Sunday, September 28, 2014

Making Jeans - Finally! McCalls 6610

Y'all.  After more than three months, I have a pair of jeans!  Here's the preview:



But to back up, after many muslins (I lost count) I wasn't interested in doing more, and it was time to make the Real Thing.  I began with genuine American-made 13.5 oz denim manufactured by Cone Mills in North Carolina, which I ordered from Taylor.  It arrived in record time, and I washed my yardage twice in hot water and hot dryer.  Here's what it looked like afterwards:


I could tell this was real indigo dyed denim because my washer and dryer ended up blue after each washing and drying.  Which didn't hurt my feelings, because that gradual fade is what will eventually give me that great aged blue patina of my college jeans.

This is selvedge denim which has this distinctive red thread running through the selvedge:



It was a joy to work with - substantial and it pressed beautifully.

As you know from my last muslin, I hadn't quite perfected my fit, so I ordered the Palmer/Pletsch DVD, "Jeans for Real People":



I'm not certain this DVD would have been of much value to me when I first starting making jeans because it emphasizes fit, rather than the detailed how-to of sewing jeans.  For example, I don't think it would have helped me to figure out a fly zip, since the demonstration was for a cut-on fly extension, rather than a sewn-on fly extension.  And some of the techniques in the DVD look like shortcuts, rather than classic jean construction.  For example, the DVD claims nylon zippers are stronger than metal zippers and it demonstrates jeans being made with a regular nylon zipper.  Are nylon zippers really stronger?  Do we make jeans with metal zippers because that is all that was available when jeans were first made and continue with them because of tradition?

I don't think so.  I recently purchased "The Costumer's Handbook":



and it advises on page 122, "Always use metal zippers in costumes. Nylon zippers are simply not strong enough nor reliable enough for stage use."  (This is a fantastic book, by the way, full of useful information, including how to make slopers for men and women. Its out of print, but if you can find it, buy it or steal it.)

What I did get out of the DVD:  

1.  Basting tape.  I didn't know this stuff existed.  I use Steam-A-Seam for basting where I can, but the temporary basting tape looks like a great time saver.  I need to get some.

2.  A technique for making sure your back pockets are placed on the back pieces in identical placement.

3.  I learned an alternative way to make a buttonhole.

4.  Fitting.  They fit three women in this DVD, and I probably learned more than I realize.  The drawback to using the methods shown is that you really can't do it alone.  You not only need another person, but you need someone who knows the Palmer/Pletsch technique.

One common pattern adjustment is to carve out more of the back seam, making it deeper - this is very common on women over 30, and my understanding is that Palmer/Pletsch pants patterns have different cutting lines for the back seat depending on whether you are under 30 or over 30.  Which I think is both helpful and hysterical.

I decided I probably needed this adjustment, based on the Calvin Klein pattern which felt so comfortable.  Rather than go with the Calvin Klein pattern, though, I decided to use McCalls 6610 (which I used for my last muslin):



Like last time, I made a size 14; the difference this time was I didn't shorten the rise, and I redrew the seat curve to match the Calvin Klein pattern.  Here it is:



The McCalls pattern is the tan piece; the Calvin Klein pattern is the white tissue paper.  You can see the re-drawn seat curve in black ink on the McCalls pattern piece.

Also, based on the Calvin Klein pattern, I added 1/4 inch to the side seam in the hip area of the front pattern piece only.

In addition to the DVD discussed above, I took Victoria's pants fitting webinar put on by Burda, and in it, she suggests that you use a flexible ruler and bend it around yourself to discover your seat curve.  Not to get all personal and all, but this is my seat curve:



The left side is my front, and the right is my back side.  I compared my shape to the back seat curve on my pattern:



Pretty good, I would say!

By this time the actual sewing of the jeans was straightforward.  I decided to use an old New Look skirt made of antique flour sack fabric for my pockets:



I must have made this skirt ten or so years ago before I started blogging, and I've since "grown" out of it.  Flour sack fabric is incredibly strong and durable and I love this print:



Here's the coin pocket in progress: 



As mentioned, I used Steam A Seam for basting purposes wherever I could:



I used topstitching thread I ordered from Taylor as well, and it worked very well.  I was impressed:



I used the fly zipper instructions from the Calvin Klein pattern because I have found they are the best.  This time I hand basted the fly closed to make double sure the zipper would be covered (unlike the last time):



Just for fun, I made the zipper guard out of the same flour sack fabric rather than denim:



