If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably noticed a peculiarity in this space as compared with most sewing blogs: I draft most of what I sew. In fact, I would say I draft all of what I sew, except right at this very moment I’m wearing a fresh-off-the-machine pair of Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans!
As always with me, there’s a bit of a back story here.
The year was 2007, I was 14. I was well aware of sewing at this point in my life, especially as it pertained to doll outfits, really strange purses, and Halloween outfits under Mom’s watchful eye. Around this time, though, I was starting to grow frustrated with the lack of clothes that fit me in stores (which, as it turns out, is a recurring theme in my life) – so Mom suggested we make a pair of pants.
Mom took me to the fabric store, where we picked out a heavy bottomweight twill (I don’t recall, but I bet it was polyester) – a nice navy pinstripe affair, and a pattern for wide legged trousers with flappy pockets. Think nautical. I have an oddly distinct memory of her helping me cut the pieces out, because the table was just a little too small and my pieces kept trying to slide off the edge. Anyways, Mom made me take the time to stop and notch the pattern pieces and press as I went (not a thing I was fond of at age 14) and she helped with the pockets as well. I followed the directions exactly, and the pants turned out… well. I don’t think they fit, and I don’t think I liked them much anyways, although I may have worn them to school a few times. Somewhere in between conception and completion, my 14 year old self’s idea of what they were going to be deviated from what actually happened.
After those pants, I became kind of disenchanted with patterns. Why, after all, if none of the storebought clothes fit, should I expect any patterns to work differently? They have standard sizes in much the same way stores do, so it’s basically the same concept (keeping in mind that 14 year old me didn’t have any fitting skills or experience so the idea of changing patterns to fit me didn’t ever occur…) I made dresses by draping on my mannequin, learned a bit about copying simple garments like t-shirts from RTW, and stuck mostly to sewing and crafting non-wearables.
I took a pattern drafting class in college and the rest, as they say, is history. Those pants were the last pattern I sewed from, up until these Ginger Jeans. (Okay a few years ago I bought a reproduction of a 1920s flapper dress pattern for Halloween, but I ended up deviating halfway through anyways so it doesn’t count…) Perhaps unsurprisingly, my outlook on sewing clothes has changed dramatically in the past 9 years. Being able to draft for myself gave me an acute awareness of the way my body differs from standard sizes, and of the specific allowances I have to make in my clothes. It’s also given me an awareness of other pattern drafters – nobody else out there is drafting to my exact measurements, but other drafters think differently, and I feel like I can learn from patterns that came from other brains. I finally felt I was ready to sew from someone else’s drafting.
Enter, Heather. Her blog, Closet Case Files, was one of the first I started reading when I started blogging again this year, and I won’t say it was simply her pattern that enticed me into the world of denim- but when I ripped an eight inch hole directly along the butt seam of my favorite jeans (jeans that came from a store that no longer exists), I figured it was the closest thing to fate that I’d been reading about the Ginger Jeans just the day before. The thing with the sewing community is that you feel like you know everyone – I feel like I know Heather, and that I’d trust her with my denim, so it was an easy decision to utilize all her hard work rather than drafting jeans for myself.
Now, even though I trust Heather with my denim, I still a) haven’t made pants in ages, and b) haven’t sewn with someone else’s pattern in a literal decade. Acceptable denim costs about $20/m, and the super fancy stuff is about twice that. Predictably, a wearable muslin was in order, and you’re lookin’ at it. Featuring a Fabric-A-Brac secondhand market find: 3 meters of slightly stretchy denim of unknown origins for – get this – $7! A bit stiff and a bit dark, but perfect for a first attempt! While we’re talking sources; the rivets, jeans button, and zipper came from Miss Maude’s, and arrived in a truly delightful brown paper package tied up with string (!) and that kind of made my week.
On the measurement chart, I’m exactly (to the millimeter) halfway between a size 2 and 4. A perfectly nonexistent size 3. I decided to go for the 2 since I like my skinnies to be pretty skinny. I remembered reading somewhere that Heather Lou drafts for a 5′ 6″ model, so I was fairly certain that my 6′ .5″ self was going to need some adjustments, but I mostly decided to stick with the pattern as drafted. Brief interlude to show you what the Ginger Jeans pattern looks laid out on my cutting surface, aka kitchen floor, aka biggest empty floor space in the house:
Jon was very taken aback at the size of the thing on *his* kitchen floor (“Make sure they know how unimpressed I was when you post it”), and then even more alarmed when, after I had painstakingly taped the whole thing together, I started cutting it apart again! (He did eventually figure it out)
Since I had 3 meters of denim and a bit of spare time, I mocked them up as shorts to test the fit. I must have had spectacularly low expectations for them, because I was so surprised when they fit almost perfectly! Especially the crotch area! I just had a bit of gaping at the top of the waistband, but that’s not surprising, and it’s also not hard to fix.
