Sewing with Denim

If you’re new to working with denim, we’ve put together everything you need to know: from how to wash the cloth to our top sewing tips.

 

MACHINE SETUP

Needle: Jeans needle 90(14), strong and thick – made for the job.
Thread for construction seams: You can use a standard Sew All Thread in a matching colour.
Thread for top stitching: We recommend a heavy duty thread rather than a topstitching thread. We find the topstitching thread very thick and actually much thicker than a standard jeans topstitching. A heavy duty thread will give you that definition, contrast and strength that you want.
Bobbin thread: We generally use a standard Sew All Thread in the bobbin for best results but all machines are different so you will need to experiment to find the best results.

 

USEFUL TOOLS

Thick strong pins: Such as toilet pins.

Edge stitcher: This can be a useful tool, you may find this foot with a guide makes top stitching easier for you, but it won’t work for everyone.

Walking foot: You may find this the perfect project for a walking foot, it will keep the top layer of fabric moving at the same rate as the bottom layer is moved is by the feed dogs. It will help the prevent the denim stretching as you sew. It can also help sewing over bulk seams.

Buttonhole scissors: Large handles with short blades are typically made for short cuts in thick fabric. These are more powerful for trimming away bulk than ordinary scissors.

SEWING DENIM

The attention to detail of the sewer will affect the quality, wear and fade of your denim garments. Jeans designers consider and study all aspects of sewing to see how they affect the look of the jeans.

For example, a tighter the thread tension the more the seams will pucker with a distinctive fade after washing. A looser the thread tension the more tailored the jeans will look. These are design choices that can be made by you.

Construction seams
Jeans are made with a flat fell seam, which is very strong and hardwearing, however it is quite difficult to achieve with denim and a domestic sewing machine. So we recommend to make your jeans with a regular seam that it is pressed to one side and finished with a double row of top stitching.

For a smooth start, fold a small piece of denim into a little rectangle and wedge this under the presser foot at the beginning and end of seams. This will keep the presser foot level. Gently walk the needle over very thick seams by turning the wheel by hand.

You may need to use a tailor’s clapper or a hammer (covered in some cloth padding) to flatten some really bulky seams before stitching.

Topstitching
Adjust the machine tension to accommodate top stitching thread. You can use a regular thread in the bobbin.

Practice to get the top stitching neat and even, we did many back pockets before it was mastered.

The top stitch will distort slightly when going against the direction of the twill. This is particularly noticeable on the back pocket detail.

Increase the stitch length for top stitching. A typical jeans top stitch length is between 3.5 and 4 setting on a domestic machine.

You may find it easier to chalk out the back pocket design and front fly. Always test first, but chalk will easily brush off most denims.

Do not back stitch any top stitching. It will look unsightly and leave both ends and pull them through to the back and fix them off with a hand sewing needle.

Look at high street jeans, the top stitching isn’t that great generally, so go easy on yourself. We are aiming for authentic rather than perfect.

If your machine just won’t make a bar tack through thick denim especially on areas such as belt loops don’t fret, just run a straight stitch back and forth, it will look slightly more tailored and do the same job.

WASHING DENIM

We recommend pre-washing your denim before you sew with the cloth. Denim should be washed on its own for the first wash, at 30 degrees with non-bio detergent, on a low spin. Do not tumble dry.

Avoid putting one large piece of medium-heavy weight denim in the washing machine, as it can sometimes leave white creases in the denim (as the cloth does not have room to move around in the machine drum). If you can, cut your denim fabric in half before washing. As well, prior to the first wash, we recommend submerging your denim in water first and letting it fully absorb so that you are putting wet denim in the washing machine. If white creases do develop, ironing whilst the denim is still damp will help. For best results, use a medium-hot setting with steam.

Do not dry or store denim in direct sunlight as it can bleach your fabric. Once your garment is sewn up, we recommend washing it inside out to reduce fading.

SOURCING DENIM

We’ve found that the best places to source denim are Turkey, Japan and Italy. We choose to mainly buy deadstock denim as the environmental cost of producing new denim is so high due to the huge amount of water it needs.

Deadstock is cloth that is left over from a designer production run. It already exists in the world, rather than commissioning a mill to make more for us. With the cost of cotton soaring (up to 60% at the moment!) deadstock denim also means we are still able to offer denim to you at a fair price.

The great part about denim is that it’s built to last and withstand everything – it will truly last a lifetime (and looks great as it ages).