2017 FO-12 : My first jeans

MADE: My first jeans

I always think I don’t have much to say about any given FO — that the post will be mostly pictures. And then I inevitably proceed to write 3000 words. But I feel like I have just three words to say about this one: I. Made. Jeans. I’ve said it about a hundred times since it happened. I made jeans. But beyond that, there really isn’t a lot to say, since, as it turns out, there’s not much to it! Open up the pattern, find your size, follow the instructions (and/or the tutorials or online class), and you’ll wind up with a pair of one-of-a-kind jeans. So many sewers told me that, and it turns out to be perfectly true.

MADE: My first jeans

In my case, I had the good fortune to make this first pair (Oh yes, there will be more!) in the company of the pattern designer, Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns, and a roomful of really awesome women in the big classroom space at Fancy Tiger Crafts. With Heather there, she could not only demonstrate each step before we did it, but we each arrived for the workshop weekend with our jeans cut and basted together, so step one was a fitting with Heather. There were 16 of us, I believe, and not only did we all leave with finished jeans, they were each fascinatingly unique to the person who made them. Not just in the sense of fit — although there was that. (Look at this video Heather posted. HEART!) But also in the details: whether we were making Ginger skinny jeans or Morgan jeans, zip-fly or button, what color our denim was (stretch or non), what fabric we chose for our pocket linings, thread color, whether we did any fancy stitching on the pockets … so many personal little details. (Mine: Morgan jeans, zip fly, dark indigo denim, non-stretch, striped khadi pocket linings, gold topstitching, no pocket decoration.) When we all stood together in our JEANS on Sunday for class photos, I could hardly stand how awesome it was. They all looked so legit and professional, and yet there was no chance of mixing up any two pairs. We had all made our mark.

MADE: My first jeans

I did get a little stressed out at the end of the day on Saturday — the second of two all-day days of being in a room sewing nonstop (with a half-day left to go). I was determined to get the shape of the thigh exactly right. Heather had asked us not to concern ourselves too much with perfection on what was sure to be our first of several pairs. But I didn’t want to leave with a pair that didn’t quite fit me in the same exact way as the other jeans already in my closet don’t quite fit me. I told myself before I went that I would rather come home with a pattern piece for the leg that was just what I wanted than with finished jeans. So I was taking the time (and Heather was indulging me) to tweak the thigh, at a point where I was incredibly tired and falling behind. So yeah, I almost cried when I had to do it five times and then catch up with everyone else, but it was nothing to do with the pattern or the difficulty level or anything. It was all me. And it was worth it — I have the customized pattern piece AND the finished jeans.

Well, almost. The only thing I didn’t get done is attaching the belt loops, which I will get around to but am in no rush about, since I don’t even own a belt. And I’m putting off hemming them until they’ve been worn a bunch and washed a few times.

MADE: My first jeans

I’ve been saying for a few years that my goal in life was to one day be wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, a combo as ordinary as possible, except that I made them both — but in all honesty, I never really imagined the jeans would ever happen. It seemed SO far-fetched. As usual, a public commitment to do something is what made it happen for me, and sewing my first Archer this summer really made it manageable. When I unfolded the Morgan pattern to start my homework, and saw that it all fit on one piece of pattern tissue and was fewer pieces than Archer, I let out a little snort of relief.

I am telling you straight up: If you can make a button-up shirt, you can make jeans. I am wearing the proof.

Pattern: Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Patterns, size 12, tweaked for fit*
Fabric: Unknown selvage denim from a friend of a friend’s stash**
Cost: $18 pattern + $40 fabric + ~$2 khadi scraps + $9 hardware kit + $4 top-stitching thread = $73


*My only pattern mod, other than the fitting, was to widen/straighten the lower leg.

**The FoF believed it to be Japanese made and dyed with natural indigo, but the friend doubts the latter. Since naturally dyed fabric is basically non-existent in the commercial realm other than some people dabbling in natural indigo denim, I was really trying to find and use a naturally dyed fabric, but this fabric might not have been. I’ll never know for sure!

Special thanks to Heather, also, for snapping these FO photos of me, somewhere near Redstone CO.


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Fisherman sweater redux




67 thoughts on “2017 FO-12 : My first jeans

    • Amazing! You look great! I remember a previous post… long time ago where you were saying “no way no jeans!” So congratulations for this first one, the first of a long series. Bravo. Ps: no no I have never sewned any pair of jeans neither high technical clothes but you are inspiring. Thanks for your share!

      • I know! It seemed so totally unimaginable. And then I watched a million people do it on Instagram and realized it’s just sewing.

