New shorts: Dawn jean shorts by Megan Nielsen

Truth be told, I wasn’t that excited about making jeans for Sew My Style July. Not because I don’t like making jeans – in actual fact I find it really satisfying – but because I’m trying to lose a little weight and jeans are a lot of effort to make if you then go and change size. I also was pretty sure I was going to make the Megan Nielsen Ash jeans as I’ve had that pattern since it came out and really wanted to give it a go. However, there were quite a few choices this month and, when I noticed that the Dawn jeans, also by Megan Nielsen, had a shorts version, I thought “Aha”.


I feel like shorts are a little more forgiving size-wise, plus I had this amazing acid wash denim in my stash that all of a sudden seemed PERFECT. I got it from a #Seattlesews fabric swap event and had been mulling over what to do with it. It’s very soft, vintage denim, probably from the 80s or 90s, and I’m quite partial to an ironic piece of retro clothing, I must say. SONY DSC The Dawn jeans are very much based around the rigid denim, mum-jeans that are all over the place right now. If I’m totally honest, I’m not sure I even cared for them back in the early 90s too much, but there is probably a photo or two around with me sporting some.


So, what can I tell you about this project? It was definitely my quickest ever denim project and that is a lot to do with the fact I’ve made a couple of pairs before. The instructions for the Dawn jeans are extremely informative and quite dense. There’s a lot of info packed in and this is partly because there are lots and lots of options. There are four different jeans versions: tapered leg, straight leg, wide leg and shorts. There are also three lengths:  tall, regular and cropped. If that wasn’t enough for you, Megan Nielsen also provides instructions for a button fly, zipper fly and exposed button fly. Whew! As you can see I opted for the exposed button fly as I felt all that pale acid denim needed to be broken up a bit.


On the other hand, an exposed button fly can leave you slightly…well… exposed, so let’s talk about fit a little. It’s been quite a while since I wore a “proper” pair of rigid denim jeans or shorts. Even my Morgans were made from a fairly lightweight Cone Mills denim with a decent amount of give. These, however, are the real deal and I knew right away they would need to be broken in. Do you remember breaking jeans in? Maybe people still do it, I don’t know, but I can’t remember the last time I had to break my jeans in. Elastane arrived and that seemed to disappear. Not with these babies though…


I made a straight size 18 and noticed quite a few other Sew My Style completers mentioning that the Dawn jeans were somewhat “snug”, so I knew I would have some work to do. My main issue with trousers, pants or jeans is the length of my hips. I need a slightly longer rise than most and high-waisted things never really reach any sort of high waist on me, but I decided to make these from the packet and see how we went (I was somewhat short on time). And, actually, although I could do with another 1/2″ in the crotch, they’re really not too bad at all. I reckon if I lose a few more pounds they’ll be fine actually. And if not, well, then they won’t.


You can see there is some strain at the button fly and I definitely get a little crotch smile at times, but nothing that I haven’t seen on RTW denim jean shorts, and actually much like the official pattern photos in many ways, so for a first time making them, I’ll take them! They’re still damn comfy to wear and that’s the main thing.


The leg of the shorts is the shortened version of the widest jeans, and I feel like they are a little too wide for me. This is also because my legs are proportionally thinner than my midriff right now, but I would probably slim them down a bit next time. They’re not comically large though, so I don’t mind too much and it gives me a good idea how wide the wide-leg jeans would be on me too.


Yes, okay, I know. The TIGER. Isn’t he gorgeous? I was feeling like something was missing from my shorts and I’ve had this handsome chap in my notions stash for some time. A quick iron and he was on the pocket, although I suspect I may need to add a stitch or two for longevity.


Now – to construction, construction. I repeated my previous stitch settings of Tension = 7, Stitch length = 3.5 and a topstitch needle for topstitching the denim and I LOVED it just as much as before. It really is satisfying. For the regular stitching I used a denim needle and regular tension and my machine was good. For bar tacks I used a zigzag stitch with length 0.5 and width 2.0 and topstitching thread and, again, it really worked well. For buttonholes, I half-heartedly tried the topstitching thread, but knew it probably wouldn’t work well based on previous experience (it didn’t) and so used regular thread to much better effect. I used a bright lime colour, which looked ACE and I only wished I had had topstitching thread in that hue to contrast with the denim.


As I mentioned above, the instructions are very thorough with good illustrations and I only made two mistakes. The first was to sew the pockets bags on backwards, which was no big deal and easy to rectify. The second was to somehow cut the waistband a bit short. I’m still not entirely sure what happened, but I ended up cutting a second one a bit longer and it was okay. Waistbands are my NEMESIS in any project, so let’s just call it “typical” and leave it at that. Huh.


I left out the rivets completely because they are a pain and I didn’t think they were necessary for this pair of shorts. I also decided to roll and stitch the bottoms. I considered the regular topstitched hem, as well as a raw frayed hem, but they were super-wide and what you see now with a rolled hem is a tamed version of that width – it was the best solution.


Anddd… that’s about it! I’m sorry I don’t have more construction pics but I made these so fast and it was really quite straightforward. They’re a great pair of jeans and I highly recommend them. I hope they take you back to the early 90s and if you’re too young… sorry… you didn’t miss much.


13 thoughts on “New shorts: Dawn jean shorts by Megan Nielsen

  1. These are SO AWESOME Claire!!!!! OK, I didn’t like acid wash the first time around, but these are so iconic and perfect as shorts, I may have to search for some similar fabric!!!! (Actually I think my husband has some acid wash jeans in the attic. Maybe a refashion is in order?????)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! That sounds like a fantastic idea to refashion! You should totally do it. I really, really, REALLY wasn’t sure I should do this, but I’m glad I did! They turned out much nicer than I was expecting to be honest!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG I’m stealing these. I love them so much! That last shot… it’s like you’re an air guitar champion. I’m so jealous.


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