(If you want to see the finished jeans, scroll to the bottom of this post…otherwise, grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a deep dive into the details! :) )
I love making jeans. They’re surprisingly easier to make than they seem, and having a custom fit pair of pants that I can wear nearly every day is the ultimate sewing win, if you ask me.
But I am very particular about my pants (which is probably also why I like making them). They need to fit just so, hug the butt, flatter the butt…basically, it’s all about the BUTT. And thighs. Those areas have always been a challenge to fit, comfortably (I know I’m not alone. Solidarity, y’all).
And I like a modern fit, in a stretch denim, so that it conforms to the shape of my curves. None of this “Mom Jeans” business. I’m not cool enough for the mom jeans trend. And rigid denim? Forget it.
So when Megan Nielsen launched the Dawn Jeans, and everyone was raving about finally finding a “Mom Jeans” pattern (huh?)…for rigid denim (ha!), I said to myself…I said:
“Those won’t work for my body. THOSE MOM JEANS WILL LOOK TOO FRUMPY ON ME. I need stretch.”
Then I started seeing some seriously great Dawn Jeans on Instagram that did not look like MJs. They were getting a lot of hype around the amazing fit. Even still, I said, get this, I said:
“But not on MY body. THOSE BODIES are fit and they are wearing straight sizes.”
AND THEN…people. Sophie of @adaspragg made the most gorgeous Dawn Jeans from a pair of thrifted XL men’s jeans, and I finally said:
“Let me try those Dawn Jeans and see what the hype is all about…”
I’d been wanting to make a pair of worn-in, light wash jeans, and this type of project was right up my alley (I type that as if I was on board the whole time, don’t I?). So I bought the pattern, and carried my mom-jeans-skeptic-self to the thrift store to hunt for a pair of sand-washed jeans. Most of the women’s jeans were in stretchy fabrics with too much worn “detailing” and there were very few that were large enough that also had the right pockets and other jeans pieces to reuse.
Oh! And I also measured my jeans pattern across the crotch/hip/widest part to get an idea of what size I’d need in the thrifted pair—I was whipping out my measuring tape at the thrift store to check the pants.
MY THRIFT STORE SCORE FOR THE JEANS REMIX
I lucked out and found a selection of men’s jeans and ended up purchasing a Size 44 Wranglers with enough wear to get that worn, vintage feel while still being in relatively good condition. I also liked the size of the back pockets—they were on the larger side, and in my experience a larger pocket is more flattering and supportive of my bum. They were a reasonable $3.19—a sound investment for a fun project!
DECONSTRUCTING THE WRANGLERS
Once I got home, I laundered the jeans and unpicked all the seams, trying to preserve as many of the original pieces as possible. One cool thing was that the jeans were mostly constructed using a chain stitch that, if unpicked in the right spot, could be therapeutically pulled out in it’s entirety fairly easily! That was fun!
I also removed most of the rivets from the pockets, which was, honestly, a total pain in the ass. Those suckers seemed to be welded together! So I had to use an X-acto knife to very carefully slice the fabric JUST enough to pull the rivet through. Then I just made tiny patches for the holes using scrap fabric and fusible tape.
With all the pieces separated and ironed flat, I started cutting the pattern. All I had to cut new were the legs (I also had to trim the original yokes and pocket facings a little). All of the other parts of the jeans were in good condition to be re-purposed in my new pair.
I really wanted to maintain as much of the worn details of the seams as possible. I struggled a bit when positioning the front because I wanted to use the worn part of the fly, but just couldn’t make the pattern piece work for that without compromising the grainline or the overall alignment of the hem and side seams.
Below is where the pattern landed on the front. You’ll also notice that the length of the jeans didn’t reach the bottom of the pattern. But it did reach the “regular” length, unhemmed, and I planned to make them cropped and frayed anyway! As a tall person, I’m always a little anxious about the length of my limbs—blame it on my middle school growth spurt and my perpetually high-water pants in that season of life…
MY DAWN JEANS SIZE
I’m 30” in the waist and 44” in the hips, so that landed me in the size 12 waist and 16 hips for this pattern. I’ve become accustomed to grading between sizes, but checked the sewalong on Megan Nielsen’s blog to see if there were any tricks to this amazing fit everyone was raving about. Nope. No tricks, just smooth the curve between sizes! And one thing I noticed was that my curve was very smooth—usually when I grade between sizes there is a lot of trial and error (especially in the basted fitting stage) and my curve is more drastic. It was already apparent that this pattern was different than others I’d made…
DETAILS + PIECING CONSIDERATIONS
When it came to cutting my pieces, I used my traced pattern (I always trace onto translucent trace paper, FYI) to map out where the existing pockets should fall. I really, REALLY didn’t want to have to reposition them. And I want to give a virtual high-five to MN for the proposed pocket placement on her back leg pattern piece. It took a lot of guesswork out of positioning the pattern on the jeans to get optimal pocket placement, while also maintaining some of the seam wear detailing on the legs. After aligning and tracing the pattern onto one side, I marked on the pattern where the original pocket landed and used that to trace the other side so that the pockets were symmetrical.
The yoke of the original jeans was about 3/8” too narrow on the widest part, but I just went with it. Sewing it all together, it didn’t seem to be a detriment to the overall fit at all.
