3 Easy Jeans Alterations

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Denim jeans have been on my mind lately. It may be the impending fall, coupled with the impending back-to-school frenzy. A rush of nostalgia washes over me when I remember the thrill of venturing into the shops with my mother the week before school starts, an annual quest for the perfect pair of jeans. Now, a different adventure awaits as my kids and I embark on denim scavenger hunts at local thrift stores. That brings me to Thursday’s 3 of this week, an eye-opener born out of the realization that not all denim is cut from the same fabric, figuratively and literally! In my mind, the denim landscape has changed, allowing for experimentation. Skinny fits, wide-leg wonders, boot-cut beauties, and straight-leg basics all hold their place in the style realm and in the fashion name. I love the versatility, pairing the sleek, wide leg with fitted tops or teaming my timeless skinny jeans with flowy, flowy oversized sweaters. The fashion landscape is constantly changing, whether in department stores, thrift store havens or our own tailor shops. Enter the scene: our sewing superpowers! Here are three ingenious jeans modifications to unlock the potential of your jeans, ensuring they fit your figure and style perfectly.


I recently learned that professional tailors taper jeans from the crotch. It takes some heavy duty tools and equipment to get that perfect flat lay denim seam. If you need and want to shrink your jeans on a regular basis, you might want to invest in the tools you’ll need to get the job done right. You can learn more about it at Cafe Denim Beer Machines. However, most home sewers don’t have this type of equipment, nor the time or patience for it! I found a simple tapering method that works well on my jeans. So if you’re like me and don’t have the gear to shrink the inseam, follow these three basic steps for one of the most popular jeans modifications.


Try your jeans inside out. Use pins to mark the desired width for the leg opening and where your knee is.

Step 1: Use a pin to mark the finished width you want to achieve.


Remove the jeans and, using a ruler, draw a line from the leg opening pin to the side where your knee is. This is your stitch line and the tapered part ends at the knee. If you are shrinking and removing a lot of fabric, you may need to gradually grade this line into the side seam.

Step 2: Mark your stitch line from knee to hem.


Now sew along this line, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. Cut off the excess. Denim frays, so you need to finish the raw edge with a sag zig stitch or serger. Repeat the same step on the other leg.

Step 3: Sew along the marked line and trim the excess.

Tapered jeans ready for boots and cocktails or tennies and Target!

Adding highlights

Adding bell bottoms or flared pants to your jeans is as easy as shrinking them. Here’s how I add a little sparkle to my skinny jeans when I’m ready for even more drama.


Start by opening the outer seams of each leg with a seam ripper. I open these side seams just below my knee.


You’ll need scraps of denim or any other interesting fabric you have on hand to create a triangle-shaped panel. To do this, fold the fall in half lengthwise and draw a diagonal line measuring the length of the open side seam. Don’t forget to account for seam allowances and a hem if necessary. You can adjust the width: the wider the base of the triangle, the wider the bell flare will be. Cut out this triangle shape and repeat to create two identical triangle panels.


Pin and sew one of the triangular panels to an open seam with right sides together. I used a ½” seam allowance. Trim the excess fabric and finish the raw edges with a zigzag or serger. Repeat the same step on the other leg.


Hem the flared insert if necessary. I topstitched mine with a similar color thread to match the hem of the original jeans.

These jeans have a touch of drama!


The key to getting a professional look, making it look like you bought them that way, when hemming your jeans is to preserve the original hem! The hem of jeans is different from other pants because it usually has some fading and a worn and aged look, even when the jeans are new. Removing this unique feature from your jeans when shortening the pant legs will make the jeans pop and draw attention to your new hemlines. My kids hate the look of hemmed jeans that are just cut and hemmed, like regular pants. “MOM!! No!”

I made a video to show you exactly how I hem all the jeans in our house. Check it out and read the accompanying article.

Be a genius John

Here are some more great ideas for your own denim sewing adventures for fall and back to school:

Let Meg show you even more tips and tricks for sewing jeans in our workshop, Jeans Demystified!

Do you have a favorite jean modification to share? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Good alteration and sewing of jeans!


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