cutting denim to avoid leg twist


And heeeeeere we go! It’s finally time to get cracking on our Ginger Jeans. First things first, you’ll want to print out your pattern and assemble it. If you’d like help doing that you can check out my pdf printing guide. I highly suggest you cut your sheets with an exacto knife and a ruler – it shouldn’t take long at all. Remember that you only need to cut the right and bottom edge, since you want an edge to glue or tape your pieces to. Please note that I have organized the pattern so that everything fits on two columns of paper, two sheets wide. You don’t need to glue or tape along the centre seam since there is nothing dissecting that line – should make the process much faster to assemble!

To figure out your size, take a look at the sizing chart. The Ginger jeans have approximately 1″ negative ease in the hip, and I would say that the fit is somewhat generous in the bum and thigh, but quite snug around the calf for version 2. If you are in between hip sizes, you shouldn’t have a problem simply going down a size unless your denim isn’t very stretchy. Be mindful of the waist – I would not suggest going down a size here. It occurs to me that despite my exhaustive prep for this sewalong I haven’t prepared any photos for grading between sizes. Just keep in mind that the widest part of the hip is at the crotch pivot point if you need a reference for grading.

If you’d like to make the stovepipe leg skinnier for View A, rather than printing both versions and tracing the leg shape, check out Betsy’s post on properly drafting a  skinny leg. Basically you want to take an equal amount off of all seams. Taking approximately 1/2″ off each seam, grading to just above the knee should give you the desired effect.


If you are of the large booty-ed variety, you know the importance of a large back pocket. Nothing drives me more insane than cheap jeans with tiny back pockets, which is a result of clothing manufacturers trying to save fabric. The original Ginger draft I sent for testing had a larger than normal pocket (about 1/2″ wider to be precise). Some of my testers found it too big so I returned to a more standard pocket size. Personally, I think my butt looks better with a slightly oversized pocket because I am pretty gifted in the caboose department. So, if you have a glorious behind like me and would prefer to use a larger back pocket, you can download the original back pocket pieces here.


Before we get started, make sure you have washed and ironed your denim (see the post on sourcing denim if you need more advice on how to care for your fabric). Once you have your pattern pieces cut out and ready to go, it’s time to start a cuttin’.

I highly suggest taking the time to cut your leg pieces on a single layer of denim. It’s less critical for the smaller pieces, but it really helps avoid leg twist. If you’ve never bought a pair of jeans that twist around your calve, consider yourself lucky. It’s a pretty common issue with twill, since the fabric wants to pull in the direction of the weave (unless you are sewing with broken twill, as we discussed). To help prevent leg twist, the best way to layout your pieces is front leg, back leg, front leg turned 180 degrees, back leg turned 180 degrees (make sure these last two are also flipped wrong side up so you’re not cutting the same leg twice!) There is a complicated technical reason for this you can read about here, but suffice to say, I have not had a single issue with leg twisting since implementing this style of cutting.

It is really hard to visually spot the grainline on denim since the weave is diagonal. I’ve found the simplest way to find the grainline is to use a quilting ruler and line up my selvedge and the grainline on the pattern piece.

cutting denim to prevent leg twist

finding denim grainline

Hold your pattern down with some weights or soup cans or whatever you have, and trace around the front and back leg pieces with some tailors chalk or a Clover Chaco Pen (I will never stop raving about how amazing this tool is, especially for pattern tracing!) I extend the notches onto the outside denim so I know where to cut later. Make sure you note any other construction markings like so:

marking notches

Once you have your first front and back leg traced, start on the other side of the denim and line up your pieces again, this time turned 180 degrees and flipped upside down. Depending on your size and the width of the denim you may be able to squeeze these all in next to each other. I use a yardstick and a pen to trace the grainline on a hard surface. When you turn it wrong side up you should be able to see the grainline depression on your paper.

cutting denim to avoid leg twist

Once all four pieces are traced, you can cut out your legs with rotary cutters or scissors – make sure you clip 1/4″ into each notch.

With your legs cut out, use the leftover denim to cut your remaining pieces. Facings and pockets can be cut on doubled fabric if you’d prefer to just weigh them down and zip around with a rotary cutter. The waistband should be cut on the fold – ignore what it looks like below because I updated the pattern piece after shooting this. Remember you only have to cut one each of the fly shield and coin pocket.

cutting denim


Traditional wisdom says that the lengthwise grain is the most stable and thus the best option for waistbands. I’ve come to disagree after reading this excellent post on Fashion Incubator. Basically, denim shrinks more on the lengthwise grain, so it is better to cut it on the crosswise. If you’re stabilizing it with fusible, it doesn’t make that much difference in the end. Cutting it on the fold ensures your waistband will shrink at the same rate as your legs (which shouldn’t really shrink at all if you’re washing them in cold water and avoiding the dryer, ahem).

I’ve always been finicky about how waistbands feel in jeans, so I’ve experimented with a few options. If you want something soft and non binding, use two layers of denim and don’t stabilize. If you want something that will hold it’s shape and stay put over the course of the day, stabilize with a medium weight fusible and use lining or denim for your facing. If you want something in between, don’t stabilize at all and use a non-stretch cotton lining. This is my preferred choice for the high-waisted version where I want a little stability but don’t want anything really digging into my tummy when I sit down.


You can use any non-stretch, lightweight fabric you want for your pocket lining (and waistband facing if you are going that route). This is the perfect time to pull out your scrap bag and have fun with colour and texture.


