I’ve got a few minutes of downtime from teaching the youngster how to make rain sticks and plasticine dogs (!) to write down a few notes about my rigid denim Dawn jeans by Megan Nielsen. I’ve been meaning to make a “proper” high-waisted garment for ages as I have quite a few cropped items and -ahem- garments that might have turned out shorter than planned or shrank in the wash – and wanted some bottoms I could wear with them. I will be honest and say that I wasn’t completely sold on the high-waist thing. Partly because I have a long torso, so wasn’t sure if I could make them work for me, but also I just wasn’t completely sure it would suit me somehow. Or possibly even be comfortable with the high waist in rigid denim in my advancing years?
Of course, now that I’ve made some, I’m kicking myself, because they’re great! I didn’t really make many more adjustments than normal (more on that later) and they go with everything. They also “hold me in”, which is a very definite plus and are super comfortable. Like realllyyy comfortable. I am 110% going to make another pair asap and have been eyeing my stash for the best candidate. I have some lovely wine corduroy that’s definitely high on the list.
I made these for my second pair of bottoms in my recent spring capsule and I wasn’t sure if I’d get them done in time, but I had a few things going for me. Firstly, I already made the shorts version of this pattern last summer, so I had a great fitting tool ready and waiting to be popped on and assessed. Secondly, I was planning to make these a fairly monochromatic black denim version, so knew already I wouldn’t need to topstitch in the traditional sense, which involves continuous changing of thread, needle and tension, so takes a fair bit longer. I did still topstitch though and was really pleased with how it came out, even if it’s subtle.
Dawn jeans pattern
The Dawn jeans come with a large range of options, which is immensely appealing, since, if you perfect the fit on one pair, you have several more to choose from. There are also two size ranges: Megan Nielsen has plenty of patterns in regular sizing and “curve” sizing. I used the regular sizing as it’s the pattern I had to hand, but I’d be interested to know how the Curve version compares.
The four different types of jean comprise a tapered leg view (which I made), a straight leg view, a wide leg view and a pair of shorts (which I made previously). There are instructions for a button fly, exposed button fly and a zipper fly, plus several different length options. You really do get a lot of bang for your buck!
I made the straight size 18 last time and haven’t worn the shorts since the summer. In fact, I made them at the end of summer, so they haven’t even been washed yet. And herein lies the slight dilemma with rigid denim. I mentioned this before in some post, but anyone who regularly bought jeans pre-2000, say, knows rigid denim has to be broken in.
I was reminded of this fact when I made my Morgans, which were a little on the tight side, and I ruefully declared I would size up next time, but which relaxed after a few weeks into that larger size, pretty much. In fact I lost a little weight at some point, and was positively swimming in them, but have since rectified that issue with copious amounts of Cadburys Mini-Eggs. One further issue that compounded the dilemma was that when I pulled my fabric out to prewash it, I realised it wasn’t denim at all! Oops! It is a rigid heavyweight linen, which has a little give, but probably less than denim in my estimation. Anyway, my overall decision was to make the 18 again, assuming they would relax after a bit of wear.
I love the fact that Megan Nielsen includes so many length options in her pattern. If memory serves, I think she tends to draft for the taller person as standard and so it’s lovely that she has lengths for both a 5’9″ and a 5’5″ person, as well as cropped lengths. I am 5’6″, but have an inseam of 27″, which is a little on the shorter side, so was happy to see that the 5’5″ inseam length was 27.5″ and decided just to go with that, as lopping off half an inch at the end would have a very minimal effect on the shaping of the legs, which is always the issue if you wait until the end and have to lop 4 inches off the bottom! The length was perfect on me, to cut to the chase.
Trying on my shorts again, they were a pretty good, snug fit. But one thing I wanted to adjust and 100% expected to, was the rise. Looking at the shorts, the back was pretty close to the height of my natural waist, but my front was significantly lower, which led me to do two things. Firstly, I raised the rise by half an inch front and back to increase the general height of the waist as my waistline is higher than some.
