Jeans Part 7: Waistband

Before I move on with my Jeans project, I just have to get one thing out of the way.

My boyfriend Jim says my jeans “look like Toughskins”.

Anybody who lived through the ’70s knows how truly terrifying Sears Toughskins jeans were. My mother dutifully ordered Toughskins from the Sears catalog every year for back-to-school.  The styling was totally dumpy, even for the ’70s. The fabric was made of wood fiber and sandpaper.  And my mother ordered them for me in the “Husky” size.

Childhood nightmares revisited

Jim told his mother flat-out he wouldn’t wear Toughskins. I wasn’t quite so smart.  I just wore them and looked like biggest nerd in school.

Let’s just see what Jim gets the next time I sew him something.


The waistband marks the first time I encountered a problem with the pattern itself.  While some folks, namely Matt over at Hemlock Tailor found the waistband about 4 inches too long, I had the opposite problem – the waistband wasn’t long enough.

The pattern instructions say to line up the waistband with the body at center back, and waistband notches to the side seams.  Then a small length of waistband should extend past the fly on both left and right sides.

When I matched up all the notches, what happened was that the lefthand (overlap) side of the fly had enough waistband. But on the righthand (underlap) side of the fly, the waistband didn’t reach to the edge.



I double-checked my waistband against the original pattern.  Yup, I cut out size M and got the correct notches.  But what I noticed was the waistband piece measures 8 1/2 inches from side seam to center front, whereas the actual sewn garment measures more like 9 1/4 inches.




I never did resolve this discrepancy.  Perhaps I made a mistake during construction, perhaps I stretched out the stretch denim and everything’s a little bigger now.  Anyway, I figured out I could scooch the waistband over to the right about 3/4 inch, and get about 5/8 inch overlap on both sides – just barely enough to get the waistband to match up.

I stitched the waistband, right sides matching on outside of garment as per the pattern instructions. Then I cut off the excess zipper using a pair of pliers.  I didn’t want to risk damaging my scissors with the metal zipper teeth.




I folded back the waistband, stitched it flush with the fly flaps, trimmed the excess, and turned.





On the inside of the garment, I folded the exposed seam allowance up into the waistband and pressed the fold with an iron so it would stay in place when I topstitched the waistband.




I also pinned down the pocket bags so they wouldn’t shift or get caught up in the topstitching.



Topstitiching the waistband was difficult, since the whole garment was together and its bulk made it difficult to keep fabric feeding evenly through the machine.


Why I hate Stretch Denim, #4:

The waistband turned out wavy from the topstitching.  Pressing with an iron helps make the waviness mostly go away, but it eventually comes back.



If I could do this over, I would have put Wash-Away Wonder Tape right in the fold before closing the waistband.  The tape would have served as a stabilizer and prevented the waviness.

I also made another boo-boo.  Turning the corner, the machine lost feed on the fabric and I got a birds nest on the inside of the underlap flap.  Fortunately no one will see this.


The Tryout

Diligent readers will know I made this “muslin” without ever making any pattern alterations whatsoever.  I had no idea how this would fit, especially since I’ve never worn or worked with stretch denim before.

With the waistband complete, I tried on the jeans for the first time.  They fit!!! Actually, there’s a little roominess in the back in the thigh, but the thing I was concerned about – the waist size – fit fine.  Also, the length was spot-on, even though I didn’t adjust length.  (I did check the pattern measurements beforehand, so I did know I was in the ballpark regarding basic body dimensions).

I apologize for not having photos of the tryout.  Rest assured the final reveal is coming soon.


I pinned the hems and tried the jeans on once again, to be sure the hem length was correct.  Then I hemmed the jeans.

Only now have I figured out I can use my tailor’s ham to press hems without inadvertently pressing the other side of the pants leg. Duh.



After pressing the hem, I did this little trick to reduce bulk in the hem, at the outside seam.  I learned it from the PatternReview serger and coverstitch forum.  It helps hemming with a coverstitch machine easier by making it easier for the machine to feed the fabric.  Same principle applies here.


Clip seam allowance to stitching line right at the hem fold.


Fold the small bit of seam allowance to the opposite side of the garment.


When you fold the hem up, the seam allowance doesn’t double up on itself.


Finally, I folded the rolled hem and stitched it down with the topstitching thread.




Next Time

I’ll get the belt loops in, and start looking into buttons and rivets.

Soon my Toughskins will be ready!


1 thought on “Jeans Part 7: Waistband

  1. Josie Huber

    Great job. I am here in Southern California green with envy. Or may be blue. Reading and gushing over your photos, and clever way to sew a stretchy jeans. I learned a great deal by reading your blog. The video on Sears jeans made me smile. I grew up in South America. I look at the 70’s commercial as if they were fresh and new. Ahh! if only for the lack of pixels.
    Thanks for sharing

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