Making blue jeans - need advice please!

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Quanta

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First, the backstory:

Way back in 2009, I found a pair of blue jeans that actually fit me. I found them at Big Lots of all places, and since they fit I went back and purchased the only other pair they had in that size. I completely wore out both pairs and have never found another pair like them. I am built with very unusual proportions apparently because it is very uncommon for me to find clothes that fit me right. These jeans were originally from The Gap, and I went there to see if they had anything similar, but no such luck.

I have decided to just copy these jeans myself, but I've never made any clothes this complicated before. I do know how to sew, both on a machine and by hand. I have access to a sewing machine that can, according to the manufacturer, handle up to 17 layers of denim at once so the machine is up to the task. I just don't know if I am!

I have taken apart old clothes before for copying so I am familiar with that process. My pajama bottoms are based on a pair from Old Navy that I purchased in 1999, I have been making them out of bedsheets ever since. I know how to make a pattern from an old garment, and I know how to pay attention when taking it apart, to know in what order the pieces should be sewn together. I don't have a serger, but the machine I'm using can approximate a serged seam (no chainstitch though). So all of that is fine.

What I don't know how to do, is make the seams pucker like store-bought jeans. The original jeans I'm copying have puckered seams, and I think if I make them flat and smooth they'll look too home-made. When I Google it, I only see instructions on how to make them not pucker, which isn't what I want. I like the look of the original pair and I want to copy it as closely as possible.

I know a good handful of you also sew. If you know how to do what I'm trying to do, please explain it to me! Or, if anyone knows of a good resource for making jeans, I'd love to see it. Or if anyone knows of a forum that specializes in sewing, or better yet one that specializes in sewing jeans specifically, I'd love that too. All I can figure out is that it has something to do with the thread tension or the feed rate of the fabric. But I don't know in which direction I need to adjust those things and I don't have loads of fabric to experiment with. I'd rather someone give me some pointers to get me started.

Thanks in advance.
 

Adobehead

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These jeans were originally from The Gap,
The puckering could be the thing that landed these for sale in Big Lots instead of the Gap. A quirky possibly.

Well, I bow to you for attempting this. I went to fashion design school and sewed chamois shirts in a factory and have done a little in the way of stage clothes...... and I would never attempt what you are doing!

Having said that, maybe you could experiment with some muslin or other scraps to see whether the tension should be set more or less and how much. Try two different threads for top and bobbin, see if that puckers. (It has for me in the past.) You maybe could do one or two rows of gathering stitches ever so slightly then assemble the seam.

Well, again, I admire you (and can relate) for trying to do what everyone else is trying not to do and agree that a detail like that could really change the outcome, I'm sure it will turn out well! Please post a photo!
 

TheGecko

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No, you do not want to sew 'puckers' into your jeans.

The puckering that you see in jeans can be caused by bad sewing techniques or what happens with denim. Denim is a strong cotton fabric made using a twill weave, which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. The cotton twill fabric is warp-facing, meaning that the weft threads go under two or more warp threads, and the warp yarns are more prominent on the right side. We know that cotton shrinks and wrinkles, which is why it is often treated or combined with other types of fibers. When you buy a pair of jeans that are puckered, you're seeing jeans that have been washed several times.

I never liked the 'puckering', which is why, back in the day when I paid $35 - $70 for jeans, I had then dry cleaned.

ETA - Those same jeans now for for $90 to $200 today.
 

earlene

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I have sewn with heavy jeans material. It's a bear. I made a custom quilt for my brother out of his old jeans and military uniforms. I have never done it again because it was so hard on my patience.

I can't even imagine how hard it would be to purposefully pucker layers of denim, but here's how I would attempt it using some scraps as a test swatch: using strong nylon thread, sew a very long loose straight stitch with the tension tight on one side and loose on the other; then lightly gather the fabric by pulling on one of the threads. I think that would work best with very thick fabric. The usual way for gathering done 'on machine' might not work unless your machine is not only heavy-duty (which it sounds like it is), but also allows for adjustable thicknesses under the pressure foot. If your machine can handle it, try it with a test swatch using the thicknesses desired.

Here is an article that talks about the pucker and how it was obtained in jeans. I don't know if that will help, but it's worth reading and if it might be what you're looking for, again, I suggest doing test swatches.
 

Mobjack Bay

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The only idea I can come up with is to prewash and dry the fabric several times and then sew the seams with 100% cotton thread that is not preshrunk. I once washed and then inadvertently dried an embroidered blouse, which caused the embroidery to shrink and the blouse fabric to pucker. I would test the idea before sewing the jeans, which I agree is a lot of work.
 

