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 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:


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 . . .

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Jeans Project - Style Arc's Sally Jean Skirt

The jeans saga continues!  My sewing goal is to make my own pair of well fitting, non-low rise, 100% cotton jeans of quality heavy denim.  I've been flagging a bit, for various reasons, but achieved more progress today than I expected:  I finished a jean skirt.

Why a skirt instead of a pair of jeans?  Well, for a couple of reasons.  First, I was tired of making a muslins; I wanted to make something I could actually wear and a skirt doesn't take as much fitting as actual jeans.  Second, Style Arc,  an Australian company, has several jeans patterns that look like contenders, but I had never used any of their patterns before and a skirt looked like a painless introduction to their line.  Third, I really liked the styling of their Sally Jean Skirt:

The skirt has all the classic details of a jean skirt, and is slightly A-line - exactly what I love.  This looked like a good pattern to use all I had learned on the muslins - topstitching, fly zipper, pockets, etc.

I've never made anything from a Style Arc pattern before, although I bought a dress pattern from them years ago (which I never made up and now I can't find).  Ann is very high on them as a pattern company for making well drafted patterns that look like ready-to-wear clothes.  One of the most important things about Style Arc is that when you order a pattern, it only comes in one size, rather than in multi-sizes which most sewers are used to.

I ordered a size 10 based on my measurements, and based on the fact that Ann uses the same size (I use the same size as she does in other pattern lines, so it was a good guess).  Vintage patterns used to be sold this way - you only got one size with each pattern.  However, one of the advantages of vintage patterns in one size is that they usually came with the pattern pieces already cut out.  Not so for Style Arc.  Even though you only get one size, you have to cut out the pattern pieces.  

OK, no big deal.  But the instructions, or lack there of, was a big deal.  Here are the instructions:

Yep, that's it.  One small page of tersely worded instructions.  I note that Style Arc's website rated this pattern as "challenging".  Given that this is a skirt, I would say the only reason this jean skirt would rate as "challenging" would be the lack of clear, proper instructions that modern sewers expect.  If they had provided the type of instructions the Big Four provide, with diagrams for each step, there is no reason an intermediate sewer couldn't sew this without much fuss.

The pattern did include additional information on how to insert the fly zipper:

They look like Egyptian hieroglyphics and just as indecipherable.  I end up using the fly zipper instructions from Butterick 5682, which was my very first jeans muslin.  I have found they are the best and most clear for inserting a fly zip, and I think I'm going to have to copy them and tack them up on my wall for future reference!

I used a white bull denim from  I had bought this fabric previously for muslin purposes because it was 100% cotton, it was 10 oz in weight, and it was reasonably priced.  I didn't know what "bull denim" was but research revealed that it is solid colored twill denim where the threads used to weave the denim are all the same color, as opposed to classic denim, where some of the threads are white and some are dyed indigo blue.  (Just so you know).

I thought a white jean skirt would be classic for summer, and by using white topstitching thread, I wouldn't have to stress about whether my stitching was perfect or not.

Cutting out was no problem.  The pattern called for different seam allowances in different areas, but mostly required a 3/8 seam allowance, which precluded any real flat-felled seams, so I went with mock-felled ones.  I used a size 16 needle, jeans thread for the seams, and topstitching thread for my topstitching.  All of my topstitching was done with a stitch length set at 4 on my Bernina.  I found that my topstitching looked best with jeans thread in the bobbin, and the topstitching thread only in the needle.

The pattern pieces went together beautifully, but thank God I had learned how to do jeans pockets from prior muslins, particularly Kwik Sew 3193, or I would have never figured it out.  For my pocket bags, I used white oxford cotton from an old button down shirt.  

Everything was going along pretty well, until I tried to make the buttonhole in the waistband.  Berninas are known for their excellent buttonholes but I think mine got flumfloxed by all the denim layers.  It wasn't working, and I ended up ripping out the buttonhole - twice. So I skipped that part, and went on to the belt loops - nope, my Bernina wasn't having any of that either.  

I gave up, and went over to Vicki's and used her new Brother Laura Ashley which has this thingy-ma-bob that automatically measures your button and stitches your buttonhole to the correct length.  Awesome.  It made a fantastic keyhole buttonhole in my waistband and now I want the Laura Ashley so badly, I can taste it.  

But Vicki's machine still couldn't handle my belt loops - I got three on but in a very haphazard fashion - so I decided my belt loop technique was probably the problem.  I had too many layers for either sewing machine to handle.

(And by the way, while the instructions tell you to sew the belt loops where indicated, no where on the pattern pieces are there any markings for belt loops.  I ended up pulling out various Levis I own and figuring it out.)

So that is where my jean skirt sat for several weeks.  Things I still needed to do:  attach the jean button which I had ordered from Taylor Tailor, make less bulky belt loops and attach them, and hem the skirt.  This morning, I picked up the jean button and read Taylor's instructions, and decided this was a job for The Carpenter.  I was able to get the nail through the waistband in the exact spot I wanted the button to go, and then The Carpenter nailed the button on, wacking it from the wrong side of the waistband until the jean button was attached and did not turn.  After all my worrying about this step, it ended up being the easiest part of the whole project!

Then I made two new belt loops, where I cut a strip of the denim 3 times the width I wanted the belt loops to be, and folded it in thirds, and topstiched.  Voila - easier than the original belt loops, and less bulky.  My Bernina sewed them on (I only had the two left in front to do) like a boss, so any problems previously was my error, not the machine's.

Next, since I was on a roll, I put in the hem.  The skirt called for a 3/4 inch hem, but that wasn't going to be above my knee - I ended up putting in a 2 inch hem and topstitching 1 inch from the skirt edge.  And I was done.  Before noon.  Here's the finished skirt:

It's a real jean skirt, y'all.  Here's the back:

What I like about this skirt is that the back waist hits at your real waist, while the front waist is lower, a little below your belly button, which is how I like my jeans to fit.  

I didn't put any fancy topstiching on the back pockets for the simple reason that I forgot:

I didn't use rivets on the pockets because I didn't want the stress of making holes in my skirt after all the work of making this skirt!  Plus, I think the white skirt looks fine without them.

The skirt fits great.  I mean, there is nothing about it I would change and I would even be willing to make this pattern in "real" denim and proud to wear it.  While I was making it, the lack of clear instructions made me eliminate the possibility of using any of Style Arc's jeans patterns, but now that the skirt is done, and looks so ready to wear, I might have to give Style Arc another look!

I'm getting closer to my jeans reality.  One issue I still haven't dealt with:  using a real metal jeans zipper.  On this skirt, I used a regular nylon zipper.  My concern with a metal zipper is that sewing over the teeth is probably going to break a needle.  I need to figure out how you shorten a jeans zipper or sew over it in the waistband without breaking a needle.  (I think it involves pliers and pulling the teeth out one by one.)  More research.

And more fitting muslins need to be done.  But at least now I have a finish that has gotten me closer to the goal!