The Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans vs. Jasika

Me and these jeans were in a battle, and they *almost* won.

a weird wrinkle is trying to upstage the jeans in this pic, but they don't do that in real life.
a weird wrinkle is trying to upstage the jeans in this pic, but they don’t do that in real life.

But it wasn’t because of the pattern- Heather’s Ginger Skinny Jeans in view B (high waist) was so excellent, as all her other patterns have been so far, and I am so thankful to her for introducing this daunting task and giving all her readers/fans a challenge. I would never have thought that I could sew a pair of jeans before, but when you have an accomplished seamster rooting for you and constantly insisting that YOU CAN DO IT, it’s hard to not at least ATTEMPT to rise to the occasion.

So it wasn’t the pattern that tried to destroy me, but rather my machines. That top stitching, dude. THAT TOP STITCHING! To make the most aesthetically pleasing top stitching on denim, you have to use this extra thick thread in your machine- that is what gives the detailed stitches on a pair of jeans their signature look. But that thick ass thread? It doesn’t really care what your jeans look like. It doesn’t want to cooperate with the bobbin thread underneath. It doesn’t care what the tension on your machine is. It doesn’t care if you unthread it and then stick it another machine, and then ANOTHER machine- it’s gonna act up on you regardless, like an angry pre-pubescent teenager. Weirdly enough, I had more success with the thick thread when used with my double topstitching needle than I did with a single needle. I cannot tell you how many extra hours were spent on these jeans just futzing with the machine tension and changing out the bobbin thread and then replacing it with the thick thread and then practicing on scrap denim to see if I had fixed the issue. I wont bore you (any more) with how frustrated and angry I felt, but just know that these jeans would have been a much more satisfying make if I were a sewing machine wizard.

That said, the actual jeans part of this project was really fun, and after every step I accomplished I would have a mini celebration with myself (“a coin pocket! WOW! “-electric slide- “a zip fly! WOW!” -roger rabbit-). I cut out a size 4 in the hips and a 6 in the waist, which is the opposite of what my intuition told me. I always have to cut out and grade between a smaller waist and bigger hip, but in the fitting section of the jeans sew along, Heather suggested not going down a size in the waist because it might be too tight and uncomfortable. I took her advice, but after basting the jeans together, the waist was huge, gaping several inches in the back, and I realized that I could probably have gone down to a 2 in the waist and still had room to spare. But I am so glad I didn’t grade between a size 2 and 4. With Heather’s instructions, I re-drafted my waist and yoke pieces, doing the slash and spread method to make the pieces fit to my measurements.

slash and spread method used on original pattern pieces for waistband and yoke, then retraced to create new pattern pieces.
slash and spread method used on original pattern pieces for waistband and yoke, then retraced to create new pattern pieces.

This is the first time I had ever done this kind of pattern adjustment on a pants project, and my amateur self initially slashed and spread all the pattern pieces without making sure that the lengths were the same as the original pattern, so I had to cut them out for a third time; essentially my waist and yoke pieces all remained the same length, but they had a much more dramatic curve in the pieces to accommodate the difference between my hip (larger) and waist (smaller)- it was a really informative and effective step to tackle, because the fit ended up being the most perfect that I have ever had compared to my expensive RTW jeans which are always too big in the waist no matter the fit. I am so glad I did the extra work and redrafted the pattern pieces as opposed to cutting out different sizes and grading them together. I just don’t think the fit would have been as complimentary.

new fit in waistband after redrafting pattern pieces- i should have taken a photo of the pants basted together and gaping several inches from my waist, but you can use your imagination.
new fit in waistband after redrafting pattern pieces- I should have taken a photo of the pants basted together and gaping several inches from my waist, but you can use your imagination. Here I am trying to decide on pocket placement.

Throughout this process, I would get frustrated with the top stitching not looking the way I imagined it should, or having tiny little parts of the denim gape a bit or just not lay as flat as I feel like they would in a pair of RTW denim, but then I would remember Heather’s post in which she tried to convince us not to obsess over making a perfect pair of jeans. Perfection is an unattainable goal for the most of us, and I realized how silly it was to be so hard on myself while tackling a completely new project without making a muslin that I had never ever before attempted- if I saw this project through to the end and the jeans were even remotely wearable, I knew that should be counted as a success. Don’t worry about making a perfect pair of jeans’. Such a simple piece of advice, yet it made all the difference to my process, and kept me moving forward instead of getting stuck or giving up.

In the last few major steps of the jean making process, right around where I was topstitching the bulk of the button area on the waistband, my sewing machine (VERY inaccurately named ‘Denim SEW-lution) went kaput. It could handle the stitching in two layers of denim, but it just couldn’t get through the super thick seams where several layers of denim were present. I broke two single needles, then my double needle, and then there was a weird whirring noise, followed by a metal-clashing-on-metal rhythm that sounded every time my needle went down into the plate; I knew that my machine was no longer in a healthy place.