        It’s exactly like I’m always telling people about sweaters: It’s just knitting. There’s more of a it and you’ll pick up a few new tricks, but it’s just knitting.

    • It’s so crazy to me that these are the nicest and best-fitting jeans I’ve ever owned, and I made them. They’re nicer than my I+W jeans (at a fraction of the price), and I’ve genuinely never had the experience of putting on a pair of jeans and having them hug my lower back so precisely. It’s wild.

    • Maybe! But mostly, between this and the button-up and even the pull-on pants (what I call my “toddler pants”) I feel like I can really make anything I want. There are probably things I don’t want (ball gowns, corsets, whatever) that I couldn’t make, but in the realm of what I would ever dream up and wear, I can almost certainly make it. And that is a game changer like no other.

    • Thanks! I was pawing through my scraps pile looking for something suitable, and this was some hand-woven khadi I had bought at Verb while I still lived in Berkeley. So it feels extra special as a choice here.

  1. Amazing! I hope to make jeans in the next year. And yes, a coat or jacket (tamarack?) would be an awesome next project…….

  2. They look amazing! I’d love to hear more about how/why you tweaked the thigh piece, and how the two pieces (original and modified) compare to each other!

    • I’m basically a square in my hips — if you look at me straight on — and have a flat butt, but then my thighs do taper down from there. And the result of all of that is the back leg of my jeans is always too wide, so there’s this weird pooch of fabric on the outsides of my thighs. It makes me nuts.

      We pinched and removed and pinched and removed, and in the end my pattern piece basically has a big carve-out in the thigh on the back leg. It looks completely bizarre and like it would never work if you tried to sew something out of it, and yet it does work.

  3. Bravo, you!!! Maybe someday I’ll be patient and brave enough to make a pair of jeans I love. Thanks for all of your inspiration.

    • If not for the class, had I ever decided to tackle this on my own, I would have done it the same way I did Archer — just set out with the expectation that I would work on it a little bit here and there over the course of a few weeks, one step at a time.

  4. Unbelievably awesome – i put it right up there with the tailored men’s jacket I made years ago with welt pockets etc. You rock and I might just do it.

  5. I love that you titled it “My First Jeans”. That means many more. I would be so scared to have such a contrast stitching for the world to see. Yours is perfect. I would love to have jeans without stretch. All my RTW can only be worn a few times between washes, due to the stretch out. And I am so scared of fitting. But you inspire me to try. That is one of the best things about this blog.

    • I know people love it, but I personally despise stretch denim, cannot stand wearing it, tugging at it it, etc. We went through this era with “skinny jeans” where there was no such thing as women’s jeans made with true denim. I spent a few years routinely going into stores and asking point-blank if they had any non-stretch denim jeans, and the looks I got … I wish I had video of it. The best was when I asked that in the Levi’s store on Union Square in SF. I thought they, of all people, would still have at least one style they made in good old denim. Right? They looked at me like I was speaking in tongues and they didn’t know how to respond. Or like a homeless person had wandered in off the street and they were in a bit of a silent panic.

      So now there are people making denim jeans again, but none of them fit me. In the post-skinny jeans era, I swear the silhouettes have changed. I’ve always preferred men’s jeans, but now women’s jeans are basically not even an option for me. They’re all so narrow in the calf, that any pair I can get over my lower leg will be enormous in the butt and thighs.

      All of which makes the knowledge that I can make my own custom-fit jeans just that much more of a thrill and a relief.

  6. Isn’t it funny how we tell ourselves we could never do something like make jeans and then you do it and are like why was I so afraid? I was actually like that with my first sweater and I commented here and you told me, if I can knit a mitten thumb gusset surely I could knit a sweater and you were right! As makers, we all clearly need to have more faith in our abilities. The jeans look awesome!

  7. Wow . . . One thing holding me back is that I don’t feel confident about being able to sew neatly over the multiple-layers areas of denim. Your denim looks like a good 12 oz. or so – any problems?
    And, I’m kinda liking the the no-belt-loops look – I’d only need one to hang my watch from.

    • The FoF said he thought this denim was 11.5 oz. When I first pulled it out of the dryer, I was afraid it was too thin and might make them seem flimsy or insubstantial, but it’s perfect. And I had no trouble sewing it with a denim needle. It does help to take a hammer to any really thick parts, though, fyi if you don’t already know that trick.

  8. Amazing job! I love the little diagonal khadi stripes on the fly, so pretty. I can’t wait to make some non-stretch jeans soon and I love your take on the Morgan. For anyone else out there feeling intimidated by jeans but unable to make it to a workshop, the Closet Case e-book is terrific.

