How to Sew Jeans – Everything You Need to Know

A stack of handmade jeans in all different shades of denim

When I first started sewing my own clothes, I was amazed when I found out that sewing a pair of jeans was a possibility! After I gathered the courage to make my first pair, I was hooked and have made several more pairs since then. In this article I’ll be sharing my favorite tips for making jeans at each step of the process.

I also list some of the top jeans sewing patterns, share some of my favorite places to buy denim fabric and jeans hardware, and talk briefly about what has helped me in fitting a pair of jeans.

Since I first started sewing my handmade wardrobe I’ve made 11 pairs of jeans (!!) and I hadn’t put them all together in a stack until this post! Now, not all of them I would considered successes and some I rarely wear but I learned something through sewing every single pair. Making jeans also inspired one of my bag patterns I designed, the August Tote which has topstitched seams and bartacks like on a pair of jeans. With all of my leftover denim fabric I made a patchwork denim jacket which is a great way to use up scraps!

“The beautiful, priceless, magical thing about learning to sew is that you get to learn…When you push yourself, finally turn that self-defeating voice off and just go for it, the pay-off is enormous.”

– Heather Lou from Closet Core Patterns

It was this article from Closet Core Patterns that gave me the confidence and final motivational push to sew my first pair of jeans!

Out of these 11 pairs of jeans, I’ve made 5 Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans and 6 Daughter Judy Worship Jeans including two pairs of shorts. Throughout this article I’ll be showing steps from making a pair of Worship Jeans in a light wash upcycled denim from Blackbird Fabrics.

Since this is a pretty long article, I’ve organized the main topics and steps into this table of contents (below) so you can easily skip around!

Top Jeans Sewing Patterns

When I did a little research for this post I discovered that there are WAY more jeans sewing patterns than I realized! I’m only going to list the top 14 jeans sewing patterns that I have found because really, it could be a standalone post to list more! I’ve picked these patterns because I see them frequently on Instagram (where I get most of my sewing inspo from) and on a range of different body types.

Also, you will notice that some pattern designers have specific jeans patterns for stretch denim and non-stretch denim if that’s something you want an option for!

How to Choose a jeans pattern?

a folded pair of light wash handmade denim jeans on a table with a hand resting next to them

You may be wondering how am I ever going to pick a pattern? Well I guess my biggest piece of advice is to compare what things you are looking for in a pair a jeans and compare that to the intended fit of the finished jeans. Do you want a relaxed look? A more fitted look? Tapered leg vs. wide leg? Do you want stretch in your jeans or do you want to break in a pair of non-stretch jeans gradually over time?

The pattern will most likely have a description of the finished fit of the jeans and the pictures should be a pretty good representation as well. Also, by looking at the pattern’s product pictures you can get a pretty good idea of what body type they are more geared towards. Instagram is a great place to search the hashtag for the jeans pattern you’re thinking of to get an idea of what it looks like on different bodies!

How to Fit a jeans pattern?

wearing a handmade pair of worship jeans side view

Now, I will not go into detail on how to fit a jeans pattern because I will leave that to the experts. 🙂 My best pants and jeans fitting advice has come from the Top Down Center Out method developed by Ruth Collins and expertly explained in The Crooked Hem’s video series. The Crooked Hem also has a great blog post about fitting a pair of pants (the Coe Trousers) using the Top Down Center Out method and frequently shares excellent comparison posts about her pants sewing adventures.

One tip that I can share from experience, is to treat the first pair you make like a toile (test version). Or actually make a toile! The first pair I made is hardly wearable, but I learned SO much from that first pair and it gave me the confidence to keep making more!

