Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pattern Review: Closet Case Morgan Jeans

This post is to celebrate the fact we now stock Closet Case patterns at The Drapery, including the Ginger and Morgan Jeans, and also beautiful 11oz Japanese 'Nep' Selvedge Denim. Mmmm... look:

Of course we love to trial new sewing patterns for you so here's my experience with the Morgan Jeans. I'm not even much of a jeans wearer so how did it happen?

I think it was probably The Refashioners 2016 (a sewing challenge to refashion old jeans) that sent me down a one-way path to denim fascination. I mean, I'd always liked denim, but the beauty of aged and repurposed denim and the construction of jeans was quite beguiling. From there I delved into visible mending of denim in the Japanese 'boro' style (check out this inspiring Instagram account), and repaired and altered a pair of my husband's old jeans for my own casual wear. And I happened upon Heddels, a website devoted to the beauty of high quality denim and related gear. Loads of great information and lustworthy items there!

Last year I was lucky enough to travel to New York to join my husband on a work trip, and I spent a little time at the legendary Mood Fabrics (three floors? four floors? it's overwhelming anyway).

I was there right at the time the news broke of the closure of the White Oak Cone Mills Denim plant. Sadly, the last major denim manufacturing plant in the USA. Naturally, I panic-bought a pile of Cone Mills selvedge denim.

We ordered in the Closet Case patterns and wouldn't you know it, in February, Closet Case was having a 'No Fear Jeans Month' of inspiration and encouragement (so much great info, check it out!) on its blog. Project Morgan Jeans - perfect for selvedge denim - was go.

The Morgan description: "slim boyfriend jeans designed for non-stretch and selvedge denim. Inspired by old school denim style but with a fresh, modern cut, Morgan Jeans are engineered to flatter. Featuring a mid-rise, traditional five pocket construction, contoured waistband, tapered leg and button fly, Morgan fits snugly through the hip but relaxes and conforms to your curves with a little wear."


Selvedge denim refers to denim woven on old-style shuttle looms, where the shuttle loops a continuous thread back and forth from edge to edge creating a smooth finished selvedge left and right. This is in contrast to the fluffy selvedge of thread ends produced by modern projectile looms. Selvedge denim is narrower; generally a good width to cut jeans from with little waste. The selvedge can create a visual feature on the outer leg seam of jeans worn cuffed, and this also means there's no need for other seam finishes here.

We are thrilled to now have beautiful, high quality Japanese selvedge denim available for you at The Drapery!


By some miracle my measurements fit almost perfectly into the Morgan pattern specs, but I made a quick shorts-length muslin from calico, sans-waistband. There's a lot of mention in the pattern about sizing up, for a slouchier fit or in case of being between sizes, so I was curious to see if I liked my size. I did - not restrictive but not baggy - and the fit was very pleasing! I just had to shorten the legs a bit and game on.

After some research I determined that all Cone Mills White Oak denim is (was) sanforized, which means it's pre-shrunk with a big steamy machine. So I (gasp) didn't pre-wash my fabric and am trialling the minimum washing, natural wear/fades kind of thing.


If you're using selvedge denim for your Morgans and you want to maximise the use of the selvedge on those side seams, you'll notice that the sides of the pattern pieces are not 100% straight. No doubt this gives a nice subtle shaping to the leg in non-selvedge denim but I laid the pattern pieces along the selvedge as best as possible and made the side seams totally straight right up to a few inches below the waist. Blokes can probably get away with a completely straight side seam but ladies need to accommodate the curves! I zigzagged the small amount of raw edge caused by cutting away from the selvedge at the top.

I also used the selvedge as a feature on the coin pocket and inside, on the fly shield; details I'd noted in ready-to-wear.


I have salivated over YouTube videos of industrial machines working effortlessly on denim (yes yes, I'm a little obsessional). But with the right needles and threads, and preferably a second sewing machine set up for topstitching, great looking jeans are absolutely possible on domestic sewing machines. The Morgan instruction booklet was great and in any moments of confusion, the Closet Case blog provides a huge backup resource of all things jeans-making. I used the Schmetz jeans needle (2 provided) from the Closet Case jeans hardware kit on my vintage Bernina machine, which powered through the seams in my heavyweight (I think 13.5oz) raw denim. My overlocker, however, slowed to a chug and broke a needle, poor dear, at eight layers. A big ask. Zigzag to the rescue! I only attempted proper flat felled seams at the back yoke due to the bulk. Elsewhere the seams are finished together and topstitched to one side (except for the selvedges).

To topstitch I set up my mum's old Singer 201k on which she learnt to sew as a child. This model is renowned as a powerful machine with a beautiful straight stitch, and with a Schmetz topstitching needle it made the task actually enjoyable rather than stressful. On occasion I used a folded up piece of cardboard to raise the back of the presser foot in order to move over large seam joins more easily, but on the whole it just powered on through. I've never had such luck with topstitching before and if you have access to one of these machines I highly recommend it. Something pleasantly surprising is that topstitching on denim looks impressive even if it's not perfect. Perhaps it's to do with denim's own unpolished charm, its gutsy twill weave and natural coloured weft. In any case I think the eye is quite forgiving and takes in the overall effect. Also, any really bad mistakes are easily visible for unpicking!

