I think that pants are one of the hardest things to fit well. There are so many dimensions to take into account! Circumferences, angles, variation in rise, distribution of body mass, all of those things. You’ve probably noticed that the pants I make tend to have particular features. They almost all have at least partially elasticised waists. If they are in a non-stretch woven fabric they are usually loose fitting. If they are slim fitting they are in stretch wovens. This certainly helps to keep fitting easy. Either the style or the fabric type does most of the work. So sewing my own jeans is definitely a big call when it comes to fit.
I’ve mentioned Lekala patterns a few times on this blog, along with Bootstrap Fashion. Both these companies use the same Leko software for their patterns, which allows you to order patterns customised to your measurements. They both re-sell Russian Leko patterns, which is why you will find some of the same patterns on both websites, but Bootstrap Fashion also sell patterns from other designers, and have a design centre feature where you can design your own dress pattern. This feature is still in early stages, and will eventually be extended to all sorts of garment styles. Bootstrap Fashion are currently crowdfunding through Indigogo to continue to improve their website and software offerings to act as a central source of customised fashion designs. I am very happy to give them a plug in regards to this because I think that what they are doing is absolutely innovative. They have been engaging with a number of sewing bloggers to really find out what it is that people want, and responding accordingly. And their patterns are very cheap – ranging from free patterns to less than US$2 and up to US$13 – which is impressive when you consider that they are personalised.
So, on to the jeans. I chose to sew a pair of flares with a high waist, in a rigid denim (from Rathdowne Fabrics). Bootstrap Fashion have Vado jeans in high, medium or low waisted options in skinny, flare and boyfriend styles. I now realise that I pretty much chose the most difficult fitting option available for my body shape. There are a few reasons for this. You can see a fair number of them in the handy little body avatar that Bootstrap Fashion and Lekala provide when you order one of their patterns.
When you sew for yourself, you really do have to be honest about your body shape. I am about 8kg over the healthy BMI range for my height at the moment, and as you can see most of that excess 8kg sits right on my front abdomen. It’s pretty much a mid-pregnancy shape. And that avatar is very accurate. What this means fitting wise is that I don’t have much waist to hold anything up. When I try on jeans in the shops, my issue is always in finding ones that fit snugly around my hips, thighs and bum, but can still do up around my middle. When I took my measurements for the jeans, I didn’t pull the tape measure very tight because I wanted to avoid the waistband squishing fat rolls. However, I didn’t fully realise that without the waistband being tighter it would be hard to keep the jeans up because my hip and waist differential are so low. You’ll see this better in photos later.
There are plenty of guides to help you with measuring, such as this one. I’ve also taken a screen shot of all the measurements that are needed for the jeans. Getting those measurements right really is what the final fit success will depend on.
You have the option to specify your buttocks shape – I chose flat. A similar feature for stomach shape exists when you are ordering a skirt or dress pattern. I think that this is a marvellous feature. For me, a waist circumference measurement alone doesn’t tell you that most of my circumference is at the front. With the stomach shape feature I end up with much more fabric in the front pattern pieces of dresses or skirts, which is wear I need it. The jeans pattern does pretty much the same thing via the alteration for buttocks shape.
You can also specify the amount of stretch in the denim that you are using. This means that the pattern pieces and sizes will be customised accordingly by the software. I selected non-stretch.
So, on to the finished product! You do get instructions with the pattern, which include a lot of photos. They have been translated from Russian, and still aren’t quite perfect, but I have sewn jeans before. With a combination of the supplied instructions, other references, and common sense, I didn’t have any difficulties with sewing these together. I did have to unpick the pockets and sew them on again at the end once the jeans were fully assembled in order to get a pleasing placement. So my advice there is even though it’s easier to sew the pockets on before the jeans are constructed, it’s probably better to wait until the end so that you can position them in a place that looks best on your body. I moved them in quite a lot as compared to the suggested placement on the pattern.
I used a jeans needle and swapped between normal thread and upholstery thread in the needle depending on what part of the jeans I was constructing. I had a jeans zipper in stash, and used quilting cotton for the pocket bags. With upholstery thread in the needle and normal thread in the bobbin, I had the odd tension issue and small thread snarl, but overall it worked pretty well. In the past I’ve sometimes just used normal thread but with a triple stitch for topstitching. That may have worked better in this case as well. Another thing to remember for next time! I finished edges on the overlocker.
I decided to add the belt loops even though I hardly ever wear belts. I had tried the jeans on before adding the waistband, and realised at that stage that I was going to have problems keeping them up due to my lack of hips and width of waist. I took them in a little at the waist side seams at that stage. As it turned out I do need the belt loops, as they do need a belt to stay in a comfortable position.
I rather enjoyed working with the rigid denim. It was very easy to sew, and because it was a mid-weight I decided to not use interfacing in the waistband. Every single piece of the pattern fitted together absolutely perfectly. The length was absolutely perfect, with the flare starting at exactly the right place for my height. Some googling had given me a suggested width for the leg opening to give a bootleg/small flare style, and I’m really pleased with the end result there. I had measured the knee width from a pair of existing jeans, forgetting that the ones I was measuring were stretch denim, so these jeans in rigid denim are actually tighter through the knee than I would prefer. I did let them out a little through the knee but didn’t have much seam allowance to play with. As it turns out they were still comfortable enough in wearing. They feel great through the thigh, and around the stomach. But they are too big to stay up comfortably through the waist. So, on to photos.
Now these are the views that normally would never be seen – I don’t show off that stomach or tuck anything in as a rule. The things that I do for education in sewing! These were taken at the end of a day of wear, and show the jeans without the belt. You can see that it is sagging down there as the fabric tries to move from a larger place (my waist) to a smaller place (towards my hips). The next photos are with a belt – but the belt is actually too small and pulls them in tighter than is completely comfortable. As I don’t usually wear belts it was the best I could find in the recesses of my wardrobe, but I need to get another one that is my waist size at age 47 rather than what my size was at age 27.
I think that you can tell from these that the fit is actually pretty good once the waist is up in the right place, especially considering that these are rigid denim and I need to be able to move and sit down in them. After a day of wear I knew that they couldn’t have been any tighter or smaller through the back thigh if I was going to be comfortable. However, I prefer the closer look that stretch denim would allow for. The stomach room in these jeans was fantastic. So comfortable for fitted jeans! So, to how they actually look as I would wear them with my top out.
So, final verdict? I love the leg shape and length. I love that they fit around my belly. I love the way that the pattern pieces fitted together. What would I change for me for next time?
- use stretch denim
- make the knee measurement a little larger
- pull the tape measure tighter around my waist – if you had a more typical women’s shape with smaller waist as compared to hips you probably wouldn’t have my issues with the pants wanting to slip down. I don’t think that I can get away without fat rolls above the waistband if I want my pants to stay up.
- go for a medium rise instead of a high rise.
The key with these jeans is getting your measurements right, and knowing what style you most like to wear and feel comfortable in. I think that these are a success, although I don’t think that they are perfect, but they definitely have me going in the right direction for sewing my own traditional jeans. If you are ordering from Bootstrap Fashion, I strongly suggest that you really take the time to read the information on the website carefully so that you measure properly. They have loads of patterns available – I have a couple of tops and some dresses underway as well. I notice that Barbara and Beth have also been sewing Bootstrap Fashion jeans lately, so you can take a look at theirs as well and see how they went.