Pants / Sewing

Wrestling Match: Corduroy vs. Heavy Weight Thread

First off, an apology to my e-mail subscribers. Last week I had a stupid moment & accidentally hit ‘publish’ instead of ‘save’. Here’s the full post with pictures- you didn’t want that picture-less post anyway!


Corduroy is a beast. And I am crazy. Jean mania took me over. Like with my recent spinning obsession, a month ago I could not stop sewing until I had finished my first pair of jeans. I’m not sure why I was so dead set on this- I had made trousers & bike capris before, but somehow jeans became some fantasy mountain of a sewing project that I needed to climb ASAP.

Sitting on the surprisingly comfy rope benches in the Jeanne Gang exhibit at the Art Institute. Also, black corduroy is a black hole & doesn't photograph well at all.

Sitting on the surprisingly comfy rope benches in the Jeanne Gang exhibit at the Art Institute. Also, black corduroy is a black hole & doesn’t photograph well at all.

I took the Jean-ius class taught by Kenneth King on Craftsy, which guides you through copying a favorite pair of jeans. I copied a truly amazing pair that has stayed with me since junior high, even as my waistline has expanded & contracted by a good +/- five inches . This makes me think that spandex should be classified as a super material.

Despite Kenneth’s wonderful instruction, my garment copying skills weren’t up to snuff & I had to make three different muslins before the fit was just right. I’m so glad I persevered. My last muslin fit every single curve, although perhaps a little too tightly.

Fresh off a successful muslin high (never enjoyed making muslins before), I dove into sewing my jeans. I was convinced these would be the most amazing pair of jeans ever & that I would want to keep them for the rest of my life. I was also convinced that they’d be a breeze to make. My three muslins had after all been super-de-dooper quick to cut & sew. Sigh, you think I would have learned by now.

Here you can see I cinched in the back on my Sorbetto, just like I did for my second one, although this one ties with bias tape I sewed close.  Com to think of it, I think this was the first shirt I made from a pattern.

Here you can see I cinched in the back on my Sorbetto, just like I did for my second one, although this one ties with bias tape I sewed close. Come to think of it, I think this was the first shirt I made from a pattern.

Corduroy sheds like a mofo. Bits of pile went flying whenever the fabric met with a needle or scissors. To top it off I was using heavy duty thread. There wasn’t any black jean thread at my local fabric store, but the heavy duty thread was right underneath it, made of the same materials & looked to be the same weight. Overkill.

The main problem though were the bits of fluff that flew where I couldn’t see- right into my sewing machine & right into my serger. Oi yoi yoi yoi yoiii. It took me far too long to realize why the stitches that had started out fine became a horrible, knotted, bird nest on the underside of my fabric. The heavy thread made the nests build up bigger & faster until they were so big they would get caught under the needle plate & the fabric couldn’t move forward. I took that needle plate off a few times before it dawned on me to give the machine’s innards a thorough scrub down. What I found under the bobbin holder was a shocking build up of lint. I can sew a project every week for a month & see no more than a light dusting of lint beneath my bobbin. This looked like two years worth of lint. Swabbing it out made things run much more smoothly, but it wasn’t long before the bird nests of thread started building up again & I needed to re-clean the damn bobbin case. Strangely enough the rest of the machine only needed one regular cleaning.

The whopping amount of lint that built up beneath my bobbin before I was even finished sewing.

The whopping amount of lint that built up beneath my bobbin before I was even finished sewing.

Even though I knew the heavier thread was contributing to my problems I couldn’t stop using it. Most of the project was complete & I didn’t feel like I could switch to a lighter thread at the very end. With all the top stitching & thread tangling I used up the entire spool. Next time I’ll stick to using jean topstitching thread for topstitching- you think the name would have clued me in on how to use it!

