Has long been a teacher of English Literature, after the retirement focused on freelance copywriting. She’s now our full-time writer since our website allows her to know more about the hobby of her lifetime – sewing.
A professional fashion designer and seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step instructions on how to sew a summer skirt.
Last updated: April 18, 2021
You are at the thrift store. You found the perfect pair of jeans. They are in excellent shape, the perfect color, and they are just your size. You try them on. They fit great everywhere. Everywhere that is except in the legs. You know skinny jeans may not exactly still be the latest and greatest trend. But try as you might; you just can’t be comfortable when the legs of your jeans are too wide at the bottom.
Do you have to pass on that great deal just because of the legs? Of course not! You can figure out how to make pants skinner at the bottom yourself. Don’t have a sewing machine or even know how to sew? No problem. There is a way to do it no matter your skill level. The greatest thing about each of these techniques is that the process is the same regardless of what kind of fabric you find yourself working with.
If you already have sewing skills and a sewing machine, the process for altering your pants is relatively straightforward. The biggest challenge can be making sure that your equipment can handle the job if you are using denim.
While any regular old machine might work just fine for altering an old pair of cotton slacks, you found in the back of your closet, and denim is a tougher fabric that calls for heavy-duty equipment. You will need to make sure that your sewing machine can meet the challenge.
Materials you need
What exactly do you need to sew the new hem?
What you need:
Your great pants
If you’re working with a tough denim fabric, the quality of the tools you use will be vital. Not all threads, pins, and needles will be up to the job. Make sure that the tools in your sewing kit are up to the job. Consider your options if you find that you have to upgrade some of your tools to handle the thicker fabric.
Look for kits that offer durable threads and high-quality needles and pins. Also, look for titanium scissors (like the ones included in this ultimate starting kit) because they can make working with the denim much easier.
What to do
Now that you have gathered suitable materials for working for any fabric, it’s time to sew.
Prepare your pants
Put them on inside out to decide where to pin them.
Pick a seam to use. The inside seam tends to look nicer. It’s also sturdier since it’s double sewn. The outside seam, however, is an easier stitch.
Put pins where you want the new seam.
You can also mark this with a marker rather than placing pins if you prefer
Create a new seam
Take off the pants.
Use a sewing machine to sew from the bottom pin to the top pin. You can also sew along the line that formed if you used multiple pins.
If you used a marker, it is as easy as sewing along the drawn line.
Take care when sewing the new hem If you double sew across the hem, it will provide more stability.
Try them on.
Don’t immediately cut off the excess fabric. You want to wait until you are satisfied with the fit.
Need the seam closer to your leg? Sew a new seam. You will just be cutting off the first one.
Need to open the leg a bit, cut the thread, and you can start over until you get it right.
Cut the excess fabric
Only do this if you are sure you are happy with the fit.
Leave ¼” to ½” to ” from the seam. This extra space allows for how the fabric will fray so it won’t mess with your /new stitched line.
Even if you aren’t handy with a sewing machine, don’t get intimidated by the idea of altering pants yourself. There are plenty of easy, no-sew methods available that will let you achieve the same look.
These methods are easy for beginners
No special equipment is needed
Not all of the methods are permanent. If you change your mind, you can often easily undo the work and get your old seam back with zero damage to the look of the pants. This is also a big help when you aren’t quite sure of what you are doing because it allows you to more easily undo mistakes with no penalty
It won’t work as well if you are trying to alter the entire pants leg
Not necessarily permanent, which means these methods can sometimes come undone
Iron-on tape method
This method is not permanent at all. Before you choose this method, be aware that you will have to reapply the tape periodically.
What you need:
Iron on tape
How to do it:
Just like before, put your pants on inside out and pin where you want the new seam to be.
Take off the pants and release the seam. Use the seam ripper to cut the thread before pulling it until the fabric is released. Now that the seam is open, you can flatten the fabric, place one side on top of the other. Place a strip of tape in between the fabrics.
With the pants still inside out, use the iron following the directions for the tape you are using. Allow it to cool completely.
Check the fit. If the pants need adjusting, you can remove the tape and start over. Once again, no cutting anything until you are confident you are satisfied. Also, because of how the fabric is folded, cutting might not even be necessary at all.
A third way to make your pants skinnier at the bottom is to add a zipper to the bottom. Adding a zipper is a fun way to alter your pants and add an extra style element.
What you need:
How to do it:
As with the other methods, put your pants on inside out and pin where you want the alterations.
This time you do have to cut the extra fabric first before doing anything else. Remember, you can always take more off, but you can’t put it back once it’s cut. That means you will need to cut small amounts at a time.
Once you are satisfied that the legs will be skinny enough, measure the cut sections. The zippers must be the same length, so cut them to match.
Using fabric glue, attach the zippers to the legs of the pants. Take care that the zipper opens at the bottom. Also, make sure that it is facing the outside of the fabric. Glue the fabric as close to the zipper’s teeth as you can get. Doing this will make the zipper sturdy.
Pin roll methods
This final method is the least permanent alteration you can make and still achieve the skinny-legged pants look. It is entirely (and intentionally) reversible!
What you need:
Nothing at all, just the pants
How to do it:
Pull the outside seam away from your foot.
Fold the extra fabric on top of itself.
Hold the fold, and then roll the hem up away from the ground. As you roll the hem upwards, the vertical fold is “pinned” to your leg.
That’s all there is! You can use this spontaneously anytime you want to change up a look. Use it to alter the width of the legs or the length of your pants. It is handy for tucking straight-legged pants into big boots or just keeping the bottoms of your jeans dry on a rainy day.
Knowing how to make changes (permanent or otherwise) can extend the usability of your wardrobe. Even if you aren’t a whiz at the sewing machine, you can use these tips to keep your appearance looking fresh.
The next time you see a great pair of jeans at the thrift store or find a pair of pants in your closet that never fit “quite right,” you can be confident that you have the skills necessary to easily make that item into a great part of your wardrobe. No need to fear making a mistake if you were otherwise just going to toss it.
Finding new life for your clothing also helps the environment, which is all the more reason to learn how to make your pants skinner at the bottom. According to the BBC, an estimated 92 million tons of textile products end up in landfills every year. A full garbage truck of just discarded clothing enters a landfill every single second. This number is expected to jump up to 134 tons by 2030! One pair of pants saved from the trash may not sound like much, but if everyone did one tiny thing, it could make a difference.