Admittedly, I spend more time seam ripping jeans for my projects (like for this patchwork denim jacket) than I do making my own jeans, but I’d be lying if I didn’t imagine walking into a room with the perfect fitting jeans and telling everyone that these were blue jeans that I made myself.
And, if you’re like me, you’ve too, looked at a pair of jeans and thought, “I wish I knew how to sew jeans.”
We’re not alone.
Many fashion enthusiasts and DIY lovers have pondered the same. With the rise of sustainable fashion and the desire for unique, custom-fit clothing, sewing your own jeans has become a sought-after skill.
By the end of this guide, you’ll not only understand the intricate process of making jeans but also be equipped with actionable steps to craft your very own pair.
Let’s dive into the world of denim and sew the perfect pair of jeans!
Choosing the Right Denim
The fabric you use is essential to great looking jeans. If this is your first pair of : jeans, then you’ll want to consider how you’ll be wearing them before you start sewing. There are many different types of denim and a variety of fabric weights, but we’re really going to be focused on two criteria:
Stretch vs. Non-Stretch (or 100% cotton) Denim: Depending on the fit you desire (skinny jeans vs. regular fit), you’ll need to choose between stretch denim and non-stretch denim.
Fabric Weight: For everyday wear, a mid-weight denim is ideal. It’s durable yet comfortable.
Gathering Essential Sewing Tools
Sewing a pair of jeans is a fulfilling project that requires a specific set of tools and materials due to the thickness and durability of denim. Here’s a list of tools and materials you’ll need to sew a pair of jeans:
Sewing Machine: A heavy-duty sewing machine with the ability to handle thick fabrics like denim is essential for sewing jeans.
Denim Needle: These needles are specifically designed for sewing through thick fabrics like denim. They have a stronger shaft and a sharper point to pierce through the layers effectively.
Thread: Use a sturdy, high-quality thread suitable for your fabric. You can choose a thread color that matches or complements the denim color.
Scissors: A good pair of fabric scissors for cutting denim accurately.
Pins or Clips: Strong pins or fabric clips to hold the denim layers together while sewing.
Seam Ripper: In case you need to undo stitches or adjust seams.
Measuring Tools: A measuring tape, a clear ruler, and a tailor’s chalk or fabric marking tool for accurate measurements and markings.
Iron and Ironing Board: Ironing denim is crucial for achieving crisp seams and a polished finish.
Topstitching Thread: A slightly thicker thread in a contrasting color for visible topstitching details on jeans.
Denim: Choose a durable and high-quality denim fabric in the desired wash and weight. Pre-wash and press the fabric before sewing to prevent shrinkage.
Jeans Pattern: Select a jeans pattern that fits your measurements and style preferences. Patterns are available for various jean styles, such as skinny, straight, bootcut, or wide-leg.
Pocket Lining Fabric: Lightweight cotton fabric for the pocket linings. You can choose a fun or contrasting fabric for a personalized touch.
Zipper: A sturdy jeans zipper that matches the denim color. You can opt for metal or plastic zippers, depending on your preference.
Jeans Button: A jeans button or rivet for the waistband closure. These are usually available in metal or plastic.
Interfacing: Fusible interfacing to reinforce the waistband, fly shield, and any other areas that need extra stability.
Optional Embellishments: If desired, you might need studs, grommets, embroidery floss, or patches for added style elements.
Thread Lubricant (Optional): A thread lubricant like beeswax can be helpful when sewing through thick layers of denim.
Selecting a Jeans Pattern
When choosing your paper pattern, there are several factors to consider to ensure that the pattern aligns with your sewing skills, body shape, style preferences, and desired fit. Here’s what you should consider when selecting a jeans pattern:
Fit and Style: Different jeans patterns offer various fits and styles, such as skinny, straight-leg, bootcut, wide-leg, high-waisted, mid-rise, and low-rise. Choose a pattern that suits your body shape and aligns with your personal style preferences.
Pattern Sizing: Check the pattern sizing to ensure it includes your measurements. If you fall outside the standard size range, look for patterns that offer grading instructions or extended sizing options.
Ease of Alteration: Consider how easy it will be to make fitting adjustments to the pattern. Look for patterns with detailed fitting guides or those that match your body measurements closely, minimizing the need for extensive alterations.
Detailed Instructions: Look for patterns that provide clear and comprehensive instructions, including illustrations or photos for each step. A well-drafted pattern with thorough instructions can make the sewing process smoother.
Additional Design Elements: Consider whether the pattern includes features like different pocket styles, distressing options, or variations in leg lengths. These details can help you customize the jeans to your liking.
Topstitching Details: If you appreciate the look of visible topstitching, ensure that the pattern includes instructions for topstitching and that it specifies the type of thread to use.
Closure Type: Some patterns might have a traditional zipper fly, while others could have a button fly or other closure options. Choose a closure type that you’re comfortable with or would like to learn.
Pockets and Details: Examine the pocket designs, back yoke shape, and other details that contribute to the overall look of the jeans. Choose a pattern with design elements you find appealing.
