Delicious Waistband Details

Hey Everyone,

I finally realized that I needed a size 16 Topstitch needle to get my machine to behave and play nice… So I ordered a bunch of Topstitching needles.  But I didn’t have one to finish these jeans with.  Happy Day, I went to Marie’s Studio (conveniently located on my street :)  She has one of those wonderful old Singer sewing machines that sew through EVERYTHING!   …wait till you see my topstitching around the waistband.

Before I get to that, let me show you a new waistband treatment that worked really well …if the top of the jeans is a close fit before the waistband is attached.   (I don’t recommend this waistband treatment if you have a defined waistline that needs a contoured waistband to prevent gap in the back)


First I cut a bias strip that was twice the width of my denim waistband (minus 1/2″…I’ll get to why later).  For this pair of jeans, my waistband is 23/4″ wide so I cut my cotton 5″ wide.

WB2Then I folded it half and pressed it.  Now I have a waistband facing that’s finished along one edge :)  No raw edge to deal with!  Position the waistband right sides together with the facing aligning the raw edges.  Sew across the entire length, then understitch through the facing and all seam allowances.  Press the facing to the wrong side of the waistband.

WB4Notice that the facing is now quite as wide as the waistband… (because we cut it 1/2″ less wide).  This will make the facing really manageable to work with when you’re stitching the bottom edge of the facing to the bottom of the waistband later.

WB6When I pinned the waistband right sides together with the top of the jeans, I stretched the waistband slightly from side seam to side seam across the back. (So it wouldn’t gap away from me when I had them on.)  This is usually not necessary in the front…especially if you have some tummy to fill it in :)   Then sew the waistband onto the top of the jeans  using a 1/2″ seam…

WB7Make sure the side seams are pressed toward the back.  Notice that I have a nice clean edge because both the side edges of the jeans and the pocket pieces here cut on the selvage edge.


To finish the ends of the waistband, fold them in toward the zipper so that they are even with the center front edges.  Then press the facing down.

WB11One neat way to finish the bottom edge of the facing above the zipper is to tuck it under.  I love these little plastic tipped clamps to hold everything in place till I’m ready to topstitch it in place.

WB12After the facing is pressed in place and pinned to the waistband, zip up the zipper to see if everything is lining up and even.  One of the fastest ways to make a pair of jeans that look “home made” (not in a good way) is for mismatched widths at the ends of the waistband.  The right waistband should lay evenly over the left.  The waistband should look like it has a consistent width all the way around.

WB14Now for a peek at the wonderful topstitching that I did around the waistband on Marie’s Singer (I’m in love!!!!)   Lucky for me I’m invited back if I need to use it again!!  OK… Tomorrow is Back Pocket and belt carrier day!!!!  Almost done :)


How to Sew Jeans… Bias waistband?

Hey everyone,

I’ve finally  fitted my jeans to perfection. :)  I decided to go with a straight leg so I can cuff the hem and wear them capri length in the spring.  I’ll post a pic after I get the waistband on.  I think I’m going to try a bias waistband to help snug it in a little without going through the process of darting out the excess to fit a straight band.  One of the nice things with working with Japanese Denim is that you can easily find the bias grainline because it’s so narrow.  I just laid my ruler across the fabric matching it with the bias grainline printed on my cutting board.    You can also see how I cut out the denim facings and the back yoke pattern pieces to take advantage of the selvage edge.

photo 2After I cut across the bias grainline, I folded the denim along the cut edge to cut out a 2 3/4″ wide waistband.   Notice that the folded edge of the denim is aligned with the horizontal grid and the cut edge is aligned with the vertical grid.

photo 3Here’s my bias waistband.  I think I’m going to use printed cotton for my waistband facing. I don’t want to push my luck with lots of denim seam allowances… I want the topstitching around the waistband to be perfect!

photo 1Before I go off to finish these jeans, here’s a peek at some topstitching details….   When I stitched the Front fly, I used a bar tack to hold the base of the zipper in place.   And, I’m trying something new… extending the fly topstitching below the base of the zipper.  I want to see how that wears.

