Friday, September 5, 2008

Tutorial: Turning Regular Jeans into Maternity Jeans

I realize I haven't posted in a while, but when I dug out my maternity clothes recently and rediscovered my favorite "maternity" jeans, I thought I'd share how I came to own them.

During my last pregnancy I had a hard time finding inexpensive, well-fitting maternity pants. I live in jeans and own way more pairs than I need, so when I'm pregnant it's hard to be satisfied with just one or two. Luckily I found a way to turn non-maternity pants and skirts into ones that would work when I'm pregnant, and for lots, LOTS less than buying actual maternity wear. So raid your drawers and closets, hit the second hand stores and get yourself a few pairs of pants that you'd like to be able to wear during pregnancy.

Here's what you'll need:
o Sewing machine
o Pair of jeans/pants/skirt (you should be able to pull the pants on and then zip them up a little bit.)
o 2 Jeans (not Standard) sewing needles
o 3-4” wide elastic (enough to go around your waist, below your belly button, plus about 3")
o thread that matches or is similar to elastic color
o thread that contrasts your jeans
o sharp sewing scissors
o pins
o seam ripper

Useful Tips:
o If your elastic has different textures on either side, make sure the softer side is placed so that it’s to the inside, the side that will be against your body.
o For the guide line (#11), use a thread that contrasts with your pants so that it’s easy to see.
o Use thread that matches or is similar to your elastic, not your pants, when stitching the elastic & jeans together (#21).
o Make sure you use a jeans needle, not a regular one. A standard needle will break when sewing through the seams of your jeans.
o If you are not pregnant or showing much when you do this project, use jeans that are comfortable or slightly roomy. Measuring your elastic waistband will involve some guesswork. Wrap it around your waist as described (#12), but leave a little slack between it and your body. Again, you're just guessing on how much slack you’ll need, but don’t pull it tight against yourself or these pants won’t last you through more than the first or second trimester.
o This project can be done with any kind of button and zipper pants or skirts- corduroys, trousers, khakis, cargos, etc.

Let's go!

1. Put on your jeans; zip them up as high as you can if you are very pregnant, or about halfway up if you are not.

2. On the outside fly, mark with a straight pin where the zipper pull is.

3. Take off the pants and zip up the zipper all the way.

4. Lay the pants flat and pin the front pockets shut.

5. Unstitch any belt loops that go below the waistband in the back.

6. Using white chalk or other visible pen, draw an even curve starting at the pin you placed at the zipper, up to the sides of the jeans and across the back, between the yoke and the waistband. *Try to make sure your line is smooth and hits at the same point on both side seams and is straight across the back. It should not make any dramatic dips or peaks.

7. Make sure your drawn line doesn’t go through any rivets; adjust the line by moving it slightly up or down if necessary in order to miss them. If your line cuts across any front belt loops, unstitch those as well.

8. Cut along the drawn line, being very careful not to pull the zipper open once you’ve cut through it. *It’s easiest to make this cut if you have the pants on a flat surface, such as slipped over one end of an ironing board.

9. Once you’ve cut the top off your jeans, take them to your sewing machine and do a wide but short zigzag stitch over the very top of your zipper to keep it shut for good. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS ZIPPER TO EVER OPEN! *Be very careful not to actually let your needle come down on the teeth of the zipper. It WILL break. Just make your zigzag wide enough that it jumps over the zipper and catches on either side of it.

10. Go back to your regular length straight stitch. Lay the outside and inside flies down flat over the zipper, the way they’d normally lay. Pin if needed. Stitch down the fly, close to the top raw edge, to keep it closed over the zipper.

11. About ½” away from the raw edge, stitch a guide line (using your contrasting thread) all the way around the top of your jeans, being very careful when going over the zipper. *When you come to the zipper, you may want to lift your needle out of the fabric and raise your presser foot so you can slide the pants forward a little, until you’ve gotten to the other side of the zipper. You don’t actually have to make stitches over the zipper itself here.

12. With just your undergarments between the elastic and your skin (a shirt and pants will add bulk that won’t be there when you’re wearing these pants), take your elastic and wrap it around your waist, placing it under your belly and where it feels comfortable in the back. *This is a very important step. Your new elastic waistband will get you through to the end of pregnancy, as long as you don't pull the elastic tight here. The elastic itself has enough give to accommodate your growing belly because it will rest below it, not right on the largest part. Making sure the elastic sits high enough in back will ensure that the pants will stay on and be comfortable even in your early months.

13. Pull the elastic so it’s snug, not tight, and make a mark with a pen where you want to cut the end. There will be no seam allowance or overlap, so don’t include any when you are making this mark.

14. Cut your elastic as straight as possible at the mark.

15. Butting the 2 cut ends of elastic together, use a wide, short zigzag stitch to join the two, creating your new waistband.

16. Fold your elastic in half, with the seam you just made at one of the folded ends. This seam is now Center Back (CB) of your elastic. The opposite fold is Center Front (CF). Mark this fold with a small pen mark.

17. Fold the elastic the other way, putting CF mark & CB seams together and marking the other 2 folds in the same way. This will help you place the elastic on your jeans evenly.

18. Place CB seam of elastic on the back seam of your jeans, placing the edge of the elastic on the guide line you stitched on the jeans earlier. Pin in place. Place CF and side marks of elastic on guide line of jeans at front and both sides then pin, same as CB.

19. Spreading the fullness of the jeans as evenly as you can, place more pins between the 4 you have, all the way around your pants. Placing a pin halfway between 2 pins, then halfway between the next 2 and so on will help you place them evenly. *This step does not have to be perfect. We’re only trying to avoid major lopsidedness by getting the jeans and the elastic basically matched up. **Your elastic will not lay flat on top of your jeans when you’re done pinning. Your jeans may be a little bunched.

20. Begin stitching the elastic to your jeans by sinking your needle & lowering your presser foot at CB. Pinch the elastic and jeans behind your needle with one hand, and a few inches in front of it with the other and pull the elastic taut.

21. Stitch close to the edge of the elastic, pulling jeans & elastic taut as you go.

22. Stitch all the way around your jeans. Be careful going over the zipper! I suggest you use your hand wheel to move the needle up and down when you get there, and when you feel the needle hit the teeth, slide the jeans forward a tiny bit in order to avoid the zipper. *Each time you stop sewing to adjust your jeans, make sure you stop with the needle down. When you go to pull the jeans and elastic taut to continue sewing, your jeans won’t move out from under the foot.

23. When you’re done stitching, take out all the pins. Check that you caught the elastic and the top of the jeans in the stitching all the way around.

24. Cut any loose threads.

25. Ta Da! All done!

In the above photos I am only about 12 weeks along- thus the "chubby-but-not-very-pregnant" look. But already regular button jeans have become uncomfortable, and my elastic-waist jeans are a lifesaver. During my last pregnancy, I wore the other pairs I made myself through to the very end.