I tried, in vain, to find an alterations/tailor shop that would make my buttonhole for me, due to all the denim layers that I knew would give me trouble.  In the end, I used the Palmer/Pletsch method of zigzagging freehand a triangle shaped hole.  I went back to my college jeans and discovered that is how Levis made the buttonhole way back then:


You can see it's no thing of beauty.  Here's the back:



I figured I couldn't do any worse.  Here's mine:




For the waistband, I just cut a rectangle of fabric 4 1/4 inches wide on the crosswise grain, which finished 1 1/2 inches wide after folding in half and taking into account 5/8 inch seam allowances.  I didn't use the pattern waistband length; I just used whatever length it took to cover the top of the jeans.  

This fabric was only about 31 inches wide, so I had to piece the waistband as it was cut on the crosswise grain, rather than the lengthwise grain.  I put the seam at the back, so it would be covered by the back belt loop:



(See why you should cut your jeans waistband on the cross grain here.  Kathleen explains all.)

I made the belt loops using the selvedge edge so there wouldn't be any unraveling.  I basically cut a strip 1 1/4 inches wide along the selvedge, pressed the strip into thirds, and then top stitched the right side.  This is the backside:


This is the top.  I tried two finished sizes:  1/2 inch and 3/8 inch.  I ended up going with the narrower belt loop:


Getting the belt loops on was a challenge with my Bernina with this thick denim.  I ended up using a straight stitch, rather than a zig-zag, and I hand cranked the needle through the denim rather than using the presser foot.  I think the belt loops are on pretty well, but we will see.


I got the rivets from Taylor too.  I managed the rivets on the coin pocket by myself, but the shanks of the "nail" part of the rivets were too long for the regular pockets.  Using the denim spacers as Taylor suggests did not work for me.  I got The Carpenter to use his wire cutters to shorten the nail part, and then he pounded in the rivets on the front side (rather than the back, as I was doing).  Fortunately, he understands rivet technology.

Even though I had made three or four (or five?) muslins, I still learned stuff while making these jeans.  It became clear to me that your front pockets aren't meant to lie flat when you construct them; if they did, you wouldn't have any ease to get your hands inside them.  And I finally noticed the little tack on the front stitching of the fly which secures your zipper guard at the bottom of the zipper, so I added that.  And don't sew your belt loops on flat to the jeans - leave them loose so you have enough ease to get your belt through them.


The fit isn't perfect, of course.  See that slight wrinkle just below the yoke (below)?  I'm confident that indicates a slight sway back adjustment wouldn't be amiss:
  


But I'm not all that worked up about it.  I'm very pleased with the fit, and they are incredibly comfortable.  I've been wearing them for the past two days.  Which is why the front wrinkles aren't indicative of a fitting issue; they just mean I haven't taken them off for days:


Last shot:

I look forward to wearing these for years to come.   The legs are wide enough to wear boots, so I know I'll wear them constantly this fall and winter.  The waist is loose, but it doesn't show with a belt, and if I wear a top untucked, who is going to see the waistband?  

Final thoughts:

1.  While these are my first pair of jeans (I'm incredibly pleased), they won't be my last.

2.  But it is time to move on and sew something else.  Like maybe another winter coat.

3.  The Carpenter was so impressed with them, I have a feeling I'll be making him a pair soon.

4.  If you make jeans, use this denim.  Seriously.

5.  The only way to learn how to make jeans is to make 'em.  It's that simple.  If you want to badly enough, you'll be able to do it, and enjoy the journey.  You won't regret it!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Making Jeans - Making Progress/McCalls 6610

Progress continues on the Jeans Project - my plan was to make a wearable muslin using McCalls 6610 and organic cotton twill from Fabric.com in red.  I was excited about using McCalls 6610 because based on my comparisons with Vogue's Calvin Klein pattern, the McCalls pattern looked very promising.

I made a few changes, though, before I even cut out.  Other bloggers/reviewers have noted that the rise on the McCalls 6610 is very high, and by comparing it to the Calvin Klein pattern, this appeared to be true.  So I used the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern and shortened both the front and back pattern pieces by about a half inch.  (Hint:  don't do this unless you are actually petite.)  And then I shaped the seat seam to mimic the Calvin Klein pattern since I like the fit.

I felt pretty confident of my changes which is usually a portent of things to come . . .  The weekend before last I cut out and put together the back of the jeans and back pockets.  On Labor Day, I picked it back up around 9:30 a.m. even though I was kinda tired and a little MS-y.  Also, I could tell my head just wasn't in the game.  But I had a free day, and I didn't want it to go to waste.

