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How to take in the waist on a pair of blue jeans

Taking in the waist is often required to get a pair of blue jeans to fit just right. This is not surprising news--a perfect fitting pair of blue jeans, straight off the rack, is nearly impossible to find. Pay £9 to £16 to your tailor for waistline alterations, and the problem is solved. But you still have to wait a few days to wear your new jeans, and that money would be more fun as pocket change. So, why not learn to alter the waistline of your jeans yourself?

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  1. Wash and dry the blue jeans to allow them to shrink. Even preshrunk jeans will continue to shrink a bit with repeated laundering.

  2. Try on the blue jeans. At the center back belt loop, pull the waistband until it is very snug. Grasp the excess waistband fabric and pin it vertically with a large safety pin, so that the fold is sticking out. Take off the blue jeans.

  3. Mark the position of the safety pin with the washable pencil on either side of the waistband fold. Then, remove the safety pin.

  4. Remove the center back belt loop. Use the seam ripper to carefully cut and loosen the threads. Do not cut or damage the belt loop; you will reattach it later.

  5. Remove the threads that secure the waistband to the back of the blue jeans between the marks you made, and continue 1 1/2 to 2 inches beyond each mark.

  6. Make sure that the bottom edge of the waistband can now be opened.

  7. Cut the waistband crosswise at the centre point where you removed the belt loop.

  8. Trim the excess length from each side of the cut waistband, allowing 3/8 of an inch additional length beyond the pencil marks.

  9. Spread open the pressed waistband ends. Trim each under-folded inside corner at a 45-degree angle.

  10. Remove 3/8 of an inch of the top edge stitching from each trimmed waistband end.

  11. Turn your iron on to the “Cotton” setting.

  12. Turn the cut ends of each side of the waistband under at the pencil marks. Dampen the fabric with the spray bottle. Press with the hot iron so that the folds are crisp.

  13. Thread your sewing machine with the heavy-duty blue jean thread.

  14. Hold the trimmed and pressed ends of the waistband together, face to face, so that the wrong side of the blue jean fabric faces out, and the pressed ends are unfolded. Secure the joined fabric pieces with straight pins.

  15. Machine stitch the width of the waistband at the fold marks. The resulting seam allowance will be about 3/8 of an inch.

  16. Turn the stitched waistband right side out. Check the seam to make sure it is straight and smooth. Press the seam with a hot iron.

  17. Place the blue jeans face down on a flat surface so that the waistband is flat. Grasp the outer seam of the blue jeans with one hand. Pull the fabric above the back pocket so that it is flat under the waistband. There will be excess fabric at the centre seam.

  18. Measure the lower edge of the waistband between the new seam and the outer seam of the blue jeans and make a note of this measurement. Mark the fabric above the back pocket about 1/3 the distance from the new waistband seam. The mark will be approximately in the centre of the width of the pocket.

  19. Reach inside the top of the blue jeans. At the pencil mark, fold the excess fabric of the jeans inward so that the middle seam between the back pockets lines up with the middle seam of the waistband.

  20. Secure the fold with straight pins on the inside of the jeans. Turn the top of the jeans inside out in order to see where to place the pins. The fold should taper from the waistband to just below the middle of the top of the back pocket.

  21. Turn the jeans right side out again. Check to see if the pocket lays flat across the fold. All jeans are cut differently, so a little trial and error will be required. If you are taking in the waist dramatically, the pockets may not lay flat and may need to be detached and resewn (see Tips below). Turn the jeans inside out at the top again. Machine stitch the dart. Remove the straight pins.

  22. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 for the other side of the waistband.

  23. Position the waistband on the jeans for resewing. Secure with straight pins.

  24. Machine stitch the bottom edge of the waistband to the jeans. Remove the straight pins.

  25. Machine stitch the top edge of the waistband where it was cut and resewed.

  26. Reattach the middle back belt loop by hand stitching with a regular needle and thread.

  27. Look at the back of the jeans. All the seams should be flat and line up correctly. Your better-fitting jeans are ready to wear.

  28. Tip

    If the back pockets need to be repositioned, remove the existing stitching from the sides of the pockets only. Reposition the sides so that the pockets lay flat. Machine or hand stitch the pockets in the new position. Be sure to set your sewing machine to duplicate the stitch style and length of the original stitching.

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Things You'll Need

  • Blue jeans
  • Sewing machine with a heavy duty needle
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Heavy-duty blue jean thread
  • Large safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Needle for hand stitching
  • Straight pins
  • Seam ripper
  • Tailor's tape measure
  • Washable light colour pencil

About the Author

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