Monday, November 26, 2012

Making a Jeans Pattern - Tracing the Sacrificial Lamb

It's can be hard to take your scissors to a perfectly good, well-fitting pair of pants. In fact, I think the reason I haven't attempted this sooner is because I couldn't bear to make the sacrifice, even if they were thrift store pants. If it helps, you can say some nice words about the pants before you cut into them - you know, remind them that this is all part of a bigger plan, for the greater good, and so on.

Instagram filter for nostalgic effect
I still have some regrets about not taking a photo of these while they were still whole. All I have is memories. *Sigh*

Whatever! I'm going to have pants that fit when this is through! So here again are the pieces.

You can see (kinda) that I cut right along the seam lines, and I didn't preserve any seam allowances, so I'll have to add those back in. I gave everything a good ironing so that it will lay flat when I trace it. I haven't cut the pocket stuff apart yet. I want to be able to trace the front leg piece as a whole before I do that. And you also may have noticed that the legs seem a little.... stumpy? It's not that I'm a shorty. These are/were capri length. It would have been nice to use some pants that were the length I want for the end product, but these fit well in the butt and waist and that seemed like the most important thing. I can always add length.

I just compared my pieces to a pair of jeans with length that I like, and added in the difference. (NOTE! I didn't think of this at the time, but I should have added in the difference plus a couple inches extra in case of shrinkage. It's the wise thing to do.)

I'm tracing all my pieces on a roll of tracing paper that I got at an art supply store. There's not a lot to say about the tracing process. I just drew around everything with pencil, and then cleaned the lines up with French curve when I was done.

Of course, then I spilled water on some of them which made the paper wrinkle. So I re-traced. Can't be lazy. I also labeled everything like a good girl, put little marks where the belt loops were located, and noted how many pieces I would have to cut. After that, I went around and added 5/8" seam allowances on all edge (not present yet in the photo above).

One piece which is a little weird is the fly facing:

It's a piece that is cut on the fold, left folded in half, and then stitched on the bottom edge (marked "finished"). Then that edge was trimmed and it was turned inside out to create a clean finish on the bottom edge. You can see that I still need to add a seam allowance there in my tracing. The serged edge doesn't need a seam allowance added, not unless I wanna do some other kind of seam finishing there.

I also had some edges that came out a little wonky... maybe because of my over-zealous cutting when I hacked everything apart. For example, there's a little dent out of the crotch curve on the back leg piece:

I decided it's best to just smooth those things out to lines that look nice, and move onward.

For the waistband, I ended up tracing three separate pieces: one for the back, one for the front left, and one for the front right. I'm not sure why the front left and right are different lengths, but I'm sure all will be made clear when it's time to sew it together.

This waistband is about 2" wide, so I made sure all my traced pieces maintained that same width when I evened out my tracing lines.

Finally, the pocket area. First I traced the front leg piece with pocket still attached. Then, I cut off the piece above the pocket like so, and traced the curve of the pocket line:

Once that was traced, I added a seam allowance on the outer edge of the curve, and voila, my front pant piece is drafted.

I'm not cutting off that corner at the upper left yet, though, because it's another piece I have to draft. I laid tracing paper over...

...and traced the lines for the top and sides of the pants, as well as the pocket line. What I'm calling the "pocket line" is the line where the actual edge of the pocket will fall, after everything is sewn together and seam allowances are folded back. Next I drew a line for the bottom of the pocket bag:

This involved some guesswork, since at some point I had sliced and diced the original pocket bag...

Oh well! Doesn't really matter so long as all the seams match up with the edges of the front pants piece. Now, from this tracing I actually needed to make a few separate pieces. Since I'm no Photoshop pro, I decided to just draw you some diagrams and color them with pencils. Any shortcomings in these drawings are entirely the fault of the colored pencils, which were crappy.

Okay, so first we need a piece for the upper, outside corner of the pant leg. It consists of that corner that gets cut out of the front leg piece, plus a little extra so that your pocket bag doesn't peek out. Like so:

I colored the corner piece red, and here is how I drafted it:

The picture above shows the corner piece with all edges and seam allowances colored in red. How far does the corner piece need to extend beyond the pocket line? I really don't know... I just eyeballed it and drew a line about 2 inches below where the pocket line was, then added the seam allowance.