photo 3-1I took the coin pocket off and I tucked it down lower into the front pocket opening, I think I like that  better.  Although, I’m not convinced that I like using the selvage edge along the top of the pocket… I think I have to wait to see how it wears and fades to be sure.

photo 2-1To dress up the opposite front pocket I stitched some tiny tucks under the opening.

photo 1-1After I get the waistband on, I’m going to start playing with the back pockets…  Fun…Stay tuned :)




Front Fly Construction Upgrade

Hey everyone

Hope all is well.  I am almost finished with my Japanese Jeans!   I want to share some changes that I’m making to my front fly construction. I’ve discovered that using a wider zipper makes inserting it a snap–Plus I added some new topstitching details that can be found on ready-to-wear jeans.

If you’ve been in class with me when I was showing how to do the front fly, one of the sticky points is sewing the zipper to center front zipper seam allowance.  The problem is that the zipper seam allowance is always 3/8″… but the zipper tape can vary in width.  Sometimes it can be too narrow to align the edge of the zipper to the edge of the seam allowance because that would cause you to sew right on the teeth.    So, until now I’ve suggested off setting the edge of zipper seam allowance so that you can sew 3/8″ and not hit the zipper teeth.


Then I discovered this wider jean zipper in my friend Marie’s stash!!!  Super excited because it’s the perfect width to align the edges and sew 3/8″.  I’ve got a few calls in to zipper distributors trying to get my hands on these zippers as I’m writing this post :)   Hopefully by the end of the day I will be able to order these zippers… stay tuned on that.


Ok, on to some new topstitching details.  Add topstitching along the right side of the zipper as show above.  The cool thing about this topstitching is that it finished the right fly piece as well.  Here’ s how to do it…

  1. After the zipper is sewn to the right leg, position the right fly piece over the zipper (right sides together with the jean leg and sandwiching the zipper).
  2. Sew the fly in place by stitching along the seam that attaches the zipper.  Remember to leave the bottom inch of the fly piece free. (This step is exactly the same as it’s written in my original front fly instructions)
  3. Then fold the fly in half, aligning the two side edges.  Press flat.
  4. Topstitch along the edge as shown above.  Remember to stop stitching to leave the bottom inch of the fly piece free.

azip5Here’s what the fly looks like from the wrong side.  Notice that I used the selvage edge of the Japanese Denim to finish the edge of the fly.  The bottom edge of the fly is loose so it can be pinned out of the way when the seams and front fly is topstitched.


On the left side, stitch the left fly to the jean as shown above. Understitch through the fly and both seam allowances and press the fly to the wrong side.


Then topstitch along the entire length of the left fly as shown.


Here’s a picture of what the fly looks like after it’s attached to both sides of the zipper.  It’s not finished yet, but I just wanted to show you the new topstitching details.  The right side has topstitching that stops in inch above the bottom of the zipper (to leave the right fly free at the bottom).  No worries about stopping early, you won’t see that far down when the fly is finished. On the left, the topstitching goes all the way down to the base of the fly.   Later, the topstitching along the front crotch will meet this topstitching for a seamless finish!


Test Fit Japanese Jeans

test fit2

Hey Everyone,

I’m Happy…and not happy with my test fit.  The good news is that the test fit is excellent…very happy.  The bad news is that I don’t like the position of the coin pocket.  It looks like it’s sticking up way too high.

So, I’m going to reposition it so that it’s barely peeking out of the deep front pocket opening.  (I’ll show you tomorrow.)

test fit

Another thing I’m considering is taking in the flare so that I have straight leg jeans.  I’m usually not a fan of straight legs… but I really want to take advantage of the selvage edges by cuffing them up.  SO, I’m going to take in the inseam.

