Sew Your Own Jeans

The Opportunity

I had a work break coming and thought it would be a great opportunity polish my sewing and design craft. I asked my sewing friends locally and the Beatrice Dress Forms collective what they would do if they had some time. I put all the ideas in a spreadsheet and researched price, location, dates, etc. Many opportunities were fully sold out a year in advance. One of the suggestions that multiple people mentioned that still had spaces available and that I could travel to was a Sew Your Own Jeans Retreat.

Being able to make my jeans seemed easier than finding a pair that fit. Retreats have been good for me. I met my now-husband on a retreat long ago. My last retreat was a yoga retreat with a girlfriend. We met on a running retreat a few years prior. I booked my spot. 

The Solution

The teacher for the retreat was Lauren Taylor and the location was Maker’s Hideaway in Stanwood, WA and the hosts were Michelle and Sharon of StyleMaker Fabrics. All new to me. My trek from the Bay Area was fraught. I left my iPad on the plane, forgot my the power cord/foot pedal for my (heavy) sewing machine which I had dutifully lugged on the plane, and arrived feeling awful from my ill-timed 2nd shingles shot.

Janome Loaner

But Maker’s Hideaway had a great Janome that I could borrow instead.  (Thank you, Michelle!) The airline found my iPad (thank you God!) and would hold it for me until my flight out. The beautifully appointed rooms made me immediately relax and know I had a place to rest when needed. The thoughtfully laid out sewing space of Maker’s Hideaway and welcome sewing goodie bags made me feel secure that I was going to have a great time.

The Experience

After some downtime, we all met in the dining room for dinner and for Lauren’s kick off. Our pattern was the Ginger Jean by Closet Core Patterns. Lauren let us know these would NOT be perfect jeans, (we didn’t have time for that in 2.5 days) but they would be DONE jeans. There would be NO seam ripping without prior approval, no Fray Check (because it takes time to dry), no perfectly spaced double row top stitching, because dammit, we are here to get jeans done. That right there was pretty freeing. 

View B, High Waisted, Skinny

The next morning, after a lovely eat-when-you-are-ready breakfast, we got started. Normally, the first question is “What size should I make?” But, Lauren had made Ginger Jeans View B samples in EVERY size and in the recommended fabric!!!! We tried on sizes from the stack of ~20 sample jeans and showed Lauren what they looked like. She made size and easy fit adjustment recommendations. Her work made choosing and making the right size so easy!!!

From there we cut out fabric. Most of us were using the same Wyatt denim from StyleMaker fabrics so we could be sure of a similar fit to the samples. No tissue paper tracing of our size. No single layer cutting. We’re in a hurry here people! The main chunks of work over the three days were:

  • Front pocket assembly
  • Back pocket decoration (optional) and placement
  • Zipper assembly
  • Front and back leg join
  • Waistband assembly
  • Tons of topstitching
  • Hardware installation (Denim hardware kits from KATM – Kylie and the Machine)

Along the way, Lauren showed us ways to sew each step that made it less likely to need to seam rip. Her instructions and teaching methods were great!

The Result

Me in my jeans

At the end of the weekend, I had a pair of tight-fitting high-waisted skinny-leg jeans. Lauren issued a challenge at the end of the workshop, to go forth and make our next pair of jeans within a week. I got right to work! More on that in my next post.

The retreat also introduced me to several new sewing friends. We all learned from each other. Cindy and Molly worked diligently to finish additional garments (\0/) during our down time. Their focus inspired me to do more. Anne showed us how to use Procreate to preview fabric on a garment and she took the class photos below. Several of us did community laundry to get new fabric shrunk and to get clean clothes. Michelle and Sharon joined at meal times and were a pleasure to get to know better. Read more about them on StyleMaker’s About page.

Back Pocket Decoration. Photo by Anne Kopf-Sill, photo edit by J Hartnett-Henderson

My Recommendation

I highly recommend (unpaid) both Lauren Taylor and Makers Hideaway for workshops and retreats. Michelle and Sharon have the vision to support makers working in all kinds of media. They execute that incredibly well.

  • Catered breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner allow you to focus on making and your classmates. 
  • StyleMaker Fabrics is onsite so you can quickly address any fabric emergency or desire and look for inspiration to take home. 
  • Michelle and Sharon are fabulous hosts, experienced sewists, and all-around fun to know.
  • Their handmade quilts on each of the 10 beds show that they are makers too.
  • Color-coded towels in the shared bathrooms. Pick your color and stick with it.
  • 3 plug chargers on each nightstand meant that all devices were ready every day.