Okay, enough talk. Let’s make some jeans! This week is the official jeans sew along hosted by Melly Sews and myself. Hopefully you have your fabric and your pattern, your muslin made and you’re ready and raring to go. If not, no worries, you can always catch up or come back to these posts when you are ready.
So, first step to actually sewing is never sewing. Ugh. I know. It’s cutting out. Not my favorite part of the process, but it’s pretty much required, and there are some important rules to follow, and good tips to know to make the actual sewing, and eventually wearing, go as smoothly as possible.
First, let’s talk grain, selvedge and bias. Patterns will say to cut on the grain, or to follow the bias. What does that mean? The selvedge is the edge of the fabric, as it comes off the bolt. NOT the edge that is cut at the cutting table, but that long edge. It will frequently have the textile company’s name, or designer information, but not always. This piece of denim has none of that, but you can see the selvedge where the yellow stitching runs.
Cloth is woven with a vertical and a horizontal weave. The grain is that weave; the lengthwise grain is the thread woven the length of the fabric, parallel or going the same direction as the selvedge. The crosswise grain is the perpendicular threads, running across the lengthwise. Knowing your selvedge and the grain is important because the fabric will naturally drape along these line, and after sewn, the fabric will continue to be effected by the grain. It can twist and pull if not cut properly following the grain or the bias.
The bias is the imaginary diagonal that cuts across the the grain at a 45 degree angle. The bias of a woven fabric will have stretch, even when there is no stretch to the grain. Waistbands are often cut on the bias, and sometimes yokes, to use the stretch of the bias in those areas. You can find the bias of your fabric by first locating your selvedge edge, then folding the fabric at a 45 degree angle to the selvedge. The resulting fold is your bias. Most pattern pieces will have arrows or lines indicating how to orient that particular piece to the selvedge edge.
The idea is to line up that arrow with the selvedge. The legs of your jeans pattern will likely have an arrow that goes nearly the length of the pattern. You need that whole line to match the selvedge. To do this, take a ruler or measuring tape and lay it on the line of the arrow. Make sure the line of the arrow is always the same distance from the selvedge edge. This will ensure that your entire pattern piece is lined up how it should be.
Like I said before, if you just cut all willy-nilly and not as the pattern was meant to be cut, the end garment will not fit or drape properly, especially after washing.
If a pattern piece is mean to be cut on the bias, the arrow will be at an angle to the way the pattern itself looks. Just line up that arrow to the selvedge as you normally would. Some pieces, like this yoke, have an odd angle to them. Same thing. Follow that indication arrow, use your ruler, and orient things to the selvedge.
If you are working with a stretch denim, the stretch is usually in the parallel to the selvedge. So following the actual selvedge, and not just finding the grain (which could be lengthwise or crosswise) is important. If you are using a remnant, with no visual selvedge edge to it, use the grain lines to find the horizontal and vertical (or lengthwise and crosswise), then try stretching the material along either grain lines. The grain that is stretchier will by your selvedge. Mark it with chalk, if it makes it easier, but follow that determined selvedge to cut out.
I’m going to throw a twist at you here, though. Remember how I said that the bias of a woven fabric has stretch, even when the fabric normally does not? You can use this idea to make an unconventional fabric work in ways it wouldn’t otherwise. For this pair of floral jeans, I used upholstery fabric, with no stretch along the grain lines at all.
I loved the print, so was determined to make it work. I found my bias, and cut all of my pattern pieces using the bias as a selvedge.
This gave me enough stretch in the fabric to make a comfortable pair of jeans. I wear these all the time, dozens of times since making them five months ago. The fit is still awesome and you would never know they weren’t made out of stretch denim. Other than the fact I probably match a few peoples’ throw pillows and arm chairs!
Another thing to be aware of and watch for when cutting out, is whether the pattern includes seam allowance or not. Most patterns include it, but not all. Ottobre does not, Burda does not. I’ve heard many Japanese patterns do not. What this means is, the pattern pieces you are using to cut your fabric with do not have an extra space included to accommodate seams. If you cut the fabric to the size of the pattern, your end garment will be much smaller than you intended. The good news is patterns let you know in the instructions whether seam allowances are included or not. And adding seam allowances isn’t hard. The only tricky thing is remembering to do it and not cutting the whole thing out only to discover you forgot to add them (been there, done that. multiple times.)
To add seam allowances, just cut around the pattern piece with an additional 5/8 inch (or however big you make your seam allowances when sewing) all around. If you’re nervous about cutting free hand, trace out the seam allowance first or retrace the pattern with a seam allowance.
One thing to note, though, sometimes certain pattern pieces will have seam allowances even when the entire rest of the pattern does not. For example, Ottobre usually instructs that the fly pattern pieces include a seam allowance. This information is generally included in the beginning of your pattern instructions. Make sure to read through them before cutting out!
Okay, last thing when cutting out, make sure to transfer your markings. Pattern pieces will have indication points along the legs to where front and back need to meet up, along the waistband and leg tops to match up and to orient belt loops. The fly will have stitch lines indicated for top stitching and folding. And the pockets need to be marked. I’ll go over pockets in more detail later this week, but here is how I transfer my pocket markings (I also do this with darts)
I cut out along the lines of the pattern where the marking is
If you don’t want to trace out the whole line of the pocket placing, clip out a few placement points.
And then trace over those And now you should be cut out, with markings transferred over onto your cut pieces. And that means…TIME TO SEW!
Melissa is going over some sewing-with-denim tips today, so be sure to check that out. Lots of good information there.