Back to the Future

So I’m skipping through time a bit with this post – backwards, rather than forwards, though.

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Do you remember how nervous I was about sewing trousers, before I’d made any? Well, I started out with the Burda high waisted ones (which allowed me to discover, the hard way, that pleated-front trousers are NOT flattering on me), and then as a sort of stepping stone to actual, proper jeans, I decided I’d sew the Safrans from Deer and Doe.

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The ‘time travel’ bit comes in because the eventual, ‘more complicated’ jeans I wanted to make after the Safrans have already hit the blog – the Dawn jeans (and even the Palo Jeans snuck in there too), and the sharpest among you will realise that the finished photos of the Safrans were taken in Times Square, even though I live in London and haven’t been to New York since ohhhhh almost a year ago. Yeah. We’re really all over the gaff with this one.

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It took me a REAL LONG TIME to get these Safrans started. I bought the pattern – as the first mini step – and then it sat there unopened for all eternity. To make the process seem less daunting, I broke up the prep into stages of tracing, having a break, cutting, having another break, and then finally starting on the sewing when I felt ready. Looking back, I’m not sure what I made all the fuss about 🤣

I used black super-stretch denim from Fabric Godmother. The pattern calls for fabric with 20% stretch and that actually proved quite hard to find in denim – most fabrics I looked at seemed to have 2% spandex but when I stretched them, it didn’t actually give *that* much stretch. This fabric I ended up with is quite soft on one side – I wouldn’t go so far as to say suede, but that kind of napped feel. I recruited some leftovers of Liberty cotton lawn from the scrap bag (we all have one of them, amirite?) for the pocket linings, in the Joy and Sorrow print which was one of those wonderful instances where I liked the look of the fabric, but it didn’t suit me as clothing. Boo.

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The Safrans could be described as ‘jeans-lite’. They’re not quite trousers, and they’re not quite jeans – they are halfway between the two. I thought they would be a good entry-level sew, and a practice run for the Ginger Jeans (by Closet Case patterns) which was my eventual aim – but in the end, I realised that I don’t like skinny jeans and so the high-waisted-slightly-less-fitted-Mom-style of the Dawn Jeans became the new aim and the Ginger Jeans pattern still sits there, unused. The Dawn jeans are going to be the only pattern I use for the rest of my life, probably. Funny how tastes change, isn’t it.

You start the Safran Journey with the welts, which may have been the worst possible starting point for me as I’d cut my welt from leather, for – y’know – a rock and roll look 🤘🏻

At the first step of ‘pin welts to trouser front’, I fell down. You can’t pin leather, and even if you could manage to wedge a pin through it you’d be left with a permanent mark. I didn’t have any wonder clips at the time (I FOR SURE do now though and I can’t believe I lived without them for so long) so I improvised with a metal clip thing I found laying around the living room… lolz.

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With leather, you only get one shot at a stitching line – because if you unpick it, the holes will remain. And even if you go over precisely the same line again, you’re just putting EVEN MORE holes through the leather and that’ll basically perforate/weaken it and then it’ll just rip. And then you will cry tears. So you gotta bring your A-game when working with leather – this is not something to do when you’re any of the following:

  • Tired
  • Drunk
  • Hungover
  • In a bad mood
  • Basically anything less than a perfect version of yourself 🤷🏻‍♀️

I lined everything up as instructed, and put my plastic roller foot on the machine (honestly – so much better than a metal foot (they stick to leather), and don’t even bother with the ‘tip’ of putting scotch tape on the bottom of a metal foot because for me that did precisely nothing).

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After gathering the courage to put the needle through the leather, following the instructions carefully (or so I thought), when I turned everything the right side I realised I’d done something very, very wrong.

This is NOT what it should look like:

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This is how it should look.

