Jeans Muslin

I’ve wanted to make jeans for at least two years now. In 2008, I bought  two awesome cuts of stretch denim at PR Weekend in Los Angeles. In 2009 at PR Weekend Portland, I tried on Emilie’s size V Jalie Stretch Jeans and *knew* I had to make jeans before the year was over. So, this weekend I took a crack at the size W. I apologize now for the quality of the photos.

In general, I love how they make my rear look. And, quite frankly. I still cannot believe that I’ve made a pair of jeans.

I don’t love how they make my thighs look. Or rather, I don’t like how my legs make the jeans look. I think a less clingy / straighter leg could be more flattering on me.

** Warning. Unflattering rear shot. Wonky topstitching, bad swayback adjustment and stretched out waistband and yoke. But, man, do I LOVE my pockets! :

And as I type you now after three hours of wear — the waist is all kinds of stretched out. This straight waistband is cut on the bias. If I were to make these again with a straight waistband, I would cut it on the straight of grain.  And, despite taking out a good two inches, I still need a major swayback adjustment. So, a curved waistband just makes more sense for me.

And, ugh. I have this on all my RTW jeans. I’ve already emailed Marji to see why she thinks I’m getting the whiskers / fold. I suspect it’s a muscular thigh issue.

So, I’ve got the back yoke altered for the swayback and will draft a curved (vs straight) waistband this week so I’ll be ready for the class. I’m also going to get some non-stretch denim to try a few of the other jeans patterns I have.


  1. Well done – despite your misgivings they do look great. I’m like you in that I’ve wanted to make jeans for a while but haven’t done it. I now have 2 pieces of denim (one white, one blue) in my stash, a good jeans pattern and about six projects ahead in the queue.

  2. That front whiskers/fold thing you have going on, I always have that too, and it pisses me off sooooooo much!!!! Please, please share if you discover a solution for it!!!!! Not that I;m likely to ever have the guts to make jeans. (I’ve bought the sewing machine needles, but that’s as close as I’ve come) 🙂 good luck, they’re looking great!

  3. YOu know, I’m sure these look better than anything you can buy RTW.. No to mention you do have guts to get into jeans sewing, because that requires a true love for topstitching! I’m not sure what you mean by bias waistband, I think you might need a more -curved- band. You’re just not straight at all back there :-). In other words you probably need not just to make the waistband smaller but to angle it in quite a bit between its top and bottom.
    I’d also advise a fish eye dart at the top of the back thighs that’d make the back perfect.
    The front wrinkles I think is also a thigh thing: I learned from Sandra Betzina to simply lengthen the front crotch seam to make room for thighs, it works great. I do 1/2″ routinely, you should start at least there. Her thing is that most of the bulk of bigger thighs is in front, not the back, so you need to allow for that specifically. And I have the same thighs, so please stop dissing them so much :-). Mind that you may need to use a smaller size once you have the crotch really figured out.

    • The straight waistband included in the pattern is cut on the bias. It just stretched out too much for my taste. I am going to go with / draft a curved waistband and likely interface in. I also need to use twill tape in the seam to prevent stretching.

    • I was going to mention the Sandra Betzina 1/2′ for thigh room as well. I use that adjustment when I make my jeans. I think they look fabulous. I have no info to offer on the sway back adjustment/booty room/etc. I have a flat seat so my problems are different than yours. Try the above mentioned thigh adjustment… It should work for you!

  4. I’ve been in jeans quandry for the past few weeks, asking meself if handmade jeans can ever look anything other than “home made”, so I decided that I will go on a mission to analyze jeans costing $350 on down, and see what can be found in fabrics, notions and findings… just to see if it can be done. If figure acceptable jeans can be obtained inexpensively enough for me, that maybe it is something I should just buy. I have done them for clients, though, with good results.

    • I agree! I found a great pair for $15 at Macy’s. But, it’s the shopping for jeans that I don’t like. With hard work I can get the fit right. I like the thought of having a jeans pattern that I can turn to.

  5. How funny! I am just cutting these out this very minute and decided to check some things on the interweb- and here you are done yours! Great inspiration Renee- thanks!

  6. I find that boot cut jeans are better for muscular thighs. They don’t taper in quite as much toward the knee and create an unflattering appearance of a bulge. I am very impressed that you decided to try jeans, and your topstitching is beautiful!

  7. Awesome!! I haven’t ever attempted jeans, but did make a jean skirt. I found that using a stretch denim made them all sorts of too big. Perhaps go with a fabric without stretch? I’d love to hear what other people suggest too!

    And if you didn’t go into detail about your quandaries, I would never have seen it. They look fabulous!

