5 tips for sewing your first pair of jeans

5 tips for sewing your first pair of jeans

Making a pair of jeans feels like one of those milestone steps in learning to sew for me. The sense of achievement I had with my first successfully completed pair was the same as I had with my first cushion, my first skirt and first dress. There are a lot of posts with great advice for sewing with denim and making jeans which I'll link to; however, I always think that the first time you make anything there are things that you especially need to know before you start. These are my top 5 tips for first time jeans makers.

1. Choose a pattern with lots of help attached.

Some indie pattern designers have tutorials, videos or sewalongs to accompany them which are perfect for beginners as they guide you through each step with lovely colour photographs (which I personally find more useful than illustrations).

Closet Case Files have three starting points: an ebook, sewalongs and a brand new online class - Sew Your Dream Jeans (tempting title). So far I've only checked out the Ginger sewalong but this looks pretty informative.


Indiesew also have an online jeans making class. This one doesn't appear to include a pattern but instead helps you to recreate your favourite pair. There are also some helpful posts on this site too.
The Sew Over It eBook is pretty clear to help with making the Mia jeans, and there is a video tutorial on their blog for tackling the zip fly. If you prefer a face to face session then they also have classes in their London shops too.

2. Choose a pattern which involves using stretch denim.

Not everybody likes skinny jeans. That's fine and you don't need to make these for your first pair. If you want flares, go for flares. However, if you do go for skinny jeans and use stretch denim this is a more forgiving fabric to work with for your first go. Part of the point of making your own jeans is fitting them to your measurements so that they look fabulous. Fitting stretch denim is definitely easier in my opinion. (Try to find at least 20% stretch).
If you are using stretch denim you will need to think about stretch interfacing too for waistbands. Non-stretch is fine too...it depends on if you want it to stretch!!!

5 tips for sewing your first pair of jeans

3. Make a toile.

Normally I fit as I go because I am too impatient to make a toile. However, there isn't a lot of room for error in a great fitting pair of jeans so it is a good idea to spend a little time with a practice pair. If you make a toile, and pin together the closure rather than insert the zip, you can at least get a broad idea of where the adjustments will need to be made. Some jeans will give finished measurements which will give an indication of where you might need to alter the pattern. Others include generous seam allowances in areas which there are common adjustments to give you some flexibility. It's really worth doing this for a first project.

I didn't - you could just about get away with it for the Mia jeans but I still think it's worth doing. I will make a toile for for my next pair of jeans though because I want an even better fit.

4. Set aside a lot of time for seams.

Seams on jeans take a lot of strain so they need more attention than on some other garments. There are a few different methods for these, and you may well come across the term 'flat felled seams' which involves quite a few steps. If you've found a beginner's pattern with lots of help they might use a simpler approach. Once a seam is sewn you finish it with a zig zag or overlocker, and then you press it to the side. Then you sew two rows of topstitching to anchor this in place. You need to do all this after each seam as you go, not save up and do in one go. This is because you may not be able to access areas for topstitching at the next step.

I'd recommend using a denim or jeans needle for your machine. This will help protect your fabric and make sure these seams last! You may also find that your machine doesn't like sewing through multiple layers. Use the handwheel instead for a few stitches.

You may also want to consider an edgestitch foot. If you are not a confident topstitcher (guilty) this will help to make sure that your stitch lines are parallel. You can also choose to use a matching thread for your topstitching if you aren't confident. Imperfections are less noticeable than with a contrasting thread.

cutting denim to avoid leg twist

5. Cut out fabric in one layer.

Grainlines are very important in jeans; if you don't use these you can get fabric 'twist'. I have found the best illustration and explanation of how to achieve this on the Ginger jeans sewalong. If you follow this method you will have a right and a left of each pattern piece cut from a single layer.

Those are my top 5 tips for making your first pair of jeans. Let me know how you get on....and if you've made your first pair already leave us your top tip too!

5 tips for sewing your first pair of jeans

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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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