Jeans are one of the best - and most popular - clothes ever, but sewing denim can be a bit intimidating. Well, let's talk on how to tame this this fabric!
In this post, I'll share tips, techniques and tools that will help you sew denim fabric and get better results. Denim CAN be sewn at home and I'm here to help you navigate this tricky fabric!
This post is created in partnership with needle industry experts - Organ Needles.
Organ Needles are one of the leading brands in needle industry, with over 100 years of expertise in needle making.
Organ Needles have a wide range of products and you can find a right needle for any type of project that you have on hand - even for tricky fabrics like denim or canvas! I've been using Organ Needles for several years in all of my machines - industrial sewing machine, domestic sewing machine, embroidery machine and serger. It's easy to recommend them as I use them regularly and their needle quality speaks for itself!
Now let's talk about denim!
Click below to watch video version, and scroll to read text:
What is denim fabric?
Denim is fabric created from cotton. It's woven fabric made with twill weave, which gives denim it distinguished texture, sturdiness and its also the reason why denim fabric has has "front" side and "back" side.
Denim was first created more than 150 years ago and now it's one of the more popular fabrics that probably everyone has in their closets. The reason for that is very simple: denim fabric does not wrinkle much, it's easy to take care, clean, maintain and it lasts long time.
How to choose denim fabric?
Historically, denim fabric is made from 100% cotton, however nowadays we have several variations.
The original 100% cotton denim will be robust and durable. If you want a bit more comfort, you might look into denim that has a few percentages of elastane or lycra in it - it will give fabric stretch.
You may also find raw or washed denim - raw denim is not washed during coloring and it will be more stiff, while washed denim is washed, to avoid coloring later on. I do recommend washing denim before sewing, just so that you pre-shrink it and avoid possibility of color-bleeding later on.
When you know a specific garment you want to make, pay attention to denim fabric weight. For example, 300gsm denim is considered lightweight and will be suitable for trousers or shirts, while 500gsm is considered heavy-weight and will be perfect for outwear jackets. When sewing denim at home with domestic sewing machine, keep in mind that the thicker the denim the trickier it will be to sew.
Tools and supplies for sewing denim
Sewing machine. Denim is one of the rare exceptions, when I have to admit industrial sewing machine will handle it better than domestic one and that's mostly because of the thickness of the fabric and bulk it creates. I'm not saying sewing denim is not possible on domestic machine, but it will require more patience. And if you plan on sewing large quantities of denim or you want to sell items made from denim - I would recommend considering industrial sewing machine.
Thread. Denim is thick fabric and it needs a strong thread. Usually, sewing supplies carry threads that are specially dedicated as 'denim' or 'jeans', otherwise you can look at other heavier weight threads that are available on selection. Contrary to all-purpose threads, denim threads come in just several different color types and they are usually either a shade of blue to match with fabric, or brown color to contrast it. Choose the one that you prefer based on the look you're going for.
Needles. To follow thick fabric and thick thread, of course you want to match it the right needle. Organ Needles Jeans needle has a slim point and because of that, it's great for sewing difficult materials like denim, canvas or faux leather. Sewing difficult fabrics like denim, right needle is extra important, because it will help prevent skipped stitches or reduce the risk of needle/thread breakage.
Organ Needles Jeans needles come in sizes 90, 100 and 110. The thicker the fabric the higher size needle you should be choosing. These needles are available in Jeans needle packs of 5 needles, or you can find Jeans needle in Organ Needles Combi or Multi packs. If you're not planning on sewing denim often, go for multi or combi pack, but if you will be sewing denim more than once - goes for dedicated set.
Closures. As for closures, again we are circling back that denim is a thick fabric and because of that it's best to use metal hardware instead of plastic one. So think metal zippers or buttons. There are special denim buttons and if you own a pair of jean - you know what I'm talking about. These buttons can be installed by hand tool or press - hand tool will be cheaper, the press will be easier and require less hand strength.
For sewing denim, machine, thread and needle are the core items to have, however there are a few more things that will help you:
Bulk seam guide. It helps lift presser foot when sewing through bulk. Very simple tool and it does come handy, but it can be replaced with cardboard - just cut a piece of thicker cardboard and put it under presser foot when sewing bulk.
Thimble. I know that not everyone likes to use it, but I believe that it's essential. when sewing or baste stitching thick materials - it will protect the finger and give needle extra push.
Topstitching presser foot. Denim garments usually have a lot of topstitching, and for that you can use topstitching foot that balances the foot along the fabric edge and makes topstitching at same distance from the edge very easy.
Tailors clapper. For pressing denim, a tool called clapper will be helpful and it will allow to create crispier finished seams.
Sewing denim is mostly about two things: managing the bulk and topstitching.
To avoid bulk, choose seam finishes like overlocking or bias tape finish. Try to avoid finishes like French seam that consists of sewing over many layers of fabric.
To sew over bulky seam connections, use bulk seam guide - place it under presser foot to raise it to same level as bulky seam.
Denim garment hems are usually finished by double fold - in this way, you can reduce bulk by clipping seam allowance at each fold and pressing to different direction.
For neat topstitching, use suitable denim thread and needle, and sew with slightly longer stitch (my standard stitch length is 3mm, but for denim topstitching I choose 4mm).
I also recommend using baste-stitching instead of pins for places you'll do topstitching - it will hold fabric better and surface smoother.
To ensure that all top-stitching seams are equal distance from edge, use top-stitching foot.
When adding metal hardware, make sure to place interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to secure fabric from ripping. Additionally, you can use metal rivets to secure pocket top corners for extra protection.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learned something new. Denim is such a fun material to work with, I hope you will like sewing it as much as I did!