Next comes the pocket bag. The edge of the pocket bag will match up with the edge of this corner piece (not including seam allowances). The pocket bag piece is marked in green pencil below. Things are starting to look a little messy, but so long as you keep track of which lines are your stitching lines and which lines are your seam allowances, you'll be fine. In this case, the line that is colored both red and green is where the stitching will connect the pocket bag to the corner piece. The pocket bag's seam allowance extends to one side of it, and the corner piece's seam allowance extends to the other. And if that doesn't make sense... well, you can email me or leave a comment.

To sew up both pockets you'll need to cut four of those pocket bag pieces total. Now for the last piece... it's a facing for the front of the pocket. The facing gets sewn to main front pants piece along the pocket line, and turned to the inside. It also helps to keep the pocket from peeking out. Now, my ready-to-wear jeans don't have this - they just have the pocket bag sew directly to the front pants piece, and then they understitch it. You could do that, but then you would need separate pattern pieces for the front and back of the pocket bag: one which matches up with the edge of the corner piece, and one which matches up with the edge of the pocket line on the front pants piece. If this is totally confusing, just get out a pair of jeans, turn them inside out, and stare at the pockets for a while. You'll see what I mean. I thought a facing made more sense so I drafted one, thus:

Yep, that's a lot of confusing lines. The green is the pocket bag. The blue is the facing piece. The seam lines for this piece are the pocket line and the line that marks the edge of the pocket bag/edge of the corner piece. Seam allowances are added on the outside of both these lines.

Blech! That was not fun to explain, and I hope I did an okay job. Also, I didn't draft a coin pocket (that little dinky pocket nested inside the bigger pocket) because I am LAZY. Also, who uses a coin pocket anyway? Maybe next time I'll do it, just for looks.

So that's it! Any pieces I missed?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Makin Jeans!

How nice is it to find a pair of jeans that fit you really, really well? REALLY REALLY nice. Like most people, I think, I don't have such an easy time of it. My hip to waist ratio just doesn't mesh with the kinda standard sizing you find in most clothing companies, although stretch fabrics and the introduction of "curvy fit" jeans does help. Oddly enough, it seems that I often get the best fit from pants I pick up at Goodwill... pants that appear to be from the early 90s...

Some "vintage" jeans on Etsy. Already sold, but don't worry ladies, Goodwill has a healthy supply unless the hipsters get there first.
But let's face it - those thrift store jeans will only get a girl so far. I will never look as chic in 90s pants as the young woman above... and I'm not even sure she's pulling it off. Just go check out the rear view, and you'll see. Still, the proportions are right... smaller waist, bigger hips than today's jeans, which tend to do this on me...

source, from Alterations Needed
For a while now it has been by aspiration to tackle this issue, create jeans perfectly fitted to my dimensions, and laugh in the face of those silly standard sizes! Ha! Stupid sizes! I used to think I was the one with the problem, but now I know it's YOUR silly assumption that all people are built the same. Really. Standard sizing, you are an idiot.

Ahem. Anyway, to achieve this, I knew I could rely on any standard sewing patterns either - at least, not unless I want to do a zillion fitting adjustments and multiple muslins. Nope! Thankfully, Tasia has heard the cries of the curvy folk and delivered an excellent pants pattern, the Thurlows, but they aren't jeans style and they aren't made for stretch fabrics. I have my Thurlow pattern and will definitely make some up in the future,  but to make my own jeans I decided to go rogue... and MAKE MY OWN PATTERN. Okay, that's not that crazy, but I've had a lotta coffee this morning.

So I took a pair of those 90s pants from Goodwill that fit me nicely and I cut them apart at the seams. I didn't bother unpicking the stitching... that would of been a pain in the ass with all the serged seams. Here they are, deconstructed...

(Sorry for the crappy photo. I like to work in the afternoon when the sun comes into the dining room, but it is not nice for photos.) I was pleasantly surprised that there weren't that many pieces. Pants aren't that complicated, even though sewing people sometimes think so. There's a front leg piece, a back leg piece, a yoke piece for the back, the fly facing doohickey, the waistband, and that's it. Oh wait. I forgot about all the pocket stuff. Okay, actually, they are a little complicated, but I'm going to try to document how I've gone about making my own patterns and sewing it all together in the next few posts. With any luck, at the end of this I'll have a perfectly fitting pair of me-made jeans and a pattern which I will use to sew dozens of variations while laughing in the face of ill-fitting commercial jeans! Wish me luck!