  9. These are awesome. I love the option of being able to leave off the bulky (and in my case) unnecessary belt loops. And everything you said about stretch denim, current jeans and the way they are cut, rings true for me. I think they are immensely unflattering to even the slimmest of bodies. Give me my boy-cut, straight legged, traditional, softer by the day, unstretchy jeans and I’m happy. That said, they are patched beyond the beyond and I truly need a new pair of dark, classic, simple jeans. JUST LIKE YOURS, dammit. Love em and kudos!

  10. Now standard response when looking at Karen Templer’s FOs: Wow Wow Wow! Great job. You’ve made me want to sew (but sew well) again.

    • Having committed to the class like a year ago, I was determined to sew at least one pants-like garment in the interim! But really the Archer was more meaningful in terms of working up to them. Although both were great topstitching practice.

      I love topstitching.

  11. Congratulations!!! These are amazingly beautiful jeans! And perfect! Just loved the fabric you chose for the inner pockets: stylish! Keep up to good work!!!

  12. Congratulations! They look fantastic, and I’m glad you used the pattern I’m planning on using first. (I think I’ve mentioned my desire to make the Birkin Flares as well, but the denim I have in stock is non-stretch). I think jeans rate up there with bathing suits – whoo! issues galore come flying out! Glad that taking control of the process eases some of that, and I’m amused by the fact that you don’t own a belt. I could totally see you in a white pair next!

  13. They look so great! Congrats! I love that you love topstitching 😊

    I have one of the Closet Case Morgan kits with Cone Mills denim, and the pattern, and even the e-book, and I’m determined to join you in I-made-jeans land… someday! I was all excited to take Heather’s class this summer since she was teaching near me, but it wound up being 2 months after I had a baby and all-day intense sewing workshops were Not Happening at that point (I think I may need to no longer be someone’s sole source of nutrition before I can do stuff like that again, sigh).

    I dimly recall Heather saying at some point that she’s not doing much (any?) travel-teaching next year. The thing I’d most want a class for is the fitting — have any advanced beginners out there tried making jeans with the Closet Case e-book/online class, and if so did you feel confident you could accomplish the fitting part on your own? Karen, do you think you would have been able to figure out your pesky thigh dilemma working only from non-interactive resources?

    • I made a Sophie swimsuit with Heather’s online course this Summer and it came out great. I made my first pair of Ginger’s with just the ebook, and they came out great as well. I would say start with the Ginger’s because they are stretch and so the fitting is much easier. Once you are confident with the construction, you’ll most likely be able to address any fit issues. I say go for it! Heather’s patterns rock, and her pattern support is fabulous….. Don’t be nervous, dive right in, like Karen did!

  14. WOW, these jeans are amazing, what a beautiful job you did sewing. I would love to learn how to fit and sew my own jeans.
    Love your blog,you are one talented women.

  15. Good for you!! Pants fitting is one of those things that can be a beast, but is so worth it. And I love how this post celebrates the journey of making, even more than the finished product. I stand by what you’ve said, anyone can make jeans/pants who wants to, just start trying!

  16. Wow! They are beautiful. Sewing machines and I made a pact years ago. We stay away from each other, the world mostly retains balance. I drool with envy over anything anyone sews. As a knitter, I have a huge stash of yarn, and so later made the resolution that knitting had to be my only fiber hobby. But….those jeans are a work of art!

  17. The jeans looks really great! Looks professional. I’m proud of you, Karen. There’s a sewing machine in my house and I’ve just started learning how to use it. My stitches are not so straight and the bobbin thread keeps getting bunched up! I’m working on it though and I’m really hoping that I get the hang of it. You made jeans! 😁😁 and they look good on you.
    I just opened my blog recently and I would love for you to check it out whenever you’re free.
    Much love!

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  19. My grandmother said, “Better late than never”. However, I am really sorry to be so late to this celebration. Congratulations on a very excellent job making your first pair of jeans, and with such a nice fit. Now you know you can sew anything. So proud of you and your accomplishment!

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  21. Very nice, you are blessed with talent.
    You are a mentor, I could learn too from you.
    Thank you

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  23. Yes! I will be attending Heather’s jeans class in London(UK) next weekend and your post made my heart sing: I may actually have a pair of (unfinished) fitted jeans at the end!! I am much the very opposite if your figure, but as I read it, this is not of importance: my own persistance matters most :-)
    Thanks for a lovely post!! I came through Heathers blogpost pn the seminar.

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