Sew Jeans for Yourself – Rub Off Pattern

How to make a sewing pattern from your jeans -

As we sew jeans this month, the question of patterns comes up. Sabra posted a great review yesterday of some of the commercially available patterns. Today I’m going to show you how to make a pattern from your own jeans. Even if your jeans don’t fit you perfectly, it’s worth rubbing off a pattern from them because then you can correct the fit to sew your new pair. Which is better than starting from scratch in my opinion.

Best of all? This method (also known as rub-off patterning) doesn’t destroy your jeans.  I’m going to give a brief overview here, but if you want the step by step with lots of commentary I suggest you read first this post, then this post. In those I talk about supplies and rub off patterns from two other garments.

So, start with the front of the jeans. Spread the jeans out as flat as possible, and pin the leg closed in several places so that it can’t shift when you flip the pants over to do the back side.

Put your pins directly through the middle of the zipper. Remember to outline the pocket and the waistband, and add marks for the belt loops if desired. I don’t, because I just place them next to the pockets. Add pins down the front seam lines.

How to make a pattern from your jeans -

Use pins and cardboard to make a pattern from your jeans - without destroying them!

For the jeans back, flip the pants face down, making sure not to shift the waistband (pin it to itself to prevent this). Trace along the inseam and outseam with a pencil – most jeans have a back piece that wraps around to the front and you’re going to need this line to match up the fold.  Place pins to outline the back yoke, waistband, pockets and back rise.

Outline the pockets, yoke and waistband with pins - make a pattern from your jeans -

Flip the jeans back over and line up the edge of the pants inseam with your line. Then use pins to indicate how much the pants back piece overlaps around to the front.

For example, below you’d want to outline the area in red with pins – that bit needs to get added on to what you’ve alread traced of the pant back.

Don't forget the back of the back leg that wraps around to the front - rub off jeans pattern -

You’ll need to repeat the same process with the outseam, lining the pants up to the outseam line you traced.

Rub off jeans pattern -

Now, once you have a basic rub off of the pattern traced out, it’s time to get your measuring tape. Measure the waistband and make sure your tracing measures the same. Measure the outseams and inseams as well.

Next, to begin altering, measure yourself.

How to measure a pattern to help determine fit - before sewing! -

The normal relationship of a pants pattern to the body -

One trick I’ve used to get a better idea of the rise length I need is to get a sheet of foil and roll it into a tube. Then, with just your underwear on, you can shape this to fit your own rise. Use a sharpie to mark the crotch point (where your pants seam usually hits your body) and the level where the front and back of your pants should end. Step out of it carefully.

Use foil determine the shape and length you need for pants crotch rise -

The foil measure helps you get a good measurement of your rise depth – measure from the front or back ending mark to the crotch point you marked and you now know how long the front/back rise should be on a pair of fitted pants, like jeans.

For example, I’ve learned by this that I always have to lengthen the back rise on my pants, or else risk plumbers crack. (PS – this also works for babies, particularly those that have cloth diapered bums).

How to adjust back rise to make it longer -

Now that you’ve got the rise correct, what if the seat itself isn’t wide enough? This might be the case if all your jeans fit like this:


See all those wrinkles pointing into my rear? They’re caused by a too short rise and back leg that isn’t wide enough on top. Make this alteration to give your booty more room.

Pattern alteration to use when baby got back -

Now if you’re more apple shaped than pear shaped, you may need to keep the waist and rise of your jeans the same but take fabric out of the width of the rear and leg. You can do that this way.

Pants pattern alteration for flat rear -

With some of my skinny jeans, a lower than designed for buttock curve is also an issue. It’s the most likely culprit for the way these jeans fit:


See how the top of the back sits in the right place, but then the bottom of the rise is, well, rising into my body?

So if you smooth all those wrinkles below the bum into one big wrinkle, that will show you how much you need to lower the back crotch curve.

Pattern alteration for a lower buttocks curve -

In fact, if you look at the image above and compare that to my foil rise ruler, the shape is pretty similar.

