How to Sew Denim – Tips and Tricks

How to sew Denim

What can you find in anyone’s closet , no matter whathisjob or occupation isnorhow old is he? Of course, it will be a pair of jeans or some other kind of denim products.

Yves Saint Laurent once admitted how disappointed he was that denim, coloured with indigo crystals, was not an invention of his. Moreover, he confessed to the fact that not only he himself but every fashion designer dreams of inventing something as important and useful as denim.

Denim History

So, what’s the history of its appearance, and what’s the difference between denim and jeans? For starters, we should mention the origin of the word – De Nime (meaning “from Nime”) – that was the inscription on bales with rolls of twill, supplied around Europe from a small town in the south of France, where the production of fabric used in shipping was located since the 1st century. In the Middle Ages, the twill was used to make sails, working clothes and packaging materials.

The twill itself was light and unpainted. In Genoa they started to paint it with natural blue dyes and indigo crystals according to the technology discovered by Genoese craftsmen.

The blue-dyed material was rapidly gaining in demand throughout Europe and in order to denote it traders dubbed the product “blue de Genes” or “blue from Genoa”. Later the name was shortened to “genes” to simplify it and as soon as it reached America, it was changed into “jeans”.

The first official creator of this fabric – more specifically, of the products from the Nime’s twill of indigo colour is considered to be an American – Levi Strauss. In 1853, he came up with the idea to use strong hemp sail pants as farmers workwear. This material was extremely resistant and cheap since the shipping industry had fallen into a crisis.

It just happened that all of Strauss’s products were sold and the only thing he had left was sailcloth. So, it was decided to sew sturdy pants out of it, which were immediately sold out.

For the next batch, they used French fabric called denim. This was the way the world’s first classic jeans were made. Denim was very practical, really dense, rigid and rough fabric. It was hard to tear, and it perfectly protected the person during work.

Later, the invention was patented and 21 thousand pants and jackets with copper rivets were sold by Levi Strauss & Co in the first year. In addition, the company produced work overalls with a variety of comfortable pockets. The heyday of jeans came during the gold rush period.

Gold-seekers were impressed with tight, reliable clothes at an affordable price, which could be washed as opposed to leather clothes. Barely a hundred years had passed since cotton had almost completely replaced hemp material. Then during the 1960s, the Denim Revolution started, bringing new types and colours of fabric and expanding the range of products.

Is denim easy to sew?

Denim of the 21st and 18th centuries is almost drastically different. Modern pants, capes, sundresses and skirts are much more elastic and softer and more comfortable than work clothes of English and Genoese sailors. More and more often small elements (rhinestones, zippers) are used in the decoration of clothes instead of massive rivets on large pockets.

However, the solidity of the fabric has been slightly lost in comparison with the original prototypes. But at the end of the day, modern fashionists don’t have to wash the ship deck in their denim jeans.

Undoubtedly, over the years, the technology of manufacturing denim fabric has changed significantly, which produced different types of it. Although some aspects of the manufacturing process are still relevant today. The most common way of denim manufacutre is the left-hand diagonal weave method.

In this case, vertical (longitudinal) threads, which are the threads of the base, should be coloured, but the transverse row remains white. As a result, the seamy side of the product is light (unpainted) with inclusions of blue stripes, and the front side – asymmetrically blue.

There are several ways of destincting different denim fabriques. Firstly, by colour (blue is no longer the only one because of advances in technology): products can be colourful, black, white, blue and grey. Secondly by the practice of manufacturing: there are American and Japanese methods. The first one is built on an automated approach, while the second one is based on manual work.

Denim is a very dense and hard material made of cotton, so for sewing clothes, now we use denim not in pure form, but with the addition of lycra or elastane fibres. This is intended to make clothes more comfortable to wear and sew. Today, there are several types of denim fabric, depending on the production technology and dyeing.

The denim itself

The most common but at the same time one of the most expensive types of denim fabric. The classic denim is distinguished by the weaving of two cotton fibres – dyed and white.

Serge

This fabric is the easiest to recognize by its characteristic weave of fibres in the form of so-called “herringbone”. The inventor of this type of denim was John Volker, and it was firstly used by the Wrangler brand in 1964. To this day, all original Wrangler models are made of this fabric.

Stretch

Another well recognizable name for this fabric – lycra. Actually, Lycra is the name of the French company, that was the first to create the “stretching” denim fabric, which included elastane, allowing products to fit good almost on every body shape.