I should have listened to the universe, but I was feeling perversely stubborn that day.  This is the first zipper fly that I have made that didn't turn out well.  (Which is not McCalls' fault - I was all, hey, I've got this.)  First, I did it wrong, which I didn't discover until the jeans were put together and I tried them on.  Then, it became clear that my left side of the fly zip didn't complete cover the zipper, which is pretty much an epic fail.  Finally, I topstitched the fly four times and it still looks like crap.  

Once I got the waistband wrestled on this sucker there was only one thing I could do to get rid of the bad juju - I threw the jeans in the washer to get the evil out.  

Last night I hemmed them and did the buttonhole.  I put a regular button on rather than a jeans button because I wasn't sure if I was going to redo the waistband or not.  I didn't sew on the belt loops for the same reason.

I wore them to work today because today was a "jeans day" to celebrate the kickoff of the NFL season.  But I didn't get photos until I got home.  So they are:


I had been wearing these all day, so they are seriously wrinkled. But here's the verdict:  these jeans are too tight.  By shortening the rise as if I was a petite, when I'm really not, I made the upper hip and waist too tight.  If I had left well enough alone, they probably would have fit fine.


What I do like are the more narrow legs on this pattern than the Calvin Klein pattern.  Here's a booty shot that shows the waistband too low and too tight:


Also, you can see that the back yokes aren't flat where they meet the waistband - the instructions have you "ease" the jeans into the waistband.  I'm here to tell you that denim this heavy doesn't "ease".  At all.  For every pair of jeans I make from now on, I'll cut the waistband as long as it needs to be to avoid any easing.  If that makes the waistband a little bigger, all the better - who wouldn't want a little extra room in the waist?

Here's the shot that shows the waist too tight and my zipper exposed:


After wearing them all day, I won't be putting on any belt loops because I probably won't be wearing these jeans - they are just too tight and uncomfortable.

As I mentioned, what I do like about the pattern is the width of the legs.  The legs of the Calvin Klein pattern were too wide.  I compared the two patterns and interestingly, the back pattern pieces are the same width.  The difference is in the front pattern pieces - the front leg pattern piece of the McCalls pattern 6610 is much narrower.   

So here are my choices for my next jeans:

1)  Make McCalls 6610 again, unaltered, which will probably fit reasonably well;

2)  Combine the McCalls pattern and Calvin Klein pattern - maybe use the back pattern piece from the Calvin Klein pattern and the front from the McCalls pattern and see if that works; or

3) Do both.  I can make as many pairs of jeans as I want.

Parting shots:  Anne got married this weekend!  Here's a few photos I took:


Vicki's skirt in action:


Anne and Vicki:


Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Very Promising Jeans Muslin, Or, Holy Calvin Klein! Vogue 2442

Holy Calvin Klein, y'all, I think I've found the Holy Gail of jeans patterns!  Remember Brooke Shields and her famous Calvin Klein jean commercials?  I don't because I was living out of the country from 1978 to 1981, but I've heard tales.  And did you know that Vogue released a pattern in 1980 of Calvin Klein's jeans pattern?  I didn't know that, but found this on Etsy.com one day in my effort to find a jeans pattern that is more in style with my 1980's college jeans that I am trying to recreate:



My research indicates that it was featured in Vogue Patterns March/April 1980 issue (the model's hair style certainly looks 1979).  I went ahead and bought it because the current jeans patterns have the same fit as the ready-to-wear jeans of today - low rise and just uncomfortable all the way around.  I figured if I'm trying to get my 1980s jeans back, maybe I need a pattern from 1980s.

I never owned a pair of Calvin Klein jeans.  I've been a Levi's girl since I was 13.  But this pattern seem to have the rise and seat shape I'm looking for.  I bought a size 12, which matched my measurements, and found it to be uncut:



Although I don't believe it has been unused.  The tissue paper pattern had clearly been handled over the years - I suspect this is a sought-after pattern, although my internet searches have revealed no bloggers who have made jeans from this pattern.  (I did find CarmencitaB who made the skirt, though. Merci beaucoup!)

I love the pattern.  You can see that the seam allowances are marked.  Yay.  And interestingly, the skirt pattern pieces are completely separate from the jeans pattern pieces.  I thought maybe the jeans and skirt would use the same waist pattern pieces or pockets, etc.  Nope. Completely separate.

