When my favorite pair of jeans developed a hole in the crotch, I wore them up until the size reached—why am I admitting this online?—a truly embarrassing level. I told myself it was in an invisible spot, I rationalized that I wore them only around the neighborhood. . . . But then one day I came to terms with the trashy situation and tucked them in the back of my drawer. I knew there was a technique for sewing a jean skirt out of old jeans, and I knew someday I’d have the energy to do it.
Yesterday I did a closet purge and came upon my much-loved jeans. These jeans went everywhere with me for a few years, and no matter what I weighed or how much I ate at one sitting, they always fit right. They were magic. I decided it was time to get them back in my wardrobe.
I Googled “sewing jean skirt out of jeans” and read four of five tutorials until I was comfortable with the various approaches. They’re all pretty similar. I’d say that this one was my best resource, but she explains how to make a floor-length skirt with a panel of different fabric only in the back. I wanted a knee-length skirt made with panels at the front and back using the legs of the jeans, so some of the other methods were good to read too.
My favorite detail of the Not Martha skirt was the way she used the existing seams that were at the crotch, folding over the little flap. Some other patterns have you rip that seam open and just absorb it into the panel later, but I liked that aspect. Because I wanted to preserve the stitching that was already there—it’s such an important feature of a pair of jeans!—I did the origami and hand-sewed it down. This left a tiny little pooch there on the front, which I could probably try to tack down better but, you know what, no one ought to be looking at me there that closely, and I don’t think it’s obvious enough to draw attention.
I did it for the back also. The lucky happenstance with the back is that the unsightly hole—the reason I stopped wearing these jeans in the first place—got folded up into that overlap! I’m just lucky that the hole was on that side of the seam; the way the jeans were originally sewn, the seam naturally wants to go in that direction. I’m not entirely sure how I would have gotten rid of it if that had not been the case. I suspect I’d have taken the advice of a different tutorial and ripped the seam up to the horizontal stitching above and just inserted the panel beginning up there.
The way the jeans were constructed, having visible stitching made sense on the back, but not so much on the front, so getting the folded point down on the back was much more successful. Though it meant physically shoving it through my sewing machine! With like six layers of denim there, the feed dogs on my little Pacesetter were put to the test.
I did the back first, trusting the jeans to tell me how they wanted to be sewn and focusing a lot on that overlap so that the hole was completely covered. Once I’d gotten that pinned down, I added a small insert to fill in the gap. The insert came from the removed portion of the leg, and I picked an area that appeared free of blemishes. I did my best to align the grain so it was perfectly vertical. From here I did another fitting and determined how wide to make the front panel.
In the end the front panel is much taller and wider—a product of the way jeans are made to fit our bodies and also the result of getting just the right amount of A-line into the skirt.
My favorite detail is the top stitching! I know it’s not a perfect match to the original jeans, and the golden Mettler thread is a wee bit brighter, but I think the stitch I found is pretty perfect, cause not only does it have the thickness of a jean thread stitching line, it has a LOT of stitches, so it’s hopefully stronger than just a simple straight seam would be. I don’t have heavy-duty thread (though I probably should have used it), but I hope this will do the trick.
It’s one of the fancy stitches on my machine! I’ve never used this one before (piecing for quilts doesn’t let you play with these stitches much!), but I gave it a test on a sample of denim and liked the result.
In the end the bottom hem isn’t perfectly straight, but that gives it charm. It doesn’t bother me, though, because I am going to wear the heck out of this skirt! I am so excited by it!