Jeansmaking 101: Choosing a pattern and size

The market is full of jeans patterns now. Katie from Sew Altered Style helps narrow the choices by highlighting some of the most popular patterns available.

We’re making pants this month, so let’s get down to it, eh?

You’ve decided to dive in and make jeans!  Fitting, new techniques, hours of topstitching, and all.  But believe me when I tell you that making jeans isn’t hard.  It takes time and patience, but it’s not hard.

    Jeans — the holy grail of home sewing!

    But now that the decision has been made, it’s time to find the right pattern to start with, and choose the right starting size.

    Before we dive in, let me give a little disclaimer here.  This post is going to focus primarily on traditional jeans patterns.  I know, I know, our first 2-month challenge theme is casual pants, not limited to jeans!  But, traditional jeans are one of the only categories where there are multiple patterns to choose from.  I mean, if you really want a pair of casual wide-legs, you’re probably going to choose the Lander Pants.  If you’re itching for a pair of cargos, the soon-to-be-released Bryce Cargos from our sponsor Hey June  are your obvious choice.  Amiright?

    Choosing Your Pattern

    When I made my first pair of Ginger Jeans almost 3 years ago, they were one of the only indie jeans pattern on the market.  My how times have changed!  This post will discuss 6 — yes 6! — indie jeans patterns, each of which could be a great choice for your perfect pair of jeans: (1) Jalie 2908 (2) The Ginger Jeans; (3) The Jamie Jeans, (4) The Birkin Flares, (5) The Liana Stretch Jeans (affiliate link), (6) The Ames Jeans.

      There are lots of options to choose from these days!

      1. Jalie 2908

      Canadian indie designer Jalie (and one of our challenge sponsors) was doing jeans before anyone else!  Jalie 2908 may have been the first indie jeans pattern on the market, and offers a classic bootcut style.  In addition to 2908, Jalie offers a pull-on jeans pattern — the Eleonores — for those not quite ready to tackle that zip fly.  If you’re interested in this option, you can check out Mac’s pairs here and here.

        Jalie 2908 options.

        The Jalies feature a bootcut leg and have two rise options — mid rise and high rise.  Like all 6 of the patterns featured here, these require stretch denim or stretch twill.  Admittedly, I have little experience with Jalie, and I can’t offer any personal insight into this pattern.  But Jalie has a reputation for quality drafting, design and support, so I never hesitate to recommend their patterns.

        Like all Jalie patterns, 2908 comes in a full range of sizes from toddler through plus size.  So if your goal is to make jeans for the whole neighborhood, this pattern would be a great choice!

        2.  The Ginger Jeans

        The Ginger Jeans are a popular pattern, and for good reason.  They are well-drafted, have a classic style, and with various add-on packs, offer just about jeans every option you could want.

          Ginger Jeans options

          I’ve made two pairs of Ginger Jeans (here and here), and while I was generally happy with them, I would note that the low rise on this pattern may present some fit issues for those with a swayback.  I had to take a big ol’ chunk out of the center back on this pattern to get rid of the dreaded back waistband gape.  I did not have that issue with the high rise.

          With that in mind, I think that the Ginger Jeans are a great option for those who do not have a swayback, or for those who don’t mind making that adjustment.  If you have a more rectangular frame, Ginger may be the pattern for you.  It also has 2 add on packs available to add flare legs and a mid-rise option to the basic pattern, which includes the low and high rise as well as skinny and straight legs.  As an added bonus, Ginger is probably the most popular jeans pattern on the market, so you can find inspiration galore!

          3.  The Jamie Jeans

          There’s no doubt that Named Clothing is always in the front of the indie pack when it comes to hot new patterns and styles.  They released the Jamie Jeans even before the Gingers, and as a result, a simple Google search will show you lots of Jamie inspiration.

            Jamie Jeans options

            Named Patterns have a different approach than some other indie designers and they typically do not include multiple views and options, particularly on more complicated patterns.  Therefore, what you see in this pattern is pretty much what you get.  Standard mid rise, skinny leg, with some cool seaming and design features.

            Another thing to keep in mind is that Named is one of the taller pattern companies out there.  They typically draft for a height of 5’8″, which is great for those long in the lower body, and something to keep in mind if you’re on the shorter side.

            4.  The Birkin Flares

            My favorite fit on high-waisted jeans, hands down.  I made my Birkin Flares back in December 2015, and I still love the way my butt looks in these jeans.  They lift and accentuate in all the right ways.  I also love that these are the only pair of jeans I can wear with a belt and not feel like the weight of the belt is constantly pulling down the jeans.

