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12 Things I Learned While Sewing My First Denim Projects



Hello again, friends! Today, I have a post for you on a topic that strikes fear in the hearts of many sewists. (Cue scary music haha) The funny thing is, there’s nothing scary about denim at all. It’s a fabric many of us practically live in and it isn’t difficult to sew! It is just cotton, after all. The fiber most of us start with, and often turn back to for a break, due to its easy handling.

That said, it does have its quirks, so I thought I’d share the notes I took while working with it for the first time.

  1. The thickness and strength of the weave of denim can make it difficult to cut. Use high-quality sharp scissors (I like Kai) or a new blade in your rotary cutter.
  2. It’s very easy and stable to sew.
  3. But, it’s bulky, which can shift under the foot. Use Wash-away Wonder Tape for basting and a hump jumper when the seams are uneven. (Including while sewing on the pockets. Your machine will thank you.)
  4. Clips are your friend, since pinning through the bulk can be tricky, and you can use them sparingly.
  5. Use the aforementioned Wonder Tape and baste back pockets on with the dart laid over a ham.
  6. Pockets (particularly lined pockets) can shift and stretch, so always double-check symmetry before stitching down.
  7. To prep for fly buttonholes (if applicable), grade as suggested, steam, and while the seam allowances are still warm, hammer them flat (preferably with a soft-face hammer to avoid marring).
  8. When sewing the buttonholes, use stabilizer under the fly while stitching to help fabric move more easily, lower your foot’s pressure, stitch slowly, and if your machine has a one-step buttonhole foot, watch out for anything that may trigger the sensor and cause it to reverse prematurely.
  9. Fray-check buttonholes on both sides, before and after cutting, to help minimize wear-and-tear.
  10. If sewing jeans/shorts, do not skip the baste fitting. Denim can vary quite a bit, even among the same weight, so be sure you like how the pattern fits in your particular denim before finishing the project.
  11. Even if you’ve opted not to interface your waistband, make sure you apply interfacing to any areas that will have buttons or buttonholes to increase strength and help eliminate distortion.
  12. If using tack buttons (no-sew denim buttons), be sure to trim the tack with wire cutters before installing. This wasn’t listed on the package for my bronze buttons, but if the tack is too long, it can bend or even break through the front of the button.
  13. Bonus tip: you can muslin your denim project with muslin, rather than cutting right into your fashion fabric. However, tip 10 is essential if you’re using stretch denim! You’ll likely need to take in a little here and there to account for the added stretch.
I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have finally tackled denim and how excited I am about continuing to work with it. I tested both stretch and bull denim on these shorts and they were both easy to work with. And now that’s a whole new category of ready-to-wear I can avoid, if I choose! The more fabrics we conquer, the closest to an entirely handmade wardrobe we can get! (If that’s your goal.) In fact, both outfits in this post are entirely made by me and both garments in my second outfit are made from Cali Fabrics! They weren’t bought together, but the coral shorts just seemed to be calling out for a navy tank. Don’t you think they work well together? Cali always has a great selection of rayon challis, so be sure to check those out when you’re browsing the denim!

Let me know below how your next denim project goes or if you have any tips of your own to add!

Happy sewing! x

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