Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Tutorial: How to take in and modify some crazy jeans

You saw my post yesterday about my lovely new (DIY) red jeans.  Did you hear the story?

This is what these $1.something pants looked like BEFORE.  Close to the most hideous garment ever made.  Aaaaaack!

They were also too big when I tried them on (which was scary on its own--I am not used to having pants come up above my belly button!)--too loose in this hips, though, where it mattered.

So today I'm gonna show you how to take in a pair of jeans--any pair, even a normal colored pair!--so they fit you in the hips and butt but don't look totally altered.

Let's start with some humor, shall we?  Here's a view of the back of the yoke of these jeans.  You can tell, obviously, that the first step in this alteration process for me was cutting off the excess yoke!  But I doubt you have super high waisted pants to work with, so this part probably won't apply to you.  So, unofficial step 1--cut off the top of the jeans.

Nice buckle, eh?

Anyway, now to the tutorial.

So, you want a pair of jeans to fit quite a bit more snugly at the top?  Follow this tutorial!
  • With your seam ripper or pointy thread snips, snip the topstitching and all the seams that attach the waistband to the jeans at the side seam.  Pick 2-3" on either side of the side seam.
  • Also unpick the little row of partial topstitching that goes from the waistband down 4" or so.  Hard to see what I mean in the pics above, but look at any regular pair of jeans and you'll see what I mean--on blue jeans, it's the classic gold stitching that goes down the side seam pressing the seam allowance to the back.  Unpick these stitches so that your seam allowance flies free.  Here's an inside view.
  • Here comes the actual taking-in part.  Fold the seam allowance flat and sew the side seam deeper, just like you're taking in any ol' seam.  I tapered my seam from about 5" down, where the jeans started to be too big.  They fit okay in the thighs, but were too loose in the hips and butt.
  • Do this on both sides, of course... Now try on the jeans.  Do they fit?  When I did this, I had to take a second pass to make them still tighter, and it helped to try them on and make sure I was starting the seam at the right point on the hips.
  • Once you get the fit right, re-do that top stitching on the side seam (press it to the back first).  Sew down your seam allowance from the top down about 4".
  • Bleh, now the not-so-fun part.  Now, you have to make the waistband look normal again.  You're going to sew right sides together at approximately where the side seam is, taking in the waistband the same amount you took in at the top of the jeans.  E.g., if you took in the top of the hip 2", you need to take 2" out of the waistband, too, then you can sew it back down flat.
  • I started by cutting the floppy excess waistband piece in half.
  • Then, taking out the same amount as you did on the hips (I just cut off the excess), sew the waistband back together.
  • Now you've got the waistband back together and you can re-fold and get ready to sew the three layers together (front and back waistband, jeans).
  • Here's the inside.  Pin the waistband piece back in place exactly where it was before...

  • Then do the same thing on the outside.  Lots of pins.

  • Re-do the top stitching!  Sew through all three layers, do the double seam look.
  • Re-do the top of the waistband's top stitching, also.

OMG!  Ta-da!  Done!

Custom-fit jeans!


One of you put it perfectly in your comment yesterday... you can totally pull off red jeans if you're in the right mindset--you gotta be in the mood for a) fun, and b) some attention!

I loved hearing your thoughts about red and colored jeans!  Glad I'm not the only one bewitched by the trend!

As for this tutorial, don't let the red distract you... it would work just as well on classic blue jeans!


  1. Wow...these came out great!! I love refashions! Seriously, who would think those ugly up to the boobs waistline was cute, lol!!

    Looking forward to more of your posts!

  2. I had no idea taking in jeans at the hips could be so easy ~ I'm petite & it's so hard finding jeans that fit ~ thanks for sharing !!

  3. great alteration job and post. Jeans are tough to get a good fit!

  4. Love the red jeans! Would have been fun to see the before jeans tried on. They were pretty hideous.

  5. Anonymous9/28/2011

    Just sayin' - I think you could make some kind of crazy awesome belt out of the yoke that you cut off! Kind of like a mini corset belt.

  6. I like so much your ideas here. Come and check out mine.


  7. Whoa. That's super impressive. Those were so hideous before. I've been dying to have a pair of red skinny jeans. They're so cute on you. :)

  8. my husband recently lost twenty pounds... thank you for saving us money by helping us avoid buying all new jeans!

  9. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it is definitely doable! Glad you like it! Thanks!

  10. woww nice job it fits you perfectly!!!

  11. Back in the day when I was a sweet little thing, I loved rockin' my red jeans. Now I just rock my hand-dyed used-to-be-white PURPLE jeans!

    Great tutorial!

    Anna W.
    @FELTit on Twitter

  12. Oooh! Beautiful jeans! Great refashion. BTW, the pic of you (first one) demonstrating the jeans is beautiful (a great profile pic, even, lol).

  13. Can't figure out which stitching you are talking about in the second step?

  14. Totally wish you would have taken a before picture of them on you in all their high waisted glory. But in all seriousness, thanks for the great tutorial. I've lost some almost 40 lbs and am looking to get close to 50 but don't have the budget to invest in a whole new demin collection. This will help me get through!

  15. I recently lost about 30 pounds and none of my favorite pants fit anymore. I knew most of what I needed to do to take them in, but I wasn't sure what was the best way to alter the waistband without leaving a big lump at each seam. This tutorial has the information I needed! Thank you.

  16. Anonymous2/05/2013

    I have a pair of jeans from NY & Co. ("the flirt" style) that are so loose in the waist. They fit alright when they come out of the dryer, but before long they get all stretched out at the waist. I'm hoping this technique will help. Thanks so much!

  17. This is a good tutorial and timely. I found this on Pinterest.



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