Jeans. A staple item that should be in every girl’s closet, no matter what shape or size. Hey, man and child should also own them. But if you’re anything like me, it’s practically impossible to find a nice fitting pair that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Seriously, it’s impossible to find good fitting jeans that flatter my body shape.
All is not lost though; if you have a pair that fits you well (or well enough), with Kenneth King’s help you can replicate them over and over in his Craftsy class Jean-ius Reverse Engineer Your Favourite Fit. He will even teach you how to make any necessary fitting changes so that you get the absolute perfect fit.
The greatest part is that you don’t need to take your existing pair of jeans apart to follow this class; you don’t damage them in any way.
Materials you will need for the class:
- Material, pins, thread, scissors, etc – the normal stuff;
- Diagonal cutters (hopefully you have a tool shed);
- Silk organza (I used tracing paper to a lesser degree of accuracy);
- Wax or chalk paper to transfer markings – can be done without but a lot more difficult;
- Zipper foot, preferential;
- Button hole foot, preferential.
Lesson 1 – Introduction
The introduction mostly covers who is Kenneth King and his employment and sewing history. Given that he’s been sewing for about 50 years, he summaries quite nicely.
At about the half way mark in this video he shows you a few examples of jeans, including a pair of jeans made from material that cost $300 per yard! I couldn’t honestly ever imagine spending that much money on fabric…
Kenneth can actually replicate a single pair of jeans within about 3 hours. For me, it look a lot longer, however I found myself referring back to the video a lot for techniques. The difference of one year and fifty years of sewing would probably imply that he is a lot faster at sewing than I.
Lesson 2 – Preparing the Model Fit
The aim of this lesson is to get a pattern from a pair of jeans that already fit well.
Kenneth has marked with a thick contrasting embroidery thread by basting the lengthwise and crosswise grains, along with stitching lines on to the jeans. You should thread baste as the lines are guaranteed to be there until you pull them out, whereas using chalk it can rub off during handling. If you don’t have thick thread, take an extra long bit of normal thread and double or triple fold it before threading a needle; it will give you the thickened string that you need.
You should baste at the folds, rather than the stitching line.
Marking the Front
We need to draft the pattern before we go ahead and add any seam allowances.
When you get to the zipper stop you should make a cross mark.
You will need to mark the waist, the centre front (down the fly), the inseam and the pockets.
You will need to baste the out seam, the waist, the yoke, the pockets and the centre back seam.
Establishing Grain Lines
Change your thread colour. Find the cream, which is halfway between the inseam and the out seam. Pin the out seam and the inseam together, allowing you to literally fold a crease into the edge of the pants. Make sure that you straighten the jeans at the legs so there are no ripples, and smooth the fabric.
It’s really important to have that really straight grain line for this part; the first time I followed this class I skipped marking the grain line. Opps! The pants I made looked lovely, but they kept twisting around my leg.
To make your crosswise grain, measure an equal distance up from the hem. It’s basically assumed that the hem is marked on the crosswise grain. You will need to make a crosswise mark at the knee at another one at the crotch level. You should mark the front and back crotch depth separately as often they are different lengths (the back is often deeper).
You may find that the grain lines in the fabric aren’t exactly the same in the fabric as what you mark, but we will be testing our pattern so we can still work through it.
Lesson 3 – Creating the Draft
In this lesson we will be getting the information from the jeans onto organza material. Now I don’t have any organza material, so I will be using tracing paper sheets from the local stationery store.
Kenneth recommends silk organza as its fairly stiff, has a matte finish and is compatible with art pencils. Don’t use markers as they can bleed through the organza and damage your existing jeans. He says that you will probably need a yard at the most, since you will be putting the front and back onto the same piece. Take all the details as they are now, later when we create the muslin we can start making changes to things such as the pockets.
Make sure you have a clear grain on your silk organza; if it’s squared off you will measure in a certain amount and mark.
You will need to add your crosswise marks on in the same way – measuring from the edge. Make sure to measure how far apart they are on your jeans.