It’s really helpful to make a test pair in your final fabric, but I know that’s not always an option for some. Making a pair of shorts first is a good way to get an idea of the final fit, but without using too much fabric. My first pair I made in an inexpensive denim that I wasn’t worried to make mistakes one. And that’s another thing – don’t be afraid of mistakes! They’re going to happen and really, mistakes can be the best teacher. 🙂

Tools / Supplies

jeans making supplies and tools needed laid out on a table

There are a lot of helpful tools for jeans making that you need and some that you can get by without. I’ve listed below the top tools you will need for making jeans and wrote “optional” next to some that are really useful to have, but not a need.

This page contains some affiliate links to products and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links (at no extra cost to you).

  • Sharp fabric scissors
  • Denim fabric – more on this below
  • Pocketing fabric – a lightweight cotton works best
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat – optional but helpful for smaller pieces
  • Pattern weights – you’ll see in some pictures below that I use tiles
  • Washable fabric marker / chalk
  • Denim / heavy duty needles – 90/14 needle for light and medium-weight denim and a 100/16 for heavyweight denim
  • Topstitching thread – my favorite kind is Gütermann Thread Mara 70 and I’ve made 6 pairs of jeans with one spool (and plenty leftover).
  • Coordinating regular thread
  • Pins and clips
  • Denim zipper (length required for pattern)
  • Hammer – for installing the hardware
  • Jeans button – I like to purchase a jeans hardware kit which has everything you need to make a pair of jeans (with some extra hardware to practice with)
  • Hump jumper – optional but so so helpful!
  • Rivets – optional, but give a professional look (they typically come in a jeans hardware kit anyway)
  • Buttonhole cutter – optional
  • Awl – optional
  • Serger (vs. zigzag stitch) to finish seams – optional

Denim Fabric

several different swatches of different shades of denim fabric laid out on the table

denim fabric weight

It’s best to use the fabric weight that the pattern specifies, but sometimes you want to make a pattern with what’s in your fabric stash – which is totally fine! However, keep in mind that it can affect the pattern’s intended fit outcome and you may need to make fit changes to account for that. The Daughter Judy Worship Jeans was designed with 12oz non-stretch denim in mind, so when I made a pair in 10.5oz slight stretch denim and sized down a size, they still ended up pretty baggy!

Jeans made in a 12oz denim feel pretty stiff at first, but they will mold to your body and break-in beautifully over time. Jeans made in a 10-11oz are typically more comfortable right away, have a shorter break-in time and have a little more give in the fabric.

Non-stretch vs. Stretch denim

There are jeans pattern specifically designed for stretch denim which I would recommend checking out! When you think of stretch jeans you typically think “skin tight” and if that’s the look you’re going for then great! However, you can totally make a pair of jeans in a stretch denim even when the pattern calls for non-stretch – they end up pretty comfortable!

showing the pattern pieces laid out on green selvage denim ready to cut out

How much fabric do I need?

The wider the denim fabric is, the less you’ll need! You can sometimes get away with less than what the pattern recommends, especially if you get creative with cutting it out or cut on a single layer vs. on folded fabric.

Some patterns are designed for selvedge denim, like the Anna Allen Helene Selvedge Jeans, which is significantly narrower in width. The leg pattern pieces are designed to be laid right along the selvedge which usually has a decorative edge. In the photo above, you can see how narrow the fabric is and when I made my green denim Worship Jeans, I ordered a little extra yardage to make sure I would have enough.

If you end up with leftover denim, you could make a patchwork denim jacket like I made with all my scrap denim!

A closeup of a stack of jeans in all shades of denim

Where to Buy denim fabric?

A good quality denim fabric can really make a difference in a handmade pair of jeans! Some of my favorite online shops to buy denim (and jeans making supplies) are listed below!

Prepping the Fabric

Make sure to prewash your fabric. Some sewists (like me) wash on a regular cycle and dry in the dryer while other sewists prefer to soak their denim first and line dry. I suggest reading this article from Blackbird Fabrics on how to care for raw denim before you decide how to prewash your fabric!

