Well, I said later in the week, but I just couldn’t wait. Mainly because I want to wear these pants soon, so I had to get it all done. So we are going to go straight into tapering pants.
Tapering pants is actually the first thing I learned how to do. It’s one of the most simple operations you can do, because you are just making one long straight line. You don’t have to deal with any intersections of different pieces, just the front and back of the leg.
For this (wool, thin/medium dense cotton pants), you are going to need the follow items:
Sewing Machine, thread, 70/10 needle, straight pins, scissors, seam ripper
Optional: Tailor’s chalk
Here we have some wool pants from a suit I thrifted this weekend. I made sure to pick a pair of pants that already fit in the waist and that fit mostly in length (I might take them up a little, I’m not sure yet). These aren’t as bad as some pants I’ve tried on, but there is still an excess amount of fabric. I do prefer a skinnier taper to my clothes, which you may not. That’s cool. Keep in mind that since you are doing this, you can alter them in any way you want.
The first step is to flip the pants inside out and put them on. Just start to pull the fabric, using your hand to mentally measure how much fabric you want to take out. Normally, I just eyeball my measurements using the hand method, but that is some dangerous waters for newbies, so I’m going to go through with the way you should do this until you are comfortable with your own method.
Once you have an idea of where you want your pants to be, start pinning the new seam line. You want to stick the pin straight through both layers perpendicular, turn it parallel, and back through both layers. Have the point down, so you don’t jab yourself. You are pinning the inside seam, not the outside seam where the pockets are. If you have someone who can help you, this will go a lot smoother. Try to go for at least 5 pins per leg.
Make sure that there are no weird folds anywhere that you have pinned. You want both pieces of fabric to be laying flat together. Make sure to also pin the bottom together, or you’ll get uneven hems. Once that’s done, carefully take them off and try them on the right way.
Don’t be alarmed by the lumpiness, that’s just a result of unpinned fabric. Make sure you are comfortable with the amount of taper. If you aren’t, repeat the previous step. If you are, take them off, flip them inside out again, and go to your sewing machine. You can measure to make sure you have the approximate leg opening that you want. If you are going to use tailor’s chalk, you are going to want to start at the existing crotch, and do a slight arc out until you meet the first pin. From there, draw a line down where each pin is.
Sewing machine setting: S (no stitch width), 12 stitch length
I’m starting my process at the bottom and working my way up to the crotch. Personally, I like to have the most fabric on the outside of the machine, but with trousers, it’s not going to matter too much. Now you are going to just make a straight stitch down your tailor chalk line, or following the line created by the pin. After you put in the first 5 stitches, use the reverse button to go back over the stitch. This will help prevent the thread from coming loose and your fabric from separating.
Now you are just going to make your straight seam all the down the leg. NOTE: As long as you have the pressure set correctly, the feed dogs will pull the material through. Do not force it or you will break your needle or tear your pants. Also, once again, make sure that the fabric is flat. If it isn’t, you’ll get a fold that will drive you crazy. You also want to check your tension settings at this point. Look at the top and bottom stitches that you put in. If you see both sides where the thread is entering the fabric, you are fine. If you see one side entering the fabric, and the other side is just a long thread, you need to adjust your settings.
Once you get about 2-3 inches away from the crotch, stop. You want to use the pre-existing seams for the crotch, as it’s going to be way more durable and, for the most part, it will fit properly there. As such, you will want to slowly rotate the pants while slowly pressing the pedal and create a gentle slope to the crotch. If you do it too abruptly, it will look very strange.
At this point, I usually flip the pants the right way again and try them on. Hopefully, you got lucky and the pants fit great. If so, continue on to the other leg! If not, go ahead and use a two pins to mark where you want to change the stitch. For me, it was mid-calf to mid-thigh.
Flip the pants inside out again, and find the area where the pin is. Now, you could unstitch and restitch, but that’s a lot of unnecessary work. Instead, I start a new stitch on the same stitch I did before, but about an inch down, where the fabric is right.
Go up to about the halfway point between where you started and where the pin is and start to arc the stitch from the existing seam. So, if you are taking the pants in more, you’ll want to move towards the outside of the leg, and if you are letting it out, you want the new seam to be towards the inside of the leg. Once you reach about an inch from where you want to stop, start arcing the seam back towards your original seam. Once you meet back up with it, go up another half an inch. You’ll end up with something in the shape of a football.
If you took the pants further in, you don’t have to do anything more. If you are letting the pants out from your original seam, you are going to have to unstitch the problem area. Go to where the two seams divulge. Using your seam ripper, tear the first two stitches of the wrong seam on both sides of the fabric. Do this on the upper side two. From here, you can just use the ripper to break every 3-4 stitches along the errant section. On the other side, you’ll have one piece of thread that is separated from your new seam, but is still whole. Get a grasp on it and pull. It should come out easily, and you can remove the stray threads from the other side. If it doesn’t go easily, do not force it. Just start breaking more threads until you can get it loose.
At this point, you are happy with your pants. You have put them back on, and they fit great. You don’t have any weird folds where you stitched, it’s not too tight, it’s not too lose. Great work. All that’s left now is cutting the excess fabric. Don’t cut the fabric until you are absolutely comfortable with the fit. Now, if you plan on gaining a lot of leg mass or something, you might want to leave extra fabric. However, for most of us, you only need to leave about 1/2” of fabric. This will give you enough leeway to let them out if you decide they are too snug. Do not leave less than 1/4”. If your pants fray any or if your tension wasn’t correct, it will be real easy to separate and have bare leg. Better safe than sorry.
Now, for these pants, since they are wool, I didn’t do any finishing on them. Since they will never be washed in the washing machine, they really won’t fray very much at all. For something you will wash, you will need to do some finishing work. That will be in the next article.
Here’s the finished product. Like I said, I like my clothes to be on the skinny side. That’s part of the reason for the wrinkles. Ironing, setting a crease, and having no break will also lessen that.
Well, that’s it for tapering pants. Hopefully, you found this to be an easy experience. If you have any questions, let me know and I will do my best to help you out.
In the next few days, I’ll put up the third part of the series, taking in a shirt.
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