Today’s tutorial is a little different. The actual taking in of the waist of a pair of pants is fairly simple. But there are a lot of different ways to approach it, depending on how professional you want it done and the type of pants you are working on. I will also say that this is one of the more unorthodox things I do, so it may not be the way everyone goes about taking in the waist.
First thing you need to know is that you should be using a thicker needle than you use to taper/slim. I use a 70/10 for those jobs, but I like a thicker needle for taking in the waist because you’re usually going through more material and the smaller needle will break easier.
If you’re working on a pair of trousers like chinos or slacks, I would go right down the middle (Jeans will be after this section):
You’ll end up losing the center seam, but I find that it’s not that noticeable. Also, with this pair, you can see that there is no center belt loop. I always prefer that because when you have a center belt loop, you have to make a choice: You can either lose it altogether, or you can remove it and reattach it. Each pair of pants is different.
On this pair, the bottom of the belt loop is sewn directly onto the pants, and the top is between the waist material. For that, you just open the waist, detach the top, and detach the bottom. Once you’re done, you reattach in the same manner. Sometimes you’ll find belt loops where both are tucked into the waist on top and bottom. Those can be a lot trickier. It’s up to you on whether or not you want to salvage the belt loop or not.
You also have a choice when taking it in between easy and hard:
1) the easy way is to sew straight through the material in the waist. You’ll blast through it with a heavy needle. The problem is that on the inside, there will be the excess material, even after you cut it. It’s really not visible to anyone, so this is the one I go with.
2) The hard way is to open the waistband, unfold it, then sew the excess out, cut the excess, fold it back over and reattach it. This is a lot easier for something like suit pants and slacks, since the waist will be only lightly attached in the back since they know you will probably need to make adjustments.
Okay, so once you decide on your methods, try the pants on inside out, grab the excess fabric down the center seam, and pin it. Make sure you like how it fits. Take off the pants, and then, using your easy/hard method, sew the new center seam. You’ll want to sew a straight line until you get to the end of the waistband. Once you reach the seat of your pants, I like to start to taper my way back to the original seam. Make it a gradual turn. Cut the excess fabric, leaving a little extra.
Congratulations. You are done. Keep in mind you don’t want to take out too much because you don’t want the back pockets to be too close together. However, with creative tapering in the seat, you can take out a fair amount in the waist while keeping the pockets separate.
For jeans, I find that losing the middle seam on jeans is very noticeable. I like to go on the sides:
I tend to split the difference between each seam. It’s essentially the same as doing down the center seam. If you only have a little bit to take out, try to end your taper before the horizontal seam before the pocket. If you go beyond that, it’ll throw it off some since you’ll not be able to get them even. If you have to go beyond that point, because you have more material to take out, you just have to make sure that you taper until you run off the fabric. Make sure you do this before you reach the bottom of the pocket. As long as you don’t hit the bottom of the pocket, you won’t even notice it.
After you do the taper, you can cut the excess fabric, leaving a little bit of extra.
I don’t really suggest doing the side seams on chinos because I found that it creates a bubbling/buckling in the pocket. A patch pocket like jeans doesn’t have the same problem.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s tutorials. If you have any questions, drop me a line.
It’s time. Time to finally put out a tutorial on one of the most needed alterations out there.
I’ve kind of put off this tutorial because, well, I hate hemming pants. I like living fast and fancy-free with my sewing, and hemming requires a little bit more preparation and a slower pace to get right. On the plus side, it’s not terribly hard. So, because I love you guys, let’s get to hemming pants.Read more
metcarfre said: You say you took it in - did you do it yourself, or have a tailor do it? If it was by yourself, as I’m expecting, were there special considerations for the material? The results look good but I’d have to see it zipped up to judge for certain.
I did in fact do it myself.
There are certainly things you have to take into account before doing something like this. First, you need to have leather needles for your sewing machine. I normally use 70/10 on most of my clothes, but I have some specialty needles for dense fabrics, like denim and leather.
