Monday, August 20, 2018

Pattern Review: Closet Case Ginger Jeans

It's fair to say we are in the midst of a denim phase at the moment. Here we are blogging about jeans making again. Sewing your own jeans is a fair undertaking, what with all the top-stitching and hardware, not to mention the fitting... it’s time consuming. But at the end? You feel like you’ve unlocked a new sewing achievement. Even better? YOU NEVER NEED TO GO JEANS SHOPPING AGAIN.

These jeans were started in my head a couple of years ago. I gathered together pattern and fabric then promptly decided that I really wasn’t much of a jeans wearer anyhow, so into the stash they both went.

Fast forward two years and I was becoming “jeans curious” again, missing the ease of a good pair of jeans in my wardrobe. So out came the pattern and fabric which had now marinated in my stash long enough for me to feel ok about using it for a wearable muslin. Jeans were on once more! Maybe I’d be a jeans-wearer after all? (And if not, I could use them in the shop as a sample, so nothing lost, except perhaps a fair whack of time). 

Fabric choice
I used a 10oz black cotton denim with 2% lycra content from M Recht - purchased over 2 years ago before we had found a good source of black stretch denim. Even though the pattern calls for at least 2% stretch, I suspect there's not quite enough stretch in these (actual stretch in stretch wovens seems to vary according to thread weight and type). I’d recommend you get your hands on a few stretch denims before making your fabric choice. We currently have both black and Tarragon cotton/spandex stretch twills plus these coloured cotton blend stretch denims (though the latter may be slightly too light for View A). Lining is a light cotton from the stash.

I decided on View A, stovepipe option with low rise. Fitting and sizing was always going to be a bit tricky for me, falling across 2 different sizes for hips and waist. (Does that make me apple shaped? An inverted triangle? Gah!) After much deliberation I chose the size to fit my waist, figuring that removing fabric to fit my hips would be easier than adding it at the waist. (Incidentally, the Cashmerette Ames jeans pattern (available in store) carries lots of different options to accommodate apple and pear shapes, I think that might be an interesting jeans pattern to try too). 

black garments, so hard to photograph, and omnipresent dog/s not really helping to illustrate jeans, sorry!

So much good stuff has been said about the Ginger jeans pattern, and I can see why. If you are at all teetering about making jeans, then this is a great pattern to start with. Heather Lou’s instructions are extremely clear, and there’s an excellent online sew-along with great photos if you have any head scratching moments. The directions for the zip fly are the best I have ever come across. (I look forward to doing it again - seriously!)

Another thing about jeans making: you may think you need a significant amount of kit in order to get started, but that really isn’t the case. As a test to see if it was up to it, I sewed this pair entirely on my 1981 Bernina. I needed to flatten some of the bulkier seams with a hammer and use the hand wheel to push the needle through thicker layers, but it managed just fine. As far as using one machine goes, using the same colour topstitching thread as the construction thread helped because I didn’t have to change bobbins constantly, only needles and top thread. Next time I’d have two machines going (and probably an overlocker), but this was entirely doable just with a little bit of switching stitches, needles and thread (and making notes about tension settings etc along the way!) 

Made a cutting mistake, so the coin pocket ended up on the right hand side, oops. 
We stock the very handy Closet Case Jeans hardware kits at the shop. These are great, but - sewers of black jeans take note - that these contain only 7 inch BLUE zips. For the Ginger pattern, the length of the recommended zip differs according to not only which style you’re sewing (high or low rise) but also your size. I ended up using a 7 inch (black!) zipper when according to the pattern I should have used an 8 inch one. However, I still ended up cutting mine down by more than an inch, so don’t worry too much about sourcing the perfect length, at least for the low rise option. 

The kits include rivets and jeans buttons too. It was a first time rivet install for me - and my only piece of advice is to follow the instructions. There really is a reason she recommends using a cast iron pan/steel base for these! Incidentally, I needed to cut my rivets down as the posts were on the long side (perhaps too much hammering down of seams?!) but some heavy garden snips did the trick.

note broken rivets on table. use an anvil or cast iron pan, folks!

Before I started this project, I read a few pattern reviews and it seemed like almost every sewist raved with glowing enthusiasm about how their Ginger Jeans fit like a glove first time. Because of my measurements - no surprises - I wasn’t one of them. These have taken plenty of tweaking, and I still have a laundry list of adjustments for next time. The fitting guide on the Closet Case website is a brilliant resource that really takes the mystery out of the intimidating world of pants adjustments. On this pair I did a partial flat seat adjustment and a full calf adjustment. Despite my size deliberations, they were were also too big at the waist and in the leg - in part style preference (turns out I prefer a skinny leg to a stovepipe) and other part the reason why we make muslins. After taking out about an inch from each side seam from the hips down this pair is wearable with a belt to help rein in some of the excess at the waist.

Before waistband and adjustments. So baggy!
After. A bit better.
Pre-waistband and side adjustments, compared to a pair of rtw jeans (on the top)
The thing about jeans is that you can’t really fit them properly until the garment is quite advanced. By which time your investment is considerable and you are really wanting these puppies to WORK. I got these to the point of the side seams and then baste fitted them (I’d read this tip somewhere and it really helped). But, I also reckon subjecting your jeans to some good old wash and wear is the best way to really find out how they fit.

Aaaand, from the back. Looking super wrinkly without a belt to hitch them up!
Next time, I’ll do a proper flat seat adjustment and will be more generous with the wide calf adjustment (there are probably a few too many wrinkles around the knee). I’ll go down a size and sew the skinny leg option, adding about 1-1.5 inches to the low-rise. I’m also going to use the pocket stay option from version B because more, erm, stabilizing in that area can never be a bad thing! I’ll lift the back pockets and endeavour to put the coin pocket on the right side too, oops. So, yup, basically make a whole new pair of Gingers. That said, for a wearable muslin these will do - I’ll get plenty of wear out of them. 

It’s terrifically satisfying to get really stuck into a big project like this and end up with something that looks like the real deal. I’ve learned a lot - not only about jeans adjustments but also about how I like to wear them. All artillery for next time. The idea that I can work toward making the perfectly fitting pair of jeans is, well, a bit thrilling… (but perhaps I need to get out more, ha!)

The Closet Case Ginger Jeans pattern can be found here

- Fiona & Jane 

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