4 Denimsional

In my continued mission to squeeze value from the MN Dawn Curve pattern until it squeaks, I’ve made another pair of Dawn shorts. I’m not the only one confused by shorts this year, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with denim – even better, leftover denim from all the other pants I’ve made recently. I had large scraps and more than a little hankering for the bi-color/parti-color/jester trend, so blammo!

These are all rigid denims. The light blue is 10 oz.; the dark blue is 8 oz.; the black used as one back leg is also 8 oz.; and the other black denim is 5 oz. I used that just for the back pockets, coin pocket, and belt loops. I cut those lightweight pieces first and set them aside. Everything else I cut improvisationally. This is the first time I’ve sewn Dawns without tweaking the fit or trying a new view, so I felt good about experimenting elsewhere.

I prioritized making the back from the dark scraps to a) minimize underwear show-through and b) in case I sat in something. I haven’t sat in something, but summer isn’t over yet. I probably could have brought one more light element to the rear, but I love black and blue together, and hopefully wrapping the dark blue to the front makes the front and back feel less separate.

I actually cut belt loops from every fabric and decided to make a call on which to use later, but there’s something to be said for sewing loops from a lighter coordinating fabric. It was so much easier to get through those layers.

You can see I’ve got buckling in the back yoke, but I’m starting to believe this is inevitable in rigid jeans. They just slump after the first day of wear (this is day 2 or 3 for these shorts – non-consecutive, if you’re asking!) but otherwise they wouldn’t fit on day 1 and I’d never get to day 2 anyway!

Oh also, when I sewed my muslin of this in the winter, I noted that the shorts back leg outseam is 1” longer than the front outseam. This time I eased them together, but is that a thing? Easing the outseams? I guess it keeps the hem parallel to the grainline, but it seemed like a lot of excess to ease over a relatively short seam (compared to a full-length pants leg).

I tried the MN button fly directions for this pair. I would class them as effective but inefficient. You’ll be switching between regular thread and topstitching thread way more than necessary if you follow them to the letter, and I know this because I did. I used a hodgepodge of bobbin threads but topstitched each denim tonally, except the light blue; I didn’t have any light blue thread, hence the gold.

Surprisingly the pattern only calls for 3 buttons or rivets on the fly, plus 1 on the waistband – and it was enough! I typically use 5 on the placket, but it’s so much faster to get in and out with just 3 that it makes me 60% more likely to pee. Oh, and my pocket bags are scrap cotton with shades of blue and grey. I’m feeling preeetty happy with the insides of these shorts.

I’ve been using a straight waistband with this pattern, which made it really easy to color block. I cut long rectangles from whatever scraps accommodated that and then placed + trimmed them to match the finished shorts.

I switched topstitching colors on each section of the waistband. Hems too. I pulled the thread to the back and knotted it instead of backstitching. Fiddly, but I like the result!

I’m actually very pleased with these shorts. They’re longer and a bit looser than I usually wear shorts and there seems to be some excess fabric in the front leg/crotch, but they’re comfortable even when my thighs are given full scope, important for such summertime activities as lying in a hammock, sitting on a picnic bench, etc. And I love these scrap colors together (not totally surprising since I bought them all in the first place). Plus it was $FREE$ (as my dad says, ‘if your time was worthless’).

Also, you may have noticed I have a low-poly paper fox head in these photos??? It’s leftover from Halloween 2020 (I made this one, Professor B.F. made a red one) and I had a case of the why-nots. One way to tell I’ve been blogging for a while – three years ago when we first took photos, I was adamant that no one could even be nearby, and for these I unconcernedly unbuttoned my shorts roughly ten feet away from two plumbers conferencing outside their van while balancing a paper fox mask on my head.

No shame in my game anymore. Woof, arf, assorted fox noises. See you soon!

Pattern: MN Dawn Curve jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip; 16 rise; with lots of changes

Supplies: leftover denim medley; thread, rivets from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Darkest Dawns

I didn’t think I had too many pairs of jeans until I began regularly using the phrase “I’m not a denimhead, but”. I just love sewing jeans, and this pair was an easy comfort sew. Probably I should have taken it a little less easy, though, because the fit isn’t great!

