Morgan Jeans Exploration
Posted on Wednesday the 16th September 2020 by Oak Blue Designs
Hello again! I’m excited to share about my first time making jeans! Sewing jeans has been something I wanted to make time for “someday.” I’ve recently realized that a lot of my commercial jeans have a low rise waist. I find now that I prefer a mid rise waist (so I was excited to jump into making my own jeans).
I picked the Morgan jeans pattern because the jean style I wear the most is a loose, “boyfriend” jean. I thought the looser fit would be easier to start with.
I used the following sewing machines for this project.
1.8m Denim fabric (check size chart for length needed)
0.45m Cotton lawn fabric
0.45m Woven interfacing
Denim sewing machine needle
Navy serger and sewing machine threads
Mustard all purpose sewing thread
Glass head sewing pins
One, 25mm Jeans button
French curve ruler
Anvil (or cast iron skillet)
Wire cutter (to remove metal teeth in the top a jeans zipper)
Resources: Closet Core Patterns (previously known as Closet Case Patterns) is very well known in the Maker community. I knew they have been popular but I didn’t know why (but now I know).
There are so many free resources included for help with sewing jeans!! There is also a class you can purchase for more help. Being honest, I LOVED all of the resources that Heather Lou offers for free on the Closet Core website with this pattern. I’d like to purchase the class and make the Ginger jeans (skinny) in the near future. Some of the tutorials that I found the most helpful are:
Installing Hardware Tips
I don’t have an anvil but I do have a jewelers block. I used this block for installing the hardware and it worked just fine. I love in the tutorial above that Heather Lou mentions you can use a cast iron skillet as well (if that’s what you have on hand).
Helpful Resources for Morgan jeans page
Scroll down to the "Helpful Resources" section and click the down arrow (to find lots of tutorials, tips and styling inspiration)
Pattern Description: Meet Morgan, slim-cut jeans designed for non-stretch denim. Inspired by old school denim style but with a fresh, modern cut, Morgan Jeans are engineered to flatter.
Featuring a mid-rise, traditional five pocket construction, contoured waistband, tapered leg and button fly, Morgan fits snugly through the hip but relaxes and conforms to your curves with a little wear (size up for a slouchier, more casual fit). Choose between a regular or cropped inseam, and add an optional leather waistband patch.
My dimensions: Waist - 30”, Hips - 40” Height - 4’ 5”
Fabric: Polyester, unknown weight, lurex woven into the denim
I knew for sure that I wanted to make a few muslins to test fit. Looking at the size chart I picked a 10/12 to start. I selected a 10 at the waist and graded to a 12 at the hips down.
I wanted to share some tips for how I cut corners to sew the muslin quickly. To save time, I omitted the following pieces: coin pocket, pocket facing, pocket lining, back pocket, button fly placket, belt loops, waistband patch.
I taped the pocket facing to the pants Front pattern piece to integrate the pockets into the pants. Admittedly I would never want a pair of pants without pockets but for the sake of quickly sewing the muslin, it saved time. Letting go of the muslin being wearable gave me a lot of freedom to practice and explore with fit, stitches, and size. Technically, a muslin really should always be focused on practicing fit but sometimes the practical side of me wrestles with wanting to make it wearable.
I used all multiple contrasting threads in the serger and sewing machine. This helped me check thread tension and saved time by not changing threads throughout the muslin sewing. As I used one fabric for the muslins and a different fabric for the final, I was able to quickly check tension on the final fabric with the contrasting threads.
I skipped the waistband in the muslins to save time. I found this muslin to be too tight so I wanted to go up a size.
I modified the front and back with the ¼” and ½” rise mods as mentioned in the link above.
I modified the pants a bit more in this version to sew a ¾” seam allowance along the lower fly curve.
Sewing machine tools: I thought I’d share the sewing machine tools I used for this project that were helpful to me throughout the process.
Knee lift bar - This tool is handy to use in my machine to move fabric around curves and seams (while continually holding the fabric with both hands).
Zipper foot - I used this foot for the zipper of course, but it was also handy in other seams like the belt loops.
Left and Right edge foot (Blind hemming foot and ¼” seam foot) - Depending on the direction of the seam, I used these feet for most of the top stitching. I played around with different needle positions but landed at a 5.9 spacing for the left stitch line and 8.5 for the right top stitch line.