I consider ironing a pretty important step and always iron my denim (and any fabric) before started to cut out my pattern. Ironing helps get a nice flat surface to cut out of without fabric wrinkles getting in the way. It also helps the pattern pieces to lay flat and without any waves in the paper and you can place your pattern pieces closer to the edge if it has been nicely ironed first.

cutting out the pattern

the workspace with pattern weights and tools used to cut out jeans pattern

Take some time to figure out your cutting plan. Lay out your pattern pieces on your fabric and play a little bit of Tetris to figure out how to make the most out of your fabric. It’s total preference, but some sewists like to trace their pieces with chalk or fabric marker once figuring out a good layout, while I prefer to cut each piece one at a time.

Cut on single layer to save fabric. I almost always cut out jeans (and any pattern actually) on a single layer of fabric. It saves you so much fabric! Sometimes I will cut the smaller pieces (like pockets, fly pieces, etc.) out on the fold once I know I’m going to have enough fabric.

You can see all the leftover fabric I had in the picture below – enough for a pair of shorts or a bag. I probably could have gotten by with 1 meter of this fabric instead of the 1.5 meters I ordered, but it’s always better to have too much than too little!

all of the leftover fabric left from cutting out a pair of jeans

Cut out bigger pieces first. By cutting out the legs and waistband first, it guarantees you have enough room for those (pretty important) pieces first and then cut out the smaller pieces from the leftover.

Don’t forget to cut out mirrored pieces that need it. One time I forgot to turn the leg pattern piece over before cutting out the second and I ended up with two right back legs (ugh). To help me to remember to cut a mirrored pair, I first cut with the right side of the pattern piece right side up, then turn the pattern piece over to the wrong side right away. This way the notches have already been cut and it’s easier to remember to transfer them.

Scissors vs. rotary cutter? I use both! For the legs and waistband I use fabric scissors (a good sharp pair!) and the smaller pieces it easier and more accurate to use a rotary cutter/cutting mat.

Lay your cut fabric pieces on top of the paper pattern pieces. This way you can remember which piece is which!

the finished cut pattern pieces on stacked up ready to sew together

Before Sewing and Machine Set Up

showing the sewing machine set up with the topstitch thread and regular thread

Thread your machine with regular thread in the bobbin. This was one thing I had no clue about before sewing my first pair! I thought the topstitching thread would be both in the top and the bobbin! Regular thread is in the bobbin the whole time and the pattern will let you know when to switch from regular to topstitching thread in the spool thread.

Test stitching on scrap fabric. Practice topstitching on scrap fabric and through multiple layers to test how your machine handles it. On some steps you may be sewing through up to 6 layers of denim (belt loop step) so it helps to get a feel for that before starting to sew. Figure out what length you want to use for topstitching, your bar tack zig zag length and width, and thread tension.

Double check that all notches and dots are transferred if you haven’t done this already! Use your favorite fabric marking tool – I use a washable fabric marker on lighter fabric and chalk on dark fabric.

Pocket Bags and Front Pockets

Pocketing Fabric

Choose a light to midweight pocketing fabric. I’ve used all kinds of fabric for my pockets (see above) but a lightweight cotton is definitely my favorite and the easiest to work with. Linen is a good option as well, but it is a little harder to work with and can shift out of shape easily.

Pick which side you want to show. In the Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans, the instructions are written so that the right side of your pocket fabric is on the inside of the jeans as an attractive feature. For the Worship Jeans you need to do the opposite of what the instructions say if you want the right side of your fabric facing out (see photo above). If using a fabric with no right or wrong side, then you don’t even need to worry about this . 🙂

sewing The front pockets

Use a hump jumper or thick cardboard at the edge of the coin pocket to help get over those initial thick layers. You can see my fancy piece of cardboard I use but there are actual tools (Amazon link) invented for this purpose. 🙂

showing the finished coin pocket with topstitching and bartacks

Practice bartacks. This will most likely be the first bartack (and topstitching!) you will sew on a jeans pattern so practice and scrap piece to figure out the length of width of your zig zag stitch. I usually use a zig zag stitch with a width of 2 and a length of 0.5 for reference, but this might be different on your machine.

using a lot of pins for the knuckle pocket before sewing

Use a lot of pins for the pocket curve. Especially if using linen as a pocketing fabric – this is where I see the most shifting. Sewing slowly and clipping the curve can help to achieve a smoother finish.

pressing pocket fabric away from jeans leg before turning to the wrong side

Press well. Before turning pocket to the inside of the jeans, press well from right side first and then again on the wrong side to make sure no lining fabric is going to show on the right side of the jeans.

