I thought I’d pass on a number of tips I’ve learnt while making jeans – I’m definitely not an expert – but I’ve learnt heaps in the few years I’ve been sewing. If you have any additional tips please leave me a comment at the end of the blog post.
When sewing denim use a denim needle with polyester thread. I use a stitch length of 2.8 for construction stitching with polyester thread and a 3.5 topstitching needle with heavier weight thread for topstitching. If your machine doesn’t let you use topstitching thread, like my Bernina 830, try heavyweight thread it’s slightly thinner. Alternatively, you can use two spools of regular thread threaded through the eye of a single denim needle(as pictured above). The stitching will look very similar to topstitching thread. I like to interface one side of my waistband as I like a firm, yet comfortable waistband. For extra durability, I iron an extra layer of interfacing to the area where the buttonhole and button sits.
I recommend sewing your pockets so there is no overlocking visible. A French seam (as shown below) is a much neater finish.
Pretty guts of Paul’s jeans
For my buttonhole on jeans, I tend to sew the buttonhole at least twice. A jean buttonhole tends to be more structured than a regular buttonhole.
For belt loops, I sew them in one long strip and cut and press them to the right size. Some patterns have you make them individually. This is unnecessarily fiddly! If you have a favourite belt, size your belt loops big enough to allow for topstitching. I press my belt loops and hammer then flat before adding them onto my jeans.
On bulky areas of my jeans, I use a mock Hump-jumper. Normally I just use my library card or a piece of cardboard as a hump jumper to help the foot of the sewing machine stay level to ‘jump’ over the hump. This is a tip I picked up from By Gumby Golly. She sews amazing jeans with beautiful topstitching. She had a wonderful series of videos on her Instagram highlights which helped me perfect my topstitching on this pair.
Before starting your jeans I think it helps to decide on your design details. I choose my pocket lining fabric, bartack colour, pocket design, metal studs etc all before cutting out my jeans. I want my jeans to match with garments in my wardrobe so I chose thread for bar tacks which tones with colours in my wardrobe. For my ginger jeans, I went with teal green on back denim.
The pocket bags are scraps of African wax Fabric. My Safran jeans are deep blue denim with maroon bartacks and leftover batik cotton. I sew bartacks as I find them way easier than hammering in studs and they give my jeans a nice design detail. Bartacks also don’t damage my clothes like some studs do.
I recently discovered Prim kits – they are so well designed! I bought a bunch on my recent holiday as they’re hard to find in New Zealand. The white rubber stopper protects the top of the stud or snaps and the device helps you to install the hardware correctly. Over the years I’ve had to put up with so many dinted studs which I couldn’t remove until they caught on something (I’m looking at you denim jacket). Once you have the device I think you could use other branded products as well. I bought the individual kits but I’ve heard great things about the Vario pliers which I might upgrade to in the future.
I keep a post-it note next to my machine with my stitch details. These are easy to forget! If you have access to two sewing machines it’s ideal to have them both set up so you can use one for topstitching and one for regular seams. I recently bought an edge stitch foot – it is AMAZING! It was so helpful to get a get finish on Paul’s Ruby gem pockets – I never use to use different sewing feet well I use this foot EVERY TIME I SEW. If you don’t have one GET ONE!
For pockets, Closet Case Patterns have some great free design temples for back pocket stitching. You can transfer the design onto the jeans using chalk or trace the design onto tissue paper. You sew through the tissue paper and the pockets then carefully pull the tissue paper away from the seam. To get sharp corners on jeans pockets The Last Stitch recommends using a card template to create sharp corners and has lots of amazing tips on her blogs.
Heather from Closet Case Patterns has written a pant fitting guide for free download here if sewing pants terrify you. My biggest tip is if you don’t try you don’t learn – give it a go! My first jeans were a bit of a hot mess but I wore them proudly. My second pair were way better.
These are all the tips I’ve collected over the years. If you have any more or suggest any resources please leave me a comment.