"denim sewlution" my ass.
“denim sewlution” my ass.

I pulled out my backup machine, a very simple but sturdy Brother, the first sewing machine I had ever owned. But it couldn’t get through the bulky seams either. I was so stumped. What the hell do I do?? I was so close to the finish line, but none of my three sewing machines had the power to see me through to the end! And then I remembered that there was a time BEFORE sewing machines, a time BEFORE electricity, where women and men, aided by the dull glow of candlelight, would sew all their clothing by hand. I pulled out my thimble, loaded my thickest hand sewing needle with my bulky thread, and began to topstitch my waistband by hand. Then I finished attaching my back pockets by hand. Then I hemmed up my legs. By hand. Sewed on my belt loops. By hand. It took a few hours, and my fingers and and right hand were pretty sore afterwards, and I had drawn blood in my thumbs more than any human should have to endure in a short span of time, but…I DID IT! I finished the topstitching on the jeans, and honestly, you can’t tell which parts I hand sewed just by looking at them. It took very careful spacing and a lot of attention to consistency, but it was indeed impossible. And weirdly therapeutic.

Now that this project is over, and my hands have healed and I have a better perspective of the process, I can tell you that I am truly thrilled with how great these jeans came out. Honestly, half way through I figured that the jeans wouldn’t look very good on, but that this would be a cool experiment in thrusting myself into uncharted (to me) territory. So you can imagine what a fantastic surprise it was for me to finally pull these jeans up and feel SO GOOD IN THEM. And feel like I LOOKED so good in them. I am used to skinny jeans fitting so snugly that they are uncomfortable and impossible to bend in, but these, though a little tight at first wearing, have relaxed into a really excellent slim fitting but livable look, without bagging too much in the knees and booty area. Here are a few shots of the finished product on. To give a better view of the awesome waist shaping, I wore a crop top that I made a while ago (long story with this one- it was supposed to be a romper and wouldn’t even fit over my hips, so I turned it into a cute crop top instead. Okay, that actually wasn’t a long story at all). I definitely feel like I am channeling a bit of greased lightning in this getup, which is fun, and also weird since I would probably never leave the house in this outfit cause…a little bit too tight and too much skin for me to feel comfortable in public. But for a photoshoot? Fuck, yeah!

the original pocket placement was super low for me on these, probably because I am so short, but I scooted them up a bit and they are perfect now.
the original pocket placement was super low for me on these, probably because I am so short, but I scooted them up a bit and they are perfect now.
detail on the topstitching around the button hole of the waistband, some of which I did by hand.
detail on the topstitching around the button hole of the waistband, some of which I did by hand.

little in the middle but she got much back
little in the middle but she got much back



When I make these jeans again, I probably wont do much different with them- will keep the size adjustments in the waist, but might use zippers on the ankles to give them an even slimmer and elongated look. I am nervous to try different denims- I purchased the jeans kit that ClosetCaseFiles and WorkRoomSocial sold from their sites, and it included a super high quality denim with all the notions necessary for the completion of the garment. I am afraid of not successfully finding a denim with this perfect amount of stretch/give/softness. But I am sure I will figure it out. I figured a LOT of stuff out in this process, and I have knocked off a huge scary project from my sewing bucket list. Thanks so much to Heather at ClosetCaseFiles for the amazing pattern and accompanying sew-along. I absolutely could not have done this without your enthusiasm and virtual support!

As for my old Denim Sewlution, I will probably retire her and finally invest in a heavy duty Janome that I have had my eye on. I am sure I could get her serviced and up to working speed again. But I bought her for $40 used in Vancouver several years ago…I am not sure if I am willing to put more money into getting her tired self fixed than I did into buying her in the first place. All except for one of my sewing machines were purchased used, which has been absolutely fine, but it would be nice to get a top of the line machine with no one else’s sewing history marked in it already.


10 responses to “The Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans vs. Jasika”

  1. Cari Avatar

    These look great. Good for you working out the topstitching. I doubt I would have had the fortitude to keep at it as you did.

  2. Darkemeralds Avatar

    As a long time seamster, I am in AWE of you right now. I ‘ve made some tricky and demanding things, but jeans? That fit so beautifully? With hand topstitching? That’s just amazing. Congratulations on the fantastic process and outcome.

  3. Heather Lou Avatar

    I have so much to say I don’t even know where to start. first of all……


    Second of all, I am seriously bowing down to your handsewing skills. That is fricking crazy. Like, caps off all the way. Thirdly, if you have a triple thread stitch, that could eliminate your topstitching woes. It basically sews a regular stitch three times so it LOOKS like thicker thread.

    And I am full supportive of you getting a new machine. Graduating to a higher end model really takes your projects and confidence up a new level.

