Tips and tricks of upscyling Jeans!

Making jeans can be a little intimidating for some… and we’ve already had a post here about making jeans look more like store bought jeans with details like top-stitching thread and distressing.

But, a really easy way to get your jeans looking professional is to use an old pair that an adult is throwing/giving away! This means a lot less work for you distressing and top-stitching if you’re smart about laying out your pattern pieces! So here it goes…my tips on using pre-existing jeans:

1- Making a few cuts along the seams can really make cutting your pieces much easier! I like to cut along the inside legs/crotch, cut off the waistband and beltloops, and the back pockets.

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2- Be cautious about distressed/washed jeans and laying out your pattern pieces… meaning, if your jeans have a very obvious fade/wash/distress pattern on them then you need to make sure you like where it will be placed and that it will match when you sew up your jeans. For this pair, I wanted the distressed area of the original jeans, so I laid my patterns around that.  Notice that my two pieces are very close to the same area horizontally, and that the back yoke is placed above the back piece.  All of this will ensure that the distressing and wash look natural on my finished jeans.


You can also use the original hem line if you prefer to get that instead. Remember to account for hem allowance. I did that with this pair, because my jeans didn’t have a very noticeable distressing.


Use the back pockets when cutting your new pockets, Remember to account for the hem allowance at the top.


If you’d like to use the waistband and belt loops you can…. but warning, unpicking those belt loop stiches is not fun 😉

If you pattern calls for elastic in the waistband, like my Cpt. Comfort Jeans, then you will have to cut a slit on the wrong side of the waistband to slip your elastic through- I just use a wide zigzag to mend the slit after (I hide the zigzag stitches behind a belt loop!).  Make sure when overlapping that you line up your jeans button and button hole, you can see here on mine they overlapped much more then the pattern called for.  Then you will tack down the bottom of the belt loops 🙂


3- Now that you have your pieces cut you will continue to sew them just like the pattern calls for  matching the store bought top-stitching thread as best you can. And although they have a wash and distressing, I STILL distress along the way! That way my finished jeans will have the distressing where store bought jeans do, like along pocket lines.

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Now you have a great fitting (no plumbers crack!) pair of jeans that cost you nothing but the thread and time ❤ and plus they look amazing!

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Make ready to wear looking jeans!

Jeans can be an intimidating sewing task, but they really aren’t that difficult and it is so great to have well fitting jeans for you or your little ones! No more plumbers crack when bending down!!!!! 😉


With my recent release of the Cpt. Comfort Jeans I wanted to post about how to distress your new denim to look more like ready to wear jeans! I personally LOVE the distressed look! Although a super clean dark denim can look nice as a “dressy” pair of jeans like here:


But for everyday, I just love the little distressed look… something about looking like Daddy gets me every time with my little guy!

So, lets get started on those great store bought look jeans!

You really MUST use a top-stitching thread for all your top-stiching if you want store bought look… I scoffed at my Mom the first time she told me it was a must… BUT she was right, like always!!


You will use this heavier/thicker weight top-stitching thread in the top only and for top-stitching only. You will use regular thread in the bobbin and for all seams sewing the jeans together– yep, you have to rethread a lot ;). But it is absolutely worth it if you want ready to wear looking jeans! I promise!

You will also NEED a bigger needle designed for heavy weight fabric like denim or you will be breaking needles on those thick belt loops!… here is a single and double needle:


Now, I only have one machine, so there is A LOT of switching threads and needles if I use the double needle. So, I will often just sew two lines with my single needle instead of switching to my double needle 😉

Now for the distressing, you will need some sandpaper! To be honest, I’m not sure the BEST kind of sandpaper to use… I asked my husband if he had some and used whatever he handed me 😉 Here is a shot of the kind I happen to use!


The trick to distressing your denim is to do at WHILE you’re sewing the jeans! If you try to do it before it’s hard to gauge where the distressing needs to be. If you do if after you’ve top-stitched them then you will be breaking your top-stitching threads (ask me how I know that one 😉 ) see left top pocket with it’s broken threads :/ oops!


So, I suggest sewing the jeans together with your normal thread, then distressing with sandpaper before you top-stitch. Here is my patch pocket sewn, turned right sides out, and distressed along the edges (and any other places I fancied at the moment). Then I top-stitched.


Some areas are harder to distress before topstitching like back pockets, belt loops, any piece that you are top-stitching closed or onto the jean.  But I still follow the same steps.  I just fold and press, distress, then top-stitch onto the back piece.


So have fun with a little distressing or A LOT! lol! I like a lot 😉 I end up with a mound of blue fuzz all my sewing room by the time I’m done!

