My teenage son is still growing – while this is bad for the wallet because he needs new clothes so often, it is good for the sewing room as I get his castoffs. Old pairs of jeans and shirts lie about the sewing room for months because I know they are too good to give away but for what purpose can I actually use them? I think about ripping out zips and cutting off buttons but all that fabric just left there…. Week 2 of M3 had me wearing a denim patchworky coat I made a few years ago when the son’s growing rate was almost overwhelming. I simply cut up all the jeans into rough squares and sewed them together until there was enough ‘fabric’ to make the coat – McCalls 4394. I’m afraid you have to go to ebay nowadays for this pattern.
I lined the coat with quilting cotton, stitched onto the pattern pieces a la Chanel to hide the many raw edges and seams on the inside. There was nothing precise or measured in this patchwork approach reckoning I could get away with uneven patching because it was denim and it is supposed to look a little ‘rough’.
A lovely lady from Stitchers Guild, Alison, makes super pinafores and aprons, usually in denim, chambray and other earthy natural tones and her unique style is in the inspiration for a dress just recently made from three pairs of too-small jeans.
Start with the jeans. In this case three pairs, two from teenage son and one pair of mine that were once fashionable.
Cut off the legs as close to the crotch as possible to maximise the useable fabric. You could rip out the hems but I just cut these off too – life’s too short….
Cut one side seam off each leg so that you have sort of rectangular shaped pieces of fabric. If your jeans are very flared or wide legged, these shapes will vary of course but this will add to the uniqueness of your fabric. Press the legs flat if necessary and stitch them together. Don’t worry about lining up the seams – this fabric is most emphatically NOT perfect.
However, you do need a straight(ish) straight of grain. I managed to do this by folding the fabric lengthwise and pressing well, testing the grain as I pressed. One again, don’t worry if the seamlines don’t line up – you’re trying to get the straight grain on the fold, not the edge.
I didn’t create much fabric from three jeans - about 36″ wide and just shy of 2.5 m - but just enough to make another Audrey dress, vintage Vogue 1137. This is the same pattern I made for SWAP in the navy boucle so I thought it would be quirky to make it again in this patchwork denim – and as a tribute to Alison’s pinafores. The four pattern pieces are all cut on the fold, so I knew the straight of grain would be running up the centre front and back.
I like the way the original seams create their own shapes in the dress and the different denims don’t quite match. I utilised as much of the original jeans as I could – though I did add a semi-exposed 14″ jeans zip in the side seam. Using any other fabric than this denim, I would have ripped that zip out and tried again, but the wobbliness just seems to suit (that’s my excuse).
Because this dress has a bodice and a separate skirt, sway back adjustments are easily done at the waist join and there’re 4 darts in the front skirt and 2 in the back so it’s easier to get a perfect fit around the hips too.
Only the bodice is lined and I used a bit of leftover cotton. Usually I line the whole dress but this version is just a bit more casual.
So, rip out and cut up to create your own unique fabric – and this one carries memories of my son within it.