Quanta

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The puckering could be the thing that landed these for sale in Big Lots instead of the Gap. A quirky possibly.
Maybe I am using the wrong word then. I just took a quick peek at The Gap's website and most of their women's jeans have the feature I am trying to duplicate. I am attaching a picture of part of my jeans.
I am certain that the "puckering" is intentional (if that's the right word). The fabric used was originally very dark, and after the jeans were made they were intentionally faded to bring out the ripples in the seams. I have a picture of the area above the back pocket, with the inside of the seam showing from where the top of the leg was sewn onto the bottom of the yoke. The fabric inside the seam is obviously the original fabric color, and the low spots in the ripples are this darker color, and the high spots where the fading is more pronounced is lighter than the rest. This contrast is what I want. I do not have industrial fading methods at my disposal and will probably use very fine sandpaper.

20210516_232136_2.jpg


Well, I bow to you for attempting this. I went to fashion design school and sewed chamois shirts in a factory and have done a little in the way of stage clothes...... and I would never attempt what you are doing!
I sometimes start projects not knowing fully what I am getting myself into. But, I really really want to wear jeans again so I will finish this if it kills me. Someone (not me) needs to start a clothes manufacturing company that makes clothes for tall women! In department stores, men get a special section in their department for tall sizes, so why don't women? That's what I want to know. We get a section for short women, but they can always take up a hem, whereas we tall women can't just add something. There is never enough fabric in the hem to let it out enough.

Having said that, maybe you could experiment with some muslin or other scraps to see whether the tension should be set more or less and how much. Try two different threads for top and bobbin, see if that puckers. (It has for me in the past.) You maybe could do one or two rows of gathering stitches ever so slightly then assemble the seam.
Good idea for the two different threads. I will try that.

Well, again, I admire you (and can relate) for trying to do what everyone else is trying not to do and agree that a detail like that could really change the outcome, I'm sure it will turn out well! Please post a photo!
Yes, I will post photos.

No, you do not want to sew 'puckers' into your jeans.

The puckering that you see in jeans can be caused by bad sewing techniques or what happens with denim. Denim is a strong cotton fabric made using a twill weave, which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. The cotton twill fabric is warp-facing, meaning that the weft threads go under two or more warp threads, and the warp yarns are more prominent on the right side. We know that cotton shrinks and wrinkles, which is why it is often treated or combined with other types of fibers. When you buy a pair of jeans that are puckered, you're seeing jeans that have been washed several times.

I never liked the 'puckering', which is why, back in the day when I paid $35 - $70 for jeans, I had then dry cleaned.

ETA - Those same jeans now for for $90 to $200 today.
Maybe pucker isn't the right word. I'm aiming for whatever you call the effect in the photo I posted.
I do like the look of a well-washed-and-worn pair of jeans, though. I know it's a matter of personal preference, but I just don't like the super smooth and flat seams and hems. I like the style of these jeans and I don't want a pair that looks substantially different. That being said, if I can't make it look the way I want, I will settle for the super smooth seams because it's either that or not having jeans at all.

I have sewn with heavy jeans material. It's a bear. I made a custom quilt for my brother out of his old jeans and military uniforms. I have never done it again because it was so hard on my patience.
This is good to know.

I can't even imagine how hard it would be to purposefully pucker layers of denim, but here's how I would attempt it using some scraps as a test swatch: using strong nylon thread, sew a very long loose straight stitch with the tension tight on one side and loose on the other; then lightly gather the fabric by pulling on one of the threads. I think that would work best with very thick fabric. The usual way for gathering done 'on machine' might not work unless your machine is not only heavy-duty (which it sounds like it is), but also allows for adjustable thicknesses under the pressure foot. If your machine can handle it, try it with a test swatch using the thicknesses desired.
I already bought 100% polyester thread, but I can see what Hobby Lobby has tomorrow.
I'm worried that I might not have enough leftover fabric to experiment much. I am going to get the fabric washed probably in the next day or two and start getting the pieces worked out for cutting to see how much fabric I'm going to have for experimenting.

Here is an article that talks about the pucker and how it was obtained in jeans. I don't know if that will help, but it's worth reading and if it might be what you're looking for, again, I suggest doing test swatches.
I did see that article already, but they seem to be discussing industrial machines. For instance, I am pretty sure on my pair the felled seam between the leg and the yoke was sewn on a twin needle chainstitch machine with a folder. I will probably never see such a machine in real life. I have to make do with what I have, a heavy duty household machine. It can't do chainstitching, only lockstitching. I can set it up for twin needle, but the manufacturer does not make a folder for felled seams. They do have one for belt loops, but I will probably make do without that.

