Saturday, February 02, 2008

Black jeans

James wanted some new black jeans. Choice is limited since James takes between 32/36 and 34/36, the second number being the length and the first the waist measurement. Such jeans are rare in most parts of the world and probably non-existent in Japan. He has some 34/36 501s but they have always had an up-the-bum-crack issue. We looked in Levi's while in San Francisco last year and the latest 34/36s are much worse fitting. Basically, the 34 label now applies to a fatter arse (odd since I thought it was supposed to be inches), and of course no 32/36s in the shop at all.

The jeans James has that mostly fit are 32/36 Wranglers. Problem is these are actually a bit tight across his lower back and he doesn't like to wear them for long periods, especially after he slipped a disk a few years ago. Those jeans are also blue.

So the aim - transform the Wranglers into black and a slightly looser fit.

The big cheat was that James had 2 identical pairs of the Wranglers so I took one to pieces and drafted the pattern pieces as close as I could to the originals. I also stuck as close as I could to the construction used in the originals, without which I think that the result would not look very RTW. To start with I added 5 cm at the waistband tapering to nothing at the hems. Then during the fitting stage I took off 2cm above the hips - so I reckon this means they are basically size 33/36, in old money. The only thing is that I didn't allow quite enough hem allowance so they are about 1cm shorter than they might be.

These jeans were a rather amazing construction journey. The pockets were pretty standard. The only extra piece is a piece of pocketing attaching the pocket to the flies.

From the fly onwards construction is completely different to usual pattern construction, because of the lapped seams. First the right hand side of the zipper is sewn. Then the left, and then the front crotch seam is lapped. The willy guard (zipper guard?) is interesting since it is basically a rectangle with a fold in at the bottom which adds some bulk. I guess it is deliberate! For a more "manly" effect. For the crotch the back and front are sewn before the inseam.

If you look at the lapped seams on your jeans you will see they look the same from the right or wrong side, whereas a home-sewers lapped seam does not (at least in instructions I have seen). I guess they have special machines in the sweat-shops. To make it look like RTW, first lay half the seam allowances over each other, and pin or baste in place. Then turn the seam to take up the rest of the seam allowance, pin and baste. Then sew the stitching lines on the machine. I was greatly helped in this tricky endeavour by magical thread that is sold in Japan that melts when ironed. It really only sticks to a basting level, not a permanent hold. I used this for my first line of basting and so when I turned the seam and ironed, the full lapped seam was lightly stuck in place. This was particularly useful for moulding the curved back crotch seam.

The waistband was fun. It is just a piece of fabric, folded in half, seam allowances ironed in place and then top-stitched all the way round. That was actually a whole lot easier to construct than the usual pattern method, although I realise that I have one line of stitching where in home-sewing there would be three. I did add some stay-tape at the waistband to prevent stretching.

Medium weight denim, black on the front and olive on the back. This pair is mid-weight denim and he would like a thicker pair some time. That of course would be harder work with the sewing - my machine handled the mid-weight denim very well. Summer should however save me from making another pair very soon.

I even ripped off the Wrangler back pocket pattern... Here is the boy relaxing in his new jeans.

I entered these in the PR 2008 rip-off competition. Winning entries in that competition are usually inspired twists on commercially available patterns that make them look cunningly designer cat-walk. Obviously this entry falls short on many levels, but its the taking part that counts init...

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