Temperatures have dropped to uncomfortable levels, causing me retreat and center my activities in the easy-to-keep-warm areas of my home. These are also core areas of the house which need to be heated. By heating just these areas, my bill is kept from resembling the national debt. I do experience reduced functionality but it’s not all that bad. For instance, in the recent days when I couldn’t sew or embroider, I completed a recently-purchased Craftsy Class” Sewing Designer Jeans. (Hope that link goes to the class and not my personal list of classes.) I have to tell you, I’m very pleased. I’m particularly interested in how to duplicate visible jean details that might be used in high-end designer jeans. The class instructor, Angela Wolf, demonstrates her competence in this arena through-out the 9 Lessons. If you want a go/no go recommendation, I give the course a GO. However, I don’t like blanket 1 sentence “loved it/you” reviews. So I’m continuing with an in-depth review:
Lesson 1, Meet Angela Wolf and Get Started
I encourage you not to skip this lesson. The other Craftsy Courses I have finished, include an introduction which could have been eliminated entirely. But Angela talks about the fabrics she has used for jeans which of course includes denim. She talks a lot about the various denims, stretch factors and weights. She recommends a 6 or 8 oz denim and cautions that a 12oz denim is a heavy fabric indeed. While AW prefers a 6 or 8 oz denim, she uses cotton sateen, non-stretch denims and shiny printed, high stretch denims as well. She admits freely that these are her preference and that you should use what you want, once your pattern fits to your satisfaction. In fact, I think one of the things I enjoyed most about her class is that she states her preferences but repeatedly encourages you to make choices that you like. During the introductory, she also makes thread, needle and stitch recommendations as well as alternate reinforcement options (try stitching, bling, or small findings from the jewelry department.)
As with all the dressmaking/garment Craftsy courses, pattern recommendations are made. Not surprising, Angela recommends her own pattern first. However, she follows that with strong recommendations for Jalie with its high and low waist options, Jennifer Stern (misses and women sizes) and an almost glowing recommendation for Kenneth King’s “Jeanius” class for copying a favorite pair.
Angela is wild about distressing denim jeans. There is never a lesson which does not include specific hints and tips. However, I can’t repeat them as I don’t like distressing and didn’t pay much attention. I was a child in the 50’s when it was very common for younger children to wear their elder siblings discards. There was no shame in it. All my friends wore their siblings clothes. An elder child was the subject of limited admiration because they were the one, in nearly every family, to get the news clothes. The rest of us received “distressed” clothing also called hand-me downs on a fairly regular basis. I mean it was almost understood that these weren’t your clothe. They were lent to you until you grew out of them and then the clothes became garments in the next younger child’s wardrobe. OTOH, we would also “get after” an elder sibling for not taking care of our future garment. We knew it was to be ours in the near future and we didn’t want to wear a rag just because our sibling was a slob. I can remember how thrilled I was when my parents gave me my first school-clothing allowance. A humongous sum of $10. I found 3 dresses for $7, and added socks and panties to my basket. The total was just slightly under $10. Until they added taxes. I stood there at the counter, a very determined 11-year-old, demanding to know why they wanted more than $10 when any second grader could add up the tags and see I was owed a few pennies. The clerk was beside herself trying to explain “taxes”. Fortunately, this was a time of small towns, rural communities and proprietor owned businesses. The owner came over to see what was going on and paid my tax — with one condition. That I ask my parents what taxes were. So no, I’m not interested in distressing my jeans (or being overcharged).