Maybe this isn’t with all machines, but I find that the thicker the fabric, and the more fabric you are trying to sew through, can somewhat throw the timing off between the top needle and the bobbin down below. When that happens, and you are going full bore on the pedal, you will break the needle. So, I usually take my time, go slowly, and if I feel the needle hit metal, I stop and hand crank it to let the bobbin get back in place. (If anyone out there with more experience than me knows that this shouldn’t happen, let me know and I’ll make an addendum and also fix my machine).
Finally, you have to be super careful. With taking the slack in, it wasn’t too hard because any seams are hidden inside the jacket. But if you have to do any exterior work, so to speak, you have to be very careful because unlike cloth, a hole in leather will not go away.
I decided last night, since I really want to keep wearing this jacket and because it’s the right weather for it, that I’m going to do a Week of the Leather Jacket. I’ll get one up of the jacket zipped tonight.
Like I said, I wasn’t really feeling the shape of the button-down on the shirt, so I decided to recut the collar. I had been wanting a club collar shirt, and I even tried to make my own shirt from scratch, but I’m not quite at the level to do that. At least without taking my time.
But cutting my own collar? It wasn’t too bad. It was still time consuming, and I don’t think it should be anyone’s first couple of projects, but it was doable. I don’t know how easy it would be to turn this into a different type of collar, like a spread.
Once again, you have to detach the collar and band from the shirt, then the collar from the shirt. Then you have to remove the decorative stitching in the collar so you have full access to the collar (the stitching that actually holds everything together is hidden inside). With this being a button-down collar, there were buttonholes that I just straight cut off. Additionally, I added some fusible interfacing to give the collar more body, although I would like to find some stiffer interfacing at some point.
I used a club collar pattern from a shirt pattern I bought to make a collar for a different shirt, but it turned out to be way too small. So, I added some extra inches to the pattern, but I didn’t like the final result. It was more a vertical club. I eyeballed a new pattern, giving it more of a cutaway feel, then sewed it, matched the pattern on the other side, did the decorative stitching, reattched to the collar, then to the shirt.
Today’s shirt is an experimental one. I bought this Gap button-down without realizing that the collar was too big. I could have redonated it, but I decided to try and see if I could cut the collar down.
It turns out that you can. Now, before you run out and start buying up all the big collared shirts, let me first say that the collar was only off by maybe half an inch. It was enough to notice, but not a huge difference. And even at half an inch, it almost didn’t work.
It was also a lot of work. You have to detach the collarband from the shirt, then the collar from the collarband. Once you determine how much you need to take out, you sew the slack on both sides (not one side, you don’t want to sew the collarband closed). You then have to sew the exact amount of slack out of the yoke, taking it in at an angle before you get to the actual shirt back. You sew the collar back on the collarband, then the whole thing back on the shirt.
Truth be told, I don’t think it’s a worthwhile operation. All told, it probably took me 3 hours. I did it just to see what it would take, and it did turn out well, but at the same time, I don’t think I’d do this again unless the shirt was especially nice.
Of course, after finishing the shirt, I realized I didn’t particularly enjoy the collar itself. Guess I’ll have to do a little more surgery… (and post about it later in the week, of course).
Anonymous said: Pants question, I've been kicking my butt at the gym and dropped 40 pounds. I've gone from a size 40 to a 36 in pants. So bragging aside how much fabric can I take out of a pair of pants before they just look wrong. I dont want to replace all my suits if it's at all avoidable. Btw your blog is awesome and I check it out each day for updates. Your killing it man, thanks for your hardwork!
Congrats on the weight loss!
Strange enough, I also went down by that margin (#humblebrag) so I’m quite familiar with this problem. The good news is that it is possible to make an alteration in that size. The bad news is that it’s not always possible. It’s kind of a pant-by-pant basis.