Jean

An inexpensive denim fabric of monochrome blue colour. Originally, the jean was manufactured in the province of Genoa. This type of fabric ismade of the low-quality cotton and is used to sew low-cost products. Major global brands use this kind of fabric only in the cheapest models.

Chambray

Extra light and thin cotton fabric, that is used for sewing summer clothes (shirts, dresses, tunics, underwear, etc.). The density of this type of fabric is about 4-7 ounces, while the density of classic denim is about 14.5 ounces.

Ecru

In translation means “non-white”. This fabric is not dyed, just has a natural cotton colour.
It is possible to sew anything you want with denim; all you need is to select the right type of material for your work – and you will create a beautiful thing of your individual style. However, the fabric still requires attention to all the aspects related to the sewing, cutting and fitting of details together.

How to Prepare your denim for sewing?

Denim is not the easiest material to work with, but its resistance and strength are matchless, so it is worth learning how to work with it. Before cutting the product, the textile should be wet-heat-treated. This is done because each fabric, regardless of its composition, has a tendency to shrink. How to pre-treat the material depends on its composition and type of weave threads.

Decatising is a process of preliminary wet-heat treatment of a fabric which helps shrink it. This is done so that the sewed product is prevented from shrinking when it is washed later by the person who uses it.This process is necessary for materials containing natural fibres. If you are not sure whether decatising is needed, check your fabric by treating a small area of it. If the material changes its original dimensions, it requires preliminary shrinkage.

The decatising process consists of several phases. Firstly, the fabric should be washed in a gentle mode, if the labelling of the material allows it. Alternatively, you can spray clean water on the fabric and then iron it until it is completely dry, or simply use an iron with a steamer to steam the fabric through a piece of another thin cotton material. In other words, the fabric should be wetted, then steamed and dried.

Once the fabric has been decatised, the edges of fabrics with mixed composition should be cut off. This is necessary in order to ensure that the edges don’t pull the material during cutting and that the details of future cloth will be perfectly aligned. Next, we need to identify the facial side of the fabric. As a rule, dense fabrics are folded with the front side inward, and fine materials – with the front side outward. Fabrics with printed patterns are brighter on the front side, and others have a characteristic texture on the front side.

If you notice any defects on the fabric, such as missing threads, thickened or knotted threads, a hole or dirty paint, circle these areas with tailor chalk and avoid them during cutting.It is most suitable to cut the fabric on a large table, so it will not bend and pull, and the details will be straight. At first, you should place the largest pattern details on the fabric, and then fill the gaps between them with small ones – it will save your material. Cut the paired parts with the same thread direction and pattern orientation.

Can any sewing machine sew denim?

Choosing a sewing machine, you should consider such details as its ability to work with any particular fabric. Moreover, often the list of materials with which the liked model works doesn’t include the hard ones. In fact, only a small number of sewing machines, in characteristics of which it is mentioned the capability of sewing extra hard fabrics, can easily sewa pair of winter jeans.

The solution is to look for special tools that will help the sewing machine easily cope with any type of fabric. After all, you cannot sew anything complicated without the correct selection of needles, threads and configured thread tension.

Hard fabrics such as denim require high motor power, for computerized sewing machines of at least 45 W, and for electromechanical of at least 75 W. Additionally, upper fabric transporter provides great assistance, as well as the multi-toothed comb of the lower fabric transporter.

This is also beneficial for work if a sewing machine weighs more than 8 kg and the construction is basically metallic. A high foot lift is essential if you sew thick material, but this is a minor detail. In fact, even the cheapest household sewing machines are able to lift a foot by 6 mm in the first position and by 12 mm in the second.

However, the same cheap household sewing machines often cannot cope with thick denim. Meanwhile, it is usually said that the particular machine can sew 8 or even 10 layers of denim. But this is not quite true – it can pierce, but not stitch.

For a quality tie it is necessary to push the material to the length of the stitch, tighten the loop inside the fabric and, in rare cases, get through the thickenings to make the seams. Of course, household sewing machines are not able to perform this function at high quality. As a result, the needle plate is damaged or the hook is displaced.

How to Cut Jeans?

According to experienced sewers, the process of sewing jeans is exactly the same as sewing simple trousers. First of all, it is necessary to choose a proper fabric for future product. If you buy an inexpensive and soft fabric, you should be aware of the fact that your pants will be of good quality only for one season.

However, it is better to practice on cheap fabric, because even if you get a wrong result, it will not be a big waste. If you have some experience in such work, it is recommended to buy fabric of better quality.

Denim fabric necessarily must be bright and dense enough. For a large person, it is recommended to choose a stretch fabric, whereas a dense fabric that does not stretch is better suited for slim girls. Such a fabric is able to give the body additional volume.