Lesson 2 Perfect Fit
AW makes several recommendations for solving jean fitting issues. She highly recommends that you take Betzina’s pants fitting or King’s Jeanius courses and start with a fitted basic pant or jean pattern before starting. She doesn’t address all pant fitting issues. Only a few that seem to persist with jeans and perhaps aren’t present in regular pants. I was particularly impressed with her recommendations for choosing a jean size and measuring the inseam but totally flummoxed with her recommendation for the hyper extended calf HEC. Her solution for the HEC involves folding out length just below the bum, then slashing and spreading an equal amount below the calve; finishing by truing the curves and seam lines. It looked like an excellent means for destroying the leg styling. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to me. If you have a large bust (can that be called a hyper extended chest?) you don’t fold out length above the chest and add length down around the hem. You do something called a Full-Bust Adjustment FBA which adds both length and width across the front without changing the finished side seam length. So the HEC doesn’t make sense to me. Some of her other adjustments were also questionable, in light of my experiences. However, I know that there can be fitting issues that remain even after making all the experts recommended changes. I would say, if nothing else has worked; if no other alteration you’ve made has fixed your issue, go ahead; make a muslin and try AW’s alteration. AW does show you specifically which wrinkles she is correcting and what you should do. She also recommends making your alterations in small 1/4″ increments until you find the amount needed to be changed for your body. She pointedly states that there are wrinkles you will never get rid of if you are making a close fitting jean. AW is another who respects the fact that all our bodies are different and no single guideline/rule works for everyone. As for myself, she has convinced me of a couple of things. I’m definitely picking my next jean pattern size by measuring the pattern; and I’m looking forward to correcting the gaping of back waistband which commonly happens to me with any pant whereon the waistband sits below the waist. That gaping is one of the reasons I will not wear low-rise jeans. (BTW low-rise jeans are flattering especially for those of us who are short-waisted.)
In this lesson, she also discusses making some pocket adaptions. Don’t miss that. It’s brief but I like that she covered everything I learned the hard way. Another note worthy segment is when she talks about using stretch fabrics after having fit the pattern for a non-stretch denim. I do believe that the process could be reversed, i.e. fit for stretch and change for non-stretch. Last interesting segment is her discussion of marking and aligning the grain and somewhere in here she talk about working with a length of denim which is uneven. You know the kind where you can see that the grain is parallel to the selvege but the cut end is at an angle.
Lesson 3 Back Pockets
Loved it. Can’t say enough good about this lesson. Not sure I would have paid $20 for this lesson alone, but still it is the lesson I remember the best. AW covers so much information. She does stick with the basic jean pocket size and shape during her discussion, but makes numerous changes, adds buttonholes and shows an easy way to make sure your design is mirrored exactly for both back pockets. Do any of you suffer with a “flat rear end”? No junk-in-the-trunk? AW has a solution for you: flaps over your back pockets. Unfortunately, I’m exactly the opposite. I say unfortunately because AW shares numerous ways to decorate the flaps, add buttonholes and place in conjunction with your back pocket. Back flaps are really a great way to add zing to your jeans and have fun too!
Lesson 4 Sewing the Back
I don’t use AW’s construction order but I think she has good reasons for the choices she makes. One is flat-felling the center back seam. She offers lots of advice on this topic. I have one notes here that says “sew, press, distress, top stitch” . So apparently I did retain something about distressing. She’s specific on the order and the reasons why. Also great advice for which way to press seams, where and when to top stitch, through-out all 9 Lessons, but here in particular in regards to the yoke and CB. What I loved most and will use, are her details for pocket placement. Most patterns add a dot and say attach pocket here. Well if you make any changes, mine are always changed to accommodate the junk-in-the-trunk, your pocket might look better positioned slightly differently. AW gives you measurements of where to place the pockets.
Lesson 5 Front Pockets
AW loves crazy linings from improbably fabrics. She also prefers a one piece bag/facing referencing the lessening of bulk and how easy it is to place it into perfect position. She prefers an overlay on the facing covering the area which will show when the jeans are finished (a bulk reducing method). She also explores pocket shapes, the coin pocket and some variations. Interesting to me, she does not stay stitch or stabilize the front pocket, but is very careful to reinforce stressed areas. She prefers not to use grommets (although in one of the lessons she goes into detail for how and when to install) substituting zig zag stitching or other decorative elements.