    And lastly, I think we have a mutual friend! My pal Sarah Fobes knows you somehow I think.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Oh my gosh you know Sarah Fobes?!?!?! Well, I don’t know her in real life, she is just my online imaginary friend who I internet stalk at every chance…I think Sarah and I have some mutual friends somewhere down the line and we have the same taste in opinions and hunky babes.
      Thank you for your lovely compliments, your thread advice, your attention to detail in your projects, your awesome style and aesthetic, and your thumbs-up to a new machine. I am long overdo, I just needed a push in the right direction. So much love and appreciation to you and your work, I am forever a fan!!!

  4. Heather Lou Avatar

    Thanks lady! That’s so lovely to hear, especially after I discovered the new Gomi troll “blog” that sent me into a “why are women such monsters to each” rage spiral last night.

    Ahem. New machine-wise, if you’re trying to be budget conscious but want a beast, I highly suggest ebay hunting a vintage 70s Bernina. I am particularly obsessed with the 830 and the 930. They sew like elegant tanks, and if you’re lucky you’ll find one with all the feet.

    And Fobes is the absolute best. If you and the wife ever make it to Montreal, we’ll show you a good time.

  5. B. Avatar

    These are SO good!

    A commercial seamstress friend told me that the lesson jeans taught her was to topstitch upside-down (with the thick gold thread on the bobbin, like how you put the elastic on the bobbin when you’re shirring). I have not had an opportunity to try it out yet because I am still too scared of DENIM and the ZIPPER FLY and RIVETS, but maybe it will be useful to you!

  6. Lauren Avatar

    DAMN girl! These look amazing on you! I know, I know…you don’t know me…but I just had to say it. Again. DAMN.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thank you so much! I think it’s totally okay that we don’t know each other, this being the internet and all…constructive criticism and compliments always welcome from strangers ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for reading!

  7. Vervliest und Zugenaeht Avatar

    Wow, great post and an awesome pair of Jeans!

    I have the same gaping waist issues and am so glad, that you showed me, that it is safe to take out a big wedge in the yoke. Did your yoke seams come out all wavy at the beginning? I steamed a lot now, and it seams to have fixed the problem.

    Now I am kind of confused as how to draft the waistband, since my yoke parts are much shorter at the seam where the waistband is joined. And the waistband is supposed to be cut out on the fold. How did you do that? You mentioned you had to cut it out several times, I want to avoid that, not much fabric left ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Would love to hear from you!!
    Best, Nina

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Hi, Nina ๐Ÿ™‚
      I actually just made this adjustment on a different jeans pattern yesterday and now I wish I had taken pictures so you could see the way my waistband is adjusted. Heather’s Jeans Making E-Book and her sew-along which is posted on her site also shows you how to do this step, but not in much detail. I will see if I can explain it so it makes sense.
      So now that you have successfully cut out a wedge from your yoke, that wedge will be extending into the waistband. Your new waistband will have a deep curve in it and will look like more like the shape of a “U” than it does now. I cut out a copy of my waistband piece onto scrap paper so that I could manipulate the new pattern piece but still have the original piece for reference. I made a cut into my waistband pattern piece extending from the wedge I cut out of my yoke and I sliced the paper almost all the way up to the top of the pattern piece, but I left a tiny piece still connected so that the piece isn’t cut into two. Then I slid the cut part of the pattern piece over the other side of the pattern piece so that some of the paper is overlapping- it essentially looks like a dart wedge or a pizza slice with the paper still connected at the top. Overlap the paper to approximately equal the measurement that you removed from your yoke pieces, so if you took about 1″ of width at the top of your yoke piece, the overlap of your waistband pattern piece should be 1 inch on the bottom and then taper to nothing where the pattern piece is still connected (you don’t have to keep the pattern piece connected at the top, it just helps me retain the shape of the piece more, but you might find it easier to slice through the whole piece of paper and then manipulate your pattern pieces that way. Once you are happy with the width taken out of the pattern piece, you can put a piece of tape on the paper so that it retains its new shape. By taking out all that width, you will have changed the actual length of the pattern piece, and that still needs to be equal to the yoke piece. So I trace my manipulated pattern piece onto new paper, this time with curved edges (your taped pattern piece will have angles in it from the “dart” you made, and those edges need to be curved) and I add back the length taken out of the pattern piece by using my ORIGINAL pattern piece to compare it to by simply extending the lines of the edge so that they are the same length (you will be adding length to the side of the pattern piece that is NOT cut on the fold).
      Since you don’t have much fabric left, I would just make the adjustments on some scrap fabric if you have any that is a similar weight to your denim (canvas or twill or something), stay stitch the top edge of your jeans so they don’t stretch out with all the fit testing you are doing, and then baste the scrap waistband onto your jeans to make sure the fit is right. If all is well, move onto your denim and lining fabric if you are using it, and if not, keep testing on scrap fabric til you get it right. Everytime I make this adjustment on my patten pieces, it works out perfectly from the first try so hopefully you will have that luck, too! I hope this helps! Keep me posted on how your jeans turn out!

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