Making jeans can seem daunting and stressful to even think about. Working with denim, the different needles, adding rivets and buttons, choosing the right fabric and thread, etc. Is it more work than fun? I created the below e-guide to show you how you can turn jean making into a DIY adventure rather than a scary task.
Why So Scary?
Rather than go through the work of physically making your own jeans, it may be easier to just buy them off the rack. Making jeans can seem pretty involved and detailed. Top-stitching and making that dreaded front zipper fly can seem rather daunting too.
Making your own jeans however can have some of the greatest upsides. For one thing, they’re CUSTOM jeans! YOU made them and YOU get to rock your own creation that fits to your body according to your measurements and specific details. You also have so many options when making your own jeans. You can choose the top-stitching you use, your color or type of denim, and if you want a button or zipper fly.
One last upside I’ve found is that it can be cheaper! A good pair of quality jeans can cost around $50-200! With about 1 1/2-4 yards of fabric (this varies of course), depending on the type of denim you use, you can create a good pair of quality denim jeans for close to $40 or less.
Tools You’ll Need
To get started making jeans you’ll need to have a few things in order. Below I’ve listed some basic things to get you started. Please note that items and supplies vary by everyone’s circumstances and I have accounted for that in the information below.
- Jeans Needle
Denim is thick so you will need a corresponding needle to go through that thickness easily. Most jean needles are sized at 100/18
- Top-stitching thread
Choose top-stitching thread that coordinates well with the color of denim you choose. Generally there are three colors of top stitching thread; gold, light blue, and cream. Make sure to get 2 or 3 spools as top-stitching thread comes in spools of 50-180 yards only and you may need more for potential mistakes.
- Second sewing machine
Not everyone is able to have this option, but if you are, setting up a second straight stitch machine is useful so that you do not need to switch out the regular thread and top-stitching thread often. If you don’t have this option do as much top-stitching as possible at one time to avoid frequent switching.
- Quality denim
You may want to start with denim from your local fabric store first to learn how to best work with denim for yourself. However after initial practice, working with denim such as Cone Mills or higher quality brands can step up your game so you can get used to working with sturdy and efficient denim, thus improving your quality of sewing.
- Quality buttons
Quality with jeans buttons varies. Dritz buttons work best in my opinion but they leave you limited in terms of style. Always check Amazon for reviews if considering a different type of button for your jeans.
- A Seam Ripper
Don’t be afraid to take top-stitching out and do it again. Especially when making a front fly as the top-stitching is very visible.
- Remember that rivets and leather are optional
Those little rivets and that leather patch are great details for jeans, however they’re not completely necessary. Don’t spend extra money on nonessential items if you don’t absolutely love the idea or want them.
How to Get Started
1.Choose your pattern
I’ve listed some great beginner and advanced sewing patterns below that are great starters for jeans making. As you work your way through the list you can gear more towards the advanced section of the list and try some experimenting on the best fit of jeans for you.
2. Choose your corresponding denim
Some patterns require denim with a lot of stretch, some require a little stretch, some require none at all. You may find too that with your body type a non-stretch pattern may need some denim with some stretch in it to accommodate your bum. This will take some research on your part to see what others experienced when making the pattern and it might even take you a few muslins to get it right as well. Don’t give up!
3. Pay attention to your chosen jean type
Not all jeans fit the same. Some fit slim and some fit loose, some even fit slim at the waist and looser at the thighs and below. Pay attention to the type of jeans you’ve chosen to make so that you can be prepared for the fit you are signing up for.
4. Plan your jean details
Choose your button colors/types, your top-stitching and your rivets ahead of time and decisively. Make sure you have the best color for your choice of denim.
5. Be patient and go slowly
Making the pants isn’t the worst part of jeans making, it’s that darn top-stitching. Go slowly and be patient with your machine, letting the jean needle do the work. In some instances when going over multiple layers of fabric you may need to turn the sewing machine manually to help the needle through. When it comes to the fly, try using the guide provided with the pattern chosen and trace it onto your pants using a pencil or tailor’s chalk. This will help you get the lines more precise.
6. Don’t expect store-bought quality
The way your jeans look can vary depending on your skill level! Be patient, practice makes perfect and have some fun with it! Don’t compare your jeans to those you may find on the rack. They may look better! Or they may look like they need some work. Either way they’re your custom jeans and they were made for you by you.
7. Take note of adjustments needed and personal problem areas
Pants come with their own set of common adjustments depending on the body type. This may call for some alterations to the waistband and a lot of seam ripping. Remember that it is totally worth it to go back and fix any problems on your pair of jeans so that you can get the best fit and wear from them.
Beginner Jeans Making Patterns
Simplicity #8655– this pattern can help you get familiar with stretch denim. It has no fly in the front, just a side invisible zipper making it an easy faux jeans cheat
Dawn Jeans by Megan Nielsen– button fly, 4 jeans in 1 for variation and different learning levels, and simple design.
Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Patterns – Non stretch, invisible button fly, and easy to follow instructions make these boyfriend jeans my pick for an easy pair of durable long-lasting jeans
Intermediate to Advanced Jeans Patterns
Lander Pants– Visible button fly, high-waisted, and versatile options. Start with shorts first if you’re worried about that button fly and want some practice
Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns – I’ve heard good things about the Ginger jeans, great fit and a zipper fly with multiple rise options make it a good intermediate choice
Heroine Jeans by Merchant & Mills– these jeans speak working woman to me. A wider leg than boyfriend jeans but still a relaxed and easy fit. This pattern only comes in printed form.
Simplicity 8222– With multiple sizing options for the bum and a stretch fit, these jeans are great skinny options. The zipper fly makes it intermediate learning level but the SEWALONG Mimi provides helps you out where you need it.