Blue Jeans Blues

Well, hello February! This year is FLYING by already 😨✈️

So you guys remember my 2019 Make Nine? I ticked a few things off as ‘made’ but they hadn’t actually hit the blog yet – this is one of those things!

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Since I’d tackled jeans for me, it seemed about time that the husbeast got in on the handmade jeans action as well. I thought that the best way to do that (and not forget about it midway through the year as I get distracted with all the shiny new projects 😂) was to put them into my 2019 Make Nine – and that turned out to be a good plan! The jeans got made towards the end of the year, but still within the year so they got a big fat TICK ✅

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The pair that I chose for him in the Make Nine were the Thread Theory Quadra Jeans, and they are the pair I ended up making – not that there’s much to choose from in the way of men’s jeans patterns out there, mind you. In the past, I have subbed out patterns from the make nine in favour of a different variation on the theme, but this one stayed put from start to finish. I’ve had quite good success with Thread Theory patterns – I’ve made their Comox Trunks and also their Goldstream Peacoat so was quite excited to see how their jeans turned out.

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The fabric for these jeans was given to me for free by Minerva, and I chose a dark indigo Robert Kaufman denim with a composition of 97% cotton and 3% elastane. There are white flecks to the fabric, which would normally (personally) put me off a denim, but they’re not too noticeable. And they’re not for me anyway, so it doesn’t really matter! The pattern recommends up to 3% elastane in your fabric, but they can also work with rigid denim – I chose the stretch because the husbeast prefers his jeans to be ‘comfy’ 😂 The fabric has about 20% stretch, so for me it falls into the category of ‘proper stretchy’, almost like jegging material, but it still very much looks like a proper denim. I just wish they did it in more out there colours, because I’d defo use it for me if they did.

After my musings on the boxer shorts a few months back of saying that I really should make more effort to match my overlocker and bobbin threads to the colours of the fabric, I went ahead and bought four cones of Coats thread (in a proper ‘jeans topstitching’ colour) from Minerva for the overlocked inside seams of this project. I was very happy with the colour, but what surprised me most is that this thread gave a much better seam than the Gutermann Toldilock that I had been using. I think I’ll stick to Coats in future.

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I had to wash the denim fabric twice due to the amount of dye that came out – even after the first wash, some blue transferred onto my hands (😨) so back in the machine it went. Hopefully, that’s enough to get most of the loose dye, but I guess we’ll find out when he sits down on a white chair in his new jeans?! Thankfully, there was none of this ‘white line’ business that I’ve had with other denim fabrics (actually, just black ones) and it dried out looking pretty good despite the amount of ink that came out in the water.

With the Quadra jeans, they have you start off with the topstitching on the back pockets – which is more than a little unnerving for someone that has had such a rocky relationship with topstitching in the past. Add that to the fact that I’d chosen a contrast, rusty coloured topstitching thread to go on dark blue denim, and the sweats began.

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I’ve had bad experiences with topstitching thread on jeans before. The Gutermann Topstitch thread is the worst – it gives me birds nests, terrible tension, and generally just looks like a shambles. So I tried the Sulky Topstitch thread on my corduroy Dawn Jeans, with a bit more success, but still not particularly outstanding. Then a handful of you lovely readers recommended the Gutermann ‘Extra Strong’ thread instead – It’s just a smidge thinner than their topstitching thread, but it seems to make a world of difference. I can even backstitch at the start and end of seams without it completely tangling – something that was previously unachievable 😱 I’m converted.

Included with the pattern, which I thought was a really nice touch, are some pocket topstitching templates. I’d only had the actual pattern pieces printed though (through Patternsy, as always) and forgot to print the instructions, so I didn’t have the topstitching templates physically in my hands to be able to trace from. I didn’t want to slack off at the first hurdle though with some half-ass curly line, so I decided to replicate one of the templates that were provided.

