Neither love or seams can keep you together…


Cloning My ‘Wanderer’ Jeans

Every time I looked at them I knew this time had to be the last time we were together, but I couldn’t give them up. They were so good to me; they knew me so well and they knew how to make me feel good. I always ended up giving them another chance.

I was wearing my favourite jeans in deep blue denim, that looked as good as new on the outside but I knew the truth. Thunder thighs had struck again. These jeans were on their fourth patching and that was wearing through. I had checked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything untoward and the OH swore he couldn’t see anything either. Then while I was out, I felt a breeze where I knew I shouldn’t and my mind was made up. It just happened that I was wandering into @dittofabrics just as this occurred. I say ‘just happened’ as if I don’t go into a fabric shop every time I go to town these days. I had gone into Ditto for something, probably knicker elastic but that’s another story. Oh… I know, it was for some stretch knit fabric for my fallon top pattern test and that’s another ‘other story’. As I was wandering around picking up every other roll of fabric and inwardly drooling, I came across the bolts of stretch denim. Instantly I thought “This is it, I am in making mode. I love you jeans, but you have reached a patch too far. I can rebuild you, I can make you better… stronger… faster”. (If you are of a similar vintage to me you should be hearing the theme to the Six Million Dollar Man in your head and in your mind’s eye you’re seeing Lee Majors running in slow motion; if you’re not as old as me, never mind.)

Prewashing is a thing?????

Anyway, I had decided that I was going to copy these jeans as the Sewjo is definitely back. I’m full of pattern testing infused confidence and raring to go.

This was an exercise in creative destruction, in that my original jeans weren’t going to make it out alive. I thought about tracing around them but I didn’t quite think I could replicate the key feature, which was some shaping which allows the jeans to fit my curvy derriere really nicely. In order to get that right, I decided I was going to have to dismantle my jeans and use them as a pattern. If I’m careful I could put them back together again … I already knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Thanks to @dressmakerssocial who helped me get the right amount of fabric, I got a bit extra for insurance and I ended up with mooooore than enough. I remembered top stitching thread and jeans needles and took my booty home.

At this point, I was deep into pattern testing the Fallon top with @studiotkb and so I could not start on the jeans straight away. This meant that I had plenty of time to pre-wash my denim like a good girl. I have to confess to being a very impatient sewer in the past and I almost never pre-washed unless it was a fabric like linen with form for shrinking. I felt a little self-righteous knowing that I was doing a good thing. So I dutifully washed the denim and hung it out to dry while I got on with other things.

I was on a deadline as I now want to take them on my long trip and I now had exactly a week to go, I was in a bit if a frenzy as I’ve made my Lotus T-shirt, a pair of Flora trousers, the Sinclair patterns test Clementine, and Fallon all back to back and now these jeans will give me a decent haul for my holiday wardrobe.

Cue a bit of fear, once that seam ripper goes in I’m committed, I set to and it was not long before I had gouged three nice rips into the fabric. So that together with the already threadbare inner thighs sealed the deal, there was no going back now and my original jeans were no more.

It took me about an hour to unpick all of the seams on one side of the garment which involved undoing a combination of seams, topstitching and edge stitching, leaving a small hillock of thread when done.

Now it was time to make my pattern, I made a paper pattern rather than place directly onto the fabric, this way if I’m successful these jeans can be made again. It was pretty straightforward, when you dismantle a garment it is surprising how clear the construction becomes. I could see where everything went and how it fit together. I made sure to add seam allowance as some were lost either due to the original wear and some during the seam ripping.

With the pattern made I went ahead and cut it out, I did not make a toile (lazy and impatient again) but I now recommend that you do. Using my observations during dismantling and the intact half of the original jeans as a guide, it was relatively easy to construct. Finish all of the edges with zigzag stitch or use the overlocker if you have one – this is so much fun I find myself making car chase noises when I’m overlocking.   Make your patch pockets and press the edge over and edge stitch in a plain thread.

Then I made the front pockets by lining them with a cotton print and attaching them to the jeans front again stitching and pressing to set the shape basting the pocket into position.

For the jeans themselves I started with the shaping feature in the back two little darts give you extra room in the rear. Pressing on the ham gives it that shape.

These seams give a nice shape for an ample bum
Then some nice edge stitch to lay it down before adding the yoke.

As I would come to see the devil really is in all the topstitching detail. When making jeans the topstitching is the main feature as this is what makes them jeans and not just another pair of trousers. You will need lots of top stitch thread, I had to go back 3 times as I kept underestimating how much I would need. You will also realise that topstitching is an art, you need a steady hand or some technical tool. Use a notch on your presser foot and the stitch width function to move the needle into position to get your stitching just right. Practice makes perfect. This could happen…


Before this happens…

but look…

Next is the fly closure, as much as topstitching, a fly closure makes jeans, jeans. They can be tricky and with hindsight, I recommend doing your fly first and not moving on until you are happy. I have to admit my fly is a bit of an abomination so I’m kinda glossing over that for now!

Finally, the construction is complete with much topstitching. Stitch the inside leg, then topstitch. Then do the outside leg. Often the outside leg is not topstitched but the upper seam as far as the thigh is usually edge-stitched. I didn’t like the fit of mine at this point (this is why you make a toile sewists) so I had to add a panel to rescue … ahem, add a design feature to my jeans. Once the pants fit, it’s time to add the waistband and belt loops, put on a fancy button and you’re done.

My side panel and top stitching.

My ‘Wanderer’ jeans made it into the suitcase for my long Balkan trip but there are a few things I’m not happy with, namely the fly front and the waistband so while I have worn them, these jeans will be undergoing surgery as soon as I return home. However, I am really happy that I have drafted a pair of jeans which fit nicely and look like jeans. I don’t mind the sacrifice of my favourite jeans as they taught me a lot and I think I may never buy RTW jeans again.

Wanderer jeansjeans

Have you ever cloned a pair of jeans? How did it go – were you successful or do you wish you had left your jeans intact?

P.S. See that denim jacket, I lost that in one of the three countries we visited in the last month … so guess what is going on my ‘to make’ list?

About Elaine Batiste

I'm a teacher, a lifelong learner, a traveller, a maker, an adventurer and a 'want to do more' kind of gal.

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