Do it Yourself Denim Alterations

Written by cynthia harrod
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Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
Waistband darts will alter that too-large waist. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Altering denim can be a frustrating experience because the fabric is so bulky. And shopping for denim clothes that fit perfectly is next to impossible. The excitement you feel on the way to the dressing room can quickly fade when you see that the hips fit but the waist is too big or the jeans are just too long. Leave that disappointment and frustration behind; learn how to alter your denim clothes for a custom fit.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Soft tape measure
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors
  • Size 16/100 heavy-duty sewing machine needles
  • Heavy-duty jeans thread
  • Sewing machine

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    Waist Alterations

  1. 1

    Measure the abdomen circumference at the point where the waistband will fit and add one inch. Measure the circumference of the denim waistband, and subtract the adjusted abdomen circumference to find the total dart measurement.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    Measure accurately for a custom fit. (Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Determine the number of darts needed: total dart measurements up to three inches require two back darts; measurements over three inches require two back darts and two front darts. Determine the width of each dart by dividing the total dart measurement by the number of darts needed.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    A calculator helps prevent math errors. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  3. 3

    Measure the distance between the side and center back belt loops, and mark the centre point on each side with a straight pin on the wrong side of the fabric; these are the back dart placements. Mark the front dart placements between the side and front loops, if necessary, using the same process.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    The section above the back pocket is called the yoke. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Measure the width of each dart and mark it with straight pins on each side of the centre pin. Place the right sides together, bringing the width pins together, and pin the widest part of the dart in place. Remove the centre pin from the fold of the dart. Use a series of straight pins and gradually reduce the width of the dart, until it tapers to a point at or near the yoke; the wider the dart, the longer the taper. Adjust back darts slightly toward the center back to avoid sewn-on labels; adjust front darts slightly toward the side loops to avoid pockets, rivets and/or the yoke seam. Try on the garment, and make any necessary adjustments.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    Always try on the garment before sewing. (Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  5. 5

    Sew the darts into place, removing the pins as you sew. Reinforce the stitching by reversing a few stitches at the beginning and ending of the dart. Reverse a few stitches if the sewing machine skips a stitch in the bulkier sections.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    Sewing machines make altering denim easy. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

    Length Alterations

  1. 1

    Bring the side seams together and lay flat the jeans on a table. Lay a garment that is the proper length on top as your guide. Cut off the excess denim length, minus 1/2 inch for the hem allowance.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    Proper scissors make cutting demin easy. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Choose a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine. Zigzag the cut edge so that the threads won't fray.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    Zigzag stitch (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  3. 3

    Turn up a 1/2-inch hem to the wrong side and pin into place. Use a stitch that's the same length used to sew the garment, and topstitch the hem into place.

    Do it Yourself Denim Alterations
    You're ready to go anywhere in style. (Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Always wash and dry your garment before making any alterations.
  • Some sewing machines may not be able to stitch through the bulkiest areas; in this case, stitch those areas by hand.
  • Match your thread colour to the colour originally used to sew your denim garment.
  • It the sewing machine needle breaks, go to a larger-sized needle.
  • If the thread breaks easily, use a heavier-gauge thread.

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