Let’s rewind. These are Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans, the tapered view. I made one pretty bad muslin, and then adjusted the pattern and sewed one pretty good ‘real’ pair. This pair uses the pretty-good adjustments, plus a couple more, but with less success. These are shown on the 3rd (and final) day of wear, by the way (they are actually foxy and wrinkle-free right out of the dryer, but only for a few hours).

I started from a 14 waist, 16 hips, with a 16 rise. Here’s my list of total adjustments, with the new ones for this pair in bold:

  • ¼” small waist adjustment
  • 3/8” wide hip adjustment
  • removed ¼” from center front at waist
  • removed ½” from center back at waist
  • scooped butt curve ¾” deeper
  • lengthened front crotch extension by ¼”
  • lengthened back crotch extension by ½”
  • lowered back pocket placement by 1”
  • enlarged back pockets by ½” per side
  • integrated front fly pieces into the front legs
  • used a straight waistband

Bigger bum pockets, A+. Integrated fly extensions (and Ginger zip installation method), A++. Straight waistband…eh? B+, A-? Hard to judge in this fabric. The most significant issues stem from the denim, which is thin and crispy. I think either a heavier denim or a softer denim would be more *discreet* about my fitting problems, instead of the extremely obvious and sharp wrinkles I have here. Also, the waistband crumples. But most importantly, because I sewed my pretty-good pair with much thicker fabric, I think by comparison this pair came up a little…big? I’m not used to that. A hot wash & dry helps a lot, but the crotch is still busily wrinkled.

I spent a while staring at my own reflection, confronted with new-to-me wrinkles. I tried pinching and binder clipping excess fabric at a few different points, and what I came up with was: I just don’t know.

The extra fabric under my butt goes away if I sit down or angle a leg forward, so I assume that’s necessary for wearing ease.

The extra fabric in the front crotch smoothes out if I stand up exaggeratedly straight, but that’s not really part of my daily life in the same way sitting and walking is. If I tug the front leg fabric back (jerry-rigged test to see if I should shorten the front crotch extension), there’s no improvement. If I tug the fabric up (to see if I should shorten the vertical rise), it’s distinctly worse. I guess it’s probable that the front crotch curve needs to be shallower – it would make the crotch shorter overall, but wouldn’t affect the extension where it fits my inner thigh, or the rise.

Or it might just be that if I want to wear this cut, on my excellent bod, I’m gonna get these wrinkles! I wish I had used this fabric for something else – specifically, how good would it have been as Clyde pants?! But as the wisdom says, It’s Only Fabric.

And in any case, the pants are really comfortable. Pandemic or not, I like high hard pants. There’s no give in the fabric so I definitely couldn’t do yoga in these, but I already don’t do yoga, so problem solved.

Favorite new trick: selvage is useful not only for the outside edge of the belt loops and the unfolded edge of the fly shield, but also for the short end of the waistband underlap. It makes a neat, low-bulk finish. Yay woven selvage!

I made a couple very mild style swings on this pair. I used a traditional button instead of a jeans rivet to keep a low profile (oooh) and left the hems raw (aaah). I put a line of stitching ¼” from the raw edge as a safeguard. Then, after a wash, I trimmed the fringe neatly, somewhat mitigating my supercool edginess.

I remember reading something, somewhere, about softening natural fibers by soaking them in a solution of a common household good (like baking soda, not necessarily baking soda though) – does that ring a bell for anybody? I think I’d like these better if they weren’t so crunchy, but fabric softener seems like a no-go (I searched “is fabric softener…” and Google auto-filled “…bad?”, and the results said “Yup!”).

These are worn with a cupro knit Stellan tee, which is one of my favorite Stellans. It’s got a cool hand and it’s very slithery, so much so in fact that it slithers right out of my stitching and has been mended in several places. I’ll continue to fix it, because I love it.

Honestly I’m really fine with the jeans, too. Like I said, I’MNOTADENIMHEADBUT here’s an excellent excuse to iterate further. As always, I end up back where I started: thinking about sewing jeans.

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans (Curve, tapered view)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist/16 hip & rise, with many changes

Supplies: 1 2/3 yards of Mid Weight Cotton Denim Black – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Gather Here, $1.60; thread, Michael’s, $3.70

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $30.30

Red Dawns Rising

“Fell deeds pants awake. Now for wrath fabric. Now for ruin fitting. And the red dawn[s]!”

