Classic Denim Dungarees
Posted on Monday the 19th November 2018 by Lucky Sew and Sew
There are a handful of clothing items that everybody should have in their wardrobe. You know the ones - real wardrobe staples. Items of clothing that can be worn to death, that go with lots of colours and other essential items of clothing. For me, dungarees are one of those staples.
Dungarees (aka coveralls or overalls) come in a lot of styles these days, and I've made a few. The dungarees I've made before have been a simpler take on the traditional style that were missing some of the elements on a classic pair of dungers and therefore, they've been quite simple and straight forward to make. However I'd noticed that my wardrobe was lacking in the 'classic' dungaree style area. Proper hard-wearing, heavy denim classics.
The type of dungarees I had in mind come from a pair of vintage Levi's overalls that my husband picked up when we were vintage shopping in Amsterdam last year. They were my idea of the perfect classic dungers. Dark denim, gold top stitching, faux fly front, adjustable straps and button sides. All of those elements were what I was searching for on my quest for classic-dungers-of-dreams.
When I embarked on my ultimate dungeree project, I looked at a few sewing patterns and ultimately, I settled on Kwik Sew 3897. I picked this pattern because it had the majority of the style elements that I was looking for, and the picture on the front of the pattern looked perfect for what I wanted to create. The pattern is multi-sized, from XS-XL. My measurements are 40-33-44, and therefore I just fell into the XL size range for my hips. I always worry about fitting my lower half, and as there wasn't any finished garment measurements on the pattern I was unsure of how much ease was built in. Better to be safe than sorry, I decided to go for the XL size. Although my upper body measurements fell into a smaller size, I didn't want to try and grade between sizes on an item of clothing with so many elements that relied on the pieces fitting together perfectly. I also figured that a larger bib area wouldn't be a bad thing as in my previous experience with other dungaree patterns, the bib usually looks a little smaller than I'd like.
On to the next part of my dungaree adventure - finding the perfect fabric. I wanted a REALLY heavy denim. I also wanted a true dark denim. I want these dungarees to last for years, and I want them to be hard-wearing, so the denim needed to be heavy. I wanted it dark too because I am looking forward to them going through the wash and over time getting those lovely faded areas. Plus, in my mind, dark denim is always more classic than lighter washes. So, when I stumbled across this heavy indigo greek denim, I knew it would be perfect for this project! I was not disappointing when the fabric turned up either - it's super heavy but without being too crisp and the depth of colour is perfect.
Now, you will need to prewash this fabric. Not only will this preshrink your fabric, but it'll also take some of that excess blue dye off. I did prewash mine and I still ended up with blue hands while sewing it so be warned - there is quite a lot of colour fall-out with dark denims! It's also wise to remember this when wearing this fabric for the first few times too - it's better to wear it over some dark tshirts as the straps will rub colour off onto light tshirts worn underneath.
The pattern was straight forward to cut and prep. Surprisingly, no lining fabric was needed as the pockets and bib are faced with the denim too. I did worry that this might make them too heavy when finished, but I was determined to forge ahead and hopefully reach my classic dungers goal. There was a couple of areas that required interfacing, but that was it.
I definitely underestimated how much time it would take to complete the sewing. I am usually a 'one evening to cut, one evening to sew' project kinda girl. These beauties however took around 10 hours, start to finish. I must admit that I did take my time with the sewing. As I had opted to topstitch in a classic gold thread onto this dark denim, I wanted to make sure my topstitching was the best it could be. Plus, double topstiching takes a long old time! I managed to get through most of the sew without any hiccups, until it came to sewing up the outer legs and I noticed after I'd topstitched the side seams that my back and front sides didn't quite match up. Luckily with some clever button placement I have managed to sort this more or less, and you can't really notice.
Once the side seams were complete, the last step to do before I could try them on was to sew up the inner leg seams. When I had completed this and tried them on I was completely underwhelmed. The legs were at least 8 inches too long and they were huge! The crotch sat way too low too, which is not a good look when your inseam is only 27" like mine. Loathed to unpick any of the outer leg seam topstitching to be able to taper the legs from both sides, I did a quick fix by simply stitching the inner leg seam again, 1.5" from my last stitch line. I then cut off the excess and overlocked the seam together. They sit a lot better after that, thankfully.
I used a Hemline Bib and Brace Set and some extra jeans buttons that were in my stash and I'm super happy with how neat the finish is. I am always a little apprehensive of sewing button holes, but I took my time and they came out perfectly, even on such a thick double layer on denim.
I chopped about 4" off the leg length before sewing the leg hem. This means the leg is still a little long, but I usually roll my legs up a couple of times when wearing this style and I'm happy with how they sit.
The instructions that were included were really easy to follow and they also include all of the finishing details which I find really helpful. I really hate it when a pattern doesn't include when to finish a seam or topstitch, as I often won't notice until I've moved on to the next step which is frustrating. But following the instructions of this pattern leave you with a perfectly finished pair of dungarees.
I am completely amazed at the overall look and finish of these dungerees. They are exactly what I had in mind and all of the topstitching and little details make them look really professional and authentic. I think that overall they are a little big all over. Next time (yes, I will be making another pair!) I will size down the the size Large. I think I will also shorten the front and back by about an inch on the 'lengthen or shorten' lines to combat the low crotch. I will also taper the legs from the outer and inner seams to get a slightly closer fit. I also think I can get away with cutting View B - the cropped length, and they will probably be the perfect full length on me. I wish that all patterns would include finished garment measurements as otherwise it's hard to know how much ease is built in. Looking again at the pattern picture, you can see that they are quite oversized on the model, but it doesn't mention anywhere that they are an oversized fit.
But I am really happy with my dungarees, and even though they are a little more oversized than I'd have liked, they are super comfortable, wearable, and I do like how they look. I love all of the topstitched details and I'm sure that they will last for a really long time and will be a true staple in my wardrobe.