              Birkin Flares are classic 70s-inspired flares

              That is due mainly to the fact that the Birkins have a 2″ swayback adjustment built into the pattern.  If you tackle this pattern, you’ll notice that the back piece is shaped a little differently than most other jeans patterns, and that’s why.  It’s also why this pattern has far and away the best fit I’ve ever found in the hip area.  It also has significantly more negative ease at the hip than the other patterns available — a whopping 3″!  I think all that negative ease is a big reason why it accentuates the butt so nicely.

              As with the Jamies, the Birkins are another what-you-see-is-what-you-get pattern.  There are no multiple rise or leg options with this pattern.  Sadly the designer stopped designing patterns before she released an accompanying skinny jeans pattern.  For that reason, my pattern choice for this month is a mash up — the Birkins from the crotch up, and the Gingers from the crotch down!

              5. The Liana Stretch Jeans (aff)

              Itch to Stitch’s contribution to this realm aims to be a one-stop-shop for all your jeans needs, minimizing the need to fit multiple patterns.  The Liana Jeans (aff) feature multiple leg options, which you paste onto the same upper.  That way, you can have 3 different jeans patterns but only have to fit the hip and waist area once.  Pretty cool!

                Liana Jeans options and views.

                The Liana Jeans have options for a skinny leg, bootcut leg, and straight leg.  Another feature of the Lianas that may make them particularly attractive for those with a pear shape is the waistband.  The waistband on the Lianas is significantly more curved than most of the other patterns discussed here.  That curved waistband may make this pattern easier to fit to a pear shape.

                6.  The Ames Jeans

                The Ames Jeans are the new kid on the block here — a plus-sized jeans pattern released last year by Cashmerette Patterns.  The size range is simultaneously a feature and a limitation of this pattern — it starts at size 12 (42″ hip) and goes up to size 28 (59″ hip).  That and the fact that this pattern is specifically drafted for a plus-sized body would make this pattern a great option for those who are plus sized.

                  Ames jeans views and options

                  The Ames Jeans also offers two completely different drafting options.  They feature one set of pattern pieces drafted for an apple shape and one drafted for a pear shape.  Fitting issues can vary dramatically in the plus sizes, so having a pattern that builds in some of those adjustments can be a great thing.

                  As a bonus, the Curvy Sewing Collective is also doing a bi-monthly challenge this year, and is also kicking off with jeans and trousers!  If you are interested in this pattern, check out this post over on the Curvy Sewing Collective for a pattern discount!

                  Choosing Your Starting Size

                  After you choose your pattern, the obvious question is — what size should you cut out??

                  The answer to this question is probably simpler than you think.  When making pants, you should start with the size that corresponds to your hip measurement.

                  But what if my waist and hip measurements put me in different sizes?

                  If you’re like me and have had a kid or two (or three), there’s a really good chance that your waist measurement would put you one or more sizes bigger than your hip measurement.  Even if that’s the case, most likely you should not choose the size that best matches your waist measurement — stick with the hip!

                  Why is that?  Well, the waist area is pretty easy to alter.  It’s typically just a matter of making it bigger or smaller.  The hip, on the other hand?  Not so simple.  The hip area is where you are dealing with crotch curve rise, flat or full bottoms, etc.  There is just a lot more involved in fitting the hips than in fitting the waist.

                  I wouldn’t even recommended blending between sizes.  If you really want to, you can blend one size up, but I would not recommend blending more than one size.  I say that for two reasons:

                  1. Stretch denim will stretch and relax quite a bit, so even if your waistband starts out a little tight, chances are it will loosen and mold to your body (that’s less likely if you stabilize the waistband of your jeans, which is why I never stabilize mine — more on that in later posts!)
                  2. Jeans patterns should have a 5/8″ seam allowance, specifically to give you extra fabric to work with in making fitting adjustments.  That means that you can add a full 1″ to the waistband (1/2″ on each side) and still have 1/8″ seam allowance.  Now that’s not a lot of seam allowance, so if you think you’ll need to add width to the waist, I would recommend cutting an extra-large seam allowance in the waist area.  That extra seam allowance should give you all you need without having to worry about blending sizes.

                  So choosing a size is really a lot simpler than you may think!  Go with the hip size, and cut extra-wide seam allowances if you think you’ll need extra width at the waist.  Easy peasy!

                  I told you my pattern selection — what’s yours??

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