Monday, 28 July 2014

Too old to risk a "muffin top"!

Some years ago, I was given three pairs of fashionable jeans. They were fabulous - well, the two pairs that fitted me were - but slightly too close to the hip for comfort. I always felt uncomfortable with the idea that if I sat or bent down, anyone behind me would get a dramatic view of bum-cleavage! It's not a look I particularly like in others, and I'm definitely not happy about sporting it myself. Apart from anything else, I think you can only really get away with things like that when you are a certain age, or have spectacularly expensive underwear. I am way past that certain age (the words "mutton" and "lamb" spring to mind - hope that's not just a British saying), and I've never felt justified to spend a lot on garments that are hidden from view.

So, apart from the odd occasion worn with a long jumper, I seldom wore these fabulous jeans. And it always felt like a waste to wear them with a long jumper - and lose my waist.

First, a confession. The photos in this post are appalling! My apologies for this. I could use all sorts of excuses, but really these photos are worse than is excusable! I share them because I really want to share the process of adapting these jeans - that is the interesting bit, after all. So I give you my poor photos, my apologies and my promise that I will try harder!

First things first - I took off the waistband. Strictly speaking at this point it was a "hip-band", but the process was the same - care and patience with a seam ripper and a pair of scissors, with extra attention to remove the belt loops and logo-tag in one piece. The transition from hip-band to waistband involved some shortening, but I was lucky. The position of the belt loops and the amount I needed to shorten balanced out. When I cut off a section of the hip-band to make it fit my waist, everything still looked even.
I opted to cut from the button end of the band. This meant that I wouldn't have an unsightly seam in the middle of my waistband, that I could match a new button to buttons I would be including in the extension panel, and that any possible lumpiness that might occur in squaring off the new end would be hidden behind the buttonhole! As it worked out, that last concern wasn't an issue, but I've always been cautious.

The next step was to calculate the size of the panel needed to fill the gap. I won't bore you with the maths involved (although do contact me if you want to know the details), but basically I chose to insert a panel which was the size of the hip measurement, and reduce it to the desired waist measurement by inserting darts. The two pieces side by side looked a bit daunting - and that was before I had cut any length off the waistband! It seemed like I would have some massive darts to incorporate.

Actually it worked out okay. For once I was grateful for my almost "straight-up-and-down" figure (I believe the recognised term is "boyish". I have always craved curves). I managed the required reduction with four reasonably sized darts. I positioned two at the back and two at the front, with each dart extending about half way down the extension panel.

There is a salutary lesson here. When I was calculating the positions of these darts, I measured out from the centre point of the fabric. It seemed perfectly sensible at the time. However, when I came to put all the pieces together, the darts weren't quite where I was expecting them to be! After a bit of head-scratching I realised I hadn't taken into account that stitching the first set of darts changed the measurements. My advice would be - measure and stitch your back darts before measuring for the position of the front darts. It wasn't too drastic as the darts are virtually invisible anyway, but they are a little further over than I was expecting!

My next concern was the seam around the top of the original jeans. I try to over-lock as much as I can, for strength as well as neatness. It wasn't until I had unpicked the waistband of the jeans that I discovered just how much of a scrappy unfinished edge is concealed under that top-stitching! My original plan had been to simply stitch my extension panel to the top of the jeans. However, the condition of that edge gave me concerns that the seam wouldn't hold and the jeans would just fray (not to mention being uncomfortable against the skin). I remembered vaguely having sewn an enclosed seam for a pair of trousers, but it was a long time ago and I couldn't remember the technique. Then, as luck would have it, I stumbled across an explanation for French seams. Hurrah! A solution!

French Seams
For those who are familiar with dressmaking, but not with French seams, here's a brief explanation of the technique.
First, (and completely opposite to sewing normal seams when dressmaking) the two pieces of fabric are stitched together wrong sides facing.
To be honest, this concept messed with my head a bit. It goes against everything I've ever done when dressmaking. The reason it feels so awkward is that when the seam has been sewn all the rough edges are on the outside of the garment. I had to pin and check several times before I dared put it under the sewing machine. Even knowing that the seam wasn't yet complete, it just felt incredibly wrong!

The next step is to fold the pieces of fabric over, so that they are right sides together. This makes more sense to dressmakers! Re-pin the seam-line, enclosing all those rough edges.
On finer fabrics, or when the bulkiness of the seam might be an issue, the seam allowance can be trimmed prior to doing this. When this part of the seam has been stitched you are left with a totally enclosed (and very strong!) seam.
Incidentally, you can see in this photo that I applied interfacing to the ends of the extension panel. This is to give added structure where the buttons and buttonholes will be placed.

...And on with the jeans!
Although you would generally trim down the seam allowance I didn't bother, as the finished French seam would later be top-stitched. By using a thread that matched the colour of the original seams, this gives some continuity to the added panel. It begins to look like it has always been there. It also makes the seam very, very strong. Long after these jeans have dissolved and perished, that seam will still be intact!

The final stages were fairly simple. Firstly I reattached the now shortened waistband by pinning it in place and top-stitching it in the matching thread.
The belt loops and logo-tag were a little harder to deal with. Due to the bulkiness of the layers I found that my sewing machine didn't want to feed the fabric loops, so I applied "on-the-spot" zig-zag stitches at each end instead.
The logo tag had such defined stitch holes in it that it seemed a waste not to use them. I hand-stitched the base of the tag into place.

Then it was simply a case of placing buttons and buttonholes in the newly extended front. I included two extra buttons to the extension panel, and matched them with a third on the original waistband. By doing this I managed to avoid having to remove and replace the zip - that's far too daunting for me at the moment! If I ever pluck up courage to tackle changing a jeans zip, I'll let you know how I get on.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank-you for your comments. It's great to hear from fellow crafters.