Reviews and Recommendations: Look for reviews or recommendations from other sewers who have used the pattern. Their insights can provide valuable information about the fit, instructions, and overall experience with the pattern.
Pattern Brand: Different pattern brands have varying styles, sizing, and instructions. If you have experience with a particular brand and find their patterns well-fitting and well-drafted, consider sticking with them.
By carefully considering these factors, you’ll be able to choose a jeans pattern that aligns with your sewing goals, style preferences, and comfort level.
Cutting the Denim
Properly cutting your fabric ensures accurate pieces that will come together seamlessly during construction. Here are the steps necessary for cutting the denim:
Prepare the Fabric: Ensure that your denim has been pre-washed and pressed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This prevents shrinkage after sewing.
Layout the Pattern: Lay out your fabric on a flat surface, wrong side facing up. Arrange each pattern piece on the fabric according to the pattern’s layout guide, taking into consideration fabric grain lines and any pattern matching.
Secure the Pattern: Use straight pins or fabric clips to secure the pattern pieces to the denim. Make sure the pattern pieces are placed accurately on the fabric and are not shifting.
Mark the Cutting Lines: Use a fabric marking tool to trace the cutting lines onto the your fabric. Trace all the lines indicated on the pattern pieces, including seam lines, notches, darts, and any design details.
Double-Check: Before cutting, double-check that all the pattern pieces are accurately placed, match any notches or alignment marks, and follow the grain lines of the fabric.
Cut the Fabric: Using fabric scissors or a rotary cutter, carefully cut along the traced cutting lines. Take your time on this.. If using a rotary cutter, work on a cutting mat to protect your work surface.
Mark Notches and Other Details: Use the fabric marking tool to mark notches, dart points, and any other design details that will aid in sewing and assembling the jeans.
Organize and Label: As you cut each piece, you can consider using removable sticky notes or labels to identify them and keep them organized. This will help you avoid confusion during the sewing process.
Double-Check Before Moving: After cutting, review your pieces one more time to make sure all the markings, notches, and pieces are accurately cut. This will help prevent mistakes during sewing.
Sewing the Front Pockets
Gather Necessary Pocket Pieces: Ensure you have the pocket lining, pocket shields (to hide the fabric at the pocket opening), and a coin pocket piece.
Prepare the Coin Pocket: Fold and press the opening of the coin pocket. Fold once, press, and then fold again, pressing once more.
Topstitch the Coin Pocket Opening: Use heavy thread in the needle and sewing machine thread in the bobbin. Consider using a topstitching needle with heavy denim thread.
Prepare Coin Pocket Sides: Fold and press in the side seam allowance by approx. 3/8″ on each side.
Attach the Coin Pocket: Place the coin pocket on the lower edge of the right pocket shield. Topstitch the pocket, starting from the outer right edge, pivoting at the end, and sewing along the lower edge to close the opening.
Attach the Pocket Shield to the Lining: Place the pocket shield on the lining. Attach the shields to the lining with a straight stitch along the shield’s lower edge.
Attach the Lining to the Front Jeans Pieces: With the wrong side up and right sides facing, place the curved lining opening on top of the pocket opening. Sew close to the edge using a straight stitch.
Topstitch the Pocket: Fold over the pocket opening and press. Sew close to the edge for the first row. Make a second row using a regular presser foot.
Sew a French Seam for the Pocket Opening: Fold the pocket lining so that wrong sides are facing. Use a straight stitch along the edge. Then, turn the lining so the right sides are facing each other and repeat a second row to enclose the seam.
Baste the Pocket: Machine baste the side and the top of the pocket to keep it in place during the assembly process.
Constructing the Jeans
Attach Back Pockets: Place and sew the back pockets onto the back pattern pieces following the pattern instructions. This usually involves topstitching around the pocket edges and attaching any pocket flaps or decorative elements.
Construct the Back Yoke: After you sew the back pockets, align the yoke with the back main pieces, right sides facing. Stitch along the curved seam, joining the yoke to the main body. Press the seam open for a smooth finish. If the pattern includes a yoke lining, repeat the process with the yoke lining, attaching it to the yoke. Press the lining seam open. Finally, press the yoke and lining away from the main body for a clean result.
Sew the Crotch Seam: Begin by aligning the front and back pieces at the crotch curve, right sides facing. Stitch the crotch seam, carefully following the pattern’s seam allowance. Press the seam open or to one side, ensuring it lies flat. Reinforce the seam by stitching over it with a second row of stitches, known as a flat-felled seam, for added durability. This technique encases the raw edges within the seam for a polished look.
Assemble Front and Back: With right sides together, sew the front and back pieces together at the inseam and side seams. Press the seams open or towards the back. Remember to align the raw edges perfectly.
- Insert Zipper: I explain how to sew a zipper here, but for this project start by aligning the zipper face-down along the fly edge with its teeth centered on the seam allowance. Pin in place, then use a zipper foot on your sewing machine to stitch close to the zipper teeth, securing it to one side. Press the seam open and fold the zipper facing over the zipper teeth. Stitch along the folded edge, creating a neat finish. On the other side, pin the zipper tape, face-down, onto the seam allowance. Stitch close to the teeth, ensuring both sides of the zipper align seamlessly.