Lesson 6 Front Fly
I didn’t view this lesson at all. Judging from the other lessons, I’d say it is probably full of good information. However, I don’t care to make the faced pocket fly. I always wear my granny panties which means that I never expose my tender flesh to the machinations of a metal zipper. I don’t use metal zippers either. Don’t like rust, stubborn zipper or broken needles. AW probably provides workarounds for my issues, but I’ll never know. Take the course and let me know if I missed anything important.
Lesson 7 Joining Front to Back.
I’ve got 2 pages of hand written notes. You’d think this would be an easy lesson. Saying like, stitch this seam and then that. Well those directions are included plus AW tells you which order to use if adding embroidery. She stresses pinning to avoid twisting the legs. She’s not only a real believer in the effects of grain, but shows you how to avoid that problem even at this stage of the game. She mentions hammering frequently to include when, where and which side. But she adds fun to the mix. I felt like she loved belt loops. She shows a variety of stitching and some placement changes. She does specify exact spots that must have belt loops if you want your pants to stay up. Really impressive to me is the top stitching along the side seam. She details the direction to stitch, press and the length of the seam. She explains why. Nobody has ever told me why. I just think it’s great when someone is not only technically proficient i.e. knows what to do, but they understand why and can tell you.
Lesson 8 The Waistband
I was surprised by information in this lesson. AW does not interface the waistband or it’s facing. I should make you pay for the class to learn this secret. Except, I think she shared it on TV. She stitches the waistband and facing together along the upper edge. Then stitches 1/4″ twill on top of that stitching. AW promises that the waist will never stretch. If you adopt her process it cannot change size. I don’t know if this is true or not. I’m going to test it myself, after all, with the crazy belt loops I’m planning, the jeans will stay up even if the waist grows a little.
Like the other lessons AW is very specific about what she does. I underlined that because AW repeatedly says “this is what is fastest for me but you should do what works for you” (or something to that effect). I’m much more appreciative and attentive to the instructor who can allow that I might have learned something from someone else or I might have limitations that demand I do things in a certain way. AW covers this segment in detail including tips for making sure the waistband is smoothly and evenly attached to the pant, the stitching across the front matches and how to avoid breaking needles even with a metal zipper. She shows you how to trim the zipper, remove excess teeth and finish top stitching the waistband and the zipper for a flawless finish.
Lesson 9 Finishing and Hemming
AW talks about buttons and helps identify a classic jean button that will resist detaching from its stud. She shows you what can go wrong with grommets, metal nipples and buttons and how to detect poor installations before the first wearing. For this type button, she does recommend the keyhole buttonhole and spends a lot of time showing how to choose the size, stitch, and reinforce. She continues to offer “fun” finishes encouraging you to choose buttons not because jeans are supposed to have a certain type, but because you enjoy the button. This is the time that she finally stitches the belt loops into position. Her timing makes sense, I just hate having the floppy button loops. Surprising to me, she recommends washing the jeans before hemming. That’s washing the jeans now even after having washed the denim at least twice before cutting. Once again, she has an explanation: All the handling given to jeans can easily stretch them out of shape. If they are washed and dried now, the denim will recover its shape and the hem will be at the correct length. She also states that denim will continue to shrink. According to AW and my personal experience, shrinking is an inherent characteristic of denim. Being thankful that shrinking is really not my fault, I’ve made a note to myself to hem my jeans 1/2″ longer than desired.
Seriously great course. It was well worth the full price of $40. Although I’ll admit the grinch in my heart was happy to pay half-price. I still have issues with the video format. I know I’m not going to remember everything said in the video. I’m also not going to be able to easily find the place in the video that I need to rewatch. I’ve yet to figure out how to make “book marks” on the video but that may be because of my crutch. See, I make notes and from this class I have 25 pages of hand written notes. Even though I prefer a written format, I acknowledge that there are times when I need to see something being done. Words are just not enough. I’m so glad Angela Wolf recorded this course and very glad Craftsy made it available.