Front Panel Jeans

You may or may not have been able to tell, but I’m what the wonderfully-awful medical terminology calls a “geriatric primagravida”. That’s right: I’m gravid, I’m old, and I’ve never done this before. But yeah, I’m a little over halfway pregnant! I’m very lucky in that I’ve been symptom-free so far, so basically I feel totally normal, except that I finally have the bust promised to me by the American Girl Care and Keeping of You book twenty years ago.

Plus I’ve discovered that my preexisting shape gave me some leeway – I was already adjusting for pooch, so my regular pants fit comfortably through 16 weeks. Around 18 weeks I started applying the hairtie thing to my Gingers, but my Peppermint wide leg pants, Adams pants, and copycat Persephones worked without modification until week 21 or so. After that, my M8248 skirts, Morella pants, and Papao pants comprised my middle-friendly cold weather wardrobe (plus my Hudson pants, but those are PJs). All of the above are still working, but I badly wanted jeans, so I did some internet searching for general use sewing patterns that were pregnancy-friendly. The really useful tip I found was actually about shopping – to buy your “nice pregnancy jeans” early.  

I’m like 26-ish weeks in these photos (I haven’t been tracking very carefully since like, there’s nothing I can do to speed this up or slow it down), and I concur. These are single-purpose instead of general use, but I’m very grateful not to be staring down the barrel of the next few months without any denim! Except I didn’t want to shop and I couldn’t find any handy tutorials, so I took a stab at modifying the Gingers, and wrote one.

These are a prototype and they’re riddled with errors – or with opportunities for improvement, whichever – but they’re still a meaningful upgrade from a hair tie. I felt like wearing my zippers at half-mast was stressing the locking mechanism, too, and I don’t want to ruin pants I hope to return to and wear for a long time just to squeeze out another week right now. So these were worth it.

I used stretch denim and cotton jersey from Stylemaker Fabrics, and I’m happy with both. The jersey doesn’t bug my skin, and ½ yard was enough to cut the belly panel with a top fold, which also keeps that edge strong, stretchy and non-irritating.

I’ve drawn up some diagrams below for modifying a regular stretch jeans pattern to add a belly panel. It’s possible this would work for non-stretch pants as well, but I haven’t road-tested that yet. Note: the diagrams display what I should have done, not what I actually did, so they may not match the finished garment photos! Anyway, let’s gooo!

  1. Gather these pattern pieces: front leg, pocket facing, and waistband. Stack the front leg and pocket facing; trace as one piece, or tape and treat them as a single piece. You will only be adjusting the crotch area.
  2. Mark the stitching lines.

3. Measure and mark the height of the finished waistband at the side seam (reminder: place the bottom of the finished waistband measurement at the waist stitching line, not the waist seam allowance). Draw a line connecting the side seam to that marking. Set aside the waistband piece for now.

4. Measure about 2” up from the bottom of the fly extension. Mark a line at that measurement directly perpendicular to the stitching line. Draw a curve for the belly panel. It should connect to the perpendicular line at center front, but it doesn’t have to meet the side seam at a specific angle. A subtle sideways “ess” curve will give you more space for functional front pockets.

5. Extend the center front stitching line up and then across to the step 3 marking at a right angle. This line will most likely extend above the original waist/waistband height. Add seam allowance below the belly curve. Trace this piece as a unit – it will have seam allowance on the outseam and bottom edges, but not at the center or top. These edges are both going to be placed on the fold.

6. Cut the finished belly panel piece from cotton jersey (or whatever stretchy knit feels most comfortable for you) with the direction of greatest stretch going around the body. Fold it in half wrong sides together, matching belly curves, and baste the side seams and belly curve together within the seam allowance. The flat top edge will be folded and finished. Set aside for now.

7. Return to the front leg. This time, add seam allowance above the belly curve line. Retrace the new front leg piece, with or without the fly extension. Keeping it can later reinforce any curved topstitching you may wish to add, but it’s not necessary, and it won’t be functional.

8. If desired, draw a new front pocket and pocket facing, referencing the original pocket curve. The pocket facing should extend at least 1” past the pocket curve line; more is better, but space may be limited (mine was!).

9. Draw a new pocket bag. It won’t be very deep, but about 2.5” – 3” deep (measured from the pocket edge) will be better than nothing. The width is similarly up to you; about 2” wider than the pocket opening is sufficient.

10. Mirror the pocket bag piece, minus the pocket opening curve on one side.

11. Assemble the pockets + pants front unit as usual. When sewing the center front, ignore the fly extensions. Either trim them off or press them in the direction of your stitching; in either case, topstitch as though it were a real fly.

12. Right sides together, sew the stretchy belly panel to the jeans front. Press seam upwards and topstitch. Set aside.

13. Find your waistband pattern piece. Modify it by cutting at the side seam marking, plus seam allowance, and use just the center piece going forward. Cut x2.

14. Assemble the back of the pants as usual. Sew first waistband piece to back pants unit. Sew front and back pants together at inseams, then outseams. The back pants + waistband will extend above the front pants + belly panel by the seam allowance.

15. Turn pants right-sides out. Sew second waistband to attached waistband at top edge, right sides together, then flip to wrong side, folding over side and bottom seam allowances. Topstitch or hand-sew, as desired. Hem, and your jeans are finished!

That’s all what I’d do next time! This time, my belly panel curve is just a simple arc instead of an ess-curve, which ultimately made the front pockets unusable because 1. With less vertical space, the pocket bags were too shallow, so 2. I didn’t have space for a large enough pocket facing underlap, so 3. You could sometimes see the facing edge while I was wearing the jeans. I hated that, so I sewed the front pockets shut – so do as I say, not as I did! I also pressed my belly panel seam down instead of up, which, upon review, was fighting the fabric. That seam allowance wants to flip up.