The only idea I can come up with is to prewash and dry the fabric several times and then sew the seams with 100% cotton thread that is not preshrunk. I once washed and then inadvertently dried an embroidered blouse, which caused the embroidery to shrink and the blouse fabric to pucker. I would test the idea before sewing the jeans, which I agree is a lot of work.
I think I'm going to wash and tumble dry the fabric three times. Then when I've got the pieces cut out, I'll experiment with the scraps.

I am pretty sure parts of the original were sewn with either cotton, or mostly cotton thread. It was pretty worn out in places and the wear pattern looked just like cotton does when it is worn over time. I can get cotton thread and experiment with that, too. I will wash and dry the experiments several times to see what happens. I will let everyone know what results I get.

I know jeans are complicated, but I'm willing to put in the effort because I want jeans that fit me. For years I've been wearing Propper BDUs (which also have puckered seams, by the way) but I want to wear jeans again.
 

Ladka

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You will have to use cotton thread not polyester, the latter won't shrink during washing and won't produce the wished-for pucker.
 

lsg

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Good luck with your project. I use to sew clothes for my small daughter and later, for my granddaughters. I have never sewn denim, but I bet it is a challenge. Please post pictures of your finished jeans. I would love to see how they turn out.
 

KimW

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Ok - I get what you're at now. You want a certain type of seam, one that is "raised", not a gather or a pucker. I recently sewed an apron out of an old denim dress purchased at Goodwill, and I've sewn a few more things, including quilts and bags - etc, out of old jeans as well as purchased denim fabric. Given your more than adequate sewing experience and my experience with these textiles, I would suggest your seam look depends mostly on two things:
1.) The fabric. You'll likely find the denim of your old jeans thicker than most denim found in fabric stores. No worry, the proper fabric can be found somewhere. You could also purchase a very large pair of jeans from Goodwill or a thrift store to get fabric with the right heft and feel.
2.) The seams. Having never worked in the garment industry here are my observations from dismantling so many pairs of jeans and having sewn my own pants for years (not perfectly, but they worked and never fell apart! LOL):
Seam 1: Flat-felled seam. The back yoke, as in your picture, the back seam or back rise, the pocket tops, waistband loops, etc are sewn with a flat-felled seam. Sometimes also used for the jean side seams. Perhaps not the best name for this seam, as it creates a seam that is raised.
Seam 2: Welt, or Mock Felled (or mock flat-felled). Sometimes used for the side seams.
A quick search will identify these to you, if you're not already familiar.

Other Notes:
The puckering effect will happen with time or, as you say, you can accelerate the process and cause through manual means.
I'll presume to suggest care in using a proper needle made/marked for denim/leather.
Take a bit of your old jeans with you - even a belt loop is fine - and the materials tag (100% cotton or whatever) while looking for the fabric.

btw - I've done all my sewing (thick denim and all) the last 13 years on a little Janome 5812. I bought an old Ambassador, which I had renewed/refurbished, for sewing bags and outdoor coverings of vinyl, thick canvas, and thick "man jeans" denim. In the end, I used the Ambassador a total of one time when I accidentally created a double flat-felled seam and didn't feel like ripping the whole project and starting over. But, boy did it whip right through that seam. Now it just sits there, but it sure is pretty. 😁

Hope that all helps. You can do it!!
 

Adobehead

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After reading all the responses and seeing the photo, I vote for don't worry about it and just don't ever iron the seams real flat, it will happen on it's own! Just MHO.

Someone here mentioned the twill weave of denim which exagerates the wear pattern, that's all it is. Just see if you can find twill weave denim with the white weft threads.
Yay, they will be long enough!
 

Quanta

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You will have to use cotton thread not polyester, the latter won't shrink during washing and won't produce the wished-for pucker.
I just bought some cotton thread, and some heavy nylon as well based on other suggestions, so I can try a variety of thread combinations to see what works.

In case you need it, there’s a great sewing forum here: Sewing Pattern Review Online Sewing Community
Yes, this looks very helpful, thanks.

Good luck with your project. I use to sew clothes for my small daughter and later, for my granddaughters. I have never sewn denim, but I bet it is a challenge. Please post pictures of your finished jeans. I would love to see how they turn out.
I have sewn denim before, just not clothes. I used to keep the cut off legs of jeans for small projects, back when I wore a lot of cutoff shorts. I figured if the legs weren't long enough to begin with, why keep them on? I made purses and such out of them.