Lay your jeans underneath, matching up the cross marks and the grain lines. Smooth and pin the grain, then the cross seam. Then pin your outside and inside seams. Finally go in and mark with a pencil to transfer all those details to the organza. Don’t forget to mark the stitching line on the fly.
Flip your jeans over so you can trace the back. The back actually has a curve to it (since most of us have curvy derrières). Kenneth suggests that you use a sleeve board to just raise the back upwards. This is really helpful with the curve on the back crotch; accuracy is really important in this area for a comfortable fit.
Trace your main section of the fabric. Then unpin and trace the yoke separately; often the yoke and the back fabric will be curved, so this helps to eliminate any mis-drafts.
Putting It On Paper
Use a heavy white craft paper, wide enough that it will accommodate your pattern.
Draw the same length wise and crosswise grain onto the paper. Line up the organza with the paper using the grain and the cross grain as reference points.
Grab your tracing wheel and wax cardboard paper. Trace the front pattern, the back pattern and the yoke piece. Once you have traced it all, you will need to go back and straighten out any lines.
Next, measure the jeans for each line and make sure that they are the same lengths as the pattern on the paper. Make any adjustments as necessary. These adjustments are known as truing your pattern.
Lesson 4 – Testing the Draft
To create your muslin garment, you should use fabric that’s similar to your fashion fabric; it will give you an accurate read as to how the garment will turn out.
Make sure that your grain lines are parallel with the selvage, as is the case of almost every garment you will ever create. Pin inside the lines we have marked. Use a dual tracing wheel to mark a stitching and cutting line onto the muslin. Kenneth cuts through two layers of material at once, so he places the carbon paper on both sides of the pattern.
Since we have everything marked, it’s a simple matter of just cutting everything out. Mark the placement of pockets and the fly front.
You will want to sew this with the longest stitch that you can get away with; baste for the fun of it! Press the seam allowances open.
Match the yoke corners to the back pant legs, matching the stitching lines.
Lesson 5 – Correcting the Draft
Keneth points out the places where he needs to adjust:
- Horizontal pulls at the crotch;
- Ripple underneath butt cheeks
- Side seam
- Taking in the waist.
We will need to flatten that area and give it just a bit more fabric in this area. On your pattern measure out by 1/4″ of the crotch curve, meeting the bottom of the zipper edge.
Altering the Back
Taking in the Back Waist
To adjust the waist at the back, you will measure the difference onto your yoke and then just taper it down to the centre back seam.
Ripples Underneath the Butt Cheeks
To make the adjustments to the folds at your seat – just under your butt cheeks – you will need to make your alteration below the crotch level line. Measure the distance out, making parallel lines to your crotch line. Then just fold the pattern and blend your seams. Since you took out an inch from your upper pants, we will need to add that difference back into the bottom leg hems. It works just fine.
To true up the side seam we will need both pattern pieces. You will use your wax paper to transfer the new stitching line onto the back of your material, then line the material up with your pattern and trace it onto your paper pattern. Do this for both the front and back pant patterns.
Lesson 6 – Draft to Pattern
Drafts are all good and fine, but we need a finalised pattern to actually make our jeans (and any future jeans too).
Trace the pocket shape onto a separate piece of paper. Consider how you will make your pockets, as this will effect what you will do next.
Pockets With Facings
Draw a line about 1 and 1/4 parallel to the top of the pocket. If you fold the paper over at the top edge and then trace your lines again, you will get a perfect measurement of your facing. This is great if your pockets slant at an angle, as this angle will need to be taken into account for the facing.
Add your 5/8″ seam allowance – or if you prefer working with a different seam allowance please do so.
Finally add your grain lines.
This step isn’t shown, but you are requested to do the same for the yoke as you did with the pockets.
Measure the pockets on the existing jeans. Mark them on your draft.
The appliqué is another piece of denim that fits inside the pocket so that you don’t see the pocket material (which is generally thinner than denim). It usually sits about 1″ below the pocket edge. If you have a smaller pocket, measure and mark this out now as well.