For your fusible interfacing, use something medium weight. I always just use whatever I have in my stash; as long as it’s not too lightweight it will do the trick. Since the point of the interfacing here is to prevent stretching, you don’t need a knit fusible interfacing.

Once you’ve cut your interfacing, let’s take a little time and apply it to your pieces now. Apply the long strips of interfacing to the top edges of your coin and back pockets, and your waistband if you are interfacing it.

applying fusible interfacing to pockets

We will also press our pocket edges so we are ready to go when it’s time to sew them. Using a seam gauge or ruler. press the top edges of your pocket down 3/4″. Press the raw edge under about 1/4″.

assembling pockets

assembling pockets

Attach the crotch extension interfacing to each front leg. Ensure your mark for the crotch pivot point is visible on each side.

stabilizing fly extension

And that’s it for today! All your pieces are now cut and ready to be assembled.

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.

Sew Your Dream Jeans: ultimate online sewing class to teach you to sew jeans


  • Heads up for anyone looking for inexpensive denim for a muslin, a friend
    alerted me that has denim on sale until Monday
    for only $3.95/yard. (I may have just ordered denim for 3 more pairs of
    jeans, fingers crossed that the quality is ok, but for the price I
    couldn’t pass it up (and it looks like they have a 30 day return policy
    just in case). Just thought I’d share =)

    • SmileDog Stitches


  • Regarding stabilizing: after a year, I have been cracking my jeans open and adding stabilizer in the waistband. and pondering it for the yoke. It was so saaaaaggggggy and crumpled. I’m not putting anything super stiff in, just a little structure that doesn’t soften up the way the denim does. And who doesn’t want some soft denim?

    • AuntyMaimu

      I lined my yokes with stretch cotton shirting on the last two pairs of Gingers I made. I used the same shirting for my pocket bags as well. The yokes def feel sturdier but not in a stiff way.

  • SmileDog Stitches

    Heather, here’s a total pants/jeans beginner question. I’m making view A but I like the tighter ankle of view B. It is tighter right? How high up should I start to taper and about how much? Thanks!

    • It starts to narrow above the knee. Just lay the skinnier leg over the wider (align at the knee mark) and take in an equal amount on each side of the leg.

      • SmileDog Stitches


  • Anna

    Just curious, why interface the pockets? Jeans end up with a lot of heavy layers on the pocket corners and adding interfacing seems unnecessary. Unless you plan to put a whole lot of stuff in your pockets I wouldn’t think they’d stretch out

    • They totally stretch out, particularly lightweight denims. When I started working on the pattern I didn’t interface the tops of the back pockets, and they got very distorted with topstitching. The back pocket top ended up getting stretched out and looked terrible. If you use a medium weight interfacing it will have no impact whatsoever on being able to stitch through the multiple layers and it just helps stabilize an area that takes a abuse (hands, keys etc.)

  • Question–I’m using 45″ denim, but it doesn’t seem like the size 18 waistband fits as indicated on the cutting layout? What would you suggest?

    • First of all, happy new year! Second of all, cut it on the lengthwise grain or add 5/8″ and have a CB seam. Hope that helps!

      • Okay good, I was thinking of just seaming it but wasn’t sure if that would somehow cause a problem.

        New year, new jeans! 🙂 And happy new year to you to! So excited to see what comes out of your brilliant mind in 2015!

  • Biz Miller

    Hi there, getting ready to make my Gingers& I want to make view B with the high waist but with a straighter stovepipe-y leg. I’m going to answer my own question and say I should add 1/2″ to the side seams at the hem and grade to nothing just above the knee (like the reverse of what you said to make the stove pipes skinny). But since I CAN ask the patternmaker herself, I WILL ( and see what you say///)

  • Lisa Scheunemann

    I am not finding the information anywhere whether or notthe seam allowance is included in the pattern or not? How much should I use? Can’t wait to start cutting and sewing! 🙂

    • Hi Lisa.The seam allowance is included – it’s 5/8″!

  • Caroline

    Hi Heather! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! Trying to avoid leg twisting for my next pair of jeans =) In the article by Fashion Incubator they show a cutting layout with back leg, back leg 180, front leg, front leg 180. You recommend cutting front leg, back leg, front leg 180, back leg 180. How come you’ve decided to do a different layout?

    • I don’t think it matters too much here. As long as you are alternating the direction of each leg you should be fine.

      • Caroline

        Ok, great! Thank you so much! =)

    • Laura Abarbanell

      They don’t mirror the leg pieces in that article either, unless I’ve gone crazy.. Judging by Heather’s pictures though, she is flipping the first back peace 180. The article says not to sew together pieces from first and fourth quadrant, and looking at Heather’s pics she has that particular order, i.e. right front and right back are in 1st and 4th quadrant respectively. I had to cut out mini pattern pieces to visualize this better 🙂 I’m still confused, my second denim order is on its way, so I’m going to give this another try soon. I feel like words and pictures in FI article and here are all mis-aligned a little bit, so I basically have four lay out options. I think I will go with this:180 left front, right front, 180 left back, right back. This way first piece goes with third, and second – with fourth. In my first attempt I put right front and back right next to each other (crotch point facing), and jesns do have a twist. So it’s not only about flipping 180, but also about alternating between left and right pieces. I’m sure this was covered already before, but maybe this overview can help folks who were as confused as I 🙂 I will definitely follow up once I’m done with my second, hopefully twist-less pair 🙂

      Heather, thanks so much for the sewalong!!!