Last is the button! I love to use “real” jeans buttons- and honestly, I always have been lucky enough to take them from my loving mother’s stash! But they are very easy to put on, just line up the two parts and hammer away! Yep, you’ll have sandpaper and a hammer in your sewing room for jeans!!

I’ve always used snaps, which are very common on ready to wear for younger children 🙂

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Embellishing your Alyssa bodice…or any bodice!!

My newest pattern, the Alyssa, was just released! It comes in sizes 1/2 to 14 years. There are 3 different length options: top, tunic or dress. Fit to grow style with tie straps and elastic back. 2 elastic casings in the back for a secure fit. Banded skirt makes for a quicker sew, no hemming, and a great way to use coordinating fabrics. The bodice is perfect for showcasing a sweet fabric or adding embellishments. ZERO pattern pieces, means you can start right away!! ON SALE $5 until Friday 6/13!! No code on craftsy, code ALYSSA on etsy

As I said above, this pattern is PERFECT for adding embellishments to create different looks. This top I made using Tayna Whelan Rosey fabrics. I JUST wanted to show off the beautiful fabric on the bodice, like these other testers! (Hover over photo to see tester name and shop!)


I used Jennifer Paganelli’s new Beauty Queen line, SWOON, for this one in dress length. I wanted to add a little something to the bodice to break up the stripes, so I added a faux placket, ribbon and buttons. I also used two different fabrics to create a split skirt!


Adding this bodice detail is SUPER easy to do on any dress and I’m going to show you how!


First want to cut your faux placket the same length as your bodice piece. The width is preference, but I always think 1/3 of  bodice width looks best.

NOTE: When I took these photos I hadn’t decided what I wanted on the bodice and didn’t want to cut into my stash of Beauty Queen, so I just used a scrap of broadcloth. I have a real fear cutting into any Jennifer Paganelli fabrics because I love them so much that I don’t want to mess it up or waste ANY. I just keep them hoarded in my sewing room and admire them….. I’m telling you, the fear is real.


Iron both your bodice and faux placket in half. This will help keep it perfectly centered when you stitch it on.


Iron back 1/4″ to wrong side of fabric, along  each long side.


Line up your center creases. Edge stitch along each long side. OR add rick rack, lace or ribbon on long edges before stitching in place. Play with the placement of your trims. Try under the placket or over to see what you like best.


I added a piece of ribbon and two buttons down the center. Just cut the ribbon the same length as your bodice, stitch the center of the ribbon to the placket. Easy peasy, done!


What about a tuxedo ruffle?? Julie from Little Darlings Designs added one on her tester tunic.


This time you want to cut your ruffle 2 times the length of your bodice. Again, width is preference. You can go wide or go thinner! Or try adding two ruffles, one wide then place a thinner one on top.


Roll hem along each long side or do a narrow hem if you don’t have a serger. Place a gathering stitch down the center of the ruffle and gather to bodice length. Add rick rack, ribbons or lace to center if you want to hide those stitches!


Now let’s talk about adding bibs! This is my Molly pattern by Becca from Vintage Bebe Props! Adding this sweet like ruffle bib on the front completely changed the look and is OH so cute!


First cut your bib piece the length of your bodice minus 1/2″. This is to allow for the seam allowance when attaching the skirt. Width… guess…… yep it’s preference!


Iron in half width wise and cut a ‘U’ shape for your bib.


Now we need to turn under the unfinished curved edge. You can turn 1/4″ to the wrong side and add rick rack, lace or my favorite a ruffle!! Stitch ruffle along curved bib edge, right sides together, ruffle should be facing in. Press the seam and simply stitch bib to bodice along curve.

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The possibilities are endless and there are no right or wrong ways to do this! It’s amazing how little details can completely change a pattern! Here are some more fabulous tester photos!

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What about the split skirt?? Again, SUPER simple! When you cut your skirt, cut 1 of each skirt piece in 2 different fabrics. Stitch side seam together per pattern instructions. Then instead of leaving open one side and adding the band flat, you want to stitch the other side seam to create a tube. Same with the band, stitch each side seam to create a tube. Iron band in half width wise to find center. (This is so you don’t end up with the band side seam in the center of your skirt.) Pin center creases of band to center seams on skirt and continue per pattern instructions! I love split skirts. It’s a  fun way to use coordinating fabrics or if you don’t want to use all your hoarded Jennifer Paganelli….. anyone else have the problem with fabrics they love??? Tell me I’m not the only one 😉




I hope you enjoyed these quick little tips and give them a try! Don’t forget to go grab the Alyssa while it’s on sale!!