I know this is a scary subject for some, but once you get the hang of it, I actually think installing the rivets and buttons is one of the easiest aspects of making jeans. I installed a rivet in this example, but the steps and procedure for installing a button are exactly the same.
Step 1. Gather all of your tools and supplies.
I am using a piece of scrap denim for this example, but your jeans obviously need to be ready for the rivets. Installing the rivets and buttons is one of the last things I do.
You will need:
- Marking Tool (I use a chalk pencil)
- Nail (roughly the size of your rivet)
- Hard surface to pound on (I use a smooth steel plate. This isn’t entirely necessary, but since it is so smooth and hard, it won’t scratch the rivet cap [burrs] as you pound)
- Denim scraps to use as spacers if necessary
Step 2. Mark the spot where you want to insert your rivet.
It may be difficult to see, but I marked a blue spot in the middle of the image above.
Step 3. Determine how many layers of denim and pocketing fabric you will be inserting the rivet through. Depending on how thick your denim is, and how many layers you have in the spot where you are inserting the rivet, you may need to use some spacers. If the rivet is too long and you don’t have enough thickness, you can over pound the rivet, causing it to go in at an angle. This is bad, don’t do it. Your rivets may come out if they go in crooked. To solve this problem, you need to add two or three layers of denim on the back side of the rivet. You might be able to cut the rivet down, but I prefer to use spacers instead.
I am inserting the rivet through two layers of denim in the example, and decided that I need two additional layers for the back side of the rivet. Just use some scrap denim. Poke a hole using your nail (Step 4, below) and insert your rivet.
Then trim around the edge of the rivet head, eliminating the excess denim.
Now your spacers are done.
Step 4. Poke a hole through your denim with your hammer and nail. You can use this same method to poke the hole for the spacers as well.
Step 5. Insert the rivet (with spacers) through the back or wrong side of your jeans in the same hole you poked in Step 4.
Step 6. Flip your rivet cap, or burr, upside down on your pounding surface.
Step 7. Turn the right side of the denim over, and align the rivet with the hole in the back of the rivet cap.
The rivet cap is upside down under the denim above.
Step 8. Lightly hammer the back of the rivet, but don’t pound it all the way in yet. You want to make sure that the rivet is going in straight. You should be able to pick up everything and check. The little bit of pounding you have already done should hold the rivet cap in place.
Step 9. If the rivet is going in straight, then finish pounding it in until the rivet cap lays flat against the surface of the denim (on the right side). You really don’t need to pound that hard. Take it easy, rivets are your friend. With regard to jeans buttons, you want to pound until the button no longer turns in place and feels solid.
Tada, like magic. Finished rivet.
I love starting new projects.
Raw denim, rolled out and inspected.
Tossed in the tub for a soak. I feel bad holding it under the water against its will.
Hung out to dry in the sun.
Rolled back up, ready to cut.
In case you missed it, here is a little interview I did with Peter from Male Pattern Boldness about denim and making jeans.
Are they chinos, or khakis, or in this case both? I see the names used interchangeably, but I wonder if anybody really knows. The purists say that “chino” is a type of pant and “khaki” is a color. I say when you know how to make ’em yourself, you can call them whatever you want to.
Flat front, button fly, slim fit
100% cotton twill
First attempt at making welt pockets.
Peter, who runs one of my favorite blogs, Male Pattern Boldness, is organizing a jeans sew along! Starting on Monday, May 2nd, you can follow along step-by-step and learn how to make yourself a pair of jeans. I participated in his Mens Shirt Sew Along earlier this year and had a blast. There was a mix of beginners and experienced sewers, which I’m sure will be the case with the Jeans Sew Along. For the Shirt Sew Along he set up a Flickr group so people could post pictures of their project, ask questions to the group, and share information.
Peter is very entertaining and fun to read. He makes men’s as well as women’s clothing. Plus, you can find a large sewing community at his blog with people who are making really interesting projects. It is a great place to learn new things and connect with like minded sewers. I have learned a lot from him, and highly recommend his blog to anyone interested in sewing.
So if you have ever wanted to make yourself a pair of jeans, the time is now! Get over to Peter’s blog and check it out. It is completely free other than your materials, which brings me to some big news.