  8. great job. I’m on version no. 4 of this pattern, and may just get it perfect this time. Although ver 3 are defintely wearable. The bias waistband, I agree, not a good idea. I cut it on the straight, and then curved it at the cb. I find myself checking out peoples jeans and their topstitching now for ideas!

  9. Ladies, from years at working at a department store and wearing them myself, this is how you find a good pair of jeans. First, stretch is the best think to happen to jeans since the zipper. Stretch fabric stretches out so you always want to go a size smaller than what you normally wear and then wear them around the house for a day or two until they stretch out. After that the will fit fantastic and they won’t fall off your waist after one wearing like 100% cotton jeans. Always do the sit down test especially if they are low-rise. I don’t care what anyone says, butt cleavage is not attractive. Most importantly, you have to try on every different style because they all fit differently. And then you have to try on every size in that style because they all fit differently also because they cut them in huge piles so the pieces at the top are smaller than the pieces on the bottom. Customers would always grab a pair and say “this is my size” and be back in a day or two because they didn’t fit.
    If you want to get the best service every time it only take a few seconds to fold or hang up the jeans for the associates to put away. I know this sound like a lot of work, it is, but I guarantee you everyone will ask you where you got your jeans.

  10. I think they look pretty good so far and I agree about the pockets; they’re great. I’ve made a few pairs of jeans from stretch denim and they always end up falling off by the end of the day. My next pair will be non stretch. I’m also going to try Marie-Christine’s tips with the fisheye dart and the front crotch lengthening. I have a great pair of FCUK jeans that fit well and I’m considering cutting a pattern off them. I’m keen to see what you do next.

  11. How apropos!! I’m getting ready to sew my first pair of jeans here shortly! I’m using a Sandra Betzina pattern from Vogue. Hope mine will look as fab as yours! PS your jeans look great and speaking as a girl with muscular thighs too, muscular thighs rock!!!

  12. Yay you for making jeans!! This is one type of garment I have no real desire to make. But I can’t find any that fit me either and I’m getting tired of it! I recently took a pair of corduroy jeans that died apart and traced out a pattern from them to make more since they fit so great. Maybe I’ll try it out in denim too!

  13. I just received this pattern today!! You did a great job on yours – your pockets really do look great!
    What type of stretch denim did you use? (Percentage of cotton with percentage of whatever?) There are so many options out there – I am curious. I have found that some stretch denim is just too stretchy. I wish I could go in a store with LOTS of denim options and find exactly what I want. Alas, there is no store remotely like that around here!

  14. I made the Jalie jeans a few weeks ago, but haven’t had time to review them yet. I really love the ones I made and have worn them quite a few times already. I found the size I traced to be a bit too roomie for my liking so I traced the smaller size and need to make another pair. I had trouble with the waistband stretching out too. Next time I’ll interface it for more stability and probably cut it on the straight of grain as well. Looks like you’re off to a great start! 🙂

  15. Great job! While you’re at it, I would encourage you to play around with pocket size and placement. Three things that can make pockets even more flattering are:
    1. Making them bigger (your butt looks smaller in comparison)
    2. Moving them down (gives a visual “lift” to your butt)
    3. Moving them to the side somewhat (not sure why)

    You could cut a few sizes and pin them on in different places and take pictures. See Citizens of Humanity and also True Religion jeans for inspirations for flattering pockets.

    I also agree that a boot cut will go a long way to minimize hips. A slightly lower waist if it won’t bother you too much will help deal with the sway back issue. I have the issue of having a much smaller waist than hips (similar prob to swayback) and I really don’t like a lower waist. My tailor has dealt with it quite nicely on my RTW jeans by removing the waist band, taking two darts in the butt portion of the jean in the back (one over each butt cheek), reducing the width of the waistband to match the width removed by the darts, and then replacing the waistband. You could try something similar.

    Good luck in your pursuit of the perfect jean!

  16. Good on ya for making your first pair of jeans, and for the URS (unflattering rear shot). I vote for the boot cut too. And what Miriam said about the pockets.

    I’ll tell you what, you’ve inspired me to get on with a (non-sewing) project I’ve been wanting to do for years, and I thank you.