Here's the pattern piece for the famous Calvin Klein back pocket:


Comparing this pattern to the patterns I have used for my prior muslins, I got pretty excited about this one - it looked like it had the fit and ease I was looking for. (I was so excited I actually trace the pattern, which I normally don't do!) I was tempted to jump right in and use my good jeans fabric and skip the muslin, but good sense prevailed.  I wasn't happy about doing a muslin, but I made a deal with myself:  I would use regular sewing thread and a jeans needle for the entire construction, rather than switching out with topstitching thread.  I felt like I had enough practice topstitching away.

The instructions are great:



Very clear, especially the fly instructions.  The only thing weird is above; the instructions have you sew the side seams first, and then the inseam, while every other pants/jeans pattern or blog instructions have you do it the other way around.  I did the inseams first.

I also took this opportunity to experiment and made one back pocket the Calvin Klein way, and the other back pocket the Levi's way to see which I liked better.  I drafted the Levi's pocket piece from my college jeans:




I made the pattern piece mostly by measurement and a ruler:



On the left is the back pocket in its finished size and on the right is the pattern piece with 5/8 inch seam allowances added.

Here it is compared to the Calvin Klein pocket:



You can see that the Calvin Klein pocket is more square/upright, while the Levi's pocket is more slanty (is that a word? Spellcheck  says no).  

I used some of the leftover white bull denim I used on my jean skirt for these jeans, while I used the grey twill from my Vogue skirt for the pockets:



The topstitching is hard to see since I only used regular thread on this muslin, but it gave me the general idea.  Calvin Klein:



Levi's:



The real test though was the try-on.  As soon I put them on my body said, "Ahhhhhhh!"  This was the fit I remember:








It's not perfect, of course, but the seat curve is extremely comfortable, and what I am looking for.  Changes I want to make: 1) lower the rise in the front to be just below the belly button (I found out how to make this alteration here); and 2) and I need to narrow the thighs (which I haven't quite figured out how to achieve yet other than to find other patterns with a closer fit and frankenpattern the whole she-bang).

Here's the back which shows the excess fabric in the back thigh area that needs to be eliminated:





If anyone has any ideas how to achieve this, I'm all ears!  You can see that I made the waistband from some blue denim fabric, leftover from another muslin.  The pattern comes with a contoured waistband, but an examination of my college Levis shows that they were made with just a long rectangle of fabric cut on the crosswise grain with no interfacing.  So I gave it a try, and I like it.  The crosswise grain has more stretch (and who doesn't like stretch in the waistband?) and the crosswise grain is less likely to shrink (unlike the lengthwise grain, which many pants patterns use).

I also took this opportunity to put in a real metal jean zipper, my first.  It was long and I just sewed over it while sewing on the waistband.  I didn't break a needle, but I probably just got lucky.

You can see I've turned up the length - these jeans finish 33 1/4 inches long, which is way long for me and I have pretty long legs, as most of my height is in my legs, not my torso.

So as pleased as I am with this muslin, you would think I would go about making my pattern changes and get on with making the real jeans.  You would be wrong.  I'm taking a detour and making some jeans from McCall's 6610 because I am crazy.  I guess I want to see if there are aspects of this pattern that I like that I can incorporate into my final real jeans.  The one difference is that I am making a wearable muslin of McCalls 6610, rather than a real muslin, because sometimes you just have to make something you can really wear.  I making them in a red twill.  More to come on that.

One tip I want to share for topstitching jeans, and it's not my tip, but I wanted to pass it along.  Somewhere, in all my jeans research, I read that when you are using topstitching thread you should tighten your upper thread tension, which sounds backwards.  Logically, it sounds like you should loosen your tension with a thicker thread.  I read (and I'm sorry I can't remember who gave this advice so I can give credit where credit is due) that you should adjust your tension from a 4 on your Bernina to 7.  I tried it and it worked:


The bottom stitching on the pocket illustrates the tension set at 4 on the wrong of your fabric.  The top line illustrates tighter tension set at 7.  Here's a close up - you can see how much better the tension is when it is tighter:


Here's the finished pocket on the right side with proper topstitching thread and tension:


(Again, I used topstiching thread on top and regular thread in the bobbin, with the tension set at 7.)

Parting Shots:  The Carpenter got bored taking regular photos and felt we should be more "arty".  I can't say we succeeded:






P.S. I'm trying not to freak out about how huge my ass looks in these photos . . .