I’ve decided to open a little Supply Shop specifically for those who want to make their own jeans and denim related projects. This has been in the works for a while now and I’m excited to officially make the announcement. My goal is to make this a one stop shop, with all of the supplies to make a quality pair of jeans in one place.
There are a few items in the shop now, and I will be adding more denim options, rivets, buttons, and thread in the coming weeks. Eventually the shop will move to its own website, but for now everything is available on the Supply Shop page above.
I am only stocking products that I actually use myself. The denim is raw, unwashed, Cone Mills selvedge, which is some of the best denim in the world in my opinion. I also have rivets and jeans buttons available that are easily attached with a hammer, no special tools required. The thread is available for pre-order and should be ready to ship by the end of next week.
Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these products or suggestions for the shop. I hope to run into you during the Jeans Sew Along!
The weather is warming up here in Tennessee, and comfort on those hot, humid days is what I had in mind with these shirts. I chose two lightweight warm weather fabrics. The first is a small check blue and white gingham, and the second shirt is made from a light gray Pima cotton. Both are 100% cotton and feature a single pocket on the left hand side. I may end up adding buttons to the collars to make sure they don’t flair out too much, but I want to wear the shirts a bit more to see how the collars naturally fall.
Back in January, I started re-working my shirt pattern in anticipation of needing a couple of spring/summer shirts. There was too much ease in the back of my first few shirts, which caused them to “poof” when tucked. Overall, I ended up taking out about 2 inches of extra room from the back of my shirt pattern.
Another major change I made was to the length of the shirttails. On my first three shirts, I purposely left the tails somewhat shorter than normal so I could leave the shirts un-tucked and not look like I was wearing a dress. I’ve pretty much decided that un-tucked shirts look sloppy and a little juvenile (maybe I’m getting old?). This time around I lengthened the shirttails to make sure they didn’t pull out when tucked.
I also made a couple of small changes to the collar. I slightly widened the spread of the collar points, and I made the collar taller by about 1/4 inch. Lastly, I took out a little ease from the sleeve, raised the arm hole, and refined the shape of the side seams. While I was happy with the fit of my first shirts, the above modifications are definitely an improvement.
I kind of wish I could photoshop that stupid look off my face.
This picture was taken right after I finished sewing on the buttons. It fits better than depicted above. I should have ironed the shirt first, and it would help if I was standing up straight instead of leaning on that railing.
I am a little late to be deciding on goals for the rest of the year in April, but better late than never. Here is a quick list of projects I want to accomplish before the end of the year (or next year in some cases). The first two are already underway and pretty much complete. I’ll post some pictures soon.
A pair of jeans for my wife. This project is long overdue and something I should have completed a while ago. I started the pattern, but need to make some adjustments and a couple more muslin test fit garments.
A few ties. These will most likely be casual cotton ties but I haven’t decided yet.
Canvas bag/back pack. I need a simple bag for work that can double as an overnight or weekend getaway bag. I’m not sure if I want more of a duffel bag shape or a back pack shape.
Jacket. The first version will most likely be an unstructured, unlined, informal jacket. Once I have a decent pattern for this, I can turn it into a more formal sport coat or suit jacket with a lining.
Cold weather jacket, pea coat/toggle coat. Again, I have to decide what I want here. This project could easily get pushed to next year, but is definitely something I want to attempt.
Suit. My work environment is extremely casual (I work from home), and I only need to wear a suit once or twice a year. That being said, I love suits and I would like to have a closet full of suits that fit really well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the suit project got pushed into next year as well.
More jeans. You only need one, maybe two good pairs of jeans. The key word being “good.” I am still adjusting my pattern for that perfect fit, and will probably always have plans to work with denim in some form or another. Quality denim is by far my favorite fabric to work with so far.
I could easily change or add things to this list. I may change my mind about some of these projects, but putting some of these goals in writing will make me accountable. If you have any suggestions for things you think I should consider making, let me know.
I get asked about the sewing machines I use quite often. If I had more space, I would probably have about a dozen different machines all set up for different tasks. In general, I like simple machines. You can spend a lot of money on a sewing machine with tons of features, different types of stitches, and touch screens. I doubt most people utilize all of these features, and I feel that the more complicated the machine is, the more things that can potentially go wrong with it.