Open toe satin stitch foot - This foot was handy to use when I was following a hand drawn, yellow top stitch line on the fabric.
If you’re not used to switching out the sewing machine feet on your machine, give them a try! They’re intended to save you time and make your sewing much easier.
Size - 12 waist / 14 hips
Fabric - 7.5 oz Cotton Indigo denim from Minerva (60” wide)
I removed 2.5” from the length of the pants. I interfaced the waistband lining.
I wanted to note that each denim manufacturer has different standards for fabric weight. 10 oz of denim from one manufacturer will be different from 10 oz of denim fabric from a different manufacturer. The fabric I used was marked as 7.5oz but I would call it a light/medium weight denim not a heavier weight. In some ways, this aspect was nice because lighter weight denim is easier to sew (for your first time making jeans).
I found it helpful to lay the pocket facing on top of the pants front pattern piece to grade across the 12/14 size from the waist to the hips. In the photo below, I added a triangle wedge of tracing paper to the pocket facing on the right side of the facing to match the left Front pant curve.
For the right side of the Front pants I graded from a 12 to 14 through the fly. See the photo below for reference.
In retrospect, I would leave the crotch curve at a 12 through the fly and grade to the 14 after the fly. I sewed a large seam allowance in this area to reduce bulk.
Sewing zipper fly:
I decided to omit the button fly that comes with the Morgan Jeans pattern and sew a zipper fly. This sub was very easy to do. I followed the tutorial above. The Front pant pattern piece has the fly included in the pattern. I used the button fly shield pattern piece but omitted the button fly placket.
I wanted to note that zippers are different widths (which makes a difference in the spacing when you sew the seams inside the fly). I have a picture below to show two zippers at different widths, for reference. The zipper that I used for the final pants was 1” wide.
Alternative waistband: https://www.closetcorepatterns.com/how-to-sew-a-jeans-waistband-alternative-method/
Although I haven’t sewn jeans before, I thought the alternative waistband above looked fun to try! I loved the idea of a less bulky option for the waistband so I gave this construction method a try for the final pants.
Crotch seam: I have a habit when sewing pants to do a couple of steps that weren’t included in the instructions. I like to snip out a triangle of fabric at the center crotch to reduce bulk.
I also like to stitch the in-seam starting at the center, sew down one leg then back to the center and sew down the other leg. Sewing with this order helps reduce the fabric shifting.
Back yoke topstitching: I diverted from the pattern a bit with the back yoke top stitching. The pattern recommends top stitching the back yoke seam BEFORE sewing the back crotch curve. I followed this step on the muslins but if my fabric alignment is off at all in this area, this error is very visually noticeable after they pants are sewn together.
To avoid this misalignment, I waited to topstitch the yoke seam until after sewing the crotch curve.
Top stitching this seam AFTER the crotch curve is sewn allows for a smooth visual top stitch that hides any yoke misalignment. In the following photo, you can see the slight misalignment at the back yokes between the left and right sides (at the center).
The next photo shows topstitching the back yoke afterwards (to hide the yoke misalignment):
Top stitching: I did not use a top stitch weight thread for this project. I used a mustard toned, standard weight poly all purpose thread for the standard machine sewing. This choice saved me time from switching between standard thread and top stitching thread throughout the jeans. For the serger, I used four cones of navy thread for the final jeans.
The pattern included a tip to set up two machines to use at once (one set up with top stitching thread and the other set up with standard thread) to save time. Although I do have more then one standard machine, I didn’t trust my older machine to handle the denim well. If you have one machine as well, you might consider this time saving tip for the top stitching.
I played around with two different approaches for the top stitching. One technique I tried was using a blind hemming and ¼” edge foot and adjusting the needle position. The fin along these feet aligns with the edge of the fabric. Moving the needle position (rather than relying on your hands and eyes) can help you have more consistency in your stitch line.
At times even with edge feet approach, I found I still had some visual variations in my top stitch lines. With the help of a seam ripper, I unpicked any wonky top stitched seams. I then drew parallel stitch lines with a yellow Clover Chaco liner on top of the fabric. I like this option when top stitching curved lines (like along the center back seam).
