How to Do Clothing Alterations

Updated February 21, 2017

Sometimes a pair of trousers may fit in the waist but be too long in the leg. Or you could have lost or gained weight and find that none of your clothes fit anymore. You could spend extra money and take your clothing to a tailor to be altered or you could learn the basics of clothing alterations and do it yourself. Tailor your clothes yourself and you will not only save money, you will pick up a valuable new skill that you can market to others.

Pull on the trousers or skirt. Use the disappearing-ink pen or tailor's chalk to mark where you want to hem the garment. You probably need a friend to help you with this step. Remove the garment.

Fold the bottom edge of the trousers or skirt up to meet the hem mark you made. Pin in place or insert hem tape between the layers of fabric and press to fuse the tape to the garment.

Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread. To hem the garment using a blind stitch, start on the inside of the garment and push the needle through the hem. Make the tiniest of stitches and push the needle back through the fabric, so it is once again on the inside. Move the needle over half an inch to the right, then push through make a tiny stitch again. Continue moving the needle half an inch and making tiny stitches until you are all the way around the bottom of the skirt or pant leg. Knot the thread and trim it.

Use darts to take in a garment at the waist or bust. Pull the garment on and mark where you need to take in fabric. Make at least two marks for darts on both sides of the bust or waist. If you want to take the garment in two inches, draw two lines one inch apart on each side of the back of the waist or on the sides of the bust.

Fold the darts so that the two lines meet; the excess fabric should be on the inside of the garment. Pin the dart and press.

Starting at the top of the waist, sew the dart together. You will sew on an angle, so that the line of stitches gets closer to the edge of the fabric as you sew. Press the darts flat.

Let out the seams to make a dress bigger. Inspect the seams before starting, to make sure there is enough extra fabric in them to let out the garment. Half-inch or wider seams should provide enough fabric.

Measure your waist. Divide your waist measurement in half. Measure the width of your dress and subtract the measurement from half the waist measurement. The difference is the amount you need to let out the seam.

Divide the amount you need to let out by four. If you need to let the dress out 1 inch, draw a line a quarter inch outside the seam with tailor's chalk or a disappearing ink pen. Repeat on the other side of the dress.

Remove the original stitching using a seam ripper. Be careful not to rip the fabric, and do not remove more stitching than you need to.

Create a new seam by sewing a line along the spots you marked. Try on the dress to make sure it fits.

Things You'll Need

  • Disappearing-ink pen or tailor's chalk
  • Straight pins
  • Hem tape (optional)
  • Iron
  • Thread that matches your garment
  • Needle for hand sewing
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Seam ripper
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About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.