Sew slowly. It’s tricky to get the two lines of topstitching perfect along the pocket curve (also, it doesn’t have to be perfect) but sewing slowly helps!

Front Fly

In the pictures above, the pair of jeans on the right was the first pair I made! You can see that I tried an exposed button fly which is one of 3 front fly options included in the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans pattern – the other two are a button fly with a shield and a zipper fly. Since then, and after I got over my intimidation of zippers, I’ve only ever made jeans with a zipper fly.

The Dawn Jeans has thorough instructions for each type of front fly but I’ve never got quite as clean results as I have on the Daughter Judy Worship Jeans. Some of that could have been from gaining experience, but I also found that I prefer the zipper install method on the Worship Jeans – it’s different than most methods, but intuitive – and that’s the method you will see in my examples below.

denim zipper

showing the jeans hardware kit used for making a pair of jeans

Use a good quality denim zipper. You can source denim zippers from many places, but it’s a good idea to use a good quality one so that there’s less chance of you having to replace them (which I had to do a couple of times now and it’s always nerve wracking). I’ve always used the Kylie and the Machine jeans hardware refill kits – the quality is great and it comes with a YKK denim zipper and extra hardware and jeans button.

showing where to place the zipper to shorten it the simple way

The easiest way I’ve found to shorten a zipper is to simply let the zipper hang out at the top (see above photo). Maybe this is controversial, I have no idea, but it’s worked every time I’ve tried it! You can shorten a zipper from the bottom or cut off the metal teeth at the top with pliers or wire cutters, but when I tried this I’ve damaged the zipper tape and ended up with an unusable zipper.

This way, I leave the zipper sticking out the top and when it comes time to attach the waistband, I sew slowly over the zipper teeth to make sure I don’t damage the needle (you can skip ahead to that part if you’re curious to see). I then simply cut off the excess zipper! Make sure that you’re using a self locking / pin-lock slider so that the zipper “locks” and doesn’t slide down.

Try a narrow zipper foot. I recently picked up a narrower zipper foot than the one that came standard with my machine (the one on the right) and it’s so much easier to get right up close to the zipper teeth!

Front Fly Topstitching

showing how to use the template to trace the fly j-stitch to prepare for topstitching
Using the guide to mark the J stitch curve

Stitch a basting stitch in contrasting thread from the wrong side to use as a guide to follow for the “J” curve topstitching. The Worship Jeans instructs to use the stitch guide included, which totally works too. I’ve tried both ways and I find that by basting first, I’m more confident that I’m catching the fly underneath.

What I’ve also done before, is used a perfectly matching thread to the denim, used a smaller stitch length and just simply left the stitching line in after topstitching. The topstitching line covers it up pretty well and it’s hardly noticeable, unless you’re looking way up close (and most likely, no one is looking that closely 🙂 ).

the finished J shape topstitching on the crotch curve of the jeans

Sew slowly. This is one of the most noticeable topstitching areas on a pair of jeans so take your time! You also might need to manually walk your needle over the bulk right at the end of the curve. This is also very hard to get perfect, so don’t stress if it’s not!

Pull topstitching thread to wrong side. I feel like is personal preference, but if you don’t want thread tails, or backstitching at the end of the crotch curve, pull topstitching thread to wrong side and knot it.

