zero-stretch, super thick, sandpapery shit in an ugly-ass wash. I never imagined that I’d be able to make jeans that were actually cool and comfortable, so maybe that’s why it took me so long to try.
I had all sorts of reasons in my head not to make jeans. I already have a pair I love, and a bunch of other pairs that are okay. My body is in flux and I’m assuming I’m going to put on a few pounds once I stop nursing. Blah blah, excuses. But then April 30 rolled around and I just decided I wanted to make some damn jeans for Me Made May. (Yes, this post is about 3 months late.) I packed Baby JuJu into her stroller and picked up Simplicity 8222 (99 cent sale, baby!), the nicest denim I could find at Joann’s, some denim thread and needles, and even the right kind of button. I was going to make this happen!
TL; DR — I totally did. I love the way these turned out!
Okay, so the pattern: I really enjoyed using this pattern and the Mimi G video tutorial. I didn’t expect to use the YouTube portion much, since I’m a reader and printed instructions are what I prefer, but I’m rethinking everything right now. I LOVED the video tutorials, and was shocked at how I really didn’t need the printed instructions at all. In fact, the only times I stumbled were when I used the printed instructions instead of just going with the next step in the video. It was such a fun way to sew! I’ve ignored the video component on my other Mimi G makes, but no more. I’m sold, and I’m taking a second look at her line to find more gems because it was just a lovely change of pace.
The pattern has three different back pieces for each size (slim, average, curvy), and I went with slim. (I lost my booty somewhere during pregnancy and suffer from severe Concave Butt Syndrome at the moment.) I also saw a few other reviews that noted they cut a size smaller than usual, so I went with the smaller of the sizes I fell between (8 vs my usual 10). I can’t speak for anything beyond my own experience, but these jeans fit great with almost zero alterations.
- Caveat 1: I did take out a smidge extra from the back yoke.
- Caveat 2: I’m not a super fit-freak, so I’m not talking about having zero wrinkles, just about having jeans that fit my waist, hips, and body as well as I would expect from RTW.
- Caveat 3: They’re stretchy skinny jeans, so fit isn’t super hard. Right? Because if not, these are miracle jeans!
I was SWEATING when it came time to baste everything together and try them on. After looking at the waistband pieces, I was sure I was courting disaster with my reckless decision to size down. Nope! They fit better than I could’ve hoped. So, if your body type is similar to mine, consider trying these and going with the slim fit.
The entire process was just so much more fun than I anticipated! Of course, I was anticipating hell on earth, so there’s that. But really, the attention to detail, the precision, the constant changing of thread from regular to topstitching — it all felt fun and purposeful, and not nearly as bad as I thought. Yes, jeans take some extra work. But honestly, it didn’t feel like that much extra. Just more topstitching. Which, surprisingly to me, I kind of nailed.
My machine has really taken a shit lately, and I was afraid the topstitching would be super wonky. But apparently, it’s just lighter fabrics that I’m struggling with, because my old Kenmore handled this denim like a champ! I did unpick a good deal of stitching, but it wasn’t that bad — at least it felt purposeful, and it was a choice each time to aim for a better end result instead of sticking with something slightly crooked or wavy.
The only big change I made was to the fly. I read through reviews — be sure to check out That Black Chic’s review of 8222 — and knew that the zipper placement could be problematic. And yeah, it was. If I hadn’t made any edits, the zipper teeth would probably be visible constantly. So instead of placing the zipper tape 1/4″ over from the seamline as directed, I placed it 5/8″ over, based on how my RTW jeans are designed. That almost solved the problem. My zipper stop is sticking out at the very top — which probably has to do with the button/buttonhole placement. If I’d overlapped those a smidge more, I might be fine. Either way, I’m going to bump up that distance a bit more if I can next time, or at least be super-cautious about the button placement.
This is one of those fixes that I couldn’t make sense of until I was in the thick of it. I read the reviews, I read the instructions, but I couldn’t figure it out until I was doing it, and then it made more sense. So if you’re scratching your head, maybe give it a go anyway, and trust yourself to figure it out. Also, next time, I’m going to add about an inch to the front edges of the waistband to make sure I have enough leeway to make up for the added segment to the fly. Since any excess will just be cut off in the seam allowance (provided I line up all my other edges and notches first), it shouldn’t affect the fit, but will ensure that I’ve got enough waistband to work with — it was a close call on this pair!
I also took the opportunity to finally have the ankle length I always wish for — yay! It’s so hard to find shorter jeans, but they’re my true love.
I will say that the biggest hurdle of making jeans is that the first third flies by and it seems like, “Hey, this is great! Let’s make all the jeans!” The second third is like, “Still going strong. Let’s knock these out, already.” And the final third is like, “Make jeans, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” I definitely felt my enthusiasm wane in the last few steps.
Of course, my machine also gave up on me. I left the buttonhole for last, knowing that my Kenmore was going to suck at it. Don’t do that — get that buttonhole sewn in before installing the belt loops or your buttonhole foot may get stuck. And you may end up having your machine eat your jeans. In the front. Very noticeably. On the very last step. And you may have to call your mom in (who is thankfully on hand, watching your baby) and have her help you dig your almost-complete jeans out and then advise on how to create a buttonhole without a functional zig-zag stitch. Just saying.
And let’s talk about the fabric for a second. This stretch denim is from Joann, and it has performed beautifully. I’m not 100% positive, but I think it’s an 11 oz 61% Cotton/31% Modal Rayon/6% Polyester/2% Spandex blend. It has great stretch, and more importantly, great recovery. I have crawled all over the floor, done a ton of bending and reaching, and these jeans haven’t bagged out. I mean, they’re also a pretty tight fit, but still. I’m a fan. This denim was $19.99/yd, but you can wait for a 40% off denim sale and get it for $11.99, which is super reasonable. The wash is nice and dark, but still reads as blue. I can’t advise on how it wears in the long run, but I’m hoping it gets some nice natural wear patterns so that these will age gracefully, even with the low cotton content.
Okay — this is getting too long. Love the pattern, love the jeans, they were a fun project, and I’m going to get so much use out of them.
Welcome to the closet, my denim darlings!