Day Two in Melly Sews’ and my Jean-ius series. Yesterday we showed you our new flare jeans and talked a bit about two newer jean patterns available. Today, Melissa is showing a great tip for adjusting fit on any pants, including jeans. And I’m going to talk a bit about buying denim fabric.
Denim itself isn’t usually too hard to find. My local big-national-chain store carries multiple bolts of a variety of denims. There is a locally-owned sewing shop about 25 miles away that always has flat-fold denims for sale at rock-bottom prices. Then there are the online retailers. With garment-sewing becoming increasingly popular, you can easily find denim at any of hundreds of shops across the internet. I’ve purchased from all over, and I have a few tips for you from what I’ve learned.
Denim is differentiated by its color, weight, and stretch. Color is up to you. But weight and stretch I have strong opinions on.
Remember, denims are used for everything from flowey tops to upholstery. The term “denim” refers to the type of weave, not what the fabric is intended to be sewn. And there are many denims not appropriate for sewing in to jeans. When buying online, if there is no weight listed (shown in ounces-oz) somewhere in the item description, don’t do it. Just click away. Weight is that important.
Keep the weight at 8-12 oz, with the 8oz being the very lightest and the 120z the very highest.
Anything less than 8oz isn’t going to hold up as jeans. The way the center back seams are sewn, and at the zipper fly and crotch, you are going to get significant pulling and strain through those areas. You need something durable enough to put up with it all. Also, you need the structure a heavier denim provides, especially at the yokes and waistband. I too-light denim is going to sag.
Heavier than 12 oz, and you aren’t going to be able to move much. If you like sitting and bending your legs, don’t go above the 12oz. Plus, your machine will likely hate you and spit broken needles, especially at that back flat-felled yoke!
My personal favorite jean denim weight is smack in the middle at 10 oz. That is what most RTW designers use, it feels the best to me, and it washes and wears fantastic. 8oz make nice trouser-type jeans and are good for tight skinny jeans. 12 oz denims are more rugged and will last forever. 10 oz is just right for most jeans.
I told you to not buy online if weight isn’t listed. But what about regular brick-and-mortor fabric store shopping? My tip: When buying in person, wear jeans to the store.
Most of us have that favorite pair of jeans. Most of us don’t want to cut a swatch out of those jeans. Instead, wear your jeans to the fabric store. As you are looking for fabrics, compare the fabric that you’re shopping from to the fabric on your body. Compare thickness and stretch (compare your jeans at the calf area, where they see the least amount of wear) One of my regular places to shop near me, they sell the denims flat fold, without cardboard bolts and usually zero information on the fabrics. It’s just a big bin of all sorts of denim cuts. The prices are super low, but it’s super hard to know what you’re getting. I’ve come home with some total scores, and some total duds. So now, I just wear jeans I love to that store and compare the shop’s denims with what I have on until I find cuts that most closely match what I know I like.
This is a matter of preference, but I still have my personal opinion on this one. 2% lycra, or stretch, or spandex, or whatever it’s labeled. 2%. Remember that and you will be happy. Again, going off RTW industry standards, most modern women’s jeans have a 2% stretch content. 2% will help you get those jeans up and over your curves, and keep you from splitting seams when you bend. 2% will keep the jeans’ shape as you wear them, minimizing that droopy bum effect by the end of the day. You can go with less than or more stretchy denims, but it’s my understanding most current women’s jeans patterns are designed with a 2% stretch in mind. If you deviate, make sure you account for the extra or lack of stretch when cutting out and sewing. Especially if you go with less stretch. Did you see my Birkins yesterday? Zero stretch and so much pulling in the hips and rise Don’t let that happen to you! Men’s and kids’ jeans, especially boys’, are much more likely to be 100% cotton (and a heavier weight), and are cut looser to account for that. But for women’s jeans, stick with the 2%
Now I want to share a few of the places to buy denim online.
WHERE TO BUY
Pacific Blue Denims
Okay, yes, they are sponsoring this series, but it’s because I approached them, because I wanted them. This is why: they have a MASSIVE selection of denims from all over the world. Like more than anywhere I have ever seen selling to the general public. Where most sources have maybe a few dozen choices, Pacifc Blues has hundreds. HUNDREDS! You can buy chambrays to raw denims, pocketing, corduroys. Pretty much anything having to do with jeans and denims, they’ve got you. HUGE inventory. I love that they show the country where the denim is milled, which is super important if you are socially conscious about your textile purchases. They are also great about showing the weight and the stretch of each denim. You can even search by weight and stretch (and country!)
Now, a note about how you shop from them, because their website is set up a bit differently than others. You email for a price list and then make your purchase by emailing them. Their customer service is super fast. I got replies within a few hours. Generally speaking, their designer denims range around $5-$7/yard. They do charge a cutting fee of $25/per 5 cuts of fabric if you are ordering less than 100 yards. Before you balk at this, consider you’re still only paying about $12/yard (or less if you buy more than one yard of each of five cuts) for designer-quality denims sourced directly from the mills. In the end, you pay right on par, if not less than other sources. And if you find yourself in the LA garment district, you can shop in person. And did I mention how massive their inventory is?!?
Another sponsor because of the service and quality they offer, Stonemountain has a generous selection of not just denims, but many other bottomweight fabrics, as well. They offer everything from traditional denims to twills to corduroy to textured and printed denims. Weights, contents and stretch are all listed for their offerings, making it easier to know just what you are getting. Stonemountain also sells hardware and threads for jeans-sewing. They offer complete hardware kits, too. All of the best quality to ensure your jeans are top of the line.
Another LA garment shop with an online presence. They buy surplus from big name designers, so their inventory is always changing and fluctuates in how much they have at any time. But I’ve found fun colors of really great quality denims in the past. Just keep your eyes open for “designer” in the labeling, and of course watch for weights and stretch.
You probably know them for their inexpensive knits, but Girl Charlee frequently has stretch denims and/or twills in stock, though not very many. It’s kind of hit and miss of what they’ll have when, but I’ve picked up some good denims in the past.
Iconic fabric store with shops in New York and LA, they have decent selection of denims including designer-milled. Again, pay attention to the weights as they lump all their denims together. They tend to be a bit more pricey, but the quality is generally very good.
Also, a source I have not personally bought denim from, but I have heard great things from people I know personally:
This is a fantastic company dedicated to making sure your sewing is professional and top quality. They only offer patterns they have sewn and tried themselves. They also offer a jeans sewing kit. As far as I know, as of this writing, you can only buy the kits, and not individual pieces (like the denim). But the kits include everything you need, fabric and hardware, to sew your jeans.
I know there are other places, LOTS of other places to buy denim online. But these are four that I feel comfortable directing you towards.
In conclusion, remember 10oz weight, 2% stretch.
Don’t forget to check out Melissa’s fitting post today and we’ll see you back tomorrow to discuss distressing techniques!