Hammer bulk before sewing bartacks. You’ll be sewing bar tacks through quite a lot of layers, so hammer beforehand can really help!

Yoke

The yoke step is pretty straightforward with really my only advice is to: don’t forget to stay stitch the tops of the yoke pieces, and press well with the iron before topstitching to get it nice and flat.

Back seam

the back pieces of the jeans before sewing together

Sewing the back seam together is also pretty straightforward but getting the seams to line up just right can be tricky. To get a neat join right where the yokes meet, here’s what I do:

Place a pin at about the seam allowance away from the edge, right at the stitch line of the seam, to other side right at that stitch line. I check to see that the pin is just above the yoke seam and finished pinning.

To be honest, sometimes even after doing this, it still looks crooked. After pressing well and topstitching though, it usually lines right up. On this step, it’s more important to have the seams line up at the back crotch and the waistline, but it is pretty satisfying when it does line up. 🙂

showing the finished back seam of the jeans with topstitching

Back Pockets

placing the back pockets on the back of the jeans

Some sewists like to wait and place the pockets on as the last step to get the placement just right for their bodies. And while that’s totally possible, it’s slightly harder to sew them on when the jeans are assembled. I like to trust the pattern designer and place them where they suggest. If you would like to experiment with where you want your back pockets, here’s a great article from Close Core all about back pocket placement.

pinning the back pockets well before topstitching

Press really well when folding in the top and sides of your pocket and use plenty of pins to prevent the pocket from shifting around.

The Worship Jeans back pockets are not identical, so make sure to mark which side should be facing in towards the middle back seam. You don’t have to worry about this if you’re making a jeans pattern with identical pocket pieces.

drawing lines coming from the corners to get neat corners when topstitching the pockets

Draw lines coming from the pocket corners to help you know when to pivot your needle when topstitching (see photo above).

using a hump jumper at the beginning of the pocket before topstitching

Use a hump jumper (or piece of thick cardboard in my case) at the beginning of the pockets when you start the topstitching.

I like to trim the extra fabric at the top of the pockets just to keep it looking neat. You could also start your topstitching at little wider at the top and gradually taper down to 1/4″ distance from the first top of topstitching at the corner.

*This is actually how the Worship Jeans back pocket topstitching is designed, and you can see how it looks in the photo below.

showing the finished back pockets of the worship jeans

Inseam

a view from the side of a sewing machine sewing the inseam of a pair a denim jeans

When sewing my first ever pair of jeans, I basted the inseam (and side seams) so that I could try on the jeans and make any adjustments before sewing the topstitching. This was also helpful in making sure the size that I chose was going to actually fit! However, keep in mind that this can stretch out the seams at the top and potentially cause the waistband to not line up properly.

After I became comfortable with the pattern and nailed down my size, I skipped basting the inseam and waited to try on the jeans after the waistband had been sewn in. It can be hard to wait, but I do notice a difference when installing the waistband and everything lines right up!

I should also add that after learning about and trying the Top Down Center Out method of pants fitting, I don’t even touch the inseam, crotch, or back seam and only make adjustments at the side seams and waistband if needed.

sewing over the crotch seam which sewing the inseam of a pair of jeans

Sew slowly over crotch seam intersection because it can be quite bulky there. I like to reinforce this area with some backstitching just to make it extra secure.

closeup of the finished double topstitching lines on the inseam of a pair of jeans

Press seams well (towards back) and gently pull seams open when topstitching first line of topstitching to make sure it’s nice and flat.

Side Seams

It wasn’t until I made my first pair of Worship Jeans that I learned about a lockstitch tack which is basically several backstitches about the length of a bartack (about 3/8″ long or so). It’s recommended to sew a lockstitch tack instead of a bartack at the bottom of the side seam topstitching because bartacks tend to tear in a vertical position (see photos above).

showing the finished side seam sewn and topstitched on a handmade pair of jeans

You can can baste the side seams and try the jeans on at this point, but like I said on the previous step, this can stretch out the waist and cause the waistband to not fit quite right. In the Worship Jeans instructions, the designer recommends to “avoid trying on at this point and waist until the waistband is on for the best gauge of fit” and even though it’s hard to wait at this point, I can say that it does make a difference!

