Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 08.31.12

Men Don't Sew in Public

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: 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).

Back_pant_red_yoke1The 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

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.

Back_pant_onlyAfter creating the pattern for the yoke, your back pant pattern will not have the yoke attached as shown above

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 although on mine I won’t close the top, but will instead fold over the top edge of the denim pocket to the back).

Back_pant_pocketDraw where you want your pocket to be positioned directly on your back pant pattern

Redraw your pocket on a separate sheet of paper. Add seam allowances plus don’t forget to add allowance at the top of the pocket to be turned in

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: Seeing how he goes about the process will help you in designing your pattern.

Pocket lining, key pocket, and pocket backing all sewn together and ready to sew onto the pocket opening on the front jeans piece

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.

There are many ways to construct the front closure. Here are the basic parts for a button fly, but this is a place where I would look up additional information unless you are an experienced sewer

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.

A long strip waiting to be cut down into individual belt carriers

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:
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.

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

Thursday 08.16.12

The Intersection of Art and Living Inquiry

My first attempt at constructing a new pair of jeans actually happened at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in a research methodology course. The course was entitled, A/r/tography, and was taught by Rita Irwin and Sylvia Wilson Kind. Similarly, my first men’s dress shirt was constructed in another research methodology course, Narrative Inquiry with Carl Leggo as the professor. I entered my PhD program with an interest in the social psychology and visual culture of dress. Being able to work artistically along with theorizing pedagogical issues was radical for me. Wild and wonderfully exciting. My education in education prior to my studies at UBC were amazing. I have little to criticize about my undergraduate and MA experiences. However, at that time I did not understand, nor do I remember being encouraged to explore how my artistic practices, my teaching and learning, and my inquiry might relate, intersect, or disrupt one another.

There are some really exceptional graduate programs out there. There really are. I just know that I chose the right program for me at the right time. It was the right place. I feel lucky to have been influenced by the people that happened to be there at that time, the faculty members and also the students.

One of the reasons I chose UBC was because of the work that was being done concerning arts-based research. The questions and theoretical frameworks I was encountering from established and emerging UBC-connected scholars not only deeply resonated with me, but also encouraged me to think and work more profoundly and simultaneously more broadly. I began to make more connections in all aspects of my life, to live life differently, more art-fully.

I wrote a paper about those first jeans I created without any formal training in clothing construction or pattern drafting. It was a fairly phenomenological exploration, including an inquiry into my subjective experience with materials, memories, senses, and the like. But, the experience changed jeans from something I consume, to something I am able to not only produce, but simultaneously reproduce and trouble. Artistic production can extend beyond formal analysis and visual communication. I believe inquiring through artistic processes, even those that do not produce objects, can produce new understandings and also be transformative.

This week, Noah Kershisnik came by my studio to finish some jeans he started a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, I have a machine with a stronger motor even though we both have vintage machines. BTW, if you are looking to buy a sewing machine, I would suggest scouting one out at your local thrift shop. Do some research about any machines you find, but you can often pick up an excellent all-metal machine for $30 or less.

Noah is an undergraduate student and a maker of things. I know there are artists out there who refuse to make another object in this object-saturated world (see Douglas Huebler and Tino Sehgal for example), but it is amazing to hear how Noah is restoring an antique straight razor so that he can learn to shave with it. Or how he makes his own shoes from real lasts (a wooden form of the foot in shoe making) that he hand carves. He makes his own soda pop, his own hair pomade, and he sews.

Tino Sehgal's "The Unilever Series: These Associations" currently exhibited at the Tate Modern from July 25 to October 28, 2012

When Noah found out that I have made more than a dozen pair of my own jeans, (altering commercial patterns and drafting from existing jeans), but that this year I was finally going to draft my own pattern using my own measurements, he wanted in! I lent him a couple of my books so that he could start gathering his measurements. That was something he could do while I was busy with my own work. When I ran into Noah a few days later he had not only taken his measurements, but had drafted his pattern and had made two pairs of shorts! Do you ever have students like this? He’s not even my student. In fact, after seeing how he addressed a specific part of the fabrication process, I learned a trick or two from him! The student became the teacher. This is fabulous! Noah was obviously motivated without me pushing him or encouraging him beyond the initial invitation to join in the “jean’s jam.” Check out Noah’s most recent pair of jeans that he just completed! Amazing right? Even for a film student who has had a couple sewing courses, these turned out great.