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I marked out some of the main points and then used my curved ruler to fill in the lines. The first attempt was a bit of a state – I’d clearly used the wrong part of the curve. I tried again with the curvier part of the curve – success! I made sure to do the mirror image on the other pocket, rather than the same design twice (and repeated this instruction over and over in my head, until I’d actually completed the task – MIRROR IMAGE MIRROR IMAGE) I then braced myself for the do-or-die moment and threaded up the machine. The extra strong thread in the top, and normal (Gutermann Mara 100 is ‘normal’ thread for me) in the bobbin.  For the pockets, I don’t backstitch at the start and end – I just pull the threads to the back and knot them off – so this at least minimised the potential for birds nests.

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I used a ‘heavy’ needle (sometimes called a ‘jeans’ needle) and prepared for the first stitch. It went surprisingly smoothly. The tension was good – the stitches looked good –  things were going well. And they continued to go well, for the whole garment actually. I’d even go so far as to say that it looked pretty damn good! 💪🏻 I successfully executed my back pocket design without a single hiccup. When it came to stitching the pockets onto the back of the jeans, this also went well – apart from the bar tacks, which I didn’t quite get the stitch length right on the first pocket. It looked a bit more like a zig-zag than it should have done. I got it better for the next pocket, but then one of those two went a bit wobbly… so overall I got one out of four as a good one 🤷🏻‍♀️ But I’ll take that!

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Putting the front pockets together went without a hitch, and you end up with a nice pocket bag that’s French seamed at the bottom – no overlocked edges in sight.

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I bought the recommended zip length for the fly, but for some reason, it would have extended beyond the top of the jeans if I’d have lined it up with the marked zipper notch. So, I moved it down a bit because I didn’t really fancy removing teeth from a metal zip… but this meant that when I came to do the fly topstitching, my bar tack was going tight over the zip teeth. Obvs, that’s not gonna happen so I had to sew the tack turning the wheel by hand, making sure that there was no metal in the way each time the needle went down. Not a great approach, I know, but better than removing teeth for sure.  Next time I think a 1 inch shorter zip would work – I just need to remember to make a note of that on the instructions so that I don’t forget and buy the same length again 🤦🏻‍♀️

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The flat fell seams on the inseam are constructed differently to how they are on the Dawn Jeans – now I don’t know a lot about flat fells or how they are meant to be, so I’ll do my best to explain 💁🏻‍♀️ On the Dawns, the folded bulk of the seam is on the inside (wrong side) of the jean, but on the Quadras, it’s on the outside. Unknowingly to me, this meant that thread colour matters, guys. I was using black thread in the top of my machine, but I’ll be totally honest – I couldn’t find the black bobbin so I had been sewing with the nearest dark-coloured one I had to hand: brown. When you do the flat-felled seams on the Quadras, depending on whether the right side or the wrong side of the fabric is on top, you’re gonna see one of those lines of stitching on the outside of the jeans when you press the seam allowance over. The one that you see will be the one that’s on the front of the jeans – so if you sew with the fabric right side down, you’re going to see the bobbin thread. So make sure you’re using a colour that you’re happy with to be exposed!

See that brown thread on the left? Yep, that’s the bobbin thread.

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This method is better than the one used on the Dawns though, as you can see exactly where the edge of the folded fabric lip is in order to make sure your topstitching stays on track – when it’s on the inside, you’re sort of relying on your folding being precisely on point – which mine isn’t. So I much prefer this way.

I was slightly confused on the flat fell instructions for the yoke – in some of the diagrams, the topstitching is above the seam between the yoke and the back leg, but the written instructions seem to tell you to topstitch below that seam 🤷🏻‍♀️ I’ve put mine below the seam (so, on the back leg piece rather than the yoke piece), which I’ve no idea whether it’s actually correct or not but it looks fine so I’m going with it!