Next, you have to decide how much fabric you need for sewing jeans. For this purpose, it is necessary to measure the distance from the waist to the floor. Then add another 20 cm to the obtained length. This length of fabric with a width of 150 cm should be bought in a store. In this case, between two patterns you will place the pockets and on top – the belt.

In addition to the basic fabric for sewing jeans, you will need a fleece to glue the belt, adhesive tape to process the bottom of the pants, zipper, button, pocket fabric (preferably cotton) and all other kinds of elements for decoration. Besides, you need to buy 2 types of threads: one –the same tone as fabric and the other – for finishing.

The most important point in the process of sewing jeans is to create the right pattern. Only in this case, the thing will be suitable and comfortable to wear. For this, you can use those old jeans, which once were comfortable to wear.

You should split them up and iron them, then you will get the most correct pattern. For a more accurate cut, you can copy these patterns to cardboard or a fairly dense foil. The pattern you get youwill be able to useseveral times.

What needle should be used for denim?

The quality of the product directly depends on the right needle. Its parameters must match the type and thickness of the fabric. The needle has a special designation, which shows its diameter. The standard needle number for denim fabric is 100. In addition to numbers, the marking may include letters.

Needles for dense materials are marked with H-J (jeans). What a denim needle looks like: a big ear, a sharpened needle, a large thickness, a thin slightly rounded tip.

Needles for denim fabrics are not expensive. They are often manufactured in sets of several pieces of different diameters. For dense fabrics, you should choose special needles of enhanced strength with a sharp rounded tip and a large diameter. Such needles, in addition to the number marking, may have a colour designation in the form of a blue flask.

Needles should match the type of sewing machine. What should be considered in buying needles: the type of sewing machine, the density of fabric that is planned to sew, the marking of the needle.

Additional information for you: the most famous needle manufacturers isSchmetz, Organ Needles, Janome, Groz-Beckert. They are appropriate for the majority of modern household machines for sewing jeans.

What thread should be usedfor denim?

Properly selected sewing threads will facilitate the work and give the opportunity to get a quality product with smooth and beautiful seams. The threads should be selected according to the colour and thickness of the material. The size indicates the marking.

The number of threads for thin denim fabric is 50-60, for thick – 30-40. What kind of threads are used to sew jeans: strengthened (characterized by high density and low hairiness), polyester (help to trim cuts and make darning).

When you are choosing the threads, you can take with you a piece of jeans fabric from which you plan to sew the cloth. So, it will be easier to pick the necessary colour and explain to the seller what you need.

The size of the thread is selected according to the number of the needle. Standard needle size for jeans is 100, but depending on the density of the material can also be used №90 and №110 (the thicker is the fabric, the higher is the number).

Tips for Sewing Denim

  • A common problem in machine sewing of denim products is poor quality or skipping of stitches, especially at the places of thickening. To prevent this, it is necessary to select the needles according to the type of sewing equipment (manufacturers specify this in the instructions), to use the appropriate threads and consider the thickness of the material. If denim products need to be sewn from time to time, a household machine will be suitable for you. Cuttings are easy to process with an overlock. If you are sewing in large quantities, you should have professional equipment.
  • Often, skirts and pants are sewn from denim stretch. To avoid stretching of their belts, you need to strengthen this part. This can be done with vlies, doublerin and also by adding a corsage tape. If you want the belt to remain flexible, use elastic vlies.
  • This advice concerns the sewing of any denim: the areas where the fabric is stacked in several layers – especially thick ones – must be sewn delicately. For ordinary denim, it helps to iron such areas with steam. For denim stretch this method is not recommended, it is better to gently hit such areas with a hammer. In particularly thick areas, turn the wheel of the machine manually.

Conclusion

Denim is one of the most popular fabrics to date. For more than a century it has been walking around the planet, but jeansare still the most popular type of clothing. Nowadays, denim isn’t just used for sewing pants. The variety of fabrics and production technologies make it possible to sew denim hats, thin shirts, summer sundresses, dresses and shorts. It is also used for sewing bags and home textiles.

To sew the jeans with her own hands is up to every craftswoman. Of course, sewing a pair of denim pants is quite a time-consuming process, especially if you want to make them look like factory-made ones. But if you have a systematic approach to sewing, you will be able to create a pair of jeans with your own hands within a couple of hours. So just follow our article and sooner or later you will wearyour perfect hand-made jeans or a beautiful skirt or any other interesting denim cloth.

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