I agonised over back pocket topstitching designs on Google, Pinterest and also the fabulous download of 30+ templates from Closet Case. In the end I decided a simple small loop was just right for my budding topstitching skills, and I'm really happy with it. But hey, did you all notice? PINK TOPSTITCHING! Make your own jeans and the power is in your hands to topstitch in any colour you like. I am grateful to the Instagram community for encouraging me to go for pink because I have not regretted it one iota. I also used regular thread in a cream colour for bar tacks, a nice little contrast idea suggested by the lovely and very experienced Marilla Walker via Instagram.

Oh, and we now have a full stand of Gutermann topstitching thread at The Drapery!


Heather Lou of Closet Case was able to give me a good answer to what I thought was an impossible question: how does one sew jeans for weight fluctuations? Because honestly, my girth varies from week to week and this was one of the things making me nervous about sewing jeans. Aside from having pairs in a couple of different sizes, Heather Lou suggests to omit interfacing from the waistband, to create more 'give'. It's great to hear from someone experienced that this is okay to do, and helps with comfort. Having worn these jeans quite a few times already, I'm really glad I asked, and followed the advice. I also wear a belt which, obviously, can be adjusted as necessary.

Because my denim is so heavy I thought I could also omit interfacing in the fly. However I hadn't considered that this is to reinforce for buttons and buttonholes. It's fine, but I am treating my buttons with a bit of extra care because I know they're only set in two layers of denim.

Again due to heavy denim I used my pocket fabric (a cotton lawn/shirting, also from my NY trip) for the inner waistband.


Jeans/denim sewing can involve serious hardware. Like hammers. And when instructions suggest you use a hammer to persuade your seams to flatten out a bit for easier sewing, do NOT grab something else a bit hammer-like and start bashing away on a concrete floor. Okay? That heavy shifter spanner is NOT a hammer and you just don't know which bit of it will hit where and before you know it you'll have an unfortunate hole in the crotch of the jeans you haven't even finished yet in your irreplaceable Cone Mills denim and you'll feel a bit like crying.

And then you'll make it worse with a hasty machine repair and leave it until the morning when you decide to make the best of the situation, cut it out and make a careful, considered, semi-visible repair by hand and just move on. Yep. Please don't do all that. (It's okay, really not visible when I'm wearing them, and I've come to terms with it as part of the long-term mending that will eventually happen as these jeans age. Or a humble tribute of imperfection to the sewing gods. Or something.)


Let's play Spot The Crotch Repair

Yep, it's pretty exciting to reach this part of the process, but also nerve-wracking because you have to put holes in your jeans and use hammers again! A trial run on scrap is a very good idea.

The fly buttonholes are created earlier in the process and my vintage Singer buttonholer attachment made a nice job of these. I used the same cream regular thread (not topstitching) as per the bar tacks. The waistband buttonhole was a different matter as the buttonholer does not like to cooperate with lumpy and thick fabric layers, so I switched over to the three-step buttonhole in satin stitch on the Bernina.

Again I used the great Closet Case instructions (on her blog) for the buttons and rivets and all went well. I love the look of the pinky copper with my pink topstitching against the dark denim.


It's a big undertaking, this jeans business, especially the first pair. But it was absolutely worth every moment, and one of those projects where I was continually spurred on by the exciting results of each step. So here they are being worn!
How do they feel? Like cardboard... but like cardboard that is softening up with wear. Apparently 20oz denim (eek!) is a 'thing' for hardcore raw denim enthusiasts!

A bit jolly excited to have MADE JEANS

PATTERN: Morgan Boyfriend Jeans by Closet Case

FABRIC: 13.5oz Cone Mills Selvedge Denim from USA. Japanese selvedge denim (slightly less hefty and more manageable at 11oz!) now available at The Drapery. You'll need 2 - 2.5m depending on your size.

NOTIONS: Gutermann all-purpose thread and topstitching thread, both available at The Drapery. Closet Case Button Fly Jeans hardware kit, available at The Drapery.

SIZE: Me! (well, 14 if you want numbers, and pattern has US sizes 0 - 20)

ADJUSTMENTS: shortened pattern 2 inches through legs and also removed extra before hemming.

COMMENTS: Sewing jeans makes you feel like a sewing rockstar, kind of invincible. The Morgan pattern is a casual, classic style that I feel comfortable in and for me, the sizing and fit are excellent. If I made these again I'd try making a few small fit adjustments, but one of denim's loveliest features is its ability to shape to your body over time, so I'm expecting these to get better and better with wear. It's hard to make general comments on fit because of course body shapes are so different. However I recommend you take careful body measurements as instructed (e.g. waist measurement = your natural waist, but finished garment measurement is larger because waistband sits lower).

If you've been on the fence about this jeans thing, Closet Case will hold your hand all the way, and we can sort you out for all the makings. And really, if you've read this far, you must be pretty interested... that was a marathon! You deserve your own me-made jeans. Go for it.

- Jane & Fiona xx