Monday, April 22, 2013

Shorts with Leather Detail: Reconstruction

I've basically never found shorts that look good on me. They are always either too short, too relaxed fitting and saggy or too twee. I really wanted shorts that fit well, were long enough that I didn't feel over exposed wearing them and that were a bit edgier than the very "juniors department" looking styles I'd seen in stores.  After being disappointed in the dressing room one too many times, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Calling cuttoffs a "reconstruction project" is kind of reaching, but in this case I think the term is warranted since the jeans I cut off had been in the garbage/goodwill/spare fabric pile for years on account of a massive 3 inch long rip in the seat.  So fixing these jeans up and making them wearable and cute was a three part process: 1) fix the rip, 2) cut them off and 3) sew in leather panels, so as to look like a not-twee badass.

First up, the rip:  I started off by cutting a piece of black twill a bit longer and wider than the rip and then rounding off the corners (so that the patch, if it does lift, won't have pointy, uncomfortable edges).  I used a piece of iron on fusible web to make the twill into a patch, which I then carefully ironed in to the inside of the jeans, making sure the fabric was flat as I ironed.  Then I flipped the jeans back right side out and used my sewing machine to make a slew of zig zag stitches back and forth over the rip, until it was completely covered and the loose threads were contained.  I used black thread and black twill, since that's what I had on hand and since I didn't mind the jeans having a "scar", but i might have also used denim from the lower part of the legs to make the patch, and denim colored thread for the stitching.  Here's a great tutorial with lots of photos and explanation of the zigzag stitch process:, and, below on the left, here's my finished patch/scar. I think it adds to the general bad-assery of the shorts:

Next up, cutting.  I tried the jeans on and marked where I wanted them cut with chalk.  Then I took them off and cut them about 3/4 of an inch longer than that mark (to give them room to fray down an inch or so), making sure they were a little longer in the middle than they were on the outer seams (so they made a slight v shape, when laid flat).  I went over the cut edges with sandpaper to start them fraying, then washed and dried the shorts to finish messing up the edges.  I cut off all the long loose threads and it was time for step three:

Applying the leather panels.  The jeans have a triangle shaped motif on the back pockets and the button, so I went with that inspiration and cut two pieces of black scrap leather into triangles and used masking tape to affix the triangles to the outer seams of each leg.  Leather shouldn't be pinned, since the pins would leave lasting holes in the fabric, but the masking tape worked like a charm.  I just ripped it off when I was done sewing.

I'm not one for fancy single use machine needles, but I did use heavy duty leather needles when sewing these panels in.  When I first bought the leather needles, I thought they were probably overkill, but in retrospect I'm really glad I had them.  My leather was pretty thick, and I was sewing it over thick denim. because of the placement of my panels over the side seams, the denim was 4 layers thick in places . . . add that thickness to a chunk of leather, and I'm pretty sure judging by the noises my machine made as I sewed that I would've busted quite a few needles trying to sew this with a standard needle.  I barely made it through as was!  If you're going to try sewing leather applique, spring for a pack of leather needles. You won't regret it. 

Here they are, all completed! 

And on:

I wore these on Sunday and I'm happy to report that they're the exact shorts I was hoping they'd be.  I don't feel like a stripper or a teenager in them. Huzzah!

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