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Afraid of Making Jeans? Here’s a Denim Guide for You!

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. 

The Right Jeans for Your Body

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. 

Know Your Preferred Waist Position

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. 

Know Your Preferred Leg “Cut”

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. 

Different cuts:

  • Straight - The leg itself is straight, and the open bottom is the same width as the top of the leg. It’s a classic look, and for those with bigger legs, these won’t look baggy. However, those who are petite or slim may feel as though these are too large. It’s a “they fit through the waist and rump, but nowhere else” issue. 
  • Boot cut - This cut will flare at the bottom, so the base should be slightly wider than the thigh. Typically these jeans will work best for those with large or muscular calves or ankles. 
  • Slim - The cousin of the skinny jean, this is a skinny jean that’s slightly more forgiving. For petite or slender people, this fit is likely to fit better than a straight cut. It tapers gently from the mid-thigh to the ankle. The slim cut is an excellent choice for men that want a slender look without skinny jeans. 
  • Skinny - These jeans are snug from the upper thigh straight down to the ankle with a more dramatic taper than the slim or tapered jean cuts. These were initially a trend but seemed to have stuck around. 
  • Tapered - The skinny jeans of the 80s, this cut is snug throughout the bottom and thigh but has a little more give from the knee to the ankle. It’s more form-fitting than a slim cut but not as restrictive as skinny jeans. 

How Jeans are Made

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:

  • Whisker Fade - fading streaks radiating away from the fly.
  • Train Track Fade - fading the resembles train tracks by highlighting the selvage. 
  • Honeycomb Fade - fading focused behind the knee, all jeans will develop this over time.
  • Stack Fade - fading that appears to ‘stack’ over the shoe by hemming the inseam longer than the leg. 

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! 

GoldStar Tool

Now that you have the confidence to make your own jeans, what are you waiting for?! Grab your sewing machine and start sewing! 

If you are purchasing any items from GoldStar Tool, please contact our customer service team! We are happy to help. If you have made any products or any clothing items from our tutorials, tag us on Instagram!