What if you’re not a skinny jeans girl? The fit isn’t flattering on everyone, I will admit that. Or maybe you just want options with your jeans. Here’s how to widen a leg:

Pattern alteration to change jean leg width -

Conversely, if you happen to have a wider leg pattern and want to make it skinnier, you do the opposite, slashing the leg and overlapping at the bottom.

Hopefully all that helps! The official jeans sewalong is going to begin next week; in the meantime this week Sabra is also going to cover muslins while I focus on the tops from Just Add Jeans .
Want to see all the jeans posts we’ve done? Click on any picture to go to the post.

jeansfitguide-430x700 jeans sew a straight line-26 rub off pattern
make your muslin tips-sew-jeans jeans sew along cutting out sew a straight line
pockets flat felled seams sew a straight line jeans topstitching zipper fly side inseams jeans sew along sew a straight line
belt loops rivets and hemming jeans sew a straight line jeanschart-web

More Rub Off Patterning Tutorials

Rub off T-shirt
Rub off Blazer

Rub off Pajamas

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  1. Elisa says

    What a great post! I have never tried to make jeans for myself but would love to give it a try. Great information!

  2. Melanie says

    This is wonderful! I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about fabrics to use besides denim? Like what kind would you buy for a colored skinny jean?

    Thanks! This is a great website :)

  3. Jacqueline says

    What a fabulous – and very useful – post. It’s generous of you to share this information!
    Many thanks…. I’m really looking forward to trying this.

  4. says

    I have never attempted making jeans before and never knew all the different ways to alter the pattern…and since I am in dire need of a pair of jeans that truly fit me, I am definitely going to do this. Thank you for all of this valuable information!

  5. Lee says

    This tutorial is brilliant. I was wondering how I could replicate a favourite pair of jeans, so this is perfect.

    Many thanks Mel.

  6. Regina Roza says

    Awesome tutorial for making your own jeans!! I’m not afraid if sewing my own jeans; I’ve never come across a tutorial that’s given enough useful information to do it on my own….until now!! Great job and thank you so much I can never find jeans to fit me properly or at least how I like them and feel comfortable.

  7. Kate Horton says

    Thank you SO much for this. I am approaching the point of such frustration with both the limited range of fashions available in RTW nowadays (I don’t do skinny, only boot leg and it’s like trying to find hen’s teeth) or that don’t cater for my body shape post 3 children (quite a bit thicker in the middle so standard sizes fit everywhere except the waist, which let’s face it – you wanna be comfortable!!), that I’m starting to try and be brave and have a go at sewing my own pants. I recently did my first ever pattern rub off from looking at your tutorials (from a summer skirt into a winter one and I have NOT stopped wearing it this winter), but have literally never sewn myself a pair of pants from a pattern than actually end up fitting. This outline of rub off and fit adjustment for jeans is PERFECT for giving me the confidence to just having a go at it. So thanks and wish me luck!! :)

  8. cf says

    Thank you for the info! I live overseas and finding clothes to fit me is difficult……I’m trying to sew but altering patterns are a bit difficult for me!

  9. says

    I’m attempting to make myself maternity jeans with a pattern and DIY tutorial mash-up. I have a pair of capris that still fit comfortably that I love, but they’re a loose fit that I don’t think would translate super well to a full length jean. Can I still use them and just take them in a little when I’m adjusting? And is it possible to continue the leg of the jean to get a full length vs. capri? They hit about mid-calf with the cuff unrolled. Or would it be better to use a slightly too snug pair of full length jeans and add a little extra to the side seams?

    Thanks so much for you input! I’d love to create my own pattern vs. buying since I’m worried there will be quite a bit of adjustment needed for a maternity fit. :)

  10. grandmasue10 says

    I learned altering legs at Stretch ‘n’ Sew classes; they said always do the same thing to each seam; i.e.;take in half inch on both sides of the leg, or it will end up wonky. May I assume your method of splitting or overlapping in the center of the pattern does not require any adjustments to the corresponding part of the pants?

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