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**that picture above is the same method of flat-felling as the Dawns – the bulk of the fold is on the inside. See how wonky-donkey that lower row of topstitching is? Yep, that’s pretty much how the entire insides of my Dawns look 👀**

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Usually, I would expect the belt loops to have the bottom edge sewn into the waistband (to enclose one of the raw edges) but this isn’t the case with the Quadras – both the top and bottom edges are attached with bartacks. Next time I will sew the bottom raw edge into the waistband seam, to give a neat finish on at least one of the two edges of the loop 😂

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Despite it not being suggested in the instructions, I installed rivets – but only on the front pockets, as I thought they would look weird on the back pockets because of the nice topstitching around the edge. BTW, it’s a pain in the arse to make the holes for rivets, and you are FO SHO going to want an awl (sharp pointy stick that you could literally take your eye out with) to help with this.

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I knew that I would have to turn up the legs for the husbeast, but I wasn’t sure by how much – so I decided to make the jeans full length as written, and then have him try them on. Once we’d determined how much needed to be chopped off, I’d make the adjustment on the pattern pieces for future makes. I took three inches off the leg in the end – for reference, the husbeast is about 5’5″ and usually wears a 30 inch inside leg.

This was, unexpectedly, a really enjoyable sew. Jeans used to totally scare me but these were awesome! There was one thing that really bothered me about this pattern though: you are instructed to cut and interface two fly extension pieces, but then when you come to sew the fly they tell you to discard one. What a waste of time and interfacing! I’d rather they just told me right at the start that I only needed to cut one. I know it can be easier to cut two if you’ve already got your fabric folded or whatever, but I really don’t mind unfolding it to cut just one. Especially don’t tell me to interface both of them and then throw it away – I’ve wasted not only fabric (which okay, I probably have some spare of) but also interfacing (which I might not have had so much of). Rant over. (A justified rant though, I feel).

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But I’ll make a note that I only need to cut one, because I will be making another pair – probably in the size 28 rather than 30 because they’re a little large on the husbeast who cycles 25 miles a day to the office 😆

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Even though I cycle as well (though slightly less distance and only half the amount of days, admittedly), I don’t seem to have the problem that my clothes are too big 🤔 The opposite problem, in fact… though this could be down, in part, to my love of pizza 🍕 Maybe. 😂

Enjoy some pictures of the husbeast’s legs 👀

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On the blog next week – my trial run of the Wardrobe By Me Amelia Bomber Jacket! 🧥 Subscribe below to have it drop straight into your inbox 🙌🏻

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22 Comments

  1. Zak
    February 2, 2020 / 9:14 am

    Nice job, that’s some cracking topstitching. There’s nowhere to hide with yellow on blue!

    I think it looks like you got the yoke flat-felling direction as per the instructions with one exception, it’s on the other side of the fabric! The intial seam is supposed to be wrongside to wrongside, so all the subsequent fiddling and folding is on the outside of the jeans. Hardly the end of the world as it’s almost a symmetrical seam, but if you do it that way round you end up with two rows of stitching on the outside and only one inside, so slightly more comfortable. On the outside you have the initial seam and then the edgestitching (looks like you added an extra third seam of topstiching because of having done it the other way round?). So like with the inseam, you need to make sure you have your pretty thread on the correct side of that intial seam (the top, yoke side), and with the second seam (the edgestitching) you can follow the edge of the fabric rather than doing it blind as you already mentioned. Hope that makes some vague sense!

    (Also I saw the earlier draft of the instructions from pattern testing it, and it only had you cut out one fly piece. It got changed in the final version, so I can only suppose that means enough confused pattern testers must have cut it out the wrong way around and they changed it to make it less easy to make that mistake!)

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:23 pm

      Ahhhhhh that makes sense! I wondered why they would tell you to cut two and discard one, but surely that could have been avoided with a ‘cut one placed on right side of fabric’ instruction on the piece?! 🤔 Meh, I guess I’ll just make the note and remember for next time 🤷🏻‍♀️
      Thanks for the explanation – I think I got it! 💜 Will try and get it right next time… I did think it was all a bit weird! Overall though, it is a really good pattern and I can see several pairs in the husband’s wardrobe!