They were super dumb-looking- buttonless, zipperless, pocketless, and sans topstitching- but I danced around the house like a huge nerd with them on anyways – I was so excited about the fit! I took some wedges out of the waistband to fix the gaping at the top, and then started in on my full length pair! Aside from the waistband adjustment, I also added 3″ in leg length, since my usual inseam is an impossible 35. Note that I also ended up chopping off about an inch of that – having neglected to think about where a skinny jean might end versus my usual wider legged trouser. Also, I usually wear them cuffed with either converse or my ankle boots so there’s that.
Construction was very straightforward – made easy with the directions, and I spent most of the time thinking about what a different overall experience you get from sewing something that comes with an instruction packet. Don’t get me wrong, I love starting my sewing projects with a ruler, a calculator, and a question mark, but I definitely also found comfort in knowing this one had already been worked out for me. The only tricky part – and I knew it would be- was pocket placement. There isn’t exactly a lot of real estate to work with back there. Eventually, I decided to go with the original size, but moved them about 3/4″ up and 1/2″ in from the pattern’s suggested location. Every booty’s different, and mine is tiny. A fact that has been reinforced to me by the amount of time I spent twisted around looking at it in the bathroom mirror, stabbing myself with pins in order to get the pocket placement right….
Perhaps not surprisingly, my favorite part of the process (besides the grand unveiling of the zipper fly which was AWESOME) was rivet installation. Any time you get to use a hammer to finish a sewing project is a good time in my book! As if the neighbors don’t think we’re weird already though… Rivet installation happened on the sidewalk in our front yard, which I think confused more people in 20 minutes than I usually manage to weird out in a standard week.
On the subject of the much-anticipated fit question: Yes! They fit! better than any pair of RTW jeans I’ve ever had, in fact. In Jon’s words, “They make your legs look really, really long.” (he also said they made my torso look super short but I have a very long torso so I’m not sure I’m sad about that.)
This wearable muslin is not without its learning points though. First, the yoke does a little bubbling thing (you can see it in some of the photos, it interferes with the roundness of the upper booty, but completely disappears when I’ve got a shirt tucked in) – which will be easily fixed by removing some of the height from its center back seam in the yoke piece. Next time I’ll extend the fly down the crotch seam a little further, as even in their most open state it’s a trick to get them over my hips. Half an inch should do it. Lastly, the ankle width- although it looked excellent when the jeans were on… I almost had to seam-rip my feet out of them! I let out the seam allowance for an extra 3/4″ in circumference for the last five or so inches of ankle. They’re not as skinny anymore, but at least they fit over my feet. The legs do that twisting thing that you sometimes read about in jeans… both my inseams twist towards the front of my leg (I cut them in opposite directions so at least it’s symmetrical…?), but that’s what I get for using mystery denim. You can see it in some of the photos.
The Ginger instructions suggest 5 rivets – the outside corners of the butt pockets, the front pockets, and the coin pocket, but I went a little rivet crazy and did 9 – in all the places my old favorite pair had rivets. I’m in love with the hardware color – but I think I may have shot myself in the foot with the copper – it’s a very soft metal and the rivet back pointy things (technical term)- seemed very eager to poke through the heads. This, in turn, even if it still happened, would have been a lot less obvious had the metal of the backs been the same color as the heads. But you know what? They fit, and they’re a bit shiny, and like them despite their flaws.
Surprisingly, my $7 secondhand find seems to be standing up surprisingly well so far. I usually don’t wear my makes much until they’ve been blogged, but there’s been a bit of a backlog with photographing my projects lately -probably because of the four projects I was hiding from you until after Hawaii – and I made these jeans ’cause I needed them. I’ve worn these a few times a week for about a month now, and I’m happy to report that the denim is firm and rebounds excellently despite everything I’ve thrown at it so far. They have loosened up a bit, but nothing’s bagging out in weird ways, and considering how much I’ve worn them I’d say it’s normal. Minor complaint that before their first washing: the dark blue rubbed off on a not-previously-blue object I was carrying at my side – but having now washed them separately in warm water, it seems at least for now that my white things are safe.
So. After a decade-long hiatus, consider this my formal debut back into the world of sewing with patterns! I’m not sure if the decision to abandon patterns was wise for my 14 year old self, but regardless I’m sure glad I ended up here because of it. These new Gingers, though very cool, aren’t quite a replacement for the old beloved ones I lost in battle… You definitely haven’t seen the last of this pattern! How many is an acceptable number of pairs of jeans to have? Twelve? I’m on the lookout for some good denim to cut into, so time will tell what I come up with!