  17. ok, I finally got here to see.
    I’m going to have to disagree with whoever it was up there that said to lengthen your crotch line. That wad of fabric is the result of too long a crotch line in the front. And, it has Nothing to do with thighs. From the pics, I can see how someone might mistake that for “smile” lines which ARE the result of thighs too athletic for the cut of the pant, but I know from our conversation that what that is in the pic is a yucky wad of excess fabric.
    I take it out by creating a tuck right at the crotch line on the front pattern piece, which ends up looking like half a fisheye dart. It tapers to nothing at the side seam and takes out 1/2″ to 3/4″ at the crotch line. Want me to draw it and send it to you?
    And, I agree that you have overdone your swayback adj. Too high in back, so that it’s rippling down from your waist.
    I just got that pattern and have traced it and have it on the work table right now. I totally do not understand that straight bias waistband.
    All in all though, these jeans look pretty dang good on you, better than anything you could buy RTW. Your topstitching and construction is looking really good.
    I also want to agree with whomever said that stretch jeans are hard to fit. Especially if there is more than 3% lycra in the content mix.

    Miriam has a great point about the pocket placement too.

    • I would like to see a picture of that because this is exactly my problem. I always end up with a fold at the front crotch and yanking the front waist up does not solve the problem.

  18. I think we are butt twins, so I will be interested to see how you resolve all the fit issues. With that said, I think your jeans still look pretty awesome!

  19. Excellent! Doesn’t it feel great to do jeans??!?!?!?! With a few tweaks you’ll totally have a TNT jeans pattern. Then you can change the pockets, topstitching, length, flare, etc. and make this pattern for years to come.

  20. For a first pair of jeans, yours are pretty darn good IMHO. I don’t find jeans easy to fit, or to sew, what with all that top stitching through many layers of fabric. I am sure with Marji’s help, your next pair will be perfect.

  21. Guess what came in the mail today? Yep, you guessed it, the patterns. Thank you so much!!! Your timing couldn’t have been better — I’m lining up my patterns for holiday sewing so now I can make hubby a robe and he’ll leave mine alone!

  22. Great to see that you bit the jeans bullet! Love the pockets and the fit around the butt is perfect! I have the same problem with stretch denim fabrics, it just stretches too much. I think 99 or possible 98% cotton/2% lycra ratio is perfect (my RTW jeans has that ratio), but many jeans fabrics that can be found in stores are more 95/5. If you find a great source, please spread the word!

  23. I think I found the discussion you need to fix your crotch problems: This looks like you need a reverse camel toe adjustment (which is very good, seeing how they’re not just unesthetic but very uncomfortable..). Follow the thicket of related links in Kathleen’s posts and I think you have a chance of getting the perfect crotch curve. Do you know also about the simple curved ruler method, where you just lay the ruler against your real crotch and make sure the pants curve is exactly that? I’m sure I’m not the only one to await further developments with baited breath :-).

  24. I have never met a pair of jeans made with added lycra that did not bag out on me within the hour. They look great out of the dryer and not longer after they just don’t fit. Give me good old hard denim any day!

  25. I’m on Rev#3 of my Jalie jeans if I hadn’t over adjusted for my FBA in the first place I would have the pattern perfected by now. I compared the Jalie pattern to a pair of Jag jeans that I love and found that the leg was much wider on the Jag … I added a full inch to each side of the leg at the knee, blending back into the drafted leg line at the crotch. The adjustment gives a more stove pipe look to the leg and worked great for me. Your pockets look great – mine are very plain without any stitching in the center.

    I cut the WB on the straight grain and split the WB so that I could line it with interfaced heavy cotton (no lycra)…. I appreciate a little support in the WB.

    One more pair in stretch denim to take out the excess I added to the back length and then I’m moving on to some non stretch denim. Home made or RTW the strech jeans just need to be washed more often to knock them back into shape … maybe it is conspiracy by the clothing companies so that we will wear out jeans out faster?

  26. I just solved this front crotch issue in a pant block I made and remembered your post – HTH. Try scooping out the back crotch curve by the total amount of the extra fabric you have in the front crotch ‘pleat’. From the photos it looks to be about 1/2″-3/4″? If the back crotch curve starts looking to much like a J you could also drop the back crotch point down 1/2″ or so and stretch the back inleg from the knee to the crotch point to fit the front inleg. Also the grain on the denim looks to be twisting towards your inner knee. Try moving the both the front and back legs 1/2″ towards the centre – if memory serves, Debbie Cook did a post on this, something about a knock knee alteration?

  27. Hello!
    I have just stumbled upon your blog as I am in the midst of making my third pair of jeans based on Burda’s Anita Pattern (which you can download from the burdastyle website. I’ll list the link below). It has a curved waist band (which they recommend reinforcing), and after re-drafting the back yolk piece for my own sway-back, they fit like a DREAM. The second pair is my sewing masterpiece, and I am hopeful that the third will be just as good (fingers crossed). I thought you might like a review of this pattern since we seem to have similar fit issues.
    Have you tried another pair since 2009?

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