  2. Bren Holmes
    February 2, 2020 / 9:18 am

    Great job! Dem jeans look darned good. I’ll try the Gutermann Mara 100 thread, thanks for mentioning it. I’ve tried several brands, but not yet found one I’m 100% happy with. I’ve not tried Gutermann Extra Strong for topstitching, either, but I will. I make a lot of bags and topstitching can make or mar the result. My previous machine, Bernina B880, was so picky with threads, so I was reluctant to try different ones, but my new one, Bernina 790 Plus, is far more forgiving. Happy sewing.

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks Bren! 💜 I always used the Gutermann ‘sew all’ thread for regular stuff, but just found it SO DAMN EXPENSIVE. Then someone recommended the Mara 100, and I bought a whole box of thread (could be eight spools, could be ten, I can’t quite remember!) for the price of not even two spools of the sew-all. I got mine from William Gee, as it seems that not so many places sell it. I’ve been using it for months now without issues, and definitely wouldn’t go back – *however* I think they might only do it in black and white, so for some coloured fabrics I still use the sew-all in the matching colour. But I use black thread probably 75% of the time (if not more!) so it’s saved me a ton of money so far!
      Honestly, the Gutermann topstitching thread was AWFUL for me. I could never get a good looking seam. The Extra Strong is a zillion times better! I feel like there are more colours in the Extra Strong, but I could be wrong… Give it a try, let me know how you get on! 🤞🏻

  3. fifona
    February 2, 2020 / 11:52 am

    Excellent execution! I come from … and have spawned… a long line of short-legged people and the idea of having jeans made to measure is out of this world! They looked very good on the young gentleman, too!

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:31 pm

      Thank you! 💜 Turning up store-bought jeans is the WORST, I’d literally rather make a whole pair to the correct length than turn up a ready-made pair 😂 I can definitely recommend this jeans pattern!

  4. February 2, 2020 / 12:06 pm

    Amazing. I’m determined to make nine things this year. Not sure I’ll make jeans, too scared, but you do make it look easy. How the hell do you make the pockets look so good. I can never sew that straight 🙁

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:34 pm

      You can do it! 💪🏻 Honestly, I put off making jeans for AGES. I was just so damn petrified of them. I don’t even know what I was so scared of exactly – I can’t remember! I knew that I *wanted* to make them, but I just kept thinking of reasons why I wouldn’t. Yes, they’re a bit of a complicated thing to fit, but honestly – that’s the most difficult part. If you can sew a seam, you can sew jeans! Practice makes perfect 💪🏻 And the topstitching… this is literally the best topstitching I’ve ever done, I’m not sure why it turned out so well or how I replicate the level of neatness! 😂

  5. February 2, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    Excellent job. I still haven’t tackled jeans, though I own the CC Morgan pattern. The Goodwill jeans are just too handy and at less than $5 I can’t get motivated to sew my own. Seeing the job so many do does give me a nudge, but just a tiny one. Love your blog, my Sunday morning read.

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:37 pm

      Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy the blog each week 💜 I can definitely see that the goodwill jeans would be alluring… I long for a good vintage pair of high waisted jeans but can never seem to find them! They don’t make ’em like they used to 🤷🏻‍♀️ If I had the patience, I would absolutely keep checking for that *perfect* pair, and it would be a good day when I eventually find them 🙂 I have the Ginger jeans pattern, which I bought because everyone else was making them, but I just don’t think they are my style anymore 😕

  6. Shari
    February 2, 2020 / 3:55 pm

    That “discard one” on the fly piece drove me crazy too! What a waste. But other than that this pattern is a winner. I’ve only made shorts from it so far. Looking forward to sewing up some full length ones later this year

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:38 pm

      Ahh I’m glad it’s not just me! I’ve made a note on my pattern piece to cut just ONE, because otherwise it’s a total waste of time and fabric 🤷🏻‍♀️ The husbeast is really pleased with his jeans – I’ll defo be making another pair. Hope your ones turn out well! 💜

  7. Kim H
    February 2, 2020 / 7:03 pm

    Wow…so impressed with your top stitching! Guess I need to be brave and give this a try. I have the denim and a pattern but I’m lacking in the confidence department. You make it all seem possible. Thank you! Love reading your blog. Especially enjoy your humor.