Here we go again! My first ‘proper’ MN Dawns, the pattern only slightly mauled, in corduroy. Corduroy again! This is it for a while, though…probably.

I surprised myself with this fabric, as I’ve got kind of a self-mythology that I don’t like red; which is why I’m describing this color as “ruby chocolate” (Mood said “henna”, and it’s OOS). The fact that these pictures were taken on Valentine’s Day is PURE COINCIDENCE I ASSURE YOU. Anyway, this cord is definitely du roi. It’s seriously plushy. Like, the first time I washed and dried it, it overflowed the lint trap with ruby chocolate fluff and almost committed ruby chocolate arson. While sewing it shed tiny velvet fuzzies all over my ironing board, sewing machine plate, and legs. But I like it! It’s warm! It’s rich! The wales are deep and dramatic and luxurious! The small amount of stretch in the fiber makes next to no difference, though – I had hoped it would aid in recovery, but nah.

Oh, by the way, the yardage estimate for the Dawns is VASTLY overgenerous. It calls for 2.5ish yards and I had over a yard left over! I passed the remnant on, so you won’t be seeing it on the blog again, partly because this was straightforward to sew until I reached the belt loops, whereupon I broke no less than 5 needles, two on the same loop. Yikes. Enough was enough for me.

These Dawns are freshly washed, and they’ll bag over the course of the day, but right now I think the fit is – dare I say it – pretty good! I made further significant changes to the pattern, which I had already modified as described here, with the help of my personal Good Book, Singer’s Sewing Pants That Fit.

The below illustrations encompass ALL my changes, shorts and pants – i.e., starting from the straight leg view, unmodified 14 waist, 16 hip, with a 16 rise, here’s everything I did to get to these pants. First, I stacked and taped all the affected pattern pieces; pocket bag, facings, etc. on the front, leg + yoke on the back. Then it was time to slice-and-dice…shall we gif?

The finished pieces don’t look ‘ideal’, as in, they don’t look like a platonic/generic pants pattern, but they work for my body way WAY way WAY better. My other helpful change, not to the pattern pieces but while sewing, was to stretch the heck out of the waistband when attaching it to the pants. I wanted it to conform to my body, and on my shorts muslin the waistband stands up straight, partly because I forgot this step.

Just to commit a quick pants blasphemy for a second – I don’t think this pattern, with my changes, benefits from a curved waistband. The rise hits at like the one point of my body that isn’t curved, and I’ve already made every seam that meets the waistband less vertical, essentially widening dart intakes on the sides, front and back. The mild curve of the waistband is superfluous. Also, a folded rectangle is easier to cut AND there’s less bulk to sew through when adding belt loops. Ooh la la!      

My changes also made these pants less suitable for corduroy overall, mainly because topstitching the fly meant sewing a shallow diagonal across the wales (it reminds me of a story of a college classmate once told, of a boy who went in for a kiss she tried to avoid, and his teeth ended up scraping sideways clack-clack-clack across hers).

But that’s true of the original pattern as well. I’d like to try canvas or traditional denim next.

Begging the question, will there be a next? I think probably yes. I’ve achieved a fit state that Professor Boyfriend calls ‘Pareto optimal’ and I call ‘Whack-a-Mole’. The front is a little long, but if I pinch out the extra length, I get more wrinkles at the crotch. The waistband isn’t perfectly level but a shortened back rise would be worse. But the overall effect is comfortable and reasonable-looking.

There’s still tweaks to be made – I might want to enlarge the back pockets further, experiment with their placement (right now they’re about an inch lower than the pocket markings, by the way), try this zipper technique one more time (I’m still not wowed by it but I need to know if it’s my lack of experience), and swap in a straight waistband. And I’m tempted to give the tapered leg view a whirl. Basically, I can always find a reason to sew another pair of pants.

I hope you got to spend Valentine’s Day doing something you love, maybe with somebody you love…and I’ll leave you with these affectionate words!

Til next time!

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip, with ch-ch-changes

Supplies: 2.5 yards of Italian Burnt Henna Stretch Cotton Corduroy, $35.97, Mood; 1/2 yard Rifle Paper cotton in Strawberry Fields, $6.25, Gather Here; 9″ metal zip, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s, $3.19

Total time: 9.5 hours

Total cost: $45.41

Goldie Dawn

Nothing says ‘seasonal sewing’ like a nice, warm, heavy pair of corduroy…shorts! Okay okay, it’s a wearable muslin of the MN Dawns, not a perplexing sminter (wummer?) staple. I had some leftover cord from my recent jacket and no great faith that this pattern would fit right away, so it seemed like an economical choice. Actually I was righter than I knew. This first muslin isn’t great!

