DIY vs RTW: High-waisted Skinny Jeans (Closet Case Gingers and Grana High Rise Skinnies + Waterfall Raglan)

I'm not sponsored by Grana, I just love them.
I do, however, receive points towards store credit if you purchase something as a new customer.

I recently shared with you my Closet Case Gingers, my second ever pair of handmade jeans (after my Birkin Flares). I'm a bit surprised at myself, since after making my Birkins I thought "I'm not 100% sure if I really need to make alllll my clothing." Not that they were overly hard to make (as I've said over and over, there are just a lot of steps, but none of them are particularly difficult), but just... if I can just buy something that is 1. affordable, 2. decently fitting, and 3. thoughtfully made with regards to sustainability/humanity, I'd rather just buy it. And y'all, this goes double for knits.

Then again, it's pretty neat to have made something that I feel is comparable to ready to wear--I wore my Ginger jeans to a party recently at which people knew about my sewing, and no one said "did you make your jeans?" which as we all know is the mark of having made it in the sewing world, right?

Today I wanted to do a little comparison between two pairs of jeans, one handmade and one purchased! The two pairs are very similar styles: both the DIY Closet Case Ginger Jeans and the RTW Grana High Rise Skinny Jeans are high waisted zip-fly jeans with skinny legs. I also want to show off my new tee (remember when I said I'd rather buy it, especially for knits?? Who am I?), the Chalk and Notch Waterfall Raglan. Not much to say about it except that although I didn't enjoy making it (such a drapey rayon knit makes me want to tear my hair out), I lovvvve wearing it and have been doing so basically as much as possible (I've even slept in it, it's so comfortable). You'll notice it isn't hemmed: I couldn't get my twin needle tension right and it looked awful. I think what I need is that wonder hem tape that washes out. Are you a knits expert? What do you suggest?

Back to denim! Here's all the nitty gritty details... and for reference: I am 5'7" and have a natural waist measurement of 26-27" and a full hip measurement of about 38".

Waist: If you remember from my Ginger post fit details, I graded from an 8 in the waist to a 10 in the hips of my Ginger jeans, and I would go down another size in the waist in my next pair (Heather Lou does not draft for pears!). The Grana jeans, on the other hand, fits a lot better without any of the (preemptive) alterations made on the Ginger jeans. However, I might want to shave a tiny amount (like, half an inch) off the waist of the Granas next time I make them... oh, wait. I could (I guess) do a bit of tailoring, but it's so slight I probably won't bother.

Rise: The rise on the Grana High Rise Skinny Jeans is 11.2" for the 28, and the rise on the View B (high-rise) Gingers, size 10, is 10", so a full inch lower. The Grana jeans come just to my navel (but don't cover it) and I prefer that higher rise.

Legs: The leg openings in the Grana high-waisted skinny jeans are skinny--like, point your toes to wiggle your foot through skinny. I think if they made a High Rise Slim Straight jean, it would be my holy grail denim. On the other hand, they look great tucked into boots! I cut about an inch off the bottom of the Gingers for a slight crop. Grana's denim all come in regular and tall lengths with inseams of 29.1" and 31.1 inches, respectively (mine are regular). They do not come in petite sizes.

Fabric: The fabric for the two pairs of jeans feel similar, with similar stretch and weight. Grana's denim is made in Japan, home of the best denim in the world. I purchased my Indiesew denim from Allie Olson, entrepreneur and all-around awesome woman I admire.

Pockets: I love the pocket stay in the high-waist view of the Gingers, y'all. Your pockets never flip out when you're pulling on your jeans (you know what I'm talking about). The Ginger pockets are also slightly deeper than the pockets on the Grana pair, if you, unlike me, actually put things in your front jeans pockets. I also quite like the subtle shaping on the Gingers's back pockets, but as far as pocket placement, the rear views of the two pairs of jeans are very similar other than that tiny difference.

Cost: Neither pair of pants is very expensive (in my view). The Grana skinnies cost $49 (and free shipping if you spend $26 more--I suggest something silky). I ordered two sizes planning to return one for store credit, that way I'll get free shipping and free returns (and I know that I can find something to spend those $49 on). The Ginger pattern will cost you $14 for a PDF or $18 for the printed pattern, plus fabric. An Indiesew jeans hardware kit costs $7, and my denim (also from Indiesew) cost me about $30 for two yards, which brings the total (not including denim needles and thread from my stash, my Bernina, or my time) to $55. About the same! Psst: if you're new to Grana you can get 10% by using my link, bringing your cost down to about $44.

Sizing: Ginger sizing goes from 0 (a 24" waist and 33" hip) to 20 (39" waist and 48" hip) and I fall in a 4/6 waist and 10 hip. Grana sizing goes from a size 24 to 32 (no body measurements available, but the finished garment waist measurement goes from 23.2" to 32.7"). As I said in the waist section, The 28 fits my waist and hips (a 10-ish" difference) so might be better for curvier ladies than the straight-up-and-down Gingers if you don't feel up to making some pattern adjustments.

