Sewalongs

GINGER SEWALONG PT 2 – JEAN MAKING SUPPLIES & JEANS HARDWARE

Hola amigas! Today we are talking denim supplies. You could probably make a basic pair of jeans with what you currently have in your sewing arsenal, but there are a few tools and additional pieces of hardware that makes the process a little easier, and your jeans a little more professional looking.

THE BASICS

GINGER JEANS SEWALONG: TOOLS FOR JEANS MAKING

  1. Rotary Cutter – you can totally use a pair of shears for this pattern (especially if you’re tracing your pieces before cutting) but when I’m feeling lazy I use my beloved Olfa Cutter.
  2. Glass Head Pins – you will do a lot of pinning with Ginger and it helps to have pins you can iron over without fear.
  3. Marking tool – my preferred method for cutting this pattern is tracing around the pieces with this amazing Clover chaco pen. It has a little serrated wheel inside it and it’s the easiest way I’ve found to make pronounced (but washable) markings.
  4. Denim needles – having a few of these is a lifesaver in case you break some. You can use heavier weight universal needles, but denim needles are specifically designed to sew through heavy twill. I use size 16, but if you’re sewing a super heavy duty denim you’re better off with size 18. You can also buy denim double needles, but they are pretty pricey and you’ll cry if they break. I prefer just taking the time to sew two rows of topstitching.
  5. Shears – nice and sharp to prevent fraying!

THE EXTRAS

GINGER JEANS SEWALONG: TOOLS FOR JEANS MAKING

  1. Tailor’s Clapper– this is a tiny, unassuming miracle. I wish I’d bought mine years ago – it really makes the most beautiful, flat seams. After you’re done pressing a seam, you hold the clapper on it – it locks all the moisture and heat into the fabric. It’s especially helpful sewing jeans since your seams can get quite bulky, but I also use my clapper in my daily sewing practice. You can also DIY your own with a scrap of hardwood.
  2. Hump jumper– this little piece of plastic looks weird and has a silly name, but I use it all the time when I am sewing over thick bumpy areas like belt hooks or side seams. As you are approaching a “level change”, you put the hump jumper under the back of your presser foot to lift the foot to the same height as whatever you are sewing over. After you sew past the high point, you slide the hump jumper out. You can also use a folded piece of cardboard in a pinch.
  3. Presser feet – Full disclosure, I use my regular foot for all topstitching, so there is no need to buy additional ones. However, if you have an edgestitch foot, you can use the central guide to help keep your lines straight. You’ll also need a zipper and buttonhole foot.
  4. Awl – another indispensable general purpose tool I wish I had much earlier. This is a sharp, pointed tool that makes perfect holes for your denim buttons and rivets. You can also use a hammer and nail, but I think this is a more elegant solution.
  5. Point turner– really helpful when you are trying to make even corners on your waistband.

ZIPPER

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-5

You definitely want to source an all metal denim zipper for your Gingers. Regular zippers are just not strong enough and will inevitably break under their denim burden.

Denim zippers generally come in two gauges – #4.5 and #5. The #4.5 is slightly lighter weight and may also be called a metal pants zipper. I used YKK zippers exclusively so I can’t say if it’s the same with other companies, but the #4.5 may also have a narrower zipper tape. Unless you are sewing with denim over 12oz, you are fine to use the #4.5. I prefer it because the zipper pull is less bulky and the narrower tape makes it easier to line up with your enter front seam when you install the fly front.

THREAD

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-3

I prefer Guterman topstitching thread since they have so many colour options, but any good quality topstitching thread will do. I would get at least 200 yards just to be safe. I’ve seen some great jeans that use two alternating colours for the topstitching, so buy a few hues if you want to personalize your jeans a little more.

You’ll also need a spool of regular thread to match your denim for sewing all the seams. If you are serging your seams, I recommend using a fun colour in your serger. It’s a nice detail that only you can see.

JEANS BUTTONS

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-8

Jeans buttons are a very durable pants closure. You create a hole in your waistband to put the metal post into. You then hammer the button into place. You should be able to find these at your local chain fabric store, but they generally only carry the plastic ones, which are cheap and not meant to last. I highly suggest you get some all metal buttons – I will provide sources further down in the post. Finishes are generally nickel, brass or copper.

RIVETS

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-6

Rivets are awesome. They help strengthen seams at points of stress, and make your handmade jeans look really professional. They are also really fun to install. There are generally two kinds: ring and nipple. Unless you have a rivet press, I would not suggest using nipple rivets. They are hard to install without special equipment. Ring rivets, however, can be installed using nothing but a hammer and cast iron frying pan (as we will see later).

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-7

Depending on where you buy your rivets, the backs will be either a hollow or solid metal post. I prefer the solid posts since they are easier to cut down to match the thickness of your denim. If you are planning on installing rivets you’ll also have to pick up a wire cutter to trim them down.