Some sewists will skip the topstitching step so that it’s easier to make changes to the side seams later without having to remove the topstitching. This is also helpful if you end up needing to let out the waist, or take it in, to fit the waistband. After you’re happy with the fit, it’s easy to add the line of topstitching starting from just under the waistband.

Belt Loops (Part 1)

Before attaching the waistband, the belt loops need to be made and then sewn at the top. I like my belt loops a little narrower than what’s written in the pattern, so I shave off a tiny bit (about 1/4″) when serging one side. This is a great time to use clips to secure the belt loops since it’s pretty impossible to pin them in place!

showing the thread attached between belt loops before trimming threads

To save time when sewing the belt loops in place, I usually don’t cut the thread between loops and instead cut all the threads at the end. Typically the instructions for jeans patterns will have you sew two lines – one at the seam allowance, and another 1″ (2.5 cm) away from the raw edge.

Hammer the top edge of the belt loops before attaching to waistband to help reduce bulk when sewing on the waistband.

Waistband

This is the crucial part of jeans making where you’re so close to the end but you also want to make sure to sew in the waistband correctly and neatly! If I get to this point late at night, I will usually wait until the next day because I’m more likely to make a mistake when I’m tired. 🙂

Straight vs. curved waistband? Different jeans pattern ( or pant/trouser patterns) will have either a straight or curved waistband and one can be more comfortable than the other depending on you preference. Personally I haven’t noticed a huge difference between a curved or straight waistband on me and I’ve made jeans with both types. The Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans has a two piece curved waistband and the Daughter Judy Worship Jeans has a straight waistband piece that gets folded in half. I should also mention that the Worship Jeans was designed with a ‘v’ shape in the front to help that “cut in the gut” feeling when sitting – and I find this to be true on my Worship Jeans!

In my experience I see the main difference when I insert the waistband – I think the straight waistband of the Worship Jeans is easier to sew and make adjustments to. I’ve always run into problems when fitting the curved waistband of the Dawn Jeans and things don’t always line up (I’ve always thought this could be due to something getting off when sewing the zipper in…but I’m not 100% sure).

showing the cut waistband with interfacing behind the button and buttonhole spaces

The first step is to interface the waistband. To interface or not to interface? This is actually an optional step and it depends on how you want the waistband to fit (you will still need interfacing behind where the button and buttonhole will be – see photo above). From what I’ve noticed in the pairs I’ve made, a non-interfaced waistband is softer and more flexible and I find that it fits more comfortably. The pairs I have interfaced the waistband are still comfortable to me, especially after washing and wearing, but the waistband holds its shape a bit better.

It can also depend on the denim fabric! In the light wash pair I made for my example, the denim is really soft and I think interfacing the whole waistband would have helped it to keep its shape. However, when I made a pair of jeans with stretch denim, I wished I hadn’t interfaced the whole waistband because the waist is so stiff compared to the rest of the jeans.

If your zipper was too long and you’ve left it sticking out the top like in my example, now is the time that you’ll shorten it. Sew slowly over the zipper to make sure you’re not hitting the metal zipper teeth with the needle. Then trim off the extra zipper tail by cutting in between the teeth.

Make sure to line up and pin the notches first and then pin (or use clips) in between all around the waistband.

Use a higher stitch count around 14 SPI (stitches per inch) to give better stretch when sewing in the waistband (I sewed mine with a 2mm stitch length). Basting the waistband first is an option if you’re worried about the fit and want to try on the jeans before continuing. Just remember to go over the stitch line again with a smaller stitch length!

Pressing the waistband and seam allowances towards the waistband

Press well! I find that pressing well throughout the waistband steps helps to insure an accurate waistband without unwanted folds. .