Before I sewed a stitch, I changed the pocket bags to be pocket stays. I traced the curve at the bottom of the pocket bag from the Ginger jeans, but left the pocket opening as-is. I hate it when a pocket bag follows my hand out of the opening during use, and anchoring it in the front seam keeps everything sitting pretty.

This necessarily changed the construction order slightly; I had to sew the pockets before the zipper, or I wouldn’t have been able to trap their center edges. I was full of virtuous intentions to follow the Dawn jeans directions to the letter, but oh well. My lord make me pure but not yet, etc.!  

I opted to use a zipper because I think I can get a better read on fit when there’s not also pulling from a button fly – even a successfully fit button fly pair of jeans is going to get lines if your stomach curves outwards as mine does. The final pre-sewing decision was sizing.

I chose a 14 waist graded to a 16 hip, with a 16 rise. I used the 16 rise because I knew I would need a full stomach adjustment and potentially a full rear adjustment, both of which add height to the vertical part of the crotch curves (the full rear adjustment can also add depth to the back crotch extension, a.k.a. the horizontal part, but I used the crotch extensions as drafted). Starting with a higher rise built in some wiggle room. I’m using the Curve range, which has 14 as its lowest size; I could have guessed at and graded to a 12 at the waist, but I was wary of curving the side seam too extremely from the get-go. I prefer to distribute that adjustment among the back and front center seams as well since I’m not a 2D object. I cut a 16 below the notches on the crotch curves, slanted to a 14 above.

Like I said, I was determined to follow the instructions, so I tried a new-to-me zipper installation technique. Honestly I’m not wowed by it, or maybe just not by my implementation of it. Somehow my zipper ended up only barely overlapped, and there’s more basting and ripping than in the Gingers method. I’d like to give it another try before I fully judge it; it’s similar to the button flies I’ve sewn, and I’m happy with those.

Otherwise the sewing went well. I used a ¼” seam allowance on the back pockets and lowered them 1.5”.

The notches matched and sewing heavy cotton (with topstitching, no less) is absolutely my idea of fun. The back outseam was 1” longer than the front, but that’s an easy fix. The fitting, however…

The front was so-so, not good but not irredeemable. I reduced the 5/8” inseam seam allowance to ¼”, but I still need a deeper front crotch extension. I also have gapping at center front, but that could be due to my mis-aligned front zip installation. Otherwise it’s alright.

But the back seam was a crime scene! As in, worse than this! I had an acme of fullness where the pointy yoke center met the back leg, and my hungry bum was as hungry as a hippo, a famously hungry hungry ungulate. The back crotch curve seems to be designed to accommodate a high, heart-shaped rear. My butt is my-butt-shaped and I needed to make CHANGES. I shaved off that ‘nipple’ of extra fabric where the yoke and leg meet, removed ¼” from the center back, and scooped the crotch ¾” deeper 2” below the back crotch notches. Taking out a chunk of fabric like that is like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, because it narrows the hips, where I also need space. I ended up sewing 1/4″ wider side seams at the waist, blending at 6″ down to 1/4″ TOTAL side seams (i.e., adding 3/8″ seam allowance below that point).  

Final result: the waist is still too loose, the crotch still too shallow. Also, weirdly, despite my reducing the waist circumference, the waistband wasn’t too long. Alarming!

Anyway, these shorts aren’t actually a total distaster. I wore them all day after taking these pictures; they’re comfortable, and everything that’s wrong with them is information gained. I’m not going to keep this pair, but I’ve already done some serious arts-and-crafts on the pattern pieces and tried again. More on that soon! I can’t decide whether this pattern is an intriguing intellectual challenge or if it just made me grumpy. Maybe both. But grumpy does not mean done! See you next time!

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans

Pattern cost: $14.98

Size: 14 waist, 16 hips, with adjustments

Supplies: leftover Kaufman 14 wale corduroy in Gold; 9″ metal zip, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread from stash

Total time: 9 hours

Total cost: $16.38