Ginger Jeans Pattern_Supplies & Denim-9

Most of the sources below are for commercial quality hardware. You can also buy the kits at your local fabric store but I’ve never used them so I don’t how the quality compares.

RIVET AND DENIM BUTTON SOURCES

    • Tailor Taylor – this is a great source for all of your denim making needs; Tailor also carries zippers and topstitching thread. I’ve ordered rivets and buttons here and can vouch for the excellent quality.
    • Cast Bullet – I haven’t personally ordered from this company but I’ve heard great things about the quality. Lots of finish options.
    • Grommet Mart – only for bulk orders but they also carry machines to install rivets and buttons.
    • Thread Theory – They stock two different hardware and zipper kits – I love the colours!
    • M. Recht (AUS) – This company has a great selection of rivets and buttons.
    • Jaycotts (UK) –  Kits only.
    • Minerva Crafts (UK) – Kits only.

If you’d like more help sewing professional looking jeans, consider taking our online video class. The Sew Your Dream Jeans Workshop will give you the tools and techniques to design, sew, and wear your very own custom pair of jeans with confidence.

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  • When I read through the thread section the first thought that popped into my head before I even read the first sentence was “I wonder what type of serger thread I’ll need?” Your comment about a fun color made me smile. I can’t wait to get everything together to sew my trial pair!

  • The last two suppliers sell something similar in the UK. Otherwise you can get them at Joann’s or Amazon. But if you’re going to order over the internet in the US I highly recommend Tailor Taylor.

  • What color Guterman thread are you offering with the kits? I’d like to order the color I didn’t choose with the kit on Wawak but there are too many to choose.

    • Donna

      I’d love to know this info too!

      • I forgot to answer this, sorry! We’re using 448 and 412, but i think they are now back-ordered at Wawak since we cleaned them out 😉

      • I ended up getting 886. It arrived the other day and It’s a nice, dark, rich gold – not bright at all. I’m very happy with the color.

  • AuntyMaimu

    I can get Güntermann thread in a teeny tiny shop for exacly double the price wawak has it. Ouh the fun of living in “Eastern” Europe!

  • Thanks for all these tips !

  • truebias

    most of these cool like doodads are new to me so im excited to go and try and track them all down in the garment district.

  • SmileDog Stitches

    Thanks for the great info! For anyone buying needles at JoAnn Fabrics, they have a coupon in their flyer at the front of the store (I also got one in the mail) for 60% off all notions on Saturday, 11/8. That also includes pins and awls, although I couldn’t find glass head pins in my store.

  • Kristin S

    Is there a certain kind or weight of fusible interfacing you find works best with denim? I always have a tough time figuring out what to use.

    • Interfacing is a pain in the rear! I just used a few different medium weight fusibles I had in my stash. Nothing too stiff since you want it to stay a little soft, especially at the waist. Of ot’s too lightweight it won’t be able to handle the denim.

      • Kristin S

        Thanks… I will have to test what I have on hand, it might be too lightweight… the heavier type, even “medium,” always seems too stiff when I feel it in the store though!

        • If it’s got good stretch you should be okay. It softens up in the wash – denim is coated in sizing!

  • Donna

    Heather Lou, for topstitching do you recommend the denim needles too? Or would topstitching needles work better? Thanks!

    • Hmm, I’ve never used topstitching needles for jeans. If you already have them, it’s worth giving a shot (as long as they are at least size 16). That said, if you’re buying new needles I would get the denim ones since they are designed specifically for this job!

  • mrecht does sell a great selection. How can I tell the difference between rivets and buttons I need a machine to use and ones I can install at home? They don’t call them nipple or ring, and the buttons the difference is in the back? I think?

    • I was proven wrong this weekend – you can install the nipples ones at home! I Saw it done. However, the ring rivets hav e flat profile and the nipple rivets have a ittle circular part that sticks out at the center.

      • Trying to order from them. Taking a stab. Having trouble. Says I need an Australian business number or a student number at a fashion school. I am a student, but since my uni doesn’t do fashion it won’t let me order. Very frustrating.

  • Kathryn

    I don’t know if this is a Canada-only chain, but I’m pretty sure they have them in the States, too. Anyway, Tandy Leather is a great source for rivets. They have all kinds, even ones with little skulls and eagles and such. And, my favourite (only for when I have perfected my jeans making, not for my first attempt) turquoise rivets. Expensive, but beautiful. Really great for a Western touch. They’ll look so amazing on a dark wash. And they have all the setters you’d need for these fancy rivets as well. (Including setters for nipple rivets-I bought one the other day).

    Also, I bought some heavy-duty snaps there to finish a jean jacket the other day and was super frustrated to find they were too long to work. I am amazed that it didn’t occur to me to just cut them down! Excellent tip, thanks.

  • Marsha Lawrence

    Go figure! I end up back here again today, while searching for the elusive hump jumper. Thanks for the lead on where to find it.