POCKET STAYS INSTEAD OF DAWN FRONT POCKETS
I decided to create pocket stays like my Ginger Jeans instead of the pockets in the Dawn pattern. Lauren Taylor of Ladybird did a pretty thorough review on her Dawn jeans and mentioned that the pocket bags of the Dawn pattern were a bit too big for her liking.
Plus I just love a good pocket stay—it really flattens the tummy and makes everything feel so secure. And the pockets are always nice and flat—no bunched up pockets. I used my Ginger pocket stay as a guide, laying the legs of each pattern on top of one another to gauge where the pocket stay would fall with the higher rise of the Dawn jeans (my pocket stay ended up being about an inch taller for Dawn).
I constructed the pockets BEFORE the zip fly (MN instructs to construct the fly first) because the pocket stay is attached to the fly area. After the pockets were finished I followed the Dawn pattern instructions in normal sequence. I used some leftover rayon linen-look fabric from D&H Fabrics and Co. for the pocket stays (i love this fabric so much and have been squeezing every project I can out of my scraps leftover from a woven shirt I am making into a sewing pattern!).
Here’s my one critique of this pattern: the zip was kind of awkward to construct. I’m happy with the end result, and the instructions are clear, but it definitely took me a little time to get it right. The Ginger jeans have an integrated fly that comes together rather easily, and the Dawn jeans have a separate piece that is sewn on to the fly, so it threw me a bit. Getting everything lined up in the right place while securing the zip gave me a touch of anxiety, but in the end it was just fine! Always good to stretch my brain a little—nothing wrong with a little problem-solving therapy!
The nice thing about sewing jeans is that all the complicated construction happens in the beginning, so once the pockets and fly are finished, the rest is a relative breeze. I basted these jeans together to test the fit (the whole time, mentally preparing myself for the inevitable trial and error of perfecting the fit).
AND THESE DAMN JEANS FIT ME ON THE FIRST TRY—LIKE A GLOVE…LIKE A SOFT, COMFORTING, SAND-WASHED GLOVE. I did not want to take them off.
I turned around to check my butt in the mirror. I was floored by how well they cupped and supported my butt. Non-stretch jeans that fit and were comfortable. I couldn’t believe it.
I had to unpick all the basted seams so that I could re-sew and finish the seams appropriately, but I was so enthused to finish these jeans! The only adjustment I made was a tiny crotch curve adjustment (about 1/4” scoop to make more room in the curve, which is an easy fix) to resolve a tiny bit of camel toe. Also—I apparently have a crotch prone to camel toe (sorry, TMI?) because I have to make this adjustment in all my pants.
I re-used the original waistband, zipper, and belt loops as-is. However, I really should have modified the waistband to be more like the curved waistband in the Dawn pattern. I do have a little gapping at the back and I might modify it later if it drives me crazy enough!
I also cropped the length and did a hi-lo hem (because I’ve seen it on Pinterest and that’s how I know things are “fashionable”). Then I roughed up the edges a little, see below!
For all of the topstitching I used Gutterman topstitch thread in color #520 (trying to match the original thread. I also ordered Gutterman Mara 70 in color #868—which is a nearly identical match—per the recommendation of Ladybird, but got too impatient to wait for it to arrive and ended up not using it (but apparently it’s great! Will definitely use on my next pair of jeans!).
Then I put the jeans on and took a bunch of pictures!
My final verdict? THE HYPE IS REAL! Megan Nielsen has created a great, vintage-inspired, NOT MOM JEANS pattern that fits like a glove! It should be noted that these are not your typical skin-tight jeans—they are very well-fitted to the body but resemble more of a relaxed fit weekend jean. I’m excited to see how they wear over time!
I’m so happy with the detailing as a result of making these from another pair of jeans, too. I love that it’s apparent that these have had more than one life!
These jeans don’t fit my idea of mom jeans (saying this, once more, because this was a serious sticking point for me before I bought the pattern). They aren’t baggy in the crotch. They don’t make my rear end look twice as long. They really remind me more of 90s girlfriend jeans. So that’s what I will call these: My 90s Girlfriend-High-Rise-Sand-Washed Jeans.
Men’s thrifted Wranglers, size 44/30: $3.19
Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans PDF Sewing Pattern: $17.48 USD ($24 AUD)
Gutterman topstitch thread: ~$4.00
TOTAL: ~$24.67 (hey, NOT BAD!)
I also made myself the vintage-inspired linen jersey t-shirts that I’m wearing with my vintage-inspired Dawn Jeans. The t-shirt fabric came from Mr. Green’s Eco FriendlyR on Etsy and I friggin’ love it. I managed to engineer my pattern piece layout enough to have some leftover for not-yet-decided-on shirt projects in the future. And I used a mash-up of the Nikko Top body and sleeves with a Tabor V-neck neck opening for the shirt pattern (I made some long sleeve shirts like this last winter and I wear them CONSTANTLY). I have hacked both patterns so many times I can’t even count them. Love them both!
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST…
I’m posting this on the first day of May, and recently learned about #MeMadeMay. At first, I was like, “what’s all this hype about #memademay?!”. But then decided to challenge myself to refashion more thrift store finds during May, instead of just loading up on more fabric! Which seems appropriate, coming off the heels of Fashion Revolution Week. So that is how I will spend some of my time this month. This project was so much fun, and I think it will not feel like a total drag to commit to this challenge (plus, I really want to go back to the thrift store, anyway!).
HAPPY MAY, Y’ALL!