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I realised that I’d not pivoted the welt properly when sewing the second part of the seam. FFS. Although in my defence, it wasn’t really clear exactly how you should pivot it – and I was so overwhelmed that I was finally making jeans that I just blagged it in my excitement and ballsed it up. Thankfully, I was able to re-sew the seam and conceal the incorrect stitching holes rather than have to cut another piece of leather (I’d used scraps as it was, and I wasn’t even sure whether there was any more leather to be had 😳)

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(Oh! I forgot to say that this fabric is the kind that attracts EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF DUST AND FLUFF WITHIN A FIVE MILE RADIUS 😒)

Then came the pocket lining fiasco – I followed the right side/wrong side instructions (or at least I’m pretty damn sure I did) but when everything was turned the right way out, I had pocket linings facing different directions. One in, one out. Ah well. Maybe it was me, I’ll get the husbeast to read the instructions next time to make sure it’s not just me having a moment. I might have even cut them both the same way around instead of mirroring (thinking about it, that’s probably the most likely explanation).

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Next up was sewing the leg seams… and for this bit, I did actually follow the instructions and do the recommended basting-before-sewing thing. I just did it with one leg though, as I figured they’d be pretty similar. The fit seemed to be ok – maybe a little snug – but then I was kind of relying on the denim to stretch out a little bit with wear.

The legs went together with no problem, including a faux flat felled seam on the outer leg. The back seam and crotch curve are sewn using a triple stretch stitch, which I’d never used before – basically, it’s the same as a straight stitch but every stitch gets sewn three times instead of once – so it’s pretty strong. It kind of looks like you have just used topstitching thread instead of regular thread, and indeed people do use this stitch for topstitching so they don’t have to keep swapping their threads. (This stitch uses a LOT of threads though so be sure to check your spool and bobbin before you start – you don’t want to be running out halfway along because it is a BASTARD to unpick 😳)

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The fly shield came together fine, I didn’t really have much experience of sewing fly closures (and still don’t, tbh) but I’m a little nervous that the zip doesn’t feel too secure with just one row of stitching on each side. I’m sure it’s fine, but I just feel a bit twitchy over the whole thing.

It’s really awkward to do the fly topstitching – it’s proper difficult to not get the back caught up and still get the front laying flat so that you can stitch it. I missed the edge of the zip as I got towards the bottom, so had to unpick it and have a second go.

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I placed the pockets on the pattern markings, because in the absence of having any sort of knowledge on pocket placement that seemed to be the best option. Looking at the photos, I can see that one of the pockets is just a SMIDGE lower than the other, but they are sewn on now so I don’t care 🤷🏻‍♀️

The waistband went on without drama, though I ended up with the interfaced half next to my skin, rather than on the outside. Doh. I also discovered that I’d gone WAY off-piste with the ends of the waistband – one side was a fair bit taller than the other, and the bottom seam on each side didn’t line up either. Hmm. A bit of trimming and re-stitching on that right-hand side piece solved the problem, but the cause should really have been addressed (sloppy cutting or sloppy sewing, I’m not sure 🤷🏻‍♀️🤣)

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When I first tried on the jeans – to check they did actually fit – my first thought was ‘yay! I can get them on’ quickly followed by ‘hmm, they’re a bit small’.

Butttt they say in the instructions that they recommend wearing the jeans for a day to see how the fabric stretches out, so I was kind of hopeful that if I wore them, the fabric would give a little and they wouldn’t be so tight. On the other hand, I was slightly nervous that I’d bust one of the seams and the whole thing would end really, really badly.

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Once I did get round to wearing them, I realised I’ve got that ol’chestnut known as the back gape… I should have taken a wedge out of the back and also gone down (at least) a size in the waistband. I had that same gape issue with the Palo jeans that I made later, too.

In a way, I’m kinda glad that I’m publishing this post in hindsight – because now I have a couple of different jeans under my belt, I can make comparisons. Even though the Safrans are ‘high waist’, they’re not as high as the Dawns and not as high as I’d like. The fact that they are missing a back yoke makes me feel a bit weird too – I know that the pockets are too low down anyway but there just feels like there’s SO much space on the bum, and no yoke seam to break it up. Perhaps if the pockets were moved up (and made a little larger) I might feel a bit better. Now that I’ve made the Dawns, I don’t think I’d make the Safrans again as jeans – but I would use them as a trouser pattern. Because they’re designed for stretch fabrics I’m not sure how a non-stretch would work, and I’d definitely need to size up at least a couple of sizes, but I think they could be a good option.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be: don’t iron leather 🙈Yeah, I got a bit of welt-melt going on 🤣 (thankfully not noticeable unless you’re super close).