After spending the day wrangling with such awful materials, it was time to make a buttonhole & put in the button. Since things had been so rough I first practiced making a buttonhole. It went well. Of course when it was time to make the real button hole my once again newly cleaned machine went bonkers. Massive thread pile up. Rip, rip, rip, try again! Not much better. Heavy thread in the bobbin kept making things worse, so for just this part I switched to regular thread down below. It wasn’t until I had three sides of the button hole sloppily done (of what was supposed to be a one-step automatic buttonhole) that I said enough was enough & finished the fourth side with some regular satin stitching.

Back pocket detail. I placed them exactly where they had been on the pair of jeans I copied, but my boyfriend says they're too low & make my butt look droopy.

Back pocket detail. Kenneth recommended drafting a pocket facing, which I’ve grown to like, even though you can see it through the thin corduroy- this fabric has teeny tiny wales.

Being as I was possessed by a sewing demon, I just HAD to have my jeans done so I could wear them the next day. HAD to. Dear readers, the next day was a regular work day. Not a thing was so special about it that it called for brand new jeans. And it was past midnight. I live in an apartment. Noise travels. But by gum I was going to hammer in that jean button if it was the last thing I did! Except during one of my moves I lost my hammer.

I took my jeans & button to the kitchen, the part of the house farthest away from any of my neighbors’ bedrooms. It was still too loud, especially as I was maniacally banging on the floor. My boyfriend, seeing the crazed mood I was in & knowing I wasn’t to be deterred, took the button from me & tried to pound it in with the bottom of an empty olive oil bottle while perching it atop of a huge binder full of paper in his lap. Eventually this worked, but as a result the button was cocked to the side & misshapen. Not surprising, huh?

Smooshed button detail. Now that I've laundered these jeans a few times the button is starting to come out from the fabric. Big sad face.

Smooshed button detail- although it doesn’t look that bent in this photo. Now that I’ve laundered these jeans a few times the button is starting to come out from the fabric. Big sad face.

By this time it was around 1am. I hastily hemmed my jeans & said screw it to putting on belt loops. I figured I’d do that the next day. Obviously, weeks later I have yet to go near another piece of corduroy.

Being belt loop-less was problematic. The muslin that had been so skin tight translated into a saggy, baggy pair of shapeless jeans. The fabric liked to stretch with every movement I made, but wouldn’t snap back into shape. I absolutely hate jeans that do this.

The nice thing about making your own pants is getting to sew a big, ie useful, pocket bag in a contrasting fabric. It's also great being able to sew it directly into the side seams so every time you take your pants on & off the bag doesn't get horribly bunched up.

The nice thing about making your own pants is getting to sew a big, ie useful, pocket bag in a contrasting fabric. It’s also great being able to sew it directly into the side seams so every time you take your pants on & off the bag doesn’t get horribly bunched up.

The waistband had not been cut on a curve. Instead, I did as Kenneth recommended & cut it on the crosswise grain. This is supposed to hug to the body & be less bulky, making the wearer look slimmer. My crosswise grain had a fair amount of spandex in it, which only contributed to the saggy bottom problem. With my myriad food sensitivities my stomach can bloat so fast it’s like it’s hooked up to a helium tank. I was all for trying out a stretchy waistband. But what good is a stretchy waistband it it’s so stretchy your pants are always falling off so you need to keep them up with a belt? Sigh again.

I hadn’t wanted to put my jeans in a dryer so as to save the spandex from degrading, but I was desperate. This helped a lot. The next time I wore my jeans they fit better & didn’t stretch out of shape as much. Although they shortened up a bit so I have to let the hem down or else continue to risk walking around flashing my ankles- scandal! Maybe I’ll get to that before the winter is over, maybe.

All that extra fabric does not belong anywhere near my butt.

All that extra fabric does not belong anywhere near my butt. What happened between my skin tight muslin & here?

Now I no longer care if the spandex degrades. The jeans aren’t my favorite & I’d rather have them fit well in the short term. The main problem is that black corduroy attracts lint as if it were a magnet. Because of all the de-linting I have to do after every washing, I probably won’t be wearing these jeans every week.

It may sound as if I hate my new jeans. On the contrary, I’m really glad I made them. This was a great learning experience & I’m ready for more, just in much better fabric.

