Taking in Jeans at the Side Seam Tutorial

(not to sound like a QVC commercial but,)

Do you have a perfect pair of jeans that fit you everywhere but in the waistband and every time you sit down or bend over, you are selling major crack? Do you love those jeans? Do you wish that you could wear them more than one wear out of the dryer?

A couple of months ago I found this technique tutorial on Burdastyle.com and it has changed my life. Seriously, this technique is life changing.

Here I fixed Melissa’s jeans. Really, can we all collectively hate/love Melissa for how skinny she is? Imagine living next door to her. I swear all of my friends are skinny.

I have clarified the tutorial a little, so if you are a beginner sewer, please don’t be shy, you can do this. Just take it slow and you should be fine.

First try on your jeans. Pull the side or the back to gauge how much waistband you could lose. Melissa needed to lose 3 inches of waistband, so I took in each side 1 1/2 inches, which will make sense later.

Start with your pair of favorite jeans.

You will be working with the side seam. Don’t be scared, jeans construction is easy, promise.

Unpick your belt loop.

Then unpick your waist band. You will need about a 6 inch space of unpicked waist band.

Then unpick your side seam about 12-14 inches.

BTW, by now you should be covered head to toe in little thread pieces that you will find all over your house and your baby for weeks to come.

You’re welcome for that.

You will want to take the front of the jean piece, and pin that piece in onto the back jean piece. For Melissa’s I took 1 1/2 inches off each side, so I pinned the front piece 1 1/2 inches in from the back.

Pin your front piece to your back piece, tapering down to the original seam.

Now, sew a new seam right on top of your old stitch holes.

Cut off the excess jean.

Zig zag or serge