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How to make Skinny Jeans from Wide Legged Jeans

January 26, 2012

First of all, I’d like to point out, I’m probably not the first one to try this, but it worked so well I just had to share!

I had a couple pair of jeans/cords sitting in my closet that fit great in the waist, but the legs were wide, and can’t be tucked into boots, etc.  I used to be scared of the term ” skinny jeans”. I used to think you needed to be ridiculously skinny to pull them off, but nay, when they fit your body just right, have the right about of stretch :), and you wear the right top with them? Guess what ? YOU look more slender. yippeee!!

The only problem is, trying on a million pairs of overpriced skinny jeans at the Gap, is not my idea of a good time. So I’m gonna show you how to cut up a pair of your existing jeans ( or thrift store pants) to make your own!

What you need:

– sewing machine that can do a zigzag stitch


-sewing machine needle for medium/heavy fabric

-a pair of jeans/cords/pants with a bit of stretch, that you wish to alter.

-a pair of  existing skinny jeans that fit you well ( or you can pin the seams if you don’t have an existing pair, I’ll explain later)

Here are the criteria of the pants:

1. Only use pants that you are OK destroying to some degree. I hold no responsiblilty for what you do to your fancy schmansy True Relgion jeans with this tutorial. I only hack up clothes that were destined for the goodwill or scrap bag, but it’s up to you. That being said, if you try them on before you cut the excess fabric away, you could always rip out the seam with a seam ripper if things get truly ugly…

2. You want your pants to have a bit of stretch.

3. They need to fit in the waist.

4. You might want to find a pair that is a bit higher on the waist. Plumbers don’t wear  skinny jeans, for many reasons, so please don’t be a plumber in your skinny jeans.

First Step: Lay out your jeans that you want altered on a flat surface, inside out. Lay out your existing skinny jeans on top, inside out. Line up the inseams of both pair. I work on just one leg at a time. Trace the outer leg seam from your existing skinny jeans, to your first pair. You can use a pen or pencil, or a fabric marking pen. It won’t matter, because the marking won’t show. The top of your sewing line should taper outwards before you get to the waistband, since these pants fit your waist just fine, right? You don’t want to deal with sewing/cutting near the top of the pockets and everything. This line you just drew will tell you where to sew your seam. Make sure to error on the side of extra room. If in doubt, draw the line a bit further out than you think. You can always take them in more, but ripping out seams will make you crabby quick. I would put a few safety pins through both layers of the jeans you are altering, to hold the layers together while you sew

* If you don’t have a pair of jeans to use as a pattern, do this. Put your jeans on inside out. Have a friend use safety pins, and pin a line down the outside of your pant leg, making the resulting fabric hug your leg. This will be the line to follow as you sew your seam. Carefelly take off your inside out jeans, and ” connect the dots” gracefully between pins with your pen or pencil. Like I said before, error on the side of caution, and make them a bit looser than you think. you can always go back and make them more snug.

Second Step: Take your jeans to the sewing machine, and sew along the line you drew.  After you sew the first seam, turn them rightside out and try them on in front of a mirror. Move around a bit, and see them from all angles, and make sure you are happy with the fit. Put a safety pin in any area you wish to change/take in more, and sew the seam inward again at that area. DO NOT CUT THE EXCESS FABRIC UNTIL AFTER THE THIRD STEP.

Third Step:

Once you are happy with the exact fit, sew a line of ZigZag Stitch just outside of your first seam. You want  to set your zigzag stitch length and width so it looks like the above picturem not too loose, not too tight. Use a piece of scrap fabric to test the zigzag. Zigzag stitching is what will alllow your pants to stretch and move, and will give the seam strength.

Fourth Step:

Turn your pants right side out and try them one last time. If they look and feel good, turn them inside out, and trim your exccess fabric from the pant leg, leaving a little more than 1/4″ room from your zigzag seam.

Step Five:

Wear your “new” pants proudly. Dig through your closet to find more things to cut and and alter. It’s kind of addicting, watch out!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Maren Mc Laren permalink
    January 26, 2012 10:36 am

    My friends and I did this all the time back in jr. high and high school in the 80s! Sometimes my friend would splash hers with bleach too 🙂

  2. Avery permalink
    January 26, 2012 12:24 pm

    Too bad I tossed all my wideleg jeans! May have to go a thrifting.

  3. April 2, 2012 11:17 am

    Oh awesome!!!!!!! This would be a perfect #ReuseTues post on my blog. Would you want to do a guest post?

  4. April 3, 2013 12:46 pm

    Genius. I was wondering if this would work, but I’m too cheap to risk a pair of jeans. Thanks!

  5. January 10, 2014 5:39 pm

    Thank you for this! I just updated several pairs of my pants with your help!

  6. Rebecca permalink
    May 10, 2014 1:23 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! I used it very successfully and I’m super happy with my much improved pair of jeans!

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