A couple of months ago as shop windows changed their displays for the spring, denim garments of every description exploded onto the scene. It seemed the right time to address an old injustice of my never having owned a pair of dungarees!
A voice of reason told me to go into any of the shops, like H&M or M&S, and try on a pair to see if they suit me. But I didn’t. It would have put me off. Changing rooms offer such a dispiriting experience. I often try jeans on and despair at how awful they look, but soon as I change back into the pair I came in – the jeans I wear all the time – I invariably find that they look bad too!
So instead I bought a dungarees sewing pattern, Kwik Sew 3897, some jean buttons (online) and buckles at £1.60 pence a pair from the haberdasher’s at the market in Bromley (an excellent resource for zips, thread, even boning: Thursdays and Saturdays only). The buttons which come with matching spikes are extremely easy to apply though I had a little practice on a scrap, just in case. I would have liked to have used rivets too but the ones in my stash didn’t match the buttons. I find this is often the problem with making stuff out of denim: the studs, buttons and rivets available to sewists are never on a par with RTW and your garment inevitably gives off an air of the Eastern Bloc.
The other problem with making denim look rugged and cowgirl (which is how I like it) is that it’s hard to achieve that topstitching perfection on our genteel home-sewing machines. Perfect bar-tacking?! Forget it. Equally spaces double rows? Nah.
Trying to get equal tension on both sides of the fabric was particularly frustrating. Some of you offered advice when in previous post I showed an example of wonky bobbin thread on topstitched seams. I learnt how to fiddle with bobbin tension (thanks Kim). But a reader (thanks, Sue C!) suggested it was impossible to achieve the same effect at home as with an industrial machine designed to take denim. So I finished the dungarees as I started, with the usual polyester thread in the bobbin area. Only on the hammer loop, where both sides show, did I use topstitching thread in both.
So, here I am in my finished dungarees, made using an IKEA curtain (I warned you I had an inexhaustible supply!).
Likes: simple, clever construction that results in a fairly genuine-looking article.
Dislikes: it’s hard to fit these in a way that would flatter a shaped figure so a muslin is a good idea if your denim is expensive or if you’re fussy about how you present yourself. I think they’re too big and I could possibly go down a size or two.
And their cut is wide and blokey. A bit… ‘Bob the Builder’.
- Narrowed the legs a good 4cm (it’s not possible to narrow the hip width without remaking the bib too, as top and bottom are joined in the first stages of construction)
- Added an extra button at each side
- Cinched in the waist by adding buttons at an angle, so the top button is closer to the centre than the hip button
- Added a hammer loop so as to hang me scissors instead of losing them all the time!
- Added some extra topstitching, e.g. on the back pockets
Verdict: Soon as I put them on, I realised how comfortable and practical they are. Shame they’re not more flattering too, like those worn by Betty Blue. I can wear them when I want to impress with an attitude of capability.
But why oh why did you people who claim to have lived in dungarees during the 1980s not warn me: if you’re rushing to the toilet, don’t fling the straps behind you when you sit down. You’ll hear a disheartening ‘chink’ as those buckles hit the porcelain!