Here they are: my first pair of jeans! They’re Mia jeans from our British friends at Sew Over It.
I’m DELIGHTED with how they turned out. Once I was finished and put them on to show Husband Mark, I told him making jeans was sewing wizardry. And I stand by that statement. Sewing jeans feels like a final exam in that it calls on you to show off everything you’ve learned. Completing jeans feels like you just aced the final and you want to run out of the lecture hall high-fiving everyone you meet.
Yeah, it’s that good.
Sewing Mia Jeans: The Details
Would you believe this is denim from Jo-Ann? It’s actually nice, heavy-weight(ish) stretch denim. I bought it last year (I think), and I haven’t seen it stocked since. I *think* it’s a blend of mostly cotton, a touch of polyester (which is great for durability), and spandex (natch).
I’m always creeping on Jo-Ann’s denim, because I have this secret hope that the store will stock more than lightweight stretch denim (perfect for jeggings) and heavy non-stretch denim (perfect for relaxed jeans and jackets).
Anyhoo, I’m dying to discover the recovery of this denim.
I was all about mods with these Mia jeans. I scooped the back crotch curve to accommodate a low bum. I took half-inch wedges out of the back leg pieces for a swayback adjustment. I also reshaped the legs to better fit around my knees (details follow).
Then I got crazy with design choices. The Mia jeans are basic, basic, basic — they’re skinnies with a fly front and rear pockets. I added stitching to create faux front pockets and a faux yoke, and I added belt loops, too. What can I say? I like a classic-looking jean.
I also added a vintage Girl Scout patch on my right cheek. That’s a patch I earned for good manners! I found it in my mom‘s dresser, and I think she’d like it on my jeans. When I came across this patch, I reminded me of the triangle brand patches on Guess? jeans in the ’80s and ’90s. Oh, how I coveted those jeans!
Mods for Next Time
I still think the fit of these Mia jeans could be better. Should I make them again, I want to try a flat pubis adjustment for a pubic bone that’s set farther back and/or a shorten front crotch length adjustment. I also think I could further refine the leg fit. And I’d add a little length, too. I like a full-length jean for most applications. If it’s warmer, I can cuff them; if it’s cool, I can keep the hem long.
Wisdom Gathered While Sewing Mia Jeans
I learned a lot from this sewing project. Here are my top insights for your consumption.
1.) There’s a lot of sewing in jeans making.
This may seem like a “well, duh” statement, but hear me out.
I’ve talked about how there’s a lot of non-sewing in sewing — printing and taping PDFs, tracing, cutting out paper pattern pieces, cutting out fabric pattern pieces, etc, etc. As I stitched the jeans together, I was like, “DANG, there’s A TON of stuff to sew here!” A lot of that is because of the topstitching, to be sure.
I enjoyed a project where I spent a bunch of quality time with my sewing machine.
2.) Practice, practice, practice that fly-front zipper.
Before the Mia jeans, fly-front zippers gave me anxiety. Then I realized I had one pair of jeans in my closet that I actually liked/wore. It was FINALLY time to sew jeans, regardless of how I felt about fly-front zips. I had a need and aspirations to take on this type of sewing project.
So, what’s the best way to get better at something? Practice, practice, practice. I sewed six fly-front zippers before I did the zip on my Mia Jeans. I used the instructions from the Grainline Maritime shorts and committed to acing them. And I did. This fly-front zipper is gorgeous.
3.) You’ll constantly switch needles and thread.
While sewing the Mia jeans, I had three needle-thread combos going:
- Basting thread with a random old microtex needle.
- Topstitching thread with a topstitching needle.
- Construction thread (all-purpose 100 percent poly) with a denim needle.
When you sew your own jeans, get ready for that and think about how you’ll organize your needles and thread. I kept them in a neat row next to my sewing machine.
Now I understand why it’d be nice to have a second sewing machine: You could leave it threaded for topstitching.
Following are Amazon affiliate links chosen for you! If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Clover Buttonhole Cutter: I can’t explain it, but using a buttonhole cutter is deeply satisfying. Watch those fingers, though! (LOL, I sound like such a mom.)
Dritz Fray Check Liquid Seam Sealant: Don’t cut a buttonhole without it!
Gutermann Top Stitch Heavy Duty Thread: This is the thread I used to make GORGEOUS topstitching on jeans.
Schmetz Sewing Machine Needles: Do yourself a huge favor and get some topstitching needles and denim needles. The right tools make a difference!
Beeswax and Holder: I did a fair amount of handbasting on these jeans, and running my thread end through beeswax to stiffen it for needle threading was a godsend.
Dritz 50-Piece Assorted Needles: It’s good to have an variety of hand-sewing needles in your arsenal.
