An exercise in luxury | sewing with Tencel Denim

September 12, 2019
An exercise in luxury | sewing with Tencel Denim
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This post is written by Rosey Huf

I have a Tencel shirt from Trenery in my wardrobe and it is my most reached for purchase. Soft, drapey and yet holds it shape beautifully, presses like a dream. I needed new pants and so when Maaike offered me the chance to sew with her Tencel Denim I jumped at it, and it did not disappoint.

Papercut Patterns Palisade pants in Tencel
The finished garment. Aren't those pockets just divine??

The Fabric: Tencel Denim

I know Tencel, I know denim. I did not know Tencel denim.[1] This fabric is so soft that I may have stroked it for a while. I think what I was expecting was a denim weight Tencel, but in reality, the material is far more the light-weight, silky dream. And yet the denim component contributes more than colour, can I say it contributes fibre strength? It feels slightly thicker than my Tencel shirt but definitely not as heavy as a light denim shirt.

These properties affected the way that I handled the material all the way through the sewing process.

Pattern testing. Other than my usual height adjustments (I’m 150cm of pocket dynamite, baby!) the first pair of pants were made with a Japanese utility cloth. My standard pattern adjustments complemented the more rigid material beautifully, but the hand of the Tencel made me reconsider how they would fall. Did I want a larger size with more of the drape on display? Or would the current fit just look a little ‘daggy-baggy’ and therefore I should make them more close fitting? Even though this was my third iteration of the pants – it is worth considering fabric and fit together every time you change the material. Can’t afford swanky material to make the toile out of similar fabric? Join me in the op-shop doona section; where large amounts of material come pre-washed and all sorts of fabrics!

Op shop bed cover turned toile for Papercut Patterns Palisade Pants
 This toile (muslin) was made from a Banana Republic linen doona cover, which was $4 on sale, with more than enough fabric to pattern match and practice something else.


Cutting. This is one slippery little sucker.[2] Think of working with a heavy viscose. I highly recommend working with a rotary cutter and mat to cut out this one. Sadly my leg pattern was larger than my mat and I had to pin and cut the traditional way - on the floorboards. Even with careful pinning and paying attention to the grain, the hems and waistbands turned out a little wonky. If you prefer scissors over rotary cutting (don’t forget to replace that blade often!) than I highly recommend that you use a spray starch. 

Laying out the pattern of the Palisade Pants on the floor for cutting Wearing one pair whilst making another! With some thoughtful pattern piece placement I have enough Tencel denim left over to make an Ogden cami!

Prepping. This is definitely a fabric that requires stabilising in key areas. Do yourself a favour and buy stabiliser of similar weight at the same time as purchasing the Tencel. I also decided to pre-finish my edges on the overlocker to give the material some more stability as I handled it. Did the stabilising work? Yes-ish. The material did not warp or slip out of shape but I think that the tension on my overlocker was too tight for just one layer of a light fabric, which may have resulted in slightly too much fabric in the allotted area. All will be revealed in the final fit photo.

Sewing. My brain often talks to me when I sew like a calm backseat driver and I often just ignore the voice, but this time I chimed in to listen to my inner monologue. Here are the top three words of wisdom from my inner-sewist:

“Make two bobbins before you start. You know you hate stopping to re-thread your machine mid-way.”
Good idea brain! (I thanked past me as soon as the first bobbin ran out.)

“Don’t forget that the weaker fabric goes on the bottom so that the feed dogs can deal with the tension.”
This only came into play when I had a stabilised fabric laying a top non-interfaced one, but it’s a rule that’s never let me down.

"Use your cranky duck hold.”[3]
Ok, so this one requires a little explanation. There is a particular hand grip (that I think I picked up from my pattern-drafting aunty) that holds the tension between two layers of fabric so that you can sew without pins, spot on, every time.

I made a video of this technique (in the Instagram link) just in case you can’t visualise the ‘cranky duck’ but for those of you who like words…

  1. With your right hand pretend that it is a duck. Make it quack. You hold the fabric in the duck beak and that duck profile is visible when you look down over the top of the machine - this is your tension. *Important* Do not release the duck beak whilst sewing. Also the angle of your duck beak profile is of paramount importance for the correct tension.
  2. With your left hand align/lightly guide the fabric as you sew up right up as close as you can to the beak.
  3. Sew in short spurts. Set up your cranky-duck (who refuses to let go of your fabric), make sure everything is lined up, sew that sprint, rinse and repeat. 

The final result of the cranky duck Not bad for no pins!

See? Take the cranky duck for a spin and see how she works. 


Finishing. She steams like a dream and top stitches sweetly. Since the Tencel was so light I switched out my standard universal 80 needle for a 60. (I probably could have been fine with a 70 but I didn’t have any left.) And here she is. The big unveil!

Palisade Pants in Tencel Denim

Comfort level 10. Pockets factor 10. Cool factor 10. Changing season-appropriateness 10.

Pattern: Papercut Palisade pants (size M)
Material: Denim Tencel from MaaiDesign


[1] I have been since informed by a friend that is because, “You’re about five-years too young to remember the early 90s.”

[2] A non-offensive Aussie joke; referring to a grape from the TV commercial of a popular can of fruit salad.

[3] I was tempted to call this grip the ‘Shaun the emu’ as a tribute to Bluey but I wasn’t sure; a) if everyone was familiar with this Aussie gem, or b) if that would mean your sewing might be attacked by an unpredictable avian.


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