Tack stitch: My machine comes with tack stitches as a default, saved stitch option (to save time). I tried a 0.7, 1.0 and 1.2cm (that were defaults on my machine) for the tack stitch details.
Rivets: One recommendation in the Closet Core hardware tutorial is to use a dimple style rivet with jeans. I didn’t see this tip until after I selected the rivets for this project. That said, I do like the rivets that I picked (a flat style). I LOVE how popular handmade jeans have become and that we have so many hardware options to choose from now (including multiple rivet styles, sizes, and colors). I would love to try the dimple style rivet as well.
Back pocket: Although there were a lot of new techniques to learn with sewing jeans, picking a design for the back pockets was the hardest decision for me to make. Heather Lou includes a free resource on her site with 33 Back Pocket templates that you can download (you just have to sign up for the newsletter to get access to this file). I had three plus designs from this download that I was seriously debating on picking.
I decided to go with a curvy decorative stitch pattern that came on my machine (as a quick option). I mirrored the stitch lines, pointing them toward the center of the pants.
Although I selected a size 12 for the waist, I picked a size 14 for the back pockets. Being honest, I am more endowed when it comes to my backside. I’ve found larger back pockets on jeans visually minimizes this area. If you’re one that is on the smaller side in this area you can go the opposite direction and select a smaller back pocket size to accentuate this area.
Seam finish: I used four threads in my serger for the seam finishes in this project. With the seam allowance being 5/8”, I used the serger to trim the seam width and finish the seam edge, at the same time.
Tweezers: I like to use tweezers to quickly pull out stitches after seam ripping. They’re quicker for me than pulling out tiny threads by hand. They were especially handy to use when opening up the basted fly area at the last step.
Waistband: I decided to use interfacing for the waistband lining fabric. For the lining fabric, I used a light weight cotton lawn fabric (by Carolyn Friedlander). I had heard a tip from someone to save lightweight cotton scraps to use for lining fabrics with jeans. The pattern mentions interfacing the lining fabric of the waistband as a decision you can make to impact the fit (interfacing a cotton lining fabric for a firm fit or not interfacing the waistband lining that will relax with wear). You could also use denim for the waistband lining but I was concerned about the thickness of this area, to sew.
I modified the waistband topstitch direction, as recommended in the pattern. I started the waistband topstitching along the inside waistband seam (instead of starting along the outside waistband seam) to hide the forward/backstitch at the start of the seam.
I find it funny how long it took me to jump into making jeans (but I’m so glad I did). Custom fitted jeans are so special (customizing size, fabric color, fabric thickness, hardware color, and back pocket stitching...). I’m someone that LOVES jeans (and I wear them a lot). I selected a dark indigo denim for this project that will soften and lighten over time with wash and wear.
Admittedly, sewing jeans is a commitment with the time (but so worth it). One tip I’ll give to speed up the process is to work on them in little bits of time, as your schedule allows. Those little chunks of time add up (especially if you don’t have large blocks of time in your schedule that you can dedicate to sewing). As I was working on these jeans, I learned a new tip. Before you stop sewing, look at what the next step is and see if you can do the next step before you stop, to save time. If you just sewed a seam and the next step is to iron that seam, you could iron before you stop working. When you come back to working on them, the ironing is done and you can skip ahead to the next step.
I did want to note that the material that I used for the first muslin was a stiff polyester fabric. It didn’t have the same give and movement that a traditional cotton denim does. I technically could make another pair of Morgan jeans but at the smaller, muslin 1 size with a 100% cotton denim (that would relax with wear). That said, the final jeans that I made are VERY comfortable. Maybe it’s nice to have handmade jeans in different fits to offer different amounts of ease and styles for your wardrobe.
After I finished sewing my final pair of jeans, I found myself studying my favorite pairs of commercial jeans. I enjoyed looking at the tack stitch locations, rivet locations, and the weights of the denim. One of my favorite pairs is a capri length in a lightweight chambray (that I would love to recreate in the future with this pattern).
If you haven’t made jeans yet, jump in!! They were much more fun then I realized they would be and I’m quite excited to make more. I learned a lot through the process and feel I have so much more to learn. I let go of the jeans being “perfect” and love that they’re wearable, comfortable and were so fun to make.
Let me know if you’ve made this pattern yet and which fabric you used!