The way I like to sew the Worship Jeans waistband in half is a little different than how it’s written in the instructions (it’s similar to the method used for the Dawn Jeans).

Fold the waistband in half right sides together and then sew along the end right in line with the front fly edge. I like to sew from the wrong side so I can really see better where to start and stop. Then clip the corner and turn right side out and poke out the corner with a point turner (see steps in photos above).

showing the finished jeans waistband with the ends sewn together and turned out to the right side

To ensure a flat waistband without wrinkles, I like to press and pin in the same go with the jeans around end of ironing board. I find this step easier to do with a straight waistband. With a curved waistband, it can be difficult to get it to lay straight and lined up just over the previous stitch line.

Hand baste the waistband. I’ve learned the hard way many times that the waistband is easier to topstitch down if I have hand basted it first – at least, it is for me! I use contrasting thread and make long stitches all way around the waistband while lining up the folded edge right along the previous stitch line.

If you dread hand sewing then I’ve also heard of gluing the waistband in place with a regular children’s gluestick (Amazon link) (washable so that it comes right out in the wash). I’m curious to try out this method!

showing the finished topstitched waistband on a pair of handmade jeans

Topstitch the waistband in 4 passes, the long edges first and then the short ends. You may need to hammer the ends of the waistband where the most bulk is, and use a hump jumper to help get you started over the thickness of the layers.

Belt Loops (Part 2)

closeup of the front fly and beltlcops on a folded handmade pair of jeans

I looked everywhere for my pictures for the second part of the belt loops steps and couldn’t find them! At this point in making a pair of jeans, you’re probably used to topstitching and sewing through thick layers – which is pretty much what this step consists of.

Hammer the tops of the belt loops before sewing the bartacks. Again a hammer really comes in handy and really helps to flatten the bulk after turning in the ends of the belt loops.

If your buttonhole foot is pretty long, you may want to leave off the belt loop next to the buttonhole to give yourself plenty of room to sew.

Buttonhole

Traditionally keyhole buttonholes are used for jeans shank buttons, however they can be tricky to sew through thick denim on a home sewing machine. If your automatic buttonhole foot is having a hard time sewing a regular buttonhole, then sewing keyhole buttonhole freehand with a regular foot is an option. I tried a keyhole buttonhole once (see above right photo), on my first pair, and then switched to regular buttonholes after that (my machine handles denim pretty well!).

Megan Nielsen has a great tutorial if you want to give keyhole buttonholes a try!

Practice the buttonhole first on scrap fabric and figure out what stitch length, width, and tension looks best.

Make the buttonhole opening a little longer than the button you’re using. Keep in mind that once you start to sew on the actual waistband the buttonhole foot can act differently than on a scrap piece of denim, and typically my buttonholes end up smaller than on my tests. You may need to sew a little higher than exactly in the middle of the waistband so that your buttonhole foot doesn’t get caught up on the seam allowance bulk underneath.

Cut the buttonhole open with a buttonhole cutter (Amazon link) or seam ripper – just be careful not to cut into any of your stitches! I always used a seam ripper until I found this buttonhole cutter set in my mom’s sewing stash (in photo above) and it was handy to be able to make one cut and not worry about slicing through the ends with a seam ripper.

Jeans Button

showing all the tools needed to instal the jeans button on a handmade pair of jeans

When I made my first pair of jeans, the only thing I had to install the button was a hammer! And an old cutting board to protect the surface I was hammering on. It wasn’t until my third or fourth pair that I finally got a jeans hardware kit and it’s made such a difference in ease of installation. I purchased my Kylie and the Machine Jeans Hardware Kit from Style Maker Fabrics or you can get one direct from their website (they’re based in Australia).

showing a regular button to use in place of a jeans one to check fit

One option is to use a regular button (of a similar size) before committing to the final jeans button. This is a great way to get a feel for how the waistband is fitting and you can wear them around for a day or two before finalizing the button placement.

showing the button marking a little higher than the other on the jeans waistband

When marking the placement for the button, I will almost always place it slightly higher and away from the front fly, instead of where the pattern suggests (see photo above). This helps to compensate for the denim relaxing with wear and helps to prevent gaping at the zipper.

