Working With Selvedge Denim

Hi Readers!

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I’ve been on the quest for the perfect [for me] me-made 1940’s jeans.  I haven’t quite hit my self-appointed mark, but I’m getting close!  For these jeans, I used a 1940’s wide leg trouser pattern (Simplicity 3688) and altered it to add pockets and a side button opening as well as a ton of contrast top-stitching.

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I used the Robert Kaufman indigo selvedge denim which has red, blue and white on the selvedge.  Cali Fabrics always has a lot of selvedge denim in stock, so I all I had to do was pick some out!  Selvedge denim is a heavyweight non-stretch denim with a narrow (30-31″) width.  The most fun is finding ways to show the cool striped selvedge on the outside, or tiny peeks of it like in my pocket below.

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What I really wanted to showcase with selvedge jeans was at the cuffs.  I made sure to cut the denim with the selvedge on the outside pant seam and give myself enough length to cuff them.

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The inner leg doesn’t have the selvedge edge, so I serged each side of the seam.  I’ve also seen sewists use colored serger thread to mimic selvedge denim.

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I drafted the pockets as they aren’t included in the pattern and top-stitched the pocket outline for a classic retro look.  I first basted the pockets on the inside so I could easily follow that outline with my top-stitching thread.

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The most difficult part of sewing with selvedge denim is choosing a pattern.  Most jean patterns that I’ve looked at require stretch denim and as this denim is non-stretch, I chose a trouser pattern instead.  I had previously sewn this pattern, so I was aware how it fit.  It has really wide legs, which is accentuated by the stiff denim.

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Selvedge denim has a narrow width, so you may have to purchase more of it make your pattern.  I measured out pattern pieces prior to ordering to ensure that I had enough to make these jeans and it took about 4 1/2 yards.  Granted, these jeans have very wide legs, so perhaps you could fit your pant pattern on a smaller piece of yardage.

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It was really nice to sew with this denim, which left me wanting to sew more! I just used regular (Gutermann) polyester thread and a jeans needle (Schmetz).  I prewashed this fabric before sewing and didn’t have any of the dye rub off on me while I sewed.

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I think it would be cool to make an unlined blazer with selvedge denim.  Instead of sewing bias tape to the seams, you could cut the pattern pieces where the selvedge will be on the edge of the seams.  Can you think of other ways to show the selvedge off?

5 thoughts on “Working With Selvedge Denim

  1. shoes15 says:

    Love these! I made jeans out of Simplicity 3688 too. I had no idea how to do side pockets though (I did patch pockets in the back). Do you think you could provide more detail about how to add pockets?

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    • Tanya says:

      Thanks! It’s such a great pattern, isn’t it? The pockets are the same kind of method as jeans like the Closet Case Ginger or the Cashmerette Ames – just a lot bigger and with a slant pocket. There’s a back piece of denim with a pocket bag that I drafted and I just folded down the front pant piece to make the opening.

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  2. Jennifer says:

    These look so, so great!! I love the extra details you added (and that pocket lining!). Thanks for noting the lack of transfer – that’s been the main thing holding me back from giving indigo denim a try. As much as my rtw jeans still transfer, even after multiple washes, I assumed I’d look like a smurf if I ever tried making some haha

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    • Tanya says:

      Thanks! It’s nice to have sneak peek of cool fabric! I was surprised how this Kaufman selvedge denim doesn’t transfer dye. It must be prewashed before it came to me. The last pair of jeans I made turned my hands blue, even though I prewashed the denim before I sewed it.

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