Ogrmar Professional Triangle Tailor’s Chalk Sewing 10PC (4 Color): When you’re doing this much topstitching and fitting, ya gots to have marking tools on hand.
Over Kleshas Jeans Metal Zipper (6 Zippers/Pack= Navy 2, Black 2, White 2) (7″): Stock up on metal jeans zippers. I think 7 inches is the shortest zipper you should work with; longer is better, because you can cut off the excess!
10-Pieces Metal Replacement Jeans Buttons Kit: Get classic bronze hardware for your jeans.
BBTO 100 Set Leather Rivets Double Cap Rivets with Fixing Tool Kit for Leather Craft Repairing Decoration, 4 Color: Oooh, this kit with gold, silver, black, and bronze rivets looks SO COOL!
4.) Turn the flywheel by hand.
When sewing jeans, things are thick, particularly seams and topstitching thread. Take it slow and turn the flywheel to pilot the needle over tricky bits. My foot was constantly off the pedal, and it helped prevent fatal bird’s nests and skipped stitches. (I still have a few of both here and there, but taking the manual route kept tragedy to a minimum.)
Plus, it’s extremely satisfying to feel that muscle connection between turning the wheel with your hand and arm and puncturing the thick fabric.
5.) Examine jeans you own.
I was surprised by how many times I dragged out (or took off) my fave jeans to check details. Specifically, my favorite jeans — a well-loved pair from the Gap outlet years ago — showed me how to reshape my leg seams.
I didn’t like the baggy wrinkles around the knees of my Mia jeans. So I shimmied out of my Gap skinnies to figure out how those knees fit my body so nicely. Turns out that the seams of the Gap jeans came in ever so slightly at the knees to better mimic the shape of my legs. Once I made this mod to the Mias, the knee situation greatly improved.
Short story long: If you have a pair of jeans that fit you well, there’s a reason. Discover that reason and repeat it!
6.) Use all the sewing gear!
If you have a bunch of gadgets and gizmos in your sewing arsenal that you rarely use, it’s time to break them out, baby! I used different feet, a Hump Jumper, a tiny cutting mat and buttonhole chisel, an awl, and a hammer to make my Mia jeans, and that’s only the stuff I can think of off the top of my head.
7.) You might want to put away your automatic buttonholer.
I have an automatic buttonhole function and foot for my sewing machine (I feel like most machines these days do; is that accurate?). But, the thing is touchy, and it was super touchy when it came to sewing a buttonhole on a pair of jeans. The fly seam allowance under the waistband created an uneven stitching surface, and my buttonhole foot and feed dogs were not making a love connection. Boo.
To make my buttonhole, I followed great advice from YouTube from sewist Angela Kane and did lines of satin(ish) stitching. I sewed a skinny rectangle with 100 percent polyester all-purpose thread, stitch width 2.0 millimeters and stitch length 0.8 millimeters. I used navy thread, which matched my jeans and made the buttonhole invisible. (I knew this wasn’t going to be the prettiest buttonhole and I didn’t want to draw attention to it.)
Before and after I cut open the buttonhole, I loaded on the Fray Check. And for a manual buttonhole, it looks pretty darn good.
Don’t work yourself into a lather over a jeans buttonhole. Match the thread to your jeans and know that the button will cover most of it. #getonwithyourlife
8.) Enjoy the process.
This wisdom nugget is similar to the bit about “there’s a lot of sewing in jeans making.” As I sewed the Mia jeans, I found myself truly enjoying the process. I pressed and topstitched with precision. I tweaked fit over and over. I researched and improvised. Making jeans felt more like an adventure, an experience vs. a sewing project. I can’t wait to sew another pair!
OK, sewing lady bros and dude bros. How do you feel about sewing jeans? Have you taken the plunge? If not, why not? Please sound off in comments! Thanks for reading!
P.S. Here’s the previous post: Sewing for Depression and Anxiety: 24 Sewing Ideas to Improve Your Mood.
P.P.S. The Mia jeans are part of Sew Over It’s City Break capsule wardrobe e-book. Here are posts about other makes from the collection:
Erin sews Erin: Sew Over it Erin skirt pattern review
Sew Over It Molly top: Stripes around my shoulder
I just need to make two more garments to complete the collection: The Alex shirt/dress and the Lola jacket. #goals
P.P.P.S. There’s always next year, Brewers!
I love your girl scout patch on the back pocket! Nice touch, fun how it’s like Guess jeans!
Thank you! Those patches are so cute! Thanks for reading. 😘
That Girl Scout patch is an awesome touch! It adds an extra dash of spirit to the jeans and I love it! This is a fantastic first pair of jeans–go you!!