Conclusion: The Grana High Rise Skinny Jeans fit me all around slightly--slightly--better than my first iteration of the Closet Case Ginger Jeans, view B (high waist, skinny leg). However, I know that I can tweak future pairs of Gingers to improve the fit on each one, whereas the the Grana jeans remain the same, unless I do some serious seam ripping (not likely).

I think if I made two more pairs of Gingers, I would definitely have a pair of pants that would be noticeably better-fitting than the Grana skinnies--but I'd also have 4 near-identical pairs of jeans, and that's really not necessary. For now, I'm really happy with my two new pairs of jeans, and will wear them interchangeably. For me, the biggest difference is the slightly higher rise on the Grana jeans. Overall, two high-quality pairs of jeans that fit really well.

When it comes to jeans, which do you prefer, DIY or the RTW? Comparing the two, are you more likely to break out the credit card or the topstitching thread? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and If you'd like to see more posts like this in future (tee shirts perhaps? outerwear? anything you'd love to see?).


ps: a few more grana favorites--this tee shirt is the nicest one i've ever owned, a breezy tank dress i'd wear as a slip or a date-night dress, and a pretty, silky pajama set complete with coordinating mask! plus, alex has these pants (both nicer and cheaper than his go-to j. crew chinos) and a cashmere sweater and loves both; that cashmere is so soft.

allie J.

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  1. Interesting comparison. It is a nice feeling making your own clothes but time consuming. I'd like to try my hand at making jeans but not sure I have the skills just yet.

  2. Thanks for sharing the Grana brand! If a shop like this been on my radar 10 years ago I may never have started sewing. Of course I'm terribly thankful for sewing and love it not only for the clothes, but still. Very interesting alternatives...

    1. there are so many more options out there now for people who are interested in where their clothes come from, which I love. lots of choices!

  3. I've had a pair of Gingers that I've been working on for about a year and a half now. I'm still not convinced that I don't prefer RTW jeans over DIY for that very reason. I've never heard of Grana, but I will use your link if I end up purchasing! Those jeans look amazing on you.

    As for knits, I don't consider myself a knits expert, but I find myself sewing with knits a LOT. Drapey rayons are known for being a huge pain--even with a coverstitch. I usually leave my rayon tees unhemmed. I find hem tape makes mine a little wavy.

  4. That's a very interesting side-by-side comparison... I feel I might still be on the make it side of things, just for the sheer fun and challenge of it!

    In terms of your knit question, I struggled greatly myself when a drapey knit came up against the twin needle (aka contender for The Devil Incarnate!). I haven't tried it myself, but a friend of mine swore by this stuff:

  5. These Grana jeans look amazing on you! I am planning to make my own jeans and I love Closet Case patterns so the Gingers are on my list too...I'm into both making and buying jeans for sure! I love your waterfall, I have a black version and wear it all the time too. I'm no knit expert but I have made my fair share of waterfalls and for hemming I've always had luck with overlocking the hem, then using a walking foot to topstitching the hem. I also make my stitches a little longer when hemming knits...but I'm not sure that's much help! XO

    1. Thank you! You will love the Gingers, they're so well drafted! Are you making high, low, or medium rise? Thanks for the hemming tip too! Double needle was such a mess so I think I'll definitely be trying the walking foot and a long stitch length (or slight zig zag) next time and calling it good!

  6. I liked this post :) I probably couldn't be bothered to make them again. It seems like the grana jeans are almost perfect, so your sewing time may be better spent making something that you can't find in stores / is more cost-effective / a more ethical option than rtw. I haven't tried jeans-making though so perhaps the process is fun. I really enjoy the carolyn pyjamas pattern so have made quite a few even though I can buy PJs just as good for a comparable (or cheaper) price.

    1. I loved making my carolyn pajamas but I agree, they can be tricky and it's tempting to buy pjs! I have been using the carolyn pattern as an excuse to buy cotton prints i wouldn't normally wear in public, so that's been my motivation to sew, not buy :)

  7. This is a great idea for a post. I think I like making my jeans better, but I would wear either type. One thing I like about making clothing is that I can buy the supplies over time to spread out the cost, if necessary. It definitely is a bit of work getting any pattern just right, and I agree with you that there are some things I'd rather just buy.

    1. That's a good point I hadn't thought of--you can buy the pattern, then next month (or next pay period ;) you can buy the denim, then later the rivets and zipper... etc.

  8. I want to delve into the world of sewing pants but I am a little scared! Your look great though and are definitely inspiring! And it's good to know of great brands of jeans in case sewing them doesn't work out! ;)

  9. Until I saw your photos I would never have thought about a waterfall tee. Now I've changed my mind!
    Is also an interesting question to pose about buying rtw or sewing your own. I think it depends on your sewing motivation. Sometimes for me it's more about enjoying the making than what I end up with at the end of it...



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