Insert image of Noah’s jeans... front and back1

Insert image of Noah’s jeans... front and back2Noah’s jeans...Front and back

How might we invite such self-motivated passion in our students in our art courses? How might we encourage students to think deeply about their making and the impact of such making? How do we teach students to teach themselves, that it is okay to teach themselves, that it is necessary for learning? I really believe this. I think we are all self-taught. The only way we learn is if we are open to it. We don’t learn in a vacuum, right? We might not all be formally taught within a specific institution, but we are self-taught to a large degree if we accept that we learn from our relationally lived experiences regardless of where those might occur. For example, Noah did not get all of his instruction from me. He recalled prior learning experiences, making inferences that helped him get the job done. He searched through books, the Internet, and asked for advice from his friends who have had experience in sewing. In sharing our work, we both learned more as we offered each other feedback from our individual efforts. This seems like a pretty decent model for learning a skill. I wonder how this model might translate to the art classroom... Now, to finish our pattern for our jeans draft!

Pattern Drafting PART III: This is the third installment of my description of the instructions I followed to create my own pair of jeans (adapted from Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design (5th Ed)). Check out Parts I & II and then add this section to finish up this foundational draft. After this part is completed, then we will create a sloper (a simple pattern without any of the design features like pockets, yokes, seam allowances, or closures) and create a muslin or toile (a test garment to check the fit of our jeans). Finally, we will design a pattern and construct our jeans. I will provide some guidelines for designing your final jeans pattern, but there are many tutorials and instructions online regarding the actual construction of the jeans. I’ll add those references when we get there.


Part 3 - Complete Foundation

Add the following draft segments to the pattern you started from the last blog posts on Pattern Drafting PARTS I & II.

Part3_detail_upperPart 3 - Detail - Upper

Mark points zf (front hip mark) and zb (back hip mark) by measuring 3/8” out from each side of C.

M-S =     half of M to zf. Mark S.
N-T =     half of N to zb. Mark T.

Square a line in both directions from S and T. The vertical lines are your center creaselines. Use them as your grainlines as well.

Part 3 - Detail - Lower

Leg line: Start with the following measurements and then alter the knee and hem openings as desired. Mark 4” out on each side of the knee line at the center creaseline and 3 3/4” out on each side of the hemline. On the back, mark 4 1/2” out from each side of the creaseline and 4 1/4” on each side of the hemline. Alternatively, you can take measurements from your favourite pair of jeans. Use the measurement at the knee (front and back) and the hem opening (front and back).

Draw a curve from P to D to zb and continue the curve beyond at a gradual slope until it blends into the leg line above the knee. (gray line)

Draw a curve from R to D to zf and continue the curve beyond at a gradual slope until it blends into the leg line above the knee. (red line)

This jean foundation is complete when both front and back are traced onto another long piece of paper and then cut out (front: Q-R-D-zf-knee-hem-knee-M-xf-Q and back: P-D-zb-knee-hem-knee-N-xb-O-P). This is your sloper. We will use it next time to create a test fit (muslin or toile) of our jeans!

-Daniel T. Barney, PhD

Tuesday 08. 7.12

Reap What You Sew

Jethro Gillespie paid me a visit in my studio yesterday.

I started teaching high school in the early 90s, so some of my first students seem a lot more grown up nowadays. Jethro was one of my first students I worked with who went on to become an artist and an art teacher. After teaching both at the junior high school and high school levels, he chose to go back to the university to get his MA in Art Education. Lucky for me, I got to spend a couple more years reconnecting with this great individual as his professor at BYU. It’s a pretty humbling thing to teach graduate students who have had a first-hand experience with a professor’s K-12 practices. It’s great to be able to talk with Jethro about art, pedagogy, and curriculum theory now that he has been a teacher awhile. But it is also amazing to be able to discuss my past practices with him since he was actually there in my early career as a teacher.

Jethro was pretty happy that I had been making my own jeans pattern and so I invited him over so I could help him make one of his own. Jethro doesn’t have a formal sewing background, or an informal one either. But he’s not afraid to try something that might be difficult, especially if someone is right there to make it seem easier. Well, that is the kind of teacher I want to be... well, at least sometimes. I bet there are some occasions when teaching involves making things more difficult. I hoped this was not one of those times.

Jethro has already drafted his pattern, sewn a muslin sample, altered his pattern and is cutting it out (see the image below). I think he’s loving being able to make his own jeans. But I know it can be a confusing thing at first, even with someone close by who has been through a similar experience.

I’m pretty lucky to have a network of artist and educator colleagues close by. I realize not all educators have a support group or colleagues with whom they can regularly exchange ideas. A few years ago I met a couple of art teachers who were on the verge of giving up on education because they felt isolated on a day-to-day basis. Chistian Fasy and Brad Asay got together to first complain about this isolation, but then wondered if there could be any other way. What if they weren’t isolated in their respective classrooms? What could their curriculum be like if they weren't isolated?

