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.
- 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.
- Glass Head Pins – you will do a lot of pinning with Ginger and it helps to have pins you can iron over without fear.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shears – nice and sharp to prevent fraying!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Point turner– really helpful when you are trying to make even corners on your waistband.
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.
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 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 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).
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.
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.
For a more indepth and easy to read jeans-making course, try our Sewing Your Own Jeans ebook: