The J Word

Look ma, I’m making jeans!

jeans cutting

It’s taken me awhile to jump into jeans sewing. Now and then I’d see a cute pair on a sewing blog and get the warm fuzzies. They’d send me hunting for some dream denim, of which I have now accumulated a few yards. And I blame those fuzzies for seducing me into buying Colette’s Clover (to transform into slim fits–I blame Sallie!) and the famous Jalie jeans pattern (I blame the rest of the sewing universe!). I even signed up for Kenneth King’s jeans knock-off course on Craftsy. Inevitably the warm fuzzies wear off, and I swear up and down that jeans are just not something I want to make. I still like to buy them and love trying out different styles and cuts. High waisted, yes please. High waisted and wide-legged, double yes. Straight and slim, colored, waxed and trouser-style jeans are all in my wardrobe.

So obviously I’m having a change of heart again. Here’s what really sealed the deal: We just got back from a week in San Francisco, during which I landed on a massive denim sale at Discount Fabrics in the Mission. $3.50 PER YARD. That’s insane for beautiful Japanese selvage, designer stretch denim, in every weight and color of blue and black. Thank goodness I didn’t have an extra suitcase.

And honestly, drafting my own jeans, rather than using an existing pattern, would keep me interested, plus teach me a thing or two about fit and style lines. I had a couple of options for that:


One was a “classic jeans” draft from Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting. The other was a close-fitting trouser from Bunka’s Skirts & Pants. They’re fairly similar but I liked some of the finer points of the Bunka draft. It also includes better explanations of ease and shaping, and how they relate to different pants styles. All the Aldrich books tend toward a “just the facts, ma’am” sort of drafting style.


Skirts & Pants is a part of a 5-book pattern drafting series published by Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. You might recognize the name as the original publisher of the Pattern Magic books, and it seems like most of the Japanese sewing authors (Drape Drape, etc.) teach or were educated there. A veritable hotbed of pattern drafting goodness! I bought the whole series a couple of years ago but have never gotten around to using them till now. They’re unique books in that they are more than just drafting books. Each drafting section includes actual sewing instruction (great illustrations) and fitting ideas. They’re really holistic for a self-taught drafter.

So I spent a weekend in and out of the patternmaking zone and came up with this:


I played around till I came up with a basic slim-cut jean, narrowish around the thighs but straight to the floor from the knee. This is one of my favorite styles for every day. Just as a side note, one of my biggest frustrations with just about every pants draft I’ve come across–and I have a serious patternmaking book addiction–is the drafting of the center back, and how to angle it depending on style. The Bunka method is better about this, although I still like the backs of pants even higher, so I fudged around till I got the back length I wanted.

I already know I’m going to have to tweak the yoke shaping but I’m looking forward to sewing them up this weekend! I’m going to make a trial pair, sans pockets, out of this space ranger denim I bought about five years ago. It’s really shiny and metallic on the reverse, and not my favoritest color in the universe. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time–I blame half my fabric stash on the warm fuzzies!



  1. Tanit-Isis says:

    WOOHOO! I am a total sucker for denim… that price would’ve completely undone me.

    Can’t wait to see how this goes—I keep thinking about trying to draft my own but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. 😀

  2. hannah says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Bunka pattern drafting series! My only complaint about the pants book is that it instructs you to draft pants assuming that the hip measurement comes entirely from wider hip bones as opposed to a fuller butt. It makes sense given their data set, but it was just a problem that took me a while to rectify.

    • Amy says:

      That’s interesting! There’s another bit in one of the drafts, can’t remember which one, that talks about bottom fullness and center back angle. I have another book that gives more specific tips on angling the back. In close-fitting pants, the flatter the butt, the straighter the angle from the hip line up. The fuller the butt the more the hip line angles back. I played around with this part until I got the angle that looked right.

  3. Kelly says:

    Ooooo, exciting! I love it when I see bloggers making jeans, I am definitely close to trying it out and have quite a bit of denim in my stash along with a bunch of jeans buttons, rivets, zippers, topstitching thread…I am going to start with the Jamie jeans from Named patterns. I am excited to see how yours turn out, your pattern looks so professional 🙂

    • Amy says:

      That pattern is so cute. I’m totally inspired by other bloggers’ jeans; I learn so much. I still have yet to get all the accessories (rivets, thread), but I couldn’t wait to get started!

  4. Katherine says:

    I actually really like this colour. Hopefully, your test run will work out and you’ll get to see how versatile this colour really is!

    Interesting to hear your view on the Bunka drafting books…I have heard about them but never come across them. keep us posted, and good luck!

  5. Sallie says:

    Yes!!! These are going to rock!! I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I’m also completely in awe that you are drafting your pattern from scratch – you’re such a badass! I have a major itch to buy some non-stretch Japanese selvedge denim and make a more classic, straight-leg pair of jeans… your mention of all your beautiful fabrics and pattern tinkering may have just sold me!

  6. Eva says:

    Good luck, I can’t wait to see the results!! Your drafting still looks like magic to me, one day…Those books look really cool!

  7. Stephanie says:

    The initial draft looks great! I really like that fit as well. It sounds like your gorgeous Japanese denim will be put to good use.

    Uggghhh, my stash is definitely the result of warm fuzzies. I’m actually in the process of selling most of it. I need a fresh start! I guess I should hold on to some for muslins though. That’s a good idea.

    Pants are definitely something I’d like to make again. I couldn’t get Clover to fit, but I made jeans from the Built By Wendy pattern in a sewing class years ago that fit perfectly. I should pull out that pattern again…

  8. CGCouture says:

    It’s really helpful to have either a lot of patience or two machines for all the topstitching. That’s the one thing that still kind of haunts me about making jeans. I wore the two pairs I made for myself until they literally fell apart because they fit amazing (and because I worked my butt off on them!), but they aren’t for the impatient or faint of heart!!

    I can’t get over the fact that you’re drafting your own (or that you got denim for such an incredible price!!!!!!), but the draft looks pretty good, can’t wait to see them sewn up! 🙂

  9. Donna Rae says:

    So going to check out the site where you bought your fabric. I can’t seem to find stretch jean material at any of the fabric stores in my area. Lot’s of jean fabric but not stretch. I am going to see how you do before I even attempt it. Good Luck!

  10. Kim says:

    “ of my biggest frustrations with just about every pants draft I’ve come across–and I have a serious patternmaking book addiction–is the drafting of the center back, and how to angle it depending on style. ”

    I, too, am mystified by this. If you found the “formula”, please let us know!

    I also feel unsure about the where exactly to put the “crease line”, as the methods I’ve used so far seem to not hit right in the middle of the knee for me. (Maybe this might be causing the inseam twisting mentioned above…?)

    I draft my own jeans and pants too, but been having a problem with the inseam twisting towards the front. Any ideas?

    • Amy says:

      Hi Kim, the only book that i know of that deals “rules” of the center back angle and how it is related to style and fit is a German patternmaking book by Mueller & Sohn. The men’s trouser book is in German but the women’s has been translated into English. It’s technical but good stuff.

      There are also a couple of older tailoring and patternmaking books that also talk about it. Natalie Bray’s patternmaking book is one of them. These older books are helpful with the “whys” but the drafts are not very modern. Women’s trousers were much looser in the crotch so the “rules” were different.

      Also, the crease line is definitely related to how the legs balance (it affects the leg twisting). I have ideas how to rebalance the leg/creaseline if it is off in a pattern, but I’d have to illustrate them to make sense of it. Perhaps a post in the future!

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