I just remembered, I did make one denim jacket, but it was for a very tiny doll back when I made dolls and doll clothes. The whole thing was maybe 1 inch or 1.25 inches, from collar to hem. I don't think that counts though. 😆 I think I still have it, if I find it I'll post a picture.

Ok - I get what you're at now. You want a certain type of seam, one that is "raised", not a gather or a pucker.
Yes. That is probably what I mean.

I recently sewed an apron out of an old denim dress purchased at Goodwill, and I've sewn a few more things, including quilts and bags - etc, out of old jeans as well as purchased denim fabric. Given your more than adequate sewing experience and my experience with these textiles, I would suggest your seam look depends mostly on two things:
1.) The fabric. You'll likely find the denim of your old jeans thicker than most denim found in fabric stores. No worry, the proper fabric can be found somewhere. You could also purchase a very large pair of jeans from Goodwill or a thrift store to get fabric with the right heft and feel.
I bought some fabric already, but it has a slight stretch to it that the original doesn't have. I had a hard time finding some that is the same weight as the original. Most of the stuff in the stores around here is 3 or 4 ounces too light. The one I bought (11 ounce) is still maybe a little lighter than the original, but not by much. I could buy some denim online, but that is one thing I really don't like buying online because I want to feel it first. I am thinking maybe I could try 12 ounce but that might be too heavy. I did see some 14 ounce at the store when I bought the stuff I have, and that was way too heavy.

2.) The seams. Having never worked in the garment industry here are my observations from dismantling so many pairs of jeans and having sewn my own pants for years (not perfectly, but they worked and never fell apart! LOL):
Seam 1: Flat-felled seam. The back yoke, as in your picture, the back seam or back rise, the pocket tops, waistband loops, etc are sewn with a flat-felled seam. Sometimes also used for the jean side seams. Perhaps not the best name for this seam, as it creates a seam that is raised.
From my research, flat felling can only be done on seams. The pocket tops are hemmed with a twin needle chainstitch. The belt loops are sewn with a coverstitch. But they all look the same from the right side of the fabric, that is, two parallel lines that has the appearance of lockstitching. Which is probably how I will have to sew all those things instead of how they were originally done - two parallel lines of lockstitching.

Seam 2: Welt, or Mock Felled (or mock flat-felled). Sometimes used for the side seams.
A quick search will identify these to you, if you're not already familiar.
The outseams on mine are a kind of halfway mock flat felled seam.
Both the inseams and outseams on mine are serged with an overlock stitch, and then stitched again with a single chainstitch slightly further from the edge, and then the outseams are stitched flat with the decorative white cotton thread in a single line between the serging and the chainstiching. There is no second row of white stitches. All the serging and non-visible chainstitch seems to have been done with blue polyester thread that matches the denim. Here is a picture of the right and wrong side of the outseam:
20210517_184209_2.jpg


I don't have a serger but there are stitches on the machine I'm using that will work for seams like this. It's not a true overlock, but it's close enough.

Other Notes:
The puckering effect will happen with time or, as you say, you can accelerate the process and cause through manual means.
I'll presume to suggest care in using a proper needle made/marked for denim/leather.
If it happens on its own over time, I can be happy with that. I will probably wash them a few times before I wear them anyway.
I do know how important it is to have the proper needle, especially for fabric so different from what I normally sew. A pack of denim needles was actually the first thing I bought for this project, even before the fabric.

Take a bit of your old jeans with you - even a belt loop is fine - and the materials tag (100% cotton or whatever) while looking for the fabric.
It is 100% cotton. The stuff I bought is slightly stretchy so not 100% cotton. I am still going to use it, but will probably end up getting 100% cotton for a second pair.

btw - I've done all my sewing (thick denim and all) the last 13 years on a little Janome 5812. I bought an old Ambassador, which I had renewed/refurbished, for sewing bags and outdoor coverings of vinyl, thick canvas, and thick "man jeans" denim. In the end, I used the Ambassador a total of one time when I accidentally created a double flat-felled seam and didn't feel like ripping the whole project and starting over. But, boy did it whip right through that seam. Now it just sits there, but it sure is pretty. 😁

Hope that all helps. You can do it!!
It does help. I sure hope I can do it! :D

After reading all the responses and seeing the photo, I vote for don't worry about it and just don't ever iron the seams real flat, it will happen on it's own! Just MHO.

Someone here mentioned the twill weave of denim which exagerates the wear pattern, that's all it is. Just see if you can find twill weave denim with the white weft threads.
Yay, they will be long enough!
Good, I'm glad to hear this.
 

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