Just under the wire (ON January 31st), I finished my make for January—the beloved Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns. At this point in this pattern’s life, I don’t think that anyone needs to explain why they decided to make Gingers. There are over 13,000 posts under the hashtag on Instagram! People just love this pattern and Heather Lou is an extremely thorough and thoughtful pattern designer. Most importantly, I haven’t had skinny jeans in my closet since 2016 when I did KonMari the first time around (or maybe it was when we moved later that year? idk) and I tossed my skinny jeans because they were driving me bonkers. I hadn’t taken great care of my classic indigo pair and they had shrunk in unflattering ways, plus the weight of the denim was too light and the rise was too low for my long-waisted, mom-bod liking. It must also have been 2016 when I saw a pair of good-looking handmade jeans for the first time on my sewing teacher Andrea and realized that good jeans were within my reach, so I filed away the idea to make my own… eventually. 2015-2017 wasn’t a great time to commit to jeans-making as I was pregnant off and on (I had two miscarriages before finally getting pregnant at the end of 2016) but I knew I’d get around to it!
Flash forward to 2018, when Heather Lou started her “No Fear New Jeans” campaign in January, which coincided with my sewing renaissance. I bought the pattern on sale and held onto it a few more months before caving and buying a beautiful Cone Mills denim kit from Closet Case in the fall, and then on Black Friday I was like OKAY FINE I’LL BUY THE SEW YOUR DREAM JEANS COURSE TOO and now here we are sewing my dream jeans.
Let’s start with the muslin.
I bought a 7 oz white denim from Joann because my previous pair of sad, ill-fitting white jeans also didn’t make the cut in 2016 (they had the lowest rise in the land) and I’d been missing them once spring hit that year. My measurements fall between an 8 and a 10 on the Closet Case chart and I threw caution to the wind and sewed an 8. They were MIGHTY snug but even though the fabric didn’t feel as stretchy as the Cone denim they’ve relaxed a bit after a few wears. I was foolish and serged down the seams to 3/8″ after the basting stage even though I should have let out the side seams about 1/4″, so I ended up faking it and let out the seam as far as I possibly could at the edge of the serge line. It made a difference but I hope it doesn’t fall apart after a few washes, oops.
And here’s my butt:
Bonus butt shot, because trying to place pockets without another adult in the house is hysterical. My 5 year old did an admiral job photographing me and said “I took a few because I thought maybe Dad would want to see them all!” She’s a darling.
My toddler got sick the week after I made this pair, and then I got sick, and my dream jeans were put on hiatus till the last possible second but I finally felt good enough to work on them the last week of January. And They. Are. So! Good!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!! I’m telling you, I’ve never felt so good in a pair of jeans. I never knew that RTW fit me so poorly. I don’t have to hike these up, they don’t give me a wedgie (in front OR back), and they are exactly the right inseam length. It’s glorious.
One thing I had been dreading about jeans was the amount of visible topstitching, since I’ve 1) never sewn contrasting topstitching on any other pants so the mistakes weren’t as visible, and 2) never actually used topstitching thread before! I’ll be honest, it really is as much of a pain as people say it is. In theory I don’t mind the idea of topstitching because I’ve come to love slow sewing projects and take my time getting details just right, but my machine is just as finicky as everyone else’s when it comes to topstitching thread and I unpicked a lot of seams (and also sewed my finger which is as painful as it sounds). I read these tips for topstitching on the Cashmerette blog before getting started, which was SUPER helpful to reference. The commenters on that post also had some great tips, including using a topstitching needle (is there seriously a needle for everything) and using two strands of regular thread in lieu of topstitching thread (GENIUS and this is what I did for my muslin—it was so much less complicated and my machine didn’t rebel like it did with the topstitching thread). Unfortunately for me, there isn’t an edgestitch foot that fits my machine! I sew on a vintage Elna SU and I searched high and low, but couldn’t find one that fit my machine. I had to take my stitches very slow and move my needle position in creative ways depending on the seam, but my painstaking efforts really make me appreciate the details that much more. Like my red bar tacks!
I love them. Just the right amount of personalization without taking away the classic jeans look. I also used topstitching thread for the bar tacks, which was troublesome at times—I realized they looked wonky when the bobbin thread didn’t match, unlike with the gold topstitching, so I decided to change it out and start over after I’d sewn them all—but worth unpicking when they looked terrible.
Now for the classic pocket bag view:
This is leftover quilting cotton that I bought for a project when we lived in Philly. I’ve always loved the bold print but not for my own garments (I used the fabric to cover a toy box lid for my daughter), so this was the right place to use it up.
*Note: I also added rivets to this pair after photographing them, which was more of a pain than I thought it would be. They’re totally imperfect, but they’re hammered in there nice and tight so no turning back now!
Based on the tightness of my muslin I originally planned to grade from an 8 in the waist to a 10 in the hip for my final version, but then I handled the Cone denim again and it felt stretchier than the muslin denim even though they have the same amount of Lycra in them. So I crossed my fingers and cut a straight 8 again (which is funny/annoying because I printed off the pattern again AND graded it, and I ended up just tossing it in the end in favor of my original size 8 pattern), which was the right choice because the fabric did relax after a day of wearing. I noticed in my white pair that the waistband had a little bit of gaping at the sides, so I added darts to the pattern piece (note to self: photograph this and add the picture later so you know what I’m talking about). I also subtracted 2″ from the inseam and added 1″ to the rise, which put them at about the same rise as my beloved Persephone Pants. These are adjustments discussed in the Closet Case sewalong as well as the online workshop, so if you’re curious about common adjustments for jeans you should check those out!
There is no shortage of information about jeans-making on sewing blogs everywhere, but I’ll tell you the gist of it: follow a sew-along and/or buy an online course > muslin > adjust > final. Everyone has done the planning work for you, so just do it!! An optional first step that I didn’t realize that I’d already taken was to attempt a different fitted pants pattern (I made both Lander Pants and Persephone Pants in 2018), so I had an idea of what potential fit issues I might face with jeans. Making any fitted pants really takes the fear out of sewing jeans. Jeans just take a lot of patience, but 100% worth it in the end. I’m more proud of my jeans than I am of my children. (Kidding.) (Am I?)
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P A T T E R N : Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns
M O D I F I C A T I O N S : Added 1″ to rise, subtracted 2″ from inseam, darted curved waistband to eliminate gaping on side seams
O V E R A L L : Believe the hype about Ginger.