Side view of jeans

And there’s been an unintended consequence to all this pant making. I’ve become a creepy eepy perv. Now when I walk down the street I stare at people’s rears trying to diagnose their pant fitting woes. Please mister, please let’s let out those skin tight jeggings you’ve got on- no one wants to see your package! Oh honey, we need to pinch out a yard of fabric there because no one has thighs that are that ripply & bunched up!

Yeah, I often say that last one to myself after I’ve been wearing pants all day. They just expand & expand the longer I sit in a chair. Many of my RTW pants do too. But when I ogle the hindquarters of women in skinny jeans their pants don’t look all lumpy bumpy at the end of the day. Dear reader do you think this is because of the spandex (which is probably low quality)? My plain, cotton denim pants stretch a bit after being a desk jockey all day, but these just seem so much worse. Granted, my RTW pair of brown stretch corduroy jeans stretch so much I fear they’re trying to escape by sliding off my body, so maybe it’s a combination of things. Maybe I shouldn’t sew up stretch corduroy pants again.

I’d love your thoughts on ever-expanding pants, spandex & any jean making tips you have to share. Thanks!

A small look at the mess that was my sewing area after corduroy went flying all over. More thread & fabric lay strewn about elsewhere.

A small look at the mess that was my sewing area after corduroy went flying all over. More thread & fabric lay strewn about elsewhere.

Thanks to Becky for taking the photos at the Art Institute! You’re a much more conscientious & patient blog picture taker than my boyfriend.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Wrestling Match: Corduroy vs. Heavy Weight Thread

  1. Oh dear so much effort went into this pair of jeans! It seems to have been an interesting learning curve… I love corduroy and have been lucky my recent corduroy make didn’t result in huge amounts of lint: are there different types of cord? I’ve used it for a skirt and hasn’t moved a lot, maybe due to the presence of a lining. Does that mean we should line corduroy trousers?

    • I think it might stretch out so much because it has spandex in it. now that I’ve had it mulling about in my brain for awhile I will be lining my lycra blend pants. I think maybe regular corduroy without the stretch wouldn’t need it. The wales on my corduroy were tiny & close together- it almost looks like velour. I have a RTW pair of corduroy jeans & they never get linty. I’m wondering if the larger wales on that pair (plus the lighter color) help fend off or at least make things seem less linty.

  2. I was thinking about making corduroy pants the other day, but golly, that linting is enough to put me off! Still, I think yours were well worth persevering through, as they look pretty awesome in your photos. I’m also totally with you on the turning-into-a-perv thing…I’m always staring at people’s nether regions trying to analyze the fit of their pants too!

  3. Well done for finishing them! And I’m sure there will be more pairs now you’ve done all that work on the fit. Also glad it’s not just me that stares at strangers’ clothes to analyse the wrinkles!

  4. Nice, nice, nice! Very well done. If you want to show the details cellotape ’em to the wall and take pics on high exposure maybe? Or just normal pics then up the exposure and contrast in whatever program you use..

  5. Lol! I have to confess I was rather worried about what kind of drama must have occurred with corduroy for you to pull the page down the other day 🙂
    Having gone through my own frenzied season of jeans making, I understand your pain. In order to get a perfect fitting final product you almost have to do your muslin in the exact fabric you will be working with. Actual muslin just does not translate well for pants.
    Oh, what we all wouldn’t do for the perfect pair of jeans!

    • That’s the rub! I used different fabrics for the muslin, but they were of a similar weight & only slightly less stretchy. Sigh, perhaps one day someone will come up with a magical pattern that fits everyone, like in The Color Purple. Or maybe these things need to be done with a buddy, who can pinch out fabric for you.

  6. Good for you, for sticking with it, despite the lint, stretch (without bounce-back), hiding hammer…:-) You motivated me to sign up for a trouser-fitting class. I waited forever for the pattern to show up, finally searched for it and found out Vogue doesn’t even list it any more, not even as discontinued- sheesh! I’m going with a Claire McCardell, hope this one arrives soon.
    And if those pants seem too short? Those are Sock Show-Off Opportunities!

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s