- Sew Center Back Seam: With right sides facing, align the back pieces along the center back seam. Stitch the seam with precision, adhering to the pattern’s seam allowance. Press the seam open or to one side to ensure a smooth finish. For added strength and a professional touch, sew a second row of stitching, creating a flat-felled seam that encases the edges.
Sew Inner Leg Seams: Align the front and back legs, right sides together, along the inner leg seam. Stitch the seam, adhering to the pattern’s seam allowance, and press the seam open or to one side for a neat appearance.
Adding the Finishing Touches
Construct Waistband: Sew the waistband pieces together along their short ends, right sides facing, to form a loop. The width of the waistband can vary based on the style of jeans and personal preference. The waistband length will be determined by the waist measurement plus seam allowances for joining and closure. Add seam allowances of about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) on each end for seam allowances where the waistband attaches to the jeans, and additional allowance for the closure method (buttonhole or snap).
Attach Waistband: A common width for jeans waistbands is around 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm).Align the waistband to the top edge of the jeans, matching the center back and side seams. Stitch them together, leaving a small opening for inserting the buttonhole or snap. Press the seam allowance and understitch for a clean look. Fold the waistband in half lengthwise, enclosing the raw edges, and press. Sew the folded waistband with topstitching along the upper edge, creating a polished appearance. Finally, insert the jeans button or snap through the prepared opening, completing the waistband construction with a secure and refined finish.
Hem: Hem the bottom of the jeans to the desired length. You can choose a regular hem, a double-fold hem, or a cuff, depending on the style you prefer. Fold the raw edge of the pant legs inward and sew a straight stitch to secure the hem.
Add Belt Loops: These are essential for a snug fit. Sew the center back belt loop directly at the center back seam of the jeans. This loop provides stability and helps prevent the waistband from sagging. Sew the subsequent belt loops about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) away from the center back loop, then space the remaining belt loops approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) apart.
Topstitching (Optional): Using a topstitching thread that contrasts or matches your denim, sew two rows along the seams. This not only adds strength to the seams but also gives your jeans a professional look.
Install Jeans Button or Rivet: Attach the jeans button or rivet to the waistband, following the pattern instructions. This provides a secure closure.
Final Pressing: Give your jeans a final press to set the seams and achieve a polished finish.
Trim any loose threads then try on the jeans and check the fit. Make any necessary adjustments to the waistband, hem length, and overall fit before making final stitches.
Now your pants are ready to be worn and enjoyed!
Can you sew jeans with a regular sewing machine?
Yes… but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind due to the thickness and durability of denim. Here’s what you need to know:
Use the Right Needle: Denim is a dense and heavy fabric, so it’s crucial to use the appropriate needle. Use a denim needle or a heavy-duty needle designed to handle thick fabrics. These needles have a stronger shaft and a sharper point to pierce through the layers of denim effectively.
Use Strong Thread: Opt for a strong and durable thread suitable for denim. Polyester or polyester-wrapped cotton thread is a good choice. Consider using a slightly thicker thread for topstitching to achieve that classic jeans look.
Adjust Stitch Length and Tension: Experiment with stitch length and tension settings on a scrap piece of denim to ensure the stitches are even and secure. Longer stitches may work better for denim.
Sewing Machine Foot: A regular presser foot may struggle with the thickness of denim. If available, use a walking foot or an even-feed foot, as they help feed the fabric evenly from the top and bottom, preventing fabric layers from shifting.
Take It Slow: Sewing through denim requires a slower sewing speed, especially when going over bulky seams. This helps prevent needle breakage and ensures accurate stitching.
Pinning and Clipping: Use strong pins or fabric clips to hold thick denim layers together. Be cautious when sewing over pins, as they can damage your machine’s needle.
Pressing: Regularly press your seams with a hot iron to flatten and set them. Use steam and press cloth to protect the fabric.
Consider Topstitching: If your jeans design includes topstitching, use a straight stitch and consider using topstitching thread in a contrasting color. Use a topstitching or edgestitching foot for precise topstitching lines.
Test on Scraps: Before sewing on your actual jeans, practice on denim scraps to get comfortable with your machine’s settings and to ensure the desired results.
While a standard sewing machine can be used for sewing jeans, keep in mind that sewing through thick denim can put more strain on your machine’s motor and components. If you plan to sew denim frequently, investing in a heavy-duty sewing machine designed for thicker fabrics might be a worthwhile consideration.
What tension do you sew jeans on?
The appropriate tension for sewing jeans depends on various factors, including your sewing machine, the specific denim fabric you’re using, and your personal preferences. However, as a general guideline, you might start with a tension setting around 4 to 6 on a standard sewing machine.
Sewing your own jeans might seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, a bit of patience, and this comprehensive guide, you’re on the right track to creating a pair that not only fits perfectly but also reflects your personal style.
Embrace the world of DIY fashion and wear your creation with pride!