I also scooped the scoop way-the-hey deeper than necessary. My goofiest error, though, was forgetting to remove the center-front seam allowance when cutting the belly panel on the fold, so mine is about 1” wider than it should be. Because I was matching curves on two stretch fabrics, I could make them fit, but the panel stretches out much more quickly and doesn’t lie as smoothly under tight shirts.

I might make another, improved pair of these in a different denim wash. I like stretchy tees and loose shirts anyway; if my bottom half is covered adequately I might not have to make any big changes to the way I dress above the equator, and jeans are the most adequate covering I know!

Speaking of adequate coverage, this pregnancy is brought to you by the robust abortion protections of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – I wouldn’t have risked it if I wasn’t guaranteed complete access to medical care. And finally, a note on blogging: I know a new family member can be the death knell for a blog, but I’m hoping that’s not the case here (it wasn’t for Pins & Pinot – she’s impressive!). I really, really enjoy both sewing and blogging, so I have my fingers crossed for a floor baby (that’s what I call a baby you can leave nearby in a basket, though technically that’s any baby if you’re willing to listen to screams).

And I’ll pick the pins up off my floor first!

Pattern: CC Ginger jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 11 waist, 14 hip, with added belly panel

Supplies: 1.5 yards ACG Stretch Denim Dark Indigo – 10 oz, 1/2 yard Cotton Jersey Knit Solid Navy, Stylemaker Fabrics, $35.95; thread from stash

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $35.95

33 thoughts on “Front Panel Jeans

  1. Congratulations! I am about to have a third baby and I love to 1.) read sewing content by other parents, since the context can make a big difference, And 2.) learn that other people passionate about hobbies or professional pursuits are raising babies.

    Signed, another geriatrically pregnant seamster. Who, by the way, traded in all denim around 30 weeks for knits only.


    1. Congratulations to you too!! 😊 That day may come for me yet – I wish I enjoyed sewing knits more! Have you discovered any pattern workhorses you’d recommend (either for during pregnancy, or after)?


  2. Congratulations! Wonderful news, motherhood is a real adventure so I look forward to hearing about yours! I find I end up sharing more on Instagram but I still love my blog, it’s sewing time that’s more limited now…


    1. My mother told me I’m going to have a chill baby, so I’m hoping her wisdom sticks. Thanks mom. ^^ I’m glad you’re enjoying your experience so far, and welcome to your little critter!


  3. Well aren’t you just so smart — on many counts! Congratulations Lia! I hope you are able to enjoy your pregnancy. Nothing like well-fitting clothes to set off that glow 😊


    1. Thanks so much! You’re the first person to even mention a glow, haha! Another woman in my community is pregnant, and one of our mutual friends told her “You’re looking radiant”, even before she shared her news. I told that same friend I was pregnant and she said “Really?” 😂


    1. Thank you! I really think a second pair would come in handy, but I don’t want to stock up on too many pairs with a panel. On the other hand, I’m not going to start hating comfort post-partum! 😂


  4. Oh wow, congratulations!

    All my maternity sewing was for hot weather so I didn’t have to wrestle with jeans, but that looks like a really clear and useful tutorial to me.

    You are probably getting a ton of advice but my 2p is that baby slings are amazing things for freeing your hands. My kid loved being in the stretchy wrap ones.


    1. As far as I can tell, pregnant in the summer is a whole different kettle of fish. A very, very hot kettle of fish. I’m glad I’m not due until warmer weather though – a newborn in midwinter also seems like hard work. (I realize, now that I type all that out, that pregnancy/infant care might carry an element of effort regardless of season. 😂)

      We have one of those baby sling from my sister, huzzah! I’ve heard great things, both for wearing around the house and outside, for keeping strangers from getting too into a newborn’s face! I’ve never been remotely tempted to put my face anywhere near a strange baby, but I guess it happens.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think one of my biggest knit turn-offs is that the only kinds I can find locally are either polyester and $3/yard, or some coarse high-end nonsense for $36/yard. A nice little mid-tier selection would be…well, nice!


  5. Congratulations!

    Some “wisdom” from a gravid primipara (33 years ago): 1. Don’t let anyone scare you about how much pain you might endure. (Old women like to frighten young women. I don’t know why.) Labor pains were not nearly as bad as period cramps, for this old gal. 2. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a break. Take a nap. Put your feet up. Get as much rest as you can during your pregnancy, because once Baby is here your decades-long sleep deficit account starts. 3. Enjoy this time! It’s interesting to see how your body changes over the months. Try not to trip and fall, should your ankles and knees loosen near term. (My mother was terrified I would fall. I did not.)


    1. Thank you, I love this!! ❤ It's what I needed to hear! My mom said being pregnant and giving birth to me were really easy, so I'm going to try and keep that tradition going (not true for carrying/delivering my giant little brother, apparently). I'll take your excellent advice and do some mid-day relaxing today! 😀


  6. Congratulations!

    I had never heard the terms “geriatric primagravida” but I guess that applied to me too (I had my daughter at 36). Though really I think that “geriatric” should only apply after 60!

    Thanks a lot for the tutorial (I have a combination of post-baby belly and IBS and have trouble with most waistbands… a jersey panel sounds perfect!).

    I wish you a smooth-as-can-be rest of the journey 🙂


    1. Thank you! 😀 I’ll be 36, too, when I actually give birth. Apparently the more popular term now is AMA – Advanced Maternal Age – though in my area, the joke is it stands for Average Maternal Age.

      I traditionally enjoy hard pants, but it’s going to be hard to transition away from a jersey front! At least partly because zipping/unzipping was the step I never knew I wanted to skip! So I might not. ^^


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