This is the workhorse of our (I share with my wife) sewing studio/office. It is a basic single needle, straight lockstitch industrial sewing machine made by Brother. It goes forwards and backwards and that’s about it. Whereas domestic machines are made to accomplish a variety of things such as straight, zig zag, and stretch stitches, industrial machines are uni-taskers. They do one thing and they do it really well. After all, industrial machines are made for the factory floor where they are expected to do repetitive tasks and run at high speeds all day long.
This machine is built into a table with an oil pan and large motor mounted underneath. It has a 3/4 horsepower motor, is very powerful, and when set at its highest speed, can sew up to 5,500 stitches per minute. I never sew even close to this speed, but it’s nice to know the speed is there if I ever want it. The really nice thing about a big powerful motor is that the industrial machine still has a lot of “punching” power even at low speeds. This machine can sew through five or six layers of heavy denim without flinching while sewing very slowly.
One of my favorite features is a lever that sits right below the surface of the table that I can access with my knee to lift the presser foot. This allows me to keep both hands on whatever I am working on while raising and lowering the foot. Right now we have this machine set up for medium to heavy weight materials with a heavy set of feed dogs.
The industrial machine is made out of steel, which contributes to it being so solid and running so smoothly. The sewing head by itself without the motor and table weighs between 70 and 100 pounds.
The Juki serger below is still fairly new to me. I bought it in January and am still learning about all of the different things it can do. Like many sergers, this model has two knives that cleanly trim off the edge of the fabric and then overlock the freshly cut edge with any combination of 2, 3, or 4 threads. These overlock stitches prevent the edge of the fabric from fraying. This model has differential feed and can be used with a single needle or double needles depending on which type of stitch I want to create.
Our oldest machine is a domestic Pfaff. It was one of the first sewing machines my wife bought about six or seven years ago, long before I was even remotely interested in making clothing. It has held up really well over the years. This type of machine is what I would recommend to anyone looking for their first general purpose sewing machine. I don’t think Pfaff makes this particular model any more, but there are other options and brands that are comparable.
Since I’ve been on a leather accessories kick lately, I thought I would post this belt I put together a little while back. I actually won the buckle in a giveaway from my local and totally kick ass microbrewery, Yazoo. You can buy your own buckle here. I picked up a belt blank from the leather supply shop, drilled a few holes, cut it to length, and rounded off the end. Simple as that. Done. New Belt.
This is way more buckle than I am used to, but since I won it, and since the beer is outstanding, I’m really proud of it. The leather is vegetable tanned cow hide, so like my wallet and card case, it will naturally age and take on some color with time.
The best part is that the buckle also doubles as a bottle opener.
This was my first attempt at working with leather. I needed a less bulky wallet and a way to easily access business cards. The leather, which is a vegetable tanned goat skin, is a little lighter in color than I originally wanted, but I decided to go with it anyway. This goat skin is much thinner and a bit tougher than cowhide making it ideal for a wallet.
The wallet is made using a single piece of leather. There are no stitches and no glue. Just one piece of leather folded with tabs. Some of the edges are already showing some wear. Over time, I’m sure this light color will age and patina to a darker brown (or blue if they ride around in my jeans for too long haha!).
Full disclosure: The idea for making a wallet out of a single piece of leather with no stitching or glue came from a Maxx & Unicorn wallet I saw here. I liked the simplicity of the idea and the challenge of trying to figure out how to create a wallet with just a piece of leather. The Maxx & Unicorn version is obviously more refined and quite nice. I’m not a hundred percent sure whether or not they use any glue. The description doesn’t really say, but there doesn’t appear to be any stitching.
Despite being a different color, the card case is actually cut from the same piece of leather. I opted to use stitching here to reduce bulk/layers and to get the job done quickly. The wallet is more complicated and it took quite a while to create the pattern, cut, fold, etc., but this card case only took about a half an hour to complete from start to finish.
I would like to thank the guys over at Put This On for featuring my jeans on their blog. I am a huge fan of what they do, and am honored that they took an interest in my latest project. As a long time reader I was ecstatic (literally jumping around the room) when I saw the above image on the Put This On home page. Their posts as well as their videos are very informative and entertaining, and I highly recommend checking out their site if you haven’t already.