Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tutorial: Making jeans smaller in the waist

After recently working on Chris' dress pants and making them smaller in the waist, it made me feel more confident in the pants department. Anyone else feel that pants are a little daunting? Possibly the contestants on Project Runway can attest to this by the ratio of pants to, say, skirts and dresses? Yes? I think so.

a handful too big

So. I've had these jeans for a long time. Think maybe since mid 2008. I have only worn them a handful of times. I think when I bought them I was having a really bloated day or something because they are just too big. So big in fact that I could just take them off without unbuttoning them. I mulled it over and decided to take them in at the back seam to make the waist smaller. I've seen a lot of tutorials about how to make jeans skinny, but not any on how to resize jeans to make the waist smaller.

Doing it this way means that your jeans will now have a center back seam in the waist band. Most jeans do not. Does this matter? No. My jeans even had a center back belt loop, so guess what, it gets covered up anyway.  Here's a before of the back to get an idea of what it looked like.

Start by figuring out how much you want to take them in. This method only works for making the jeans smaller, not larger (sorry). I put mine on and just roughly chalked how much I wanted taken in.
Also, change your machine needle to a heavy weight. DO IT. You don't want to break a needle!

I started by taking of the belt loop. Sharpen your seam ripper. Those guys are REALLY stitched on there.

In the above photo you can see I've got the belt loop off and I've also started seam ripping the center back seam. If you look closely you can see that on the left is what used to be a row of [gray] stitching going down the center. I've also started slowly unpicking the waist band.

Note: Now most jeans often look similar in the back, like mine do. You'll probably notice that yours has a back yoke and a solid waist band, like mine. However, I cannot say whether they are constructed in the same manner. Take time to look at how they are put together- this will help you later if you try to put it together in a manner that it wasn't made to go.

Here I have started to unstitch the waist band. You can see my roughly drawn chalk lines  on how much I want to take out. You'll want to unstitch slowly to make sure you know how it will fit back together. Unstitch both (if you have two) rows of topstitching (or just one if you've only got one) along the center back seam. It's serged  so you don't have to worry too much.

Note: The top of the waist band on my jeans was topstitched, but it wasn't stitched together. Basically when I unstitched the topstitcing at the very top, there was no inside seam holding the band and the band facing together. I had to baste these together for the next steps (sorry, no picture of that)

Open out the band like shown.

(For doing a lot of graphic design work, I'm surprisingly terrible at microsoft paint)

I made a little Key:
Green Dot: Waist band facing
Red Dot and Orange 'stitching" where the band and the band facing meet. On mine I had to baste them together after I took out the top stitching
Yellow dot: Waist band
Pink 'stitching': where you will stitch (depending on how much you are taking in)

Use long machine stitches to baste the back seam. Go slow when you do the waist band. It will be difficult because you won't have unstitched that much (you want to keep as much original topstiching as possible to keep it looking the same)

In the above picture I started at the crotch. I started on the serged seam line and gradually met my chalk lines.

After basting, try one. Take in or out. You will have to cut straight out at the back (where my finger is in the pic above) to make it lay flat. Only to this on the waist band and facing. The rest of the excess you'll trim off later.

I marked a few spots I wanted to take in a bit more.

Notice how now there is a seam line in the waist that wasn't there before? Good. Also notice how my back yolk stitching doesn't line up? Bad. This is why it's basted. Carefully line them up, pin and sew slowly to match them up.

Here's the inside of mine. I trimmed off the excess to about 1/4"-1/2" fabric from the inside where it was serged. I zigzagged the edge and then topstitched it down from the outside. I didn't take many more photos of the process because mostly I just had to finesse it. Luckily, it turned out very forgiving. (Make sure to press, press, press!)

Topstich using a heavy thread (I only had a thick brown and a regular gray. I would suggest getting some that match the original top stitching that way it blends in even better). I had to top stitch the top of the waist band, the bottom of the waist band where it met the yolk, and the center back. Then stitch on your belt loop and voila! Enjoy your new pants.

Often, mens' pants have a center back seam to make it easier to customize the fit, or if you've seen this post from Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing, you can see how she used the center back seam to better fit her trousers. (Do you know that I LOVE her blog?)

With jeans, it's about the stitching: top stitching is what makes jeans JEANS. Don't be intimidated if it seems like a lot of steps. Any intermediate sewer is definitely capable of doing this. Mostly it's just figuring how it goes back together.

Happy sewing!