Stay tuned, I’ll show you my finished Japanese Denim Jeans tomorrow, along with some front fly zipper tips :)  … Off to the pressure cooker and chocolate chip cooking baking :)))))

How to Sew Jeans: Topstitching off the Edge

Hi Everyone,

I finished the front pockets… After spending a day and fighting with my machine to get a good stitch using YLI Jean Stitch Thread.  My straight stitch machine wasn’t having it… I kept getting skipped stitches and frayed thread :(   But, I did get a nice stitch by using a size 14 Topstitch needle and hiking up the needle tension to 6.  I also used the dual feed on my Pfaff… I think the dual feed really helped… so if you’re having trouble with topstitching thread and you have the right needle, tension and stitch length (I used 4.0 mm)–Try using a walking foot (if you don’t have a Pfaff).

Let’s get a creative with our Topstitching  by sitching off the edge of the front pocket… What I mean by that is Not following the edge of the front pocket opening as you stitch.  Topstitching adds a ton of personality and character to your jeans, so before you stitch a double row of evenly spaced lines that echo the front pocket opening, think about changing the curve.

I’m going to treat the front pockets of my Japanese denim jeans some designer details.  Here I’m using my French curve to draw the start and finish curve.  (This is just one example of how you can add shape to your topstitching)  I don’t have to draw the entire design because as I reach the front pocket opening, I’ll topstitch along the edge evenly until I reach the base of the finishing curve at the waistline edge. Note:  If you want to stitch evenly along the front pocket opening between the two curved guidelines it important that the curved lines end an equal distance from the front pocket opening.  For example, if you are going to stitch 1/4″ away from the pocket edge, both curved guidelines must end 1/4″ away from the pocket opening.


If you create a unique topstitch detail on one pocket… You need to mirror image the design for the other pocket opening… Here’s an easy way to do that.  Use a Chalk-O-Liner to darken the curved guidelines.  Then position the other front leg right sides together…Aligning the front pocket openings.   If you rub the wrong side of the fabric… (Or I like to smack it with my hand) the chalk guideline will be visible on the opposite leg.


Here’s how it looks.  Use the Chalk-O-Liner to darken in the guideline.


How to create a smooth transition from the curved guideline to stitching along the edge of the front pocket opening.

Because I didn’t draw a guideline all the way across the front pocket opening, I am going to use the side of my presser foot… and the needle position to ensure that I make a smooth transition from the curve to the edge of the pocket opening.

Before you start topstitching, position the presser foot at the end of the curved line so that the side of the foot is aligned with the first row of topstitching.  Then move the needle position over until it is directly on the chalk guideline.


Then (without adjusting the position of the needle) start topstitching at the side seam edge of the pocket. Topstitch directly on the chalk guideline.


When you get to the end of the curved guideline, the side of the presser foot will be aligned with the first row of topstitching.  Use the side of the presser foot as a guide to continue topstitching evenly along the edge of the front pocket opening until you get to the base of the curved guideline near the waistline edge.  You will be able to smoothly transition from the pocket edge on to the curved guideline.


Here’s how the pocket opening looks when the topstitching is complete.


How I used the Selvages as I cut out my jean pieces

Hey Everyone,

I’ve finally cut into my Japanese Denim, and I’m ready to sew.  Obviously I cut the front and back leg pieces with the side seam edges aligned with the selvages.  To keep things neat, I also aligned the side seam edge of the yoke with the selvage edge too.


So, in addition to not having to finish the side seam edge, the selvages create guide to sewing the yoke on to the top of the back leg. …I’ve made  a lot of jeans, and every now and then, I’ve sewn the yoke on with the side seam edge aligned with the center back seam (by accident).  The selvage edges along the side seam edges will prevent me from doing it with this pair :).

I like to keep it real simple when I’m constructing the front fly… The right and left fly pieces are rectangles that are 1/4″ longer than the zipper seam allowance.  I aligned the selvage edge with the outside edges of the fly pieces.

photo 2-2

When I got to the pocket pieces, I decided to cut out the denim facing with the side seam edge aligned with the selvage as well.   When all the denim pieces were cut out, I pulled out my printed cotton that I’m going to use for the pocket bags and waistline facing.

photo 1-2This fabric is black batik…and the selvage edges seem to melt right into  the rest of the fabric…So I cut out the front pocket facing and pocket bag with the side seam edges aligned with the selvage too!  Having all the pocket pieces cut out like this will cut down on the bulk along the side seam when the jeans are constructed.

