In my passion for art as a form of inquiry, I have sometimes overlooked the significance of artistic creation as a contemplative and meditative act. In creating these conjoined jeans for the E PLURIBUS UNUM exhibit, I am doing a lot of hand bound seam finishes as shown in the image above. There really is something... I’m cautious to say it, spiritual, in the tedium of doing a repetitive task. I find it relaxing allowing my mind to wander, as I know I can’t be anywhere else but present. In this state, I let the constant feeling of academic guilt, the ever-present anxiety of not feeling that one is writing, researching, and committee-ing enough to pass the continual bar-raising scrutiny of the academy.
This meditative state has been in direct contrast this week as I have started to teach courses again at my university and to make visits to K-12 classrooms where I am working on several research projects. These activities are equally as rewarding but I miss having a couple hours each day to work on some meditative work.
As I have been sewing this summer, I have been thinking a lot about the history of needlecrafts within the field of art education. A new book came out this year that has had an impact on me as I think about this semester’s curriculum within my art and art education courses. Art and Social Justice Education: Culture as Commons edited by Therese Quinn, John Ploof, and Lisa Hochtritt is a great introduction to and survey of how social justice issues relate to art and education. Each section is introduced clearly and has numerous short essays on an artist’s work written from the perspective of a variety of scholars. Dónal O Donoghue’s chapter is called Darrel Morris: Men Don’t Sew in Public, which describes and theorizes a piece by Morris entitled, Cushion #3, 2000. O Donoghue states, “Men sewing in public is an act that we never encounter, and therefore raises the question, what are the gender codes that do not allow men to sew in public?” (p. 56). Since I sew frequently in public, including sharing my sewing on the Internet on blogs like this one, I know that we perhaps almost “never encounter” men sewing in public, but that we pay attention to the anomaly when we do. Making one’s doing public, especially one’s artistic doings, can be a needed disruption to overcome cultural stereotypes, which close dialogue, imagination, and possibilities.
Many men are recognizing this, as Oliver Herring recently stated while participating in a local High School career day. He said that very few men were sewing as part of their artistic practice a couple decades ago, however, that has changed significantly since he observes male artists in art school sewing, knitting, and weaving at virtually every art program he visits. As teachers, what are the stereotypes that we will help disrupt through our words, curriculum, and artistic endeavors?
Designing your Jeans Pattern
On my last blog post, I explained that we need to trace around the jeans foundation that we created as seen below:
This is called your jeans sloper. It is a simple, basic pattern that is used to first check the fit of your pattern and then is used to create a whole pattern with pockets, the fly, and leg styles. After tracing the sloper pieces from your foundation, cut them out and place these basic pattern pieces onto cheaper fabric that has about the same weight as the denim you will use for your final pair of jeans. Then cut a 1” seam allowance all around the sloper, with exception of the waistline which will eventually be lowered once the fitting is corrected and the pattern is designed. You will also need to transfer the dart marks to this fabric. Leaving a 1” seam allowance on the fitting garment will allow you to use the fabric to make a pair of jeans after you make fitting adjustments. You don’t need to do this, but I like to utilize the fabric from this fitting garment rather than throwing it away.
After you cut all around your sloper, close your darts. If you don’t know how to do this or any other portion of construction, there are great instructions online via YouTube and other sites.
Threads magazine has numerous free instructional videos if you are just learning to sew.
You are ready to baste all the seams together to make the test garment. For the rest of the fitting set your machine’s stitch length somewhere between 4 and 6, which will make a stitch that is easy to remove. We will be sewing these jeans to test your sloper, marking any alternations directly onto the fabric with chalk, and then altering your sloper before designing a final jeans pattern.
You can slap a zipper into the center front if you want but I usually just sew the two backs together down the center back, then the fronts together down the center front, the inseams together, front to back, and finally the side seams front to back. If you don’t know much about zippers, here is an introduction to zippers on YouTube that is sure to increase your zipper literacy: http://youtu.be/QN8dkMsw7Ss. After sewing all seams closes, slip the fitting garment on, which will have a high waist (remember, we will lower the waistline when we design the pattern), and check the fit. With a sharpened piece of chalk, mark any seams that need to be taken in or let out on both sides of the seam. Remove the garment and transfer these alterations to your sloper.
We will now use your altered sloper to design a pattern. I have not added seam allowances to most of the patterns because you will need to decide how to finish each of your own seams. You have choices! It can be overwhelming to choose, but choice will be part of the learning experience. You can bind your seams, fell your seams, overlock your seams, etc. I will provide references for you to do some research on this if you don’t know much about seam finishes.
To make your pattern from your altered sloper: You will need to create a front and back pattern, the yoke piece, back pockets, key pocket, front pockets with backing, and the fly pieces. You will need to make a waistband and belt carriers as well.
Lower the rise by dropping the finished waistline 1 to 3 inches on both the front and back side of the jeans sloper
Step 1: Lower the rise. Unless you want your jeans to go all the way up to your natural waste, you will want to lower your waist to the point where they feel comfortable to you. I wear my jeans right above my hips. I lower the waist about 2 inches. Trace the front and back sloper (the one you altered after your tested the fit) onto new tracing paper. Lower the waistline of both the front and the back (back options are shown above, front would be similar).
Step 2: In this step you will design a yoke, closing the dart in the yoke and then redrawing the yoke to create one pattern piece. So, after lowering the rise of your jeans you will be creating two pattern pieces that will be used as the back of the jeans, the yoke (the slanted top part of your jeans directly below the waistband), and the back pant, which covers your bum and leg. To create the yoke you will need to draw a design line about an inch or so down from the newly lowered waistline on the hip side seam. The design line will cross the end of the dart where the dart legs meet and end up a little less than 3 inches on the center back seam. This of course is just a standard that can be adjusted as you desire, depending on how far down you lowered your waistline and what kind of style of yoke you want to create. Check out how your favorite pair of jeans are designed and go from there. Note, for those who really want to branch out a little, instead of making a single pattern for the back side of the jeans that will be cut on folded fabric, making a mirror image as you wear them, you can create a pattern that has an asymmetrical yoke if you desire. You would simply need to create separate patterns for the back left side pant and yoke, and a right side pant and yoke.
Create a separate yoke pattern piece by tracing the newly designed yoke onto tracing paper (see Figure below. The red dots indicate where you will trace on your own design).
The yoke is created by drawing an angled line, starting about 1” down on the hip side seam, moving through the intersection of the dart legs (unless the waist is lowered below this as shown above), and ending about 3” below the waistline on the center back seam
You will end up with a shape similar to the drawing in the Figure below. Close the dart and blend where they two sides meet into smooth curves rather than abrupt angles. Congratulations! You now have a yoke pattern. Depending on the seam finishes you choose to use, you will add seam allowances to the pattern. I add 1/2” seam at the waist and side seam, and I add 3/4” to the center back and back pant seams since I usually flat fell those seams (see the following tutorial about flat felling and mock flat felling http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2011/05/jeans-sew-along-3-seams.html).
After tracing the yoke to a new piece of paper, cut out the yoke, closing the dart with a piece of tape. Redraw the closed dart as shown in the lower illustration above. Blend the curves where the joined darts meet.
Step 3: Draw the back pant pattern. Where your yoke used to be on your tracing taken from the sloper can now be erased. The top of the back pant will now look like the Figure below. The legs will also be drawn all the way to the hemline. You will need to add seam allowances to the back pant pattern. I add 1/2” seam allowances on the side seam, and since I flat fell all the other seams, 3/4” seams on the center back, inseam, and on the yoke seam. I also add enough extra at the hemline to hem or to roll my jeans.
Step 4: You will probably want some back pockets on your jeans. Draw these directly on your back pant pattern so you can check the placement. You will then trace the pocket you drew to create the pattern for the back pocket. These pockets can be whatever size and shape you desire, but here are some basic starting points for you to think about as you create your own (see the Figures below). I usually start with about a 6” square, coming up on the bottom corners about an inch and in from the bottom sides at about 5/8” to create a five-sided patch pocket. The next time I create back pockets, I am going to try to self-enclose the seams with a lining. That means I will draw a 1/2” seam around the entire pocket and I will create a second pattern for the lining material without adding the 1/2” seam at the top of the pocket lining. I suppose that is pretty confusing to understand with my simple explanation, but when you get to this point, it might make more sense (here’s an example of how it works http://site.alifosterpatterns.com/blog/2012/06/17/self-lined-patch-pocket-pattern-sewing-tutorial/ although on mine I won’t close the top, but will instead fold over the top edge of the denim pocket to the back).
Draw where you want your pocket to be positioned directly on your back pant pattern
Step 5: You will now be working on the front pants pattern with the front pockets. This is a bit hard to explain, so make sure you look at a pair of jeans as you read this if this is your first foray into jeans making. To make the front pockets, first draw where all the pocket pieces will fall onto the tracing you made from the correctly fitted jeans sloper. You will then create pattern pieces by tracing them from these placement drawings, like you did with the back pockets.
Draw all your front pockets on your front jeans pattern and then create individual patterns by tracing these onto new sheets of paper. Having the designed pockets on your front jeans pattern will aid you in placement when you are sewing your jeans. Remember that your pocket lining is only cut on one side when opened that being the side that will be attached to the jean pocket. See the sewn pockets in the Figure below for further information
The front pockets will be about 10” deep on the fold line. Use the other guidelines shown above to help draft the pocket pieces. When all the pieces, pocket lining (the plaid material shown in the Figure below, pocket backing (denim), and the key pocket (also shown in denim, which is stitched onto the pocket backing), are cut and sewn up they will look like the Figure below. Seam allowances depend on the type of seam finishes you choose to use. Ande Whall, the jeans maker from New Zealand who hand cuts and sews all his own jeans for sale, shows us how he goes about making jeans from start to finish based on his own pattern. Here is his process: http://andewhall.bigcartel.com/making-jeans. Seeing how he goes about the process will help you in designing your pattern.
Step 6: You will now be creating the parts for the fly. I chose a button fly. Instructions for a button fly are a little hard to come by for jeans. Jerry Sider’s article in Threads magazine (Sider, Jerry. (1990). A jeans draft for men. Threads (April, May)28, pp. 58-62) is super helpful in seeing how the button fly works, but you can select to create a zipper fly if you want. Just do a little search online and you will see how one of those works.
Step 7: Create a pattern for the waistband and the belt carriers. For the waistband’s length, just measure around the jeans once they are sewn, adding a couple of inches on each side for the seam and for some extra “just in case.” A 1 1/2” finished waistband’s width is 3 inches since it will be folded in half plus a 1/2” on each side for the seam allowances, or 4” total width. You can make the belt carriers whatever width you like. Use your favorite jeans as a model. Below shows one way to create these. Here, I created somewhat wide belt carriers from a long piece of denim that was folded over on the edges and then stitched with a twin needle. After it is pressed, then individual belt carriers are cut from this long strip.
Constructing the jeans is a whole separate process than the draft, but unlike drafting your own pattern, there are many resources available online that show you how to sew up your jeans once you have a pattern. Some have already been mentioned on this and my previous blog posts concerning making your own jeans pattern.
Finally, for educators who are interested in knowing how dress, clothing, fabric construction, fashion, and jeans might relate to visual art in a K-12 classroom, please check out the following publications:
1) My dissertation that took place in an Art 1 course at the secondary level. Barney, D. T. (2009). A study of dress through artistic inquiry: Provoking understandings of artist, researcher, and teacher identities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Vancouver, BC: The University of British Columbia. PDF available at: http://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/8824
2) A theoretical piece that draws from an actual assignment with my high school students when I was a secondary teacher. Barney, D. T. (2007). Understandings and communication through dress: Sartorial inquiry in a secondary art class. In Springgay, S. & Freedman, D. (Eds.). Curriculum and the cultural Body. New York: Peter Lang.
E PLURIBUS UNUM
Update on this piece will be posted when I can get a good photograph of the work in progress later on this week.
-Daniel T. Barney, PhD