I personally really like making jeans. I haven’t actually used anyone else’s pattern for them: I copied a pair of RTW that fit perfectly but aren’t made anymore. Heck, I even made a pair for my husband the same way. My upcoming sewing plans include more pairs of jeans in lots of colors and finishes. 😉 And I found myself nodding along to all 8 of your learning highlights because they are on point!
Hey, Abbey! Thanks for reading!
I was surprised by how much fun I had sewing jeans. I worried it would be a slog, but no! It was fun to concentrate so deeply on a project. I feel like I haven’t done that in a while.
Glad you approve of my eight insights. So, tell me… As a jeans-making machine, do you have a second machine for topstitching? 🤔
This post was great! I have been curious about making jeans from scratch for a long time. Hate it when you finally find a good pair of commercial jeans, and then the manufacturer inevitably changes them. Been holding on to an obscenely expensive yet equally worn out pair for more than a decade for that reason; my plan is to take them apart and see if I can reproduce them so I’m not stuck in that love-hate jeans cycle.
You have confirmed my reasons for procrastination with this post. They are not simple garments! But now I have some more things to think about as the back of my brain rotates through the 200 projects on my “someday” list while working on other tasks. Thanks!
Hey, Andy. Thanks for reading!
There are resources for re-creating your favorite jeans. This class, from noted and awesome sewing educator, Kenneth D. King, doesn’t require you to take apart your jeans: https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/classes/jean-ius-/35764. There’s also a class on the topic from Indiesew, but I think you have to take apart your jeans for it: https://indiesew.teachable.com/p/sew-your-favorite-jeans. I bought the jeans class from Closet Case Patterns, and you could use the instruction to sew any jeans. It’s good stuff.
You also could poke around on YT for vids on tracing off clothes to make sewing patterns. It’s a pretty common thing.
Jeans making is SO MUCH FUN! As a maker, I think you’d love getting deep into it. LMK what you do! Maybe we could collaborate on JEANS! 👖
The jeans came out beautiful! I haven’t gathered the to courage to sew one because i know it involves a lot of work. Your shape is perfect!!!
Ooh, get to making those jeans! It’s so much fun. You use ALL the sewing skills.
I held off on making jeans for the longest time because a.) I was afraid of fly-front zippers and b.) I knew they’d be time consuming. Well, I practiced the zip until I nailed it, and once I got into making jeans, the time they took didn’t matter because it was such a pleasurable activity.
I say, do it, you won’t regret it!
Thanks for reading! 😀
Since I’m over 60 I don’t do “skinny” in jeans (relaxed fit is my style) but until recently jeans were work wear only, until I finally made a pair that fit really well. I now have over a dozen in denim, canvas and linen. The pattern came from Bootstrap Boyfriend jeans with help from my work Wranglers and a McCall’s Palmer and Pletsch pattern. My secret weapons are an old Singer 15-91 and a Griest buttonhole attachment. You can’t beat an old Singer straight stitch machine for impeccable topstitching. That said, I don’t do flat felled seams but fake fell. Even old black Singers have trouble coping with the multiple denim layers in a true felled seam. And if you make a jean jacket or two (or three or four) an investment in a button/rivet press is worth it. Swap out the die and you can use it for snaps in other outerwear. You did a bang up job on your jeans and they look good.
Theresa, thanks for reading! And thanks for turning me on to Bootstrap Fashion. I was unfamiliar with this brand. The offerings intrigue me… the sized-to-fit stuff is slick! How did it work for you?
Those old-school buttonhole attachments are so cool. They make the most beautiful buttons. I would love to get my hands on one.
Erin, it took me three muslins of tweaking the pattern and copious measuring of my Wranglers before I got the fit right but I have a very high waist and long rise so even with the sized-to-fit I still needed multiples to get the pattern to fit “me”. And you can find buttonhole attachments easily on ebay for $20-25. You just need to make sure what you are buying will fit your machine as they come in slant stitch shank, low shank, high shank and so on. The most common is probably low shank.
Theresa in Tucson
Hey again, Theresa! Thanks for the eBay tip. I know I have a low shank machine. Things are looking up in the buttonhole department around here!
I am SO FASCINATED by Bootstrap patterns! It sucks you still had to tweak the fit so much even though they were “built” to measure for you. That’s pants for you, I guess. Would you recommend the pattern, and would you recommend Bootstrap over all? I’m thinking about trying them out, and I’d love your insight. I think it’d make a cool blog post. How did you hear about Bootstrap?
I read Barb’s blog “Sewing on the Edge” and she did a post on Bootstrap’s “Boyfriend Jean”. So far the “Boyfriend Jean” is the only one I have sewn up. I have two other pant patterns and a blouse but have yet to use them. They are certainly inexpensive and the process was very easy so definitely worth a try. Barb has much more on her bog post on Bootstrap.
Will check it out. Thanks!