Today, I’m going to construct the front pockets and fly.  One concern that I have is how the edge of the front pocket opening will behave when I try to press the facing to the wrong side. (because the fabric is not prewashed…it’s very stiff).

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted!



Draft a front pocket design right on the Front Leg

Hey Everyone,

Now that I’ve finished shooting my Bias Skirt Class for, I want to show my Japanese Denim Jeans project some love (I feel like I was neglecting it!!!)   The great news is that I have finally fitted my pattern…I actually like the fit better than my original jean pattern.   I decided that I’m going to produce it into a new Jean Pattern…. After I finish jeans.

Now that I have a great fit, I have to draft to rest of the pattern pieces that make up a complete jean pattern.   I have the front leg, back leg and the back yoke.  Today I’m going to work on the front pocket pieces.  To start, I’m going to make a clean copy of my fitted front leg pattern piece.   I also made note of the seam allowances along the waistline and side seam edges.  The front pocket is constructed from 4 pieces–The front leg, the front pocket facing, the denim facing and the front pocket bag.  Let me show you how to draft the last three pieces directly on the front leg.

photo 5The next step is to design the shape of the front pocket opening.  The easiest way to get a nice smooth curve is to dash it in first.  Dashes are easy to erase if you change your mind as you work.  Creating the front pocket opening actually completes the front leg pattern piece.

photo 4Draft the Front Pocket Facing– The front pocket facing finishes the edge of the front pocket opening.  Trace over the dashed line and decide the overall shape of the pocket bag.  Here’s what my front pocket facing looks like (color coded orange)

photo 3I like trouser style pocket bags because they are secured to the jean on three sides…waistline, center front and side seam.   Keep in mind, if you want a functional pocket, you may want a much deeper pocket bag.  The back side of the front pocket is called the Pocket Bag.   Basically it’s the same shape as the Front Pocket Facing, except that it defines the pattern where the side seam and waistline meet (Instead of the front pocket opening). (color coded dark blue)  It’s important that the lower edge of the pocket bag is exactly aligned with the front pocket facing.

photo 2

The last piece that you want to draft is the denim facing.  The purpose of the denim facing is to hide the pocket bag fabric.  It is sewn onto the front pocket bag like a patch.  The lower edge of the denim facing should be a similar shape to the bottom edge of the pocket bag.  The lower edge of the denim facing should also overlap the front pocket opening at least an inch.  (color coded yellow)  Here’s what mine looks like.

photo 1To help position all the pieces correctly when you put the pocket together, mark a notch along the waist and side seam that is positioned on all three pieces.  Then you can trace each piece.  Here is the pocket facing and the pocket bag.  These pieces are cut out of cotton fabric… I like to use pretty cotton prints.

photo 1-1photo 2-1

And here’s the denim facing.  This piece is cut out of the same denim the leg pieces are cut out of.  Because the side seams are straight (so they can be cut out of the Japanese denim with the selvage edges aligned with the side seam edges) I cannot add some ease into the pocket like I would normally do…  We’ll see how that turns out…


photo 3-1

…I may add a coin pocket to one of the front pockets…we’ll see.    Now I’m off to draft the front fly zipper pieces so I can get these jean cut out already!!!!


Q & A …What’s the best way to take out a serged seam?

Hey everyone,

I starting something new a J Stern Designs… Video Q & A.  I have been talking about video blogging (vlogging?) for a long time now…  Bolstered by the completion of my new class “Put it on the Bias” on, I’m feel like I want to video everything!  I get some really great questions either on my blog or via email… so I decided that I would start answering some of them in a little video tut :)  Plus, my husband and I designed a snappy new  j stern designs intro… hope you like it!

To kick it off, I’m answering a question I received a couple of days ago… how to take out a serged seam :)

Please post a comment if you have questions.  Or, If you’ve go a questions for j stern designs, feel free to post it below… or send me an email.  Happy Sewing.