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I’ve lost my fear of making bottoms now and I’m all over jeans like a donkey on a waffle – I’ve got a pair of leopard print Dawns that I’ve just finished, I’ve also recently sewn up the Thread Theory Quadra jeans for the husbeast and I reallllyyyyy want to make myself a chunky cord pair of Dawns (either burgundy, or burnt orange, or in an ideal world – BOTH). But in reality, it’s heading towards Christmas which is the busiest time for my Etsy store, and I’ve got a few projects that I’ve committed to as well so I’m not sure I’m gonna have time for them this year. But maybe they can be my treat over the Christmas break 💁🏻‍♀️

I’ll leave you to enjoy these photos of the finished Safrans that were taken in Times Square on our last visit to NYC – photos that the husbeast did NOT enjoy taking 🤣 For a start, how hard is it to get a good picture of black fabric – even in daylight?! Hard enough. Getting a good picture at dusk is damn near impossible. Plus there’s the issue of slow shutter speeds, and not being able to use a tripod somewhere so crowded. As the neon signs changed adverts it also threw out the white balance – some pictures are tinged red, some blue, some alarmingly bright white. I wanted to kinda capture the buzz of the area – the lights, the people, the city vibe. What I got instead was a load of tourists and the challenge of the husbeast actually being able to take a clear shot of me without someone walking in front of the camera 👀🤣

Oh well.

Enjoy nonetheless ✌🏻

(and yes, I totally bought that I❤NY t-shirt from a dubious street vendor – I’ve always wanted one 😂)

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9 Comments

  1. Potimarron
    September 29, 2019 / 7:38 am

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve recently found that I have a high waist too (explains why jeans frequently feel like they’re cutting me in half across the tummy) but might try on some RTW high-waisted jeans before trying to make my own (I haven’t made trousers before, but I wear them a lot so it might be a plan).
    Sounds like these jeans have taught you a lot, even if they’re not your favourites. I’m currently finding that the things I’m making (far simpler than your projects, mind) are teaching me things too, like “put your bobbin in the right way up”, “Super stretch stitch is the way forward for that rather snug waistband on the stretch skirt” and “don’t trust a top or dress pattern where the model has her hands over her waist” (when I inspected further I could see that the stylist had tied in the waist with- presumably- ribbon or elastic. The top is a sack, but I learned how to face neck and armholes with bias binding- and it was quite comfy in the high summer)…

  2. Bren Holmes
    September 29, 2019 / 9:51 am

    You may not be impressed with your Safrans, but they look amazing. I’ve never been brave enough to make jeans or fitted trousers, although I’ve made leggings and loose, summer trousers. You really are quite skilled in dressmaking and since you are basically self taught, you should be really proud of what you achieve. The next project is a couple of winter tops for me, if I get time, as I’m struggling to keep up with my mystery quilt this year. Now that’s something I’ll never do again!

  3. September 29, 2019 / 11:58 pm

    Thank you for trying out the Dawns and Safrans so I can mooch from your experience! I have the Dawn, Ash, and Safran patterns and had been wondering which to start with; I’m so glad that the painted-on-pants look is fading. I had already decided that when I do make the Safrans, I will size up a few and use either a minimal or no-stretch fabric. I also prefer a bootcut leg. But I want to try the Dawns with the straight leg as my first jeans. My previous pants-making was all the Thurlow trousers from Sewaholic, which fit great at the waist and hip, but do not have enough, er, “features,” if you know what I mean.

    And yes, the roller foot is excellent for sewing leather and pleather. I used to sew patches onto biker jackets and vests for other military people and I would tape the patches onto the jackets (clips wouldn’t have worked because they were in the middle of the back) and then sew using either the roller foot or my walking foot, depending on the thickness and number of layers. Fortunately, I never jacked up someone else’s leather jacket!