You will then need to go ahead and transfer each of these onto your final pattern paper, using a new piece of paper (obviously) for each bit of material you will cut. Add your grain lines, any necessary notches and your ideal seam allowance.
Fly Front Facing and Zipper Shield
Copy onto pattern paper your fly front. The shield will have a mirror image of itself. Again add grain lines and seam allowances.
Lesson 7 – Back Pockets and Yoke
Perpare the fabric:
- Wash it;
- Press it;
- Square the grain lines;
- Pin the pattern to it.
Double and triple you check your grain lines before cutting; they are really important to get right otherwise your pant legs will twist and skew. Pin your pattern to your fabric in preparation for cutting. If you are comfortable enough to not use pins – a technique taught in Sew Better, Sew Faster – then cut the fabric as you prefer.
The one pattern piece you won’t cut on your denim will be the pocket bag. You should use a thinner fabric such as cotton.
Don’t worry about the waistband, we’re going to cover that now. The rule of thumb is that if you want an 1 1/2″ waist band you will need to measure 4 and 1/2″. Double the depth, double the seam allowance, plus 1/4″. Don’t cut it to length yet, its much easier to wait until installation.
You will need to mark pocket placement onto your fabric to ensure proper placement.
A really important place to mark is where the zipper will stop at the fly front. In fact a tiny notch in the seam allowance might be a good idea here. Mark the corresponding points on the fly facing and shield.
Also consider marking fold lines and any other details.
It’s helpful to leave material pinned to your pattern until you are ready to sew; it will help the fabric from not being distorted and aid you in piece selection.
Beginning the Construction
Finish the facing’s raw edge on the back pocket with a served or zig zag edge. Fold with front sides together, and sew the facing down. Press.
Decorative Top Stitching
Use 3.5mm or longer stitch length. You can use a top stitching thread and needle, or thread your needle with two spools of the same colour thread.
Stitch 1/8″ from the folded edge of your pocket top. Leave the thread tails on so that we can secure them properly later. Sew at 1 and 1/4″ from the fold as.
Grab the bobbin thread and pull it gently. The last loop will open a bit. You can then pull the loop out the back and tie the threads off. It means you have no loose thread at the front, and no chance of visible thread fraying.
Attaching the Pockets
Line up your pockets using your guides and pin into position.
Single or double stitch your pockets in place, according to your style preference. Definitely back tack the top edges.
Attaching the Yoke
Layout the yoke pieces before attaching – it is incredibly easy to get them switched and upside down (I did this when creating my first muslin – whoops). Finish the seam with a serger or zigzag.
Pressing and Top Stitching
Press as sewn. Press seam allowances down towards the body.
Topstitch anywhere necessary.
Lesson 8 – Front Pockets
Stay the Curves
We need to stay the curve on the front pocket curve so that over time they won’t stretch or distort. Cut a strip of cross grain fabric about 3/4″ wide. Press and stretch so that they build a memory of a curve. Don’t worry about any creases, you won’t notice them later.
Pin the shaped strips onto the fabric and stitch in place.
Prepare the Pocket Bag
Serge the curved edge of the appliqué and press.
Stitch the appliqué to the pocket bag. If your worried about anyone seeing the serge seams you can turn the edge under and edge stitch it down.
Line up appropriately and top stitch them down like you did with the back pocket.
Installing the Pocket Bag
Lay everything out; it helps to make sure you have the correct pocket bag with the correct leg. With right sides together, pin the pocket bag to the pant’s leg. Sew the tops together, catching the front, back and the muslin strip that we used to stay the curve.
Grade, clip and press. Make sure you clip through the stay stitching that we made when we attached the muslin strip. When pressing, favour the fashion fabric so that the pocket bag doesn’t show.
Turn the pocket the wrong side out and pin edges together. Sew the seam at 1/4″. Press the seam open. Turn right side out. Sew a 3/8″ stitch. Voila, finished!
