Merchant & Mills Heroine jeans made in grey Japanese selvedge denim
Venturing into the world of jeans-making has brought my sewing skills to a whole new level. I love denim, it's what I feel most comfortable wearing. I love how it wears and ages, adapting to your own body. So it feels good to be making my own jeans.
With my many years of sewing Merchant & Mills sewing patterns, I immediately bookmarked the Heroine jeans pattern on it's release, I read the description and how the technique works for domestic sewing machines I decided to take the plunge and give making my own jeans a go. This blog is showing my third pair of Heroines, in general terms, they do fit quite big and they have a roomy straight leg. I love how simple these are to make. To be fair I've not tried any other jeans sewing patterns, I've always been a little intimidated but then I fell in love with Japanese selvedge denim, which is where the story begins! I decided to give this pattern a try with some cheaper denim first and made a wearable toile to start. I've discovered there is some trial and error sewing with denim, as it can relax over time when wearing, making fitting quite challenging, so it was a good decision to start with a toile. I made this first pair in regular simple black cotton 11 oz denim. I settled on a size 12 using standard sew-all thread. I had some battles with the thickness and as it turned out the denim was not that great, a bit rough, but I do wear them a lot, they're very good for slouching.
For my second pair, I wanted to work out how to line up a selvedge edge on the side seam. I bought just enough indigo Japanese selvedge denim but I couldn't find any details on how to adjust this particular pattern to include a selvedge edge but I eventually figured it out. I carved off some of the curve around the hip seam and straightened the leg so I could sit the selvedge edge correctly. The pattern is roomy enough on me to do this, I have quite straight hips and I tend to get excess fabric quite a lot around the hip area.
As I progressed, this is when I started to realise how different Japanese denim is to sew with compared to other denim. When wearing them I cannot explain how nice the denim feels on your skin, just very smooth and hugs you in a comforting way that makes you not want to take them off. The Japanese use old-fashioned shuttle looms and achieve an amazing depth in the yarns. This second make went well but I did struggle with the top stitching when trying to use a thicker top stitch or heavy duty thread.
Happy with my two trial pairs, I wanted to go for contrast top threads, so I did some more research regarding my machine not dealing to well with the thicker top stitch style threads. I have a great old work horse Bernina 830 that has no problem with thicker fabric so, as it turned out, I was using the wrong size needle for thicker thread. So I purchased a new denim specific needle size 90 and wow such a game changer! In my excitement, I rushed to purchase the Gutermann Creative set of denim threads feeling quite inspired to try different finishing thread colours on this stunning grey.
I also sized down to a size 10 for a more snug fit on this pair, grading with a size 12 for the waist band, I must mention that I love that the waist band does not require interfacing. I also omitted 1 inch from the rise, swapping to a 6 inch zip, high rise jeans tend to slide down on me leaving quite a baggy crotch area. Both previous pairs are quite a loose fit which I am okay with but I wanted to achieve a bit more fit with these. I've washed and worn them pretty much on repeat, plus I've been able to wear my thermal layers underneath! By this time I'd totally fallen in love with Japanese Selvage Denim and had managed to source some for Faberwood.com. I found some really high-quality, mid grey and was ready to go all in for pair number three. The sewing experience of this denim (with all my correct supplies) was just a dream. I even finished the threads properly by pulling them through and tying them off, felt like a pro, haha! I then had to choose what style of turn-up to go for. I decided I'd go big, giving me the flexibility to roll them depending on the seasons and shoes I'm wearing. I plan to wear these all year round, with or without socks, they feel nice and easy and so relaxed. Also, I didn't bother with a pocket design or coin pocket, I like the more minimal styling.
I am super happy with how these turned out, put it this way, I wouldn't normally show my stitching this close-up! This selvedge denim feels so superior and I know it seems pricey but it's so worth it when going to this much trouble to make your own jeans. The retail price of RTW jeans in this denim can reach up to £300. Working with Japanese denim really feels more like you are 'crafting' something (like a carpenter working with wood). It develops into something quite special as you handle and wear it, it is very personal.
I plan to record how these age over the next few months and I'm looking forward to them looking a bit more worn and showing some fabulous faded areas. I will be posting photos of them on Instagram. Honestly, I could make this same pattern on repeat, I will never have too many pairs of my beloved jeans in all shapes and fits xx
To note: I make my jeans using 'unwashed' denim. I was told by my well-informed denim supplier that pre-washing removes the starch making it difficult to sew with and that you should leave ease in your pattern to allow for minimal, if any, shrinkage.Finally my top tip for sewing with this denim: be very careful while pressing, I used no steam the majority of the time, just a very hot iron. Denim can stretch out quite quickly when hot and you don't want a wavy distorted piece of fabric for your nice crisp project. Also, be sure to use a piece of muslin cloth while pressing (I used hemp) to protect this gorgeous denim. Plus, very important, allow the denim to cool completely before working with it!
A few other sewing patterns I think our Japanese selvedge denim would be perfect for!
The Clementine Skirt
Plus it's not all about the jeans!