    Oh, AND it’s funny you mentioned how style preferences change over time. I had just decided that for my 35th birthday this year, my annual boots purchase would be a pair of Doc Martens Kendras in black – a total throwback to my 2008 self. I’ve been in the military since 2010, and it’s like wearing uniforms all the time totally erased my personal style. Now that I get to choose what I want to wear again, I am thinking about the kinds of things I used to wear, and realizing that I do still like that stuff. Tiered skirts – which are back in fashion now, oddly enough – and chunky lace-up boots and fitted tops for my everyday clothes, and slacks with button-down tunics for work. I also still like wide-legged pants with straps and chains, but I already get mistaken for a teenager and I don’t think that would help. 😉

    Julia

    • Sarah
      Author
      October 11, 2019 / 8:40 am

      I’ve not bought the Ash pattern, mainly because they’re that ‘skinny jean’ style which I’ve fell out of love with. I read that bootcut jeans help balance out wide hips, but all I’ve found is that they just make me look wider all over 🤷🏻‍♀️
      Sewing leather is a tricky business isn’t it… I wonder how the tape would hold up on something that was destined to go through the wash? 🤔 I’ve found that a piece of paper over the fabric but not *quite* under the needle (so you don’t have to rip it away from the stitches, because that’s LONG) helps a lot.
      Yay for the Doc Martens! Love them, I have a brown pair but really want a black pair. The Wonderland Skirt I made (which is the only ruffled thing I actually like) looks fab with chunky boots! I kind of feel the same as you – I worked in ‘corporate’ finance for several years and totally lost my sense of style, then when I moved into the advertising industry and could wear whatever I wanted, I found my style again 🙌🏻 I TOTALLY had a pair of those wide leg trousers with chains when I was younger, and the husbeast did too! Ah, those were the days. If you wanna wear em, you go for it – to hell with what everyone else thinks 🤷🏻‍♀️
      Enjoy your boots… and sending good sewing vibes for your first pair of jeans 💪🏻

  4. Christine Ashe
    September 30, 2019 / 10:22 pm

    Love reading your blog posts. Don’t stop sewing or writing. Your pants look great. And what a beautiful smile you have.

    • Sarah
      Author
      October 11, 2019 / 8:42 am

      Ahh thank you Christine! 💕 I’m so glad you enjoy the blog 💜 okay, I promise not to stop writing or sewing! ✂️✏️

  5. Helen Jones
    October 1, 2019 / 4:04 pm

    Hi Sarah, I just wanted to say that these jeans look fab on you; really great! I really admire your sewing and the way you have such an incredible level of attention to detail. It’s actually made me change the way I sew; instead of a mad dash to the finish I try to focus on getting the techniques spot on. It’s meant that I actually end up with makes I love instead of being a bit disappointed all the time. So thank you for being inspiring! Helen

    • Sarah
      Author
      October 11, 2019 / 8:47 am

      Hi Helen! So glad you enjoy the blog, and all the little details 👀 I found that was lacking in a lot of other sewing blogs I read, they focussed a lot on the finished item but there was no detail on the construction process, or how the seams could be finished better, or whether there was a better way to put something together. I want quality over quantity, so I’m happy to build up my arsenal of techniques and use these to create better made garments. I’ll *always* French seam where I can, or use bias bound seams, and I won’t make anything without a lining that should really have one. I’m not into cutting corners to make things ‘easier’, I’d rather take the time to learn a technique if it gets better results. I’m glad you’re ending up with garments that you love, and it’s made my day to hear that you’re inspired! 💜 Happy sewing ✂️

  6. October 13, 2019 / 7:51 am

    Quick follow-up note: I used big pieces of clear packing tape to just rough-lay the patches out on the leather, with the tape on top of/across both the patch and the leather, like a plaster (adhesive bandage). Then, as I would sew up to where the tape was, I’d peel it off as the foot moved toward it, so there was no tape on the garment after I’d finished sewing the patches on. It was just plain 3M packing tape and I didn’t have any issues with sticky stuff coming off of the tape and onto the patches or leather.

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