Anyone who loves to sew knows that it’s possible to make your own denim garments. The questions quickly become, do you have the ability to? That’s followed up with, what skills do you really need to make jeans? The answers are relatively straightforward. If you can work behind a sewing machine with some confidence level, you certainly have the skills and ability to make jeans. But getting down to the task does require a bit of preparation.
You must understand how jeans fit best and how they are made commercially before getting started. If you want that snug but comfy, sturdy, and reliable set of jeans, then you need to spend some time measuring and understanding how you sit on your body.
To get started off on the right foot, let’s quickly recap what exactly counts as denim. The denim textile has a few key characteristics, most notably a cotton warp-faced twill that is sturdy and surrounded by at least two other warp threads: the warp threads and layering results in the rippled diagonal appearance of denim.
Levi Strauss denim sets itself apart from the rest by not just focusing on a cut. Instead, they focused on creating a massive variety of jean numbers, which combined different styles, cuts, and other preferences such as a button fly. For example, the “501” is a “classic-fit” with a straight leg, sits at the natural waist, snug through the thigh. Whereas in contrast, the “505,” another classic, has a mid-rise, snug through the thigh, straight leg, but has a higher back rise than a front rise.
Determining which jean cuts are right for your body usually calls for years of trial and error and a ton of time in the fitting room.
The waist position refers specifically to the jean’s rise, or where it sits on your body. The mid-rise or “natural” rise will sit at the natural waistline or where your torso is slimmest above the hips and below the ribcage. The mid-rise is typically the most flattering fit.
A low-rise jean will sit below your natural waist in the trend of the early 2000s, while a high-rise jean will sit above the natural waist in the spirit of the 1970s.
There are a few different ways to cut the jean leg, and it dramatically changes how they sit on you. The leg cut isn’t just about preference, but also functionality and comfort.
It’s much simpler than people initially expect. As a garment maker, you have a lot of control in terms of fit and function. If you’re looking to make your perfect pair of jeans, then it’s probably best that you design them. You can always use your favorite pair as a starting point and then spiff up and adjust from there. We mention this because the very first of only three stages are: design.
You can design your jeans exclusively around how you want them to function. Do you demand that your jeans have the same pocket depth as traditional men’s jeans? Then design it! Do you want the jeans to have a full break on your shoe rather than the half-break? It all comes down to design.
As you design your jeans, you’ll want to pay some attention to the material’s weight and the fade. Heavy-weight denim will be stiff and require breaking in but offer more reliability over the years. Light-weight denim will provide quite a bit of stretch but may not be as sturdy.
Weight is often the most important factor because many people do not work with raw denim, and most denim now has a selvage.
The fade has a few traditional methods:
You don’t have to fade the jeans at all. That is just part of the design and preference.
After the design, you can get right to cutting and sewing. Denim is forgiving and often easy to work with fabric. The trouble that many faces in this phase are that the skill of cutting is sometimes apparent in the final product. A typical “5-pocket” style will call for 1.5 to 2.5 meters of material.
Ensure that you use a thread intended for denim and reinforce stress areas with rivets. Then use buttons or a zipper to close up the front.
Finally, when the jeans are cut, made, trimmed, and have their final hem in place, you can pre-wash. But wait, I bought pre-washed material. It’s not quite the same. Unlike other garments, jeans tend to fit better with more washing, and new jeans can feel a bit rough. You want to prewash not necessarily to make your jeans look old, but to make them feel relaxed. Now you can give your jeans a rough wash at home or take them to a launderer. Then you’re ready to wear!
Now that you have the confidence to make your own jeans, what are you waiting for?! Grab your sewing machine and start sewing!
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