Are you so excited? Today we get to start sewing your jeans. Like, really sewing. And the steps we’re going over today are probably the most “jeansy” things you’re going to do. What makes jeans Jeans, and not just pants, are the details. Five pockets, topstitching, yoke. The details that define what jeans are, are the first things you’re going to sew. Melissa is going over topstitching today over at Melly Sews. And I’m going to discuss pockets, yokes and flat felled seams. But not in that order.
First, flat felled seams. Felled is such a weird word to look at. Felled. But it is a really awesome seam, that will reinforce areas that are under a lot of stress and give longevity to your garment while giving you serious street cred with the local sewing peeps. Flat felled seams are finished on both sides, like a French Seam. But flat felled seams are also topstitched. I use flat felled seams at the yoke and center back seam of my own jeans. For my kids’, I also do a flat felled all the way around the inseam. I don’t do the inseam on mine. I’m not as hard on my clothes as they are, and that’s just so much stitching! Plus, in looking at my RTW jeans, most of them don’t have the inseam felled. But I always do it at the yoke and center back. Those are where your rear-end is going to be pulling at the fabric every time you sit, stretch, do lunges; you know, move. Here is my warning picture for you:
A pair of jeans I made last fall, and skipped the flat felled seams. The center seam started pulling and stretching almost immediately. I never blogged these because of this: so much shame. I’ve had to patch them on the inside and the outside, and it’s still getting worse. This pair is headed for the trash, which really stinks considering how much work went into making them. Take the time to do flat felled seams. Trust me.
I do slightly different flat felled seams for my jeans than the typical flat felled. If you want the official way to sew flat felled seams, you can see/read all about it HERE in my sewing lessons. I do it differently for jeans, because trying to fold a 1/8 inch seam allowance of thick denim underneath itself is kind of a huge pain in the butt. So, what I do for jeans is probably closer to a French Seam,and my saying “flat felled” is a total misnomer. But whatever. This is how I do it:
Instead of placing your fabric right sides together, sew the yoke to the top of the back leg wrong sides together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I use my serger, you don’t need to. Press the seam allowance toward the yoke.
Press seam allowance toward yoke. You now have a finished seam on the outside and the inside:
And a little folded over sandwich of super-strong seams
Topstitch close to the edge of the seam. I always double topstitch my yoke.
Now, repeat that for the center back seam, where the two leg pieces come together. Things are going to be thick where the yokes come together:
I use a method Melissa calls “bumper” (discussed in her post HERE), where I fold up some fabric and use that under the presser foot to even out the thickness of the seam across the yoke.
Even then, I still have to hand-crank for a few stitches right at the peak. Just go slow, turn the machine’s wheel by hand if you need to, and you’ll get through it. It’s a really small area that is so thick. The rest isn’t bad at all.
And the final product is a beautifully finished, super reinforced seam that will last. Flat felled (or French): learn them, love them, live them.
Now, onto pockets. If you are looking at your pattern instructions, you’ve probably noticed that they say to sew your pockets onto the back legs before putting the two legs together. Yes? No! I mean, I guess you can. But I don’t. The back pockets are the most stressful part of sewing jeans for me. You want them centered and placed just so. I wait until after I’ve sewn the yokes and center seams so I can line things up exactly how I want them, and not worry that the placement will look differently once seams are sewn. So first yokes, then center seam, THEN pockets. Back pockets. First question: do you want a design or plain? If you want a design, what? For my first pair of jeans, this question took me for.ev.er to answer. And then I went total nerd and decided to monogram my bum with a “S”. S for Sabra, S for Sew a Straight Line. S. And I kind of like it, so I stick with it. To make sure I get my S the same on both pockets, I trace the pocket pattern onto some graph paper. Then drew my S onto the paper. I use this same template for most all of my pockets now.
Following the pattern directions, fold over the top edge twice and topstitch. Now, fold the edges under in preparation for sewing to the pants. Some people use cardboard pieces, in the shape of the desired pocket, as a template. I lay my pockets on each other to make sure they are the same.
Now, for placement. I use a ruler and measure from the topstitch lines, centering the pockets to those rather than the actual center seam. The center seam is the real center, but the topstitching is the visual center. So that’s what I go with. And this is why I prefer to place my pockets after sewing that center seam. Make sure to line things up from the center topstitching and from the yoke.
Then I like to do a second row of topstitching parallel to the first.
The back pockets on the Named Jamie Jeans are really fun. They have two pieces, a top and a bottom. I wanted to show you what I did with my second pair of Jamie Jeans at the back pockets. I added a strip of folded-over suede at that center seam.
Okay, last thing. Front pockets. These are pretty straight forward, so not much to say about them.
They frequently require curved seams, which you can read about HERE if you aren’t familiar sewing curves. I like to use pinking shears on the seam allowance after sewing and prior to pressing.
Pocket bags are also a fun opportunity to play with fabric. The Jamie Jeans are especially fun for this, because of the pocket strip they have on the front. I did the reverse fabric for the red pair, and suede for the light indigo pair.
One more thing on front pockets. Light fabrics, both in color and in weight, will likely show the pocket bag through the material. So use discretion if playing with fabric there. Also, you may not want the lines from the pocket bag to show. This is what I ran into when I sewed my white skinny jeans last spring. So I cut the bags off
Okay, that’s day one. You should have something like this:
Don’t forget to check out Melissa’s tips on topstitching HERE!
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