Fasy and Asay worked through the night generating loads of new ideas (see The Art Machine, one of the ideas generated by Fasy and Asay). This is the feeling they were missing... regular social interaction and immediate critical feedback! They kept this dialogue going by being in each other’s classrooms through free video conferencing software (Skype). Read about their experience here on Craig Roland’s blog The Art Teacher’s Guide to the Internet. These art educators have disrupted traditional structures of K-12 teaching by utilizing new social practices. What a cool idea.

These ideas about what teaching might mean, reconceptualized visions of teaching and learning, get me excited. Why do we need to remain isolated in our classrooms? What if we had video conferencing in our rooms, not for surveillance purposes but for reaching out, for new social interactions, for sharing and for support? How might we collaborate differently? How might we more responsibly engage with our surroundings?

There are some contemporary artists who think beyond specific traditional limitations of practice and who have also inspired me to think and act differently. Artist and educator Stephanie Springgay brought a peculiar ceramic artist to my attention at a conference several years ago. I say “peculiar” because Michael Swaine does not create objects that I imagine when I generally think of the work of a ceramic artist. Although Michael Swaine is a ceramic artist, he began a sewing and storytelling project entitled Reap What You Sew as an artistic practice in San Francisco. Swaine’s work is interactive and collaborative as he exchanges conversations while he mends local residents’ clothing. He is also a member of the creative design group called Futurefarmers. Please check this out and see how it might relate to your own pedagogy, artistic practice, and to your students.


Pattern Drafting PART II: This is the second installment of my description of the instructions I followed to create my own pair of jeans. After drafting my pattern, I began thinking about how I could alter this pattern to create new visual metaphors and social understandings. I am looking forward to sharing what I come up with... I hope I finish my project by the end of the month, school is almost back in session!

Add the following draft segments to the pattern you started from my last blog post on Pattern Drafting PART I.

O: O is 1 3/8” up and 1 3/8” to the left of H. O is where the center back meets at the waistline.

Draw a straight line from O to X (the X on the right of the draft) and then a gentle curved line (use a french curve or just freehand it if your hand is steady) to N.

O-P: Back waist arc, plus 3/4”_____. This line is drawn with a very slight curve from O to P. The P mark might fall on either side of A (see the alternative draft below), depending on your own body measurements.

 Mark a point exactly half way between O and P. Draw a 3” line parallel to O-X down from this mark. Mark another point 1/2” to the left of this point. Draw a dart using this new point, connecting a line to the end of the previously drawn line (see illustration below).

L-Q: Q is 1/2” down and 5/8” to the right of L. Q is the top of center front at the waistline.

Draw a straight line from Q to X (the X on the left side of the draft as shown, not the one on the right), then a gentle curve to M (french curve or freehand if you are steady). This is called the crotch curve.

Q-R: Front waist arc, plus 1/4” ease _____. R can fall on either side of A and can even overlap the P mark depending on your own measurements. Don’t worry, mine did and I was super worried, but I’m fine with it now. We are all unique, and that is a good thing in my opinion. If your lines are crossing and your fronts and backs are a little hard to tell apart, then you can use a colored pencil to draw in the lines for the separate pieces.

Okay, you are almost finished with the foundational draft! Next time we’ll finish up by drawing in our leg line with Pattern Drafting PART III!  

-Daniel T. Barney, PhD

Wednesday 08. 1.12

E PLURIBUS UNUM (out of many, one)

One of my recent graduate students happens to have been my daughters’ high school art teacher. Luckily for all of us, Mr. Francis is a terrific teacher. If you don’t believe me, he was the 2012 Pacific Region Art Educator of the Year!

This last year Mr. Francis was really trying to understand more about the process of artistic creation and so he asked his students to document and reflect throughout their time in the course. Mr. Francis also kept his own records as he worked. His efforts were truly interesting and inspiring and I expect he will get around to publishing his experiences in his own due time so we can all benefit. But in the meantime, I am going to share what I have been thinking about regarding artistic creation.

I frequently ask my own undergraduate students to present an account of their artistic inquiry in some way. This could simply take place in the classroom, but since I teach adults, I invite them to share their learning experiences with the public. They often do this through public performance, exhibitions, or by posting their experiences on blogs or websites. I have challenged them to select a topic that they are interested in but don’t really know much about as far as that topic’s history, politics, and skills needed for production or representation. For example, in my technology course, many students use Make Magazine and Instructables as inspirational resources to 1) find out how to first make something they were previously unable to do and then 2) to bring this project into the discourse of art by scrutinizing its social and pedagogical possibilities, uncovering its political influences, researching its historical and cultural iterations, and playing with its aesthetic and metaphoric potential. I believe materials, processes, and inquiry are all important to artists, and should be to art educators as well.