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:43 pm

      Thanks Kim! So glad to hear that you enjoy the blog 💜 Life’s too short to be *too* serious about anything, you gotta laugh a bit 🙃
      I don’t know what I did to get my topstitching to come out so well… I impressed myself with it 😂 It’s probably a one off though and the next pair will look totally shocking 😳
      Honestly, go for it. I was SO scared of making jeans before I attempted them – and now I’m about four pairs in and have zero fear. Yes, the first pair didn’t fit particularly well and some of the stitching was a bit ropey – but things drastically improved on the second attempt. Practice really does make perfect, so my advice is just to go steaming in! For the first pair, use some fabric that you don’t care too much about if they don’t turn out wearable – that way, it’s all about the learnings and there’s no stress about ruining good fabric. You can do this 💪🏻💪🏻

  8. February 3, 2020 / 12:43 pm

    The top stitching is fab Sarah. I made the Palo jeans this weekend & the instructions also had me cutting 2 fly shields & I was working with a remnant & an old pair of jeans, so fabric was very scarce, no idea why they would do that! I think the belt loops sit below the waistline so that you can get a wider belt in there, I’ve come across it before & had a devil of a job bar tacking through all the layers. I ignored this advice on the Palos & sewed both ends into the waistban, I’m just a rebel though!

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:47 pm

      Ahhh, that makes sense! The husbeast never wears a belt (I’m not even sure he owns one?! 🤷🏻‍♀️) so we’ve got no dramas there… I think next time I’ll sew the bottom ends in. I sewed both ends in on a skirt I made a while back… though forgot to check how much slack there was and ended up sewing the loops a little bit tighter than the waistband itself 🤦🏻‍♀️ So when the skirt was worn, the waistband puckered. It looked bloody awful 😂 But, at least I won’t make that mistake again!! It is a total nightmare bartacking through all those layers, especially when you’re using heavier denim. I even snapped a ‘heavy topstitching’ needle one one bar tack! I loved the colour blocking of the Palos… I’m not totally in love with the colour choices I made for mine but I keep thinking about making another pair! What colours did you choose for yours?

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 3, 2020 / 8:47 pm

      Thank you! 💜

  9. February 5, 2020 / 11:14 am

    Great jeans & I love that top stitching 🧵👍 good tips on thread too, thanks 👍🙏

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 10, 2020 / 12:32 pm

      Thanks! I think these are even better than the jeans I’ve made for myself so far! I defo recommend the pattern, and will be making another pair. Try out the Extra Strong thread, let me know what you think! 😊

  10. February 16, 2020 / 10:50 am

    This post sent me off on to an investigation about the history of jeans, so thanks for that 😂 I was wondering why jeans topstitching is orange (did you not wonder when you were shopping around for the thread?). Anyway it turns out it’s just because when Levi Strauss was inventing his workwear trousers linen thread was cheaper than silk thread and it tended to be dyed yellow because that was the cheapest dye (natural sources in the U.S.) so that’s what he used. And we still use that colour today as an homage! So there you go!

    I haven’t really done a project that’s needed hardcore 💪 topstitching yet, but if I need thicker thread I favour the Gutermann extra strong, so I’m glad someone else recommended it to you 😊

    These jeans look awesome anyway. STOP ENCOURAGING ME TO MAKE TROUSERS 😠

    • Sarah
      Author
      February 17, 2020 / 12:58 pm

      MAKE ALL THE TROUSERS 😂
      Seriously, they’re totally not as scary as you think they are. And I’m saying that from the point of view of someone who was SO afraid. DO IT.
      I actually didn’t wonder why the topstitching was orange 🤔 but I’m glad that I now know the reason! Very interesting. Although, I do like the way the orange topstitching looks, if I’m honest. Not on *my* jeans, so much (because I don’t wear blue), but defo on the husbeast’s.
      I defo recommend the Extra Strong – I don’t know what’s up with the topstitching stuff but it’s a disaster in my machine! 🤷🏻‍♀️

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