First, it depends on how much room in the seat you have. You have to remember that you aren’t just taking in the waist, but some of the seat as well. Because of that, you’ll be pulling the pockets closer together. If you have a lot of room, it’s going to be difficult, because you’d probably want to take that in as well (or have a tailor do that), which means the pockets are going to get even closer. If the seat is just a little loose, you have a better shot.
Second, jetted/open pockets are easier than flaps/patch pockets (more on patch pockets later), mainly because flaps/patch pockets will be a lot more noticeable that they are closer together.
The best thing to do is to pull the excess material at the waistband in the back seam and pin it. If your pockets look too close together, there’s not much you can do.
I’ll have to do a more detailed post on this at some point, but you have a few things you can do. You can either pull the inside of the waistband and do a straight line from there or sew straight through the waistband (which I do). You’ll most likely lose the belt loop, especially if it’s sewn into the waistband. After you finish the waistband, you’ll have to take in the seat some, but if you taper it quickly to the original seam, you can sometimes avoid pulling the pockets too much.
As for jean pockets, I strongly suggest not altering them down the center seam. You’ll lose that french seam and it looks real weird. Instead, you can take in the waist twice, both above the pockets. As long as you taper the seat material quickly, your pockets will still sit flat.
I’ll see what I can do about getting an article up.
ivyinspired said: Could you tell me how to shorten the sleeves on a dress shirt? Is there an easier way that doesn't deal with having to mess with the cuff and sleeve placket?
That’s a tough call.
If the sleeves are a little long (maybe half an inch?), the easiest thing to do would be to shift the cuff button so that it fits right on your wrist. I do that with all of my shirts anyway, but when the sleeves are a little long, this will correct the issue for the most part.
If it’s much longer than that (like you got a shirt with sleeves one size bigger than normal), there isn’t any easy way to take care of it. The easiest (relatively) would be to detach the cuff, cut the excess material, and reattach the cuff. You’d have to make sure to mark where the sleeve pleats are, have the right color thread, and be ready for a solid hour of slowly unstitching, and slowly restitching a straight line. I’ve done this a few times, and it doesn’t always end up nice.
The other way would be to take it up from the sleeve, which is even more of a pain.
evolvingstyle said: 1. Have you ever added darts to a shirt? If so, can you explain?
I have. What you have to do is first get a general idea of how much slack there is. I usually pull the shirt taut with one hand and “hand” measure with the other (IE. figure out where on my hand it measures to). Once you have that, you have to create two triangles of fabric down the back that’s essentially the same amount as you need to take out.
Pin them down, try on the shirt, and see if you need to take out excess material. Then look at the back of the shirt to make sure that they:
1) Start at the same height
2) Go straight down
3) Are a good distance apart.
If you’re happy with that, you need to press along the pins to set the seam, then sew. You’ll be sewing straight down the seam you pressed, so really nothing will be sewn into the “shirt”.
I will say that personally I don’t like darts. I’ve done them on a few shirts, and I find it makes it harder to iron and they look off (especially if you don’t take the time to line them up right). My biggest issue is that they are supposed to be there so you can undo them and let the shirts back out. On the shirts I tried that on, it left holes that I couldn’t get out, ruining the shirt.
Anonymous said: hey! i got asked this question to Thisfits originally, and he directed me to you: is it possible to take in a pair of pants' thigh without changing the leg opening? i bought some of those refined fit chinos from lands end and they fit pretty nice except for the the thigh and knee areas.
I would say yes. I am assuming that it does fit in the seat and the crotch, and it’s just from the crotch down to the knee. If those two don’t fit, they can be fixed, but they’re a lot more difficult. A good tailor or alterationist should be able to do that.
If it’s just the thighs, you can take it to an alterationist or you can do it yourself. My article on slimming pants can walk you through those steps. The only difference is you’d want to pin where you like the fit, and then slowly bring your seam in an arc back to meet that original seam. If your pants have french seams, I would suggest instead going to the very end of the leg with your seam, just inside the original seam. Otherwise, you’d have pants half with a french seam and half without.