Lesson 9 – Fly Front and Zipper
Not everyone knows what an overlap or an underlap or shield is, so it’s nice that Kenneth gives a clear example of how to distinguish the two; once you know it seems so obvious!
This has probably got to be one of the hardest classes of the entire course, so it’s a good idea to watch it at least once fully before attempting to follow along.
Finish the raw edges of the overlap, and then attach to your pants. Clip the bottom near the curve so that it can lie flat, and then topstitch.
Constructing the Underlap
You will sew the shield inside out, and then flip appropriately to the right side out.
Shortening the Zipper
It’s much easier – and safer on the pocket – to buy longer zippers and cut them down to size. Measure out the necessary length, then trim your zipper. Using diagonal cutters (yes, go ahead and raid your husband’s tool shed) carefully remove the zipper stoppers and then the teeth. Reattach the zipper stoppers in their new location.
Installing the Zipper
This step is much harder to explain. You will do several steps, such as clipping the seam allowance and then pressing it back by 1/2″. You will lay the zipper in position, pinning to keep it in place (or alternatively using something like steam-a-seam or stay-tape). Line up the top edge of your shield with the seam allowance, covering everything underneath. Stitch the zipper in place, ideally using a zipper foot if you have one.
Joining the Halves
Sew the inseam first, half way down the curve.
Fold your shield out of the way; we need to sew the zipper to the facing. With the front of the jeans facing you, line up the other edge of the zipper so that it covers the zipper and opposite edge stitching. Once you have sewn this, you will flip it back over and stitch the overlap in place – it helps to sketch out with chalk or removable pen to get a nice straight top stitch.
Lesson 10 – Final Assembly
This lesson covers:
- Sew out seams;
- Sew inseams; and
- Sew at the crotch.
Sew the out seams first. Serge the seam to finish it. Press as sewn, and then press to the back. Once it’s lying nice and flat you can then go ahead and topstitch it down.
Sew the inseams, press as sewn and then press towards the back.
Kenneth shows you a cool little trick to make sewing the crotch easier – mostly involving how to make the fabric lay flat so it can easily handled. Sew the seam, serge, and then top stitch.
Lesson 11 – Final Details
This lesson teaches you how to install the waistband and belt loops and finally how to properly hem the jeans.
Remember how at one stage we cut a long strip of fabric for the waistband. Well you will want to fold it in half, and then press back the seam allowances into itself; this hides all the raw edges quite nicely. Don’t worry about length yet, we will cut it to size soon.
Ready to wear jeans often have a fabric facing as the waistband is cut on a curve. Our custom pair of jeans are cut from a single piece of fabric which we stretch into a curve; the benefit will be to reduce bulk and make you appear slimmer.
Press your waistband with the back side facing up; that way if any shine occurs it won’t matter so much. Take it slowly, and just slightly stretch the fabric into a soft curve.
Cutting the Waistband
Measure out the length of your waistband and add a few extra inches, then cut.
Line up the raw edge (internally) of the waistband to the edge of the jeans right side to right side; leave a bit of length overlapping. Once you have sewn the seam, you can turn the waistband the right way and you won’t see the stitching. If you machine baste the first few inches of the waistband, if you need to adjust the waistband, it saves you some time when ripping the stitches; it’s important to check that the waistband lines up each side of the zipper.
Finishing The Ends
Mark the end of the waistband; it should line up with the edge of the fly. Folding the waistband inside out, you will pin the rest of the garment out of the way so as not to catch it when sewing. Sew part way using small stitches, then turn 45″ and sew on your previous waistband stitching line. Clip the corners and grade the seam allowances. Turn it right side out. You should have a great looking waistband with clean corners. Press the seam allowances upwards so they lie flat inside the waistband.
Topstitching the Waistband
Finally you will want to top stitch the waistband. This helps seal the waistband closed, and just in general gives the pants a nice decorative touch.
Cut strips that are two times plus 1/4″ the width that you want to finish with. Serge one edge. Fold the other edge 1/3 inwards, and press. Fold the opposite side so that the serge falls into the centre. Topstitch down the centre so that all the layers are hold together.
