Saturday, February 14, 2015

Too much stretch?

Happy Valentines Day!

I finished a pair of jeans for myself last week, the second I've made from the old Sandra Betzina pattern.

The first pair, now over 2 years old, is so comfortably worn in I can't remember a time when they didn't fit so well - but I know I wasn't 100% satisfied with the fit when they were completed.
So I made some adjustments to this pair as I put them together, and added some new design details to make them more my own.

The pocket topstitching is the same design I created for Erin's jeans
I knew that because the denim (from Sawyer Brook) being used this time had stretch, the jeans would need to fit more snugly. Using the same size pattern as my last pair, I cut them without allowing any additional seam allowance (I'd used 1" allowances the first time around, because I nearly always need to let out at the hips and thighs) figuring I'd be able to take in where needed. I cut these out several months ago, the last project of my 3 day retreat (blogged about here) , in mid-November. I was pretty burnt out after making several cosmetic bags, 5 garments for my daughter, and a top for me, and I've already told my sewing buddy Donna that she's to stop me if I decide to cut something out on the last day at next year's retreat: the fabric had a flaw in it, and after working around it as best I could, I gave the rest away to the doll-clothes makers in the group. As a result, as I started sewing the jeans a couple of weeks ago, I discovered several pieces were missing: I hadn't cut out the change pocket, the inside (facing) layers of the front waistband and back yoke/waistband, or the belt loops. So those pieces are all cut from another length of denim I had on hand - without stretch, but I really think that doesn't make a lot of difference for these pieces.

Okay, first crisis averted. I happily worked on these, paying really close attention to details like the topstitching, using a cute cotton print for the insides of the pockets, basically concentrating on the process of sewing - something I don't often get to do. Because we are having one amazingly stormy winter here in Massachusetts, I've had at least one extra snow day per week to sew since the last week of January - so I haven't had to feel guilty as I would if I were stealing time from bridal alterations and other client work. Although I feel very badly for the last bride, whose wedding is tomorrow and we have another foot of snow with blizzard conditions predicted!
That change pocket does look slightly different, but nobody's going to be close enough to notice!

I fit the jeans as I went along, often. I fussed over the crotch curve and how to get the front to lie smoothly below the zipper - not as successfully as I'd hoped. I tried to apply what I learned at a seminar on Eureka! Pants that Fit! with Rae Cumbie and Carrie Emerson last Fall, mostly that I need a really extended back crotch point and nearly a straight line down the front crotch, ending in a very short curve and a very forward front crotch point. I still get the feeling of too much fabric at the top of my thighs, and haven't solved that issue. I took the inseams and outseams in, several times, adjusting the crotch point in various ways, trying them on again and again. When I finally felt I had things looking right, I topstitched the back yoke seams and forged ahead to finish the waist with those facings.

Imagine my dismay when I tried them on again - expecting to just determine the placement for the jeans button and buttonhole - and found I had a crazy gap at the back waist! That back yoke/waistband (it's one piece in this pattern) had been fit to me on the first pair I made, I'd already darted out the extra to make this hug my back waist - and now I had this space I could fit my hand into? I was so upset by this, I didn't think to get a photo. I also didn't hesitate to get out the seam ripper - undoing the "stitch in the ditch", the understitching, and the belt loops attached -  to release enough of the back waist seam to be able to work with both the yoke and the facing. I had to create darts at the waist seam, tapering to nothing as close as I could get to the lower seam, in order to bring the edge close to my body where I needed it.
The dart isn't horribly visible, and I wear my tops out anyway. At least there isn't a separate waistband piece that would have needed a seam as well.
Inside view of back facing, including a glimpse of my front pockets
Notes on the yoke back pattern piece - red lines were the first corrections, blue pencil lines and notes are for this most recent fitting alteration.
After the adjustment to bring in the back waist -
I hate that I have to live with the darts in this finished pair, but it works and is almost exactly what I needed. The deeper curve lowers the center back point just a little too much, so that's another spot I'll have to work on: raising the pants at center back where they meet the point of the yoke. The correction really didn't take too much time, and I was soon putting in button, buttonhole and hems.

*A little note from the workshop - my dh heard me hammering to put in the jeans button. I was having a really hard time hitting it straight, and managed to ruin two sets of buttons and their backers by bending them - without actually getting them to mate! His solution? He put it into his workbench vise and tightened. Voila!*
Pardon the iPhone selfies - I'll try to get better photos later.

They're not perfect, but also not horrible -
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So I wore these jeans the other day. They felt loose when I put them on, and looser as the day went by. By late afternoon, I could pull the front away from me more than two inches, the side seams felt loose, and the legs enormous. Someone told me that a clerk at a mall store had advised her to buy a size smaller in their stretch jeans, and this is exactly why. I am pretty much devastated - but thankful that I decided against topstitching any of the leg seams. That much less to rip, when I decide I'm ready to take them in. Next pair with stretch? I may just go down a size in the pattern - and make all the other adjustments I recorded from this experience.

To reset my mojo, on Monday when I ended up with yet another snow day off from Sawyer Brook to spend in the studio, I made pillow covers for the bedroom (shh! don't tell my clients I do home dec!).
Now I'm going to have to do something about the bed cover....
We've wanted low bolster pillows for a while, and I had a ton of fabric left from the the valances I made a few years ago. 
At least rectangles are easier to fit. (As Sandra Betzina told me years ago, people stopped sewing garments and took up quilting because the quilt fits the bed.)

Until next time - 


  1. Thanks for sharing this saga of getting jeans to fit perfectly. And how frustrating, to have them stretch out of size so much. You surely persevered through this project. Glad you could make the pillows - sweet dessert after a grueling main dish!

    1. I know - right? I really felt the jeans were coming together really well, and that I'd end up with a great success. I expected that the legs might need to be narrowed a bit more, but I never thought they'd be so big through the waist and hips! Thanks for visiting -

  2. Husband's are sooooo good at coming up with solutions! :)

    They look fantastic!