Installing Rivets / Hardware

showing the tools needed to install the rivets on a pair of handmade jeans

Installing rivets is totally optional, but I love the professional look it gives my handmade jeans! Before I had my jeans hardware kit, I had quite the time trying to install them with various tools I found in the garage – like the flat side of a large steel wrench. So I really appreciate the rivet setter and anvil that comes with the jeans hardware and tools kit and it helps the install go much smoother.

I’m not going into detail on how to install jeans hardware, but Kylie and the Machine has a great video tutorial and there is also a tutorial on Megan Nielsen’s blog that walks you through the steps.

You can also can wait to install rivets later in case you want to wash your jeans first or think you may need to make fit changes – especially at the side seams where a rivet typically goes right at the bottom of the front pockets.

Typically rivets aren’t installed on the back pockets because they can damage surfaces you sit on (like couches or seats in cars) especially the kind I use where the rivet is pointed. There are rivets that are flat, like these from Megan Nielsen or Blackbird Fabrics, and that type would work better on back pockets.

the finished handmade jeans laying flat on a table

Hem

I almost forgot this step because I usually skip it! I only have a few pairs of jeans where I’ve hemmed them because I like to leave the hem raw.

If you decide to go with a raw hem, then it’s a good idea to sew a few backstitches or even a bartack a half inch or so above the bottom (see above right photo). This helps to prevent the side seam and inseam from coming undone with wear.

final Thoughts

holding a stack of handmade jeans in all different denim fabric colors

I will usually wash my jeans and wear them for a whole day, or two, before making any changes so that I get a good idea of how the denim relaxes throughout the day. I don’t treat my handmade jeans too special and I wash and dry my jeans along with all my other clothes (I use a mild detergent and gentle cycle anyway).

And I wear them! Sometimes the fit is pretty snug at first, but wearing them or going for a walk helps to break them in and soften up the denim, especially my heavier weight (12oz) denim pairs.

And those are the steps to making your own handmade jeans!! I sincerely hope that all this information was helpful or inspires you to try sewing your own jeans – that would just make my day!

Thank you so much for reading and happy sewing!

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6 thoughts on “How to Sew Jeans – Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Thank you for going into detail about making jeans! It’s something I’ve always wanted to make, but thought it was beyond my skills or I’d need to spend a small fortune on a jeans workshop class. Reading your blogpost, I realise I have done many of these techniques on other projects, and I can practice the ones I’m less familiar with. I’m excited to try this soon!

    1. Bethany Lynne

      Hi Madeleine,

      I’m so happy to hear that reading my post has given you some inspiration to make your own jeans! You can do it! Happy Sewing 🙂

      – Bethany

  2. This post is brilliant! Thank you for taking the time to do this, I’m sewing my first pair of Dawn jeans and this was so helpful. I love all your pairs, now I want to make loads in different colours 😀

    1. Thank you so much! I’m happy to hear that this article was helpful when sewing your first pair of jeans – Hooray! 🙂

      – Bethany

  3. This is such a thorough and helpful article! I was wondering if you switch out your topstitching thread for regular thread every time you do a seam or do you just do seaming with topstitching and bobbin with regular thread combo? Thank you! Love your scrunchie tutorial too.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      I’m happy to hear you like the article! Great question – When I do the seams, I switch out the top thread for regular thread and then switch back to topstitching thread for topstitching. I have my topstitching thread ready to go on a second thread holder so that it doesn’t take too long to switch it out (you can see a photo of my setup at the beginning of the “Before Sewing and Machine Set Up” section). Hope that helps!
      – Bethany

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