Measure the belt loops’ length and add 1/2″ on each side. Generally there are five belt loops in ready to wear jeans; two on the front, two on the sides and one in the back. Kenneth likes seven in total, the extra being between the centre back and the sides. Cut to length.
Press the extra length to the wrong side.
Installing Belt Loops
The stitching line for the belt loop will be directly over the topstitching of the waistband. The belt loops should line up with the side seams and the centre back. To find the mid-point between the back and front – if you choose to add the extra loops – just pinch the back and side loop sections together and draw your fingers out until you find that furtherest point.
Stitch over the topstitching. Trim the excess material. Fold the loop over and place it under the sewing machine foot with right side up. You will sew through the three layers (top and bottom layer of the loop plus the pants layer). Topstitch it down, then flip it inside out and trim off any excess.
Buttons and Buttonholes
Kenneth doesn’t teach you how to sew a buttonhole, as each machine varies for this. He does show you how to insert the actual button that is designed to be used with jeans; they are actually two parts that are designed to be hammered into place. Push the back tack through the material. Using a solid block of wood – careful not to damage your table – put the tack into the hole of the button and strike it with your hammer. Presto!
It’s considered proper for the trouser to break right at the instep. You can angle down slightly towards the heel; have it end where the sole of the foot meets the shoe or even ever so slightly below that point.
Kenneth serges and turns his jean hems once. Some people prefer to double turn. A bit of a personal preference. Just note that he doesn’t show you how to actually sew the hem; however if you are doing this class it is assumed that you have the skills enough to do this.
“If someone says there is only one way, or always do something, or never do something – then they are misinformed”. I completely agree; a person might find a certain technique works best for them, but it doesn’t mean it will for you. Experiment, take time, have fun.
You need to have a few materials around to do this which not ever sewer might have. Keneth uses a tracing wheel, a dual tracing wheel, wax carbon tracing paper and organza material.
- Metric Conversion Chart, which comes with all Craftsy classes.
- Jean-ius Pocket and Fly Front Instructions PDF; explains how to sew these sections with text and diagrams.
- Supplies and Resources PDF; covers the material and tools required to complete the tutorials, as well as what you will need to sew a pair of finished jeans.
Sewing jeans does involve sewing a fair bit of topstitching, so if you aren’t very good at it yet then start practicing. If you need some more help, my Really Helpful Sewing Tips and Tricks post might help you.
If you haven’t ever sewn pants before, Kenneth really does a decent job of teaching you in clear steps how to do so – especially when it comes to zippers. In fact I got annoyed with the sewing instructions of another sewing pattern and actually referred to the steps in his video to complete those pants. Having said this a beginner could follow along from Lesson 7 as a step by step guide on how to sew pants.
This class is a bit intense and contains a lot of great information; as a result I will say that it’s not for an absolute beginner. You will need to be comfortable enough with patterns to replicate and adjust them – depending upon the fit you are after sometimes drastically. An advanced beginner or intermediate sewer should be able to follow along fine.
I have had a couple people contact me saying that they had some difficulty with the class, and I can understand why. The first pair of pants I made ended up with a twisted leg (as much as I tried to prevent this). I managed to use the same pattern again and make a pair of jeans without this issue. The second time I followed this class – this time whilst writing the review – I traced a new pair of jeans and had to significantly adjust the hips to make them fit in a more flattering manner. Neither of these were faults of the class; the first being my fault for not properly straightening my grain and the second was just more of a personal fitting issue.
Overall I think Jean-ius Reverse Engineer Your Favourite Fit class is great. The techniques can easily be transferred to other items of clothing if you so wished to. I would recommend from advanced beginners/intermediates and upwards. Seriously, jeans can cost a fortune – who wouldn’t want to know how to make their own perfectly fitting jeans at home for half the cost? Just go on and treat yourself to this class, it’s worth it.
Please let me know what you thought of the class, and if you had any issues replicating your favourite pants.