As well as that though, I decided to add a full tummy adjustment to the front piece to make up the difference between the front and back waistband heights. I do have a prominent tummy, so definitely need more length there compared to the back (this was an issue on my Robinson trousers recently). I therefore added a 1″ tummy adjustment and these changes really worked wonders. My resultant waistband is now perfectly straight. Hurrah!
Note: As both these adjustments add length to the pattern, you have the adjust the corresponding pieces too: the fly, fly front and the zipper itself.
So that was the waist and tummy taken care of. But I also needed to take care of the crotch and bum area. I need more length in the crotch and I have a low, flat bum ( lucky old me!), so I needed to adjust for that too.
First the crotch. By trying on the shorts, I estimated I needed an extra 1/2 inch in length so added that to the front piece.
For the back piece, I scooped the curve in by 1/2″ to account for my low bum and slightly shortened (maybe 1/4″) the crotch length for the flatness aspect of it. I’m afraid this last picture isn’t very good as the pattern piece isn’t flat and has curled up at the crotch corner, but I made sure the angles were right and consistent. There are lots of good places to find ideas on which adjustments you might need, but online I would recommend Closet Case Patterns’ jeans fitting guide as a good place to start.
I completely ignored the legs of the shorts for fitting purposes since the cut of the shorts leg is completely different from the version I was going to make (see View D, compared to View A).
Construction and results
I’m not going to go too in-depth regarding construction here as it’s the second time I’ve made them and I went through quite a bit in my shorts post. I will reiterate, however, that the Megan Nielsen instructions are excellent. The Closet Case Patterns’ instructions are held up as the gold standard, and rightly so, but I think the Dawn jeans (and Ash jeans I presume) instructions are up there too. Lots and lots of info, but presented clearly without over-explaining and with excellent illustrations. If you’re looking for a first pair of jeans to try, this pattern gets my recommendation. I did the zipper fly this time, instead of the button fly, and the method was GREAT. I had no issues at all.
In addition, there’s a great step-by-step sewalong on the Megan Nielsen website and TONS of other resources for the Dawn jeans. Everything from a list of what and where to buy supplies, to fitting notes, styling suggestions and hacks, as well as the construction itself, so check it out. As mentioned, I used regular thread for everything, including the topstitching and a denim needle. I got good results, so no particular comments there.
The only specific note I have is that the waistband came up really quite short again and that was with a fair amount of easing in. I’ve looked back at my previous Dawn shorts post and it came up short there too, which I put down to human error at the time. It seems unlikely I cut it short twice, so it’s something to look out for, at least in the 18. I cut a new waistband last time, but this time I didn’t have enough fabric for that. Grrr. It’s not criminally short, but it made the closure difficult. My button is much closer to the edge than normal, but it works, I suppose, as you can’t really tell from the front.
And my impressions of the final jeans? Firstly, I like the legs a lot. This is probably my best ever leg fit from a muslin pair of jeans (or any trousers), both in terms of length and width – my legs have never looked so long!
The other adjustments seemed okay too and I really love the fit… apart from the tummy area. I couldn’t – uuggghhh – do the zip up. I even did the old lying down on the bed trick (remember that?), but no dice. So I took the side seams out by 3/8″ just from the waist to the bottom of the pocket bag and that seemed to work. (I therefore used a 3/8″ seam allowance for the waistband as well at this point). Apart from that little adjustment at the end, they are great!! I love them! I can wear crop tops with them comfortably (above) and I can breathe! No doubt about it – they are snug, but not blood-restricting and I’m looking forward to seeing how they relax…
Two weeks later…
Well, by the magic of the Internet I can now teleport forward two weeks and let you know that after several wears and washes, my jeans have indeed relaxed a bit. The linen is definitely quite unyielding, but I think the pants are super and have been wearing them tons. They go with everything, which helps. The one area I need to look at further is under my bum, which still has quite a few wrinkles that have also relaxed a bit with wear, so I need to shorten that back crotch further next time. Overall though, five stars!