This fall I am taking part in a group exhibition at the Twain C. Tippetts Gallery on the campus of Utah State University. The show is curated by Namon Bills, and is called E PLURIBUS UNUM, (out of many, one). For my piece, I am creating a pair of conjoined denim jeans with separate openings, but shared legs. I would like to use the piece in a performance as well, but I am still working the details out for that idea. To be able to construct this object, I learned how to make my own custom jeans using my body measurements. In making this piece I am really not drawing heavily from the foundational skills I learned in my art classes as a high school or undergraduate student.

I believe it is crucial for art students and art educators to understand that artists, especially contemporary artists, use materials, data, stimuli, situations, and processes to create new understandings and experiences as their artworks. Paint, clay, and graphite may be important traditional media to contextualize within art education history, but these need not remain the foundation nor the end goal of an art education experience in my opinion. I wonder if techniques and materials, if overemphasized or overdetermined, might constrain artistic discourse in oppressive ways.

To put this question to the test, I will be sharing my technical and material investigations this month, showing readers: How to make a custom pair of jeans. And also, reflecting on questions of how dress, art, and education can be both oppressive and liberating. I hope readers will share their own understandings by commenting throughout this process. I am really inspired by Peter Lappin’s “sew-along” invitations on his blog malepatternboldness. Peter chooses a vintage pattern and invites readers to join him in making. Everyone can upload images to a Flikr account for feedback. Sew-along participants discuss topics on the blog’s comment page such as politics of the fashion industry, their favorite colors, to the ethical sourcing of materials. Wouldn’t it be cool if secondary students (and older) could start their own renditions of “art-along” blogs? They could choose a topic and ask the public to join along as they construct, perform, act, etc. Or, what if teachers worked together on curricular projects this way? Hmmmm, let me know if anyone has tried this out yet.


Ok, back to making your own jeans. You will need to take some measurements in order to create a jeans pattern. You’ll need to ask someone to help you with the measurements. The following directions have been adapted from Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design (5th Edition) (see pages 535-538 for more). I have tried other methods, but this one worked best for me. You can also try out some of the references listed at the end. 


Pattern Drafting PART I: Follow the instructions and start drafting your own pattern. I tape together pieces of paper to create one big sheet. Remember A to B is the outseam length so plan accordingly. Leave a few inches at the top because later in the week I will explain how to create the waist, center back, center front and leg shapes.

A-B:            Outseam:_____            True waist to floor measurement. Measured, without shoes on, from the outside seam at the waist down to the floor.


A-C:            Crotch depth, plus 1/4” :_____            The crotch depth can be found two ways. You can find the difference between the outseam and the inseam (measure from center of crotch straight down to the floor). Or, measure a seated model from the true waist straight down to the chair’s surface where seated.

C-D:            Hip depth is 1/3rd of A-C:_____           

C-E:            Knee depth, 1/2 of C-B, minus 1 1/2”:_____           

*extend perpendicular lines on A-B at A, D, C, E, and B

D-F:            Back hip arc, plus 1/4”:_____


C-G and A-H = D-F:            Connect G to H

G-X:            1/2 of G-H

D-J:            Front hip arc, plus 1/4”:_____


C-K and A-L = D-J: Connect K to L

K-X = 1/2 of K-L, raised 1/2” up towards L

K-M = 2” (plus 1/8” for each size over 34 or minus 1/8” for each size under 34)

G-N = 1/3rd of C-G minus 1/2” for regular fit or plus 3/4” for relaxed fit

Remember, later in the week I will share Pattern Drafting PART II. I’ve got to get back to making my own project!

-Daniel T. Barney, PhD



Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design

David Page Coffin’s Making Trousers for Men & Women

Lori A. Knowles’s The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for for Fashion Designers

Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear


Sider, Jerry. (1990). A jeans draft for men. Threads (April, May)28, pp. 58-62.


Madalynne shares a post about what Sallieoh learned from her jeans-making experience.

Sandra Betzina shares how to adjust jeans for specific fits in an online version of a Threads article.

TaylorTailor is on a mission to create his own wardrobe by sewing it himself. His blog documents this attempt.

Fundamentals of Society has a bunch of tutorials and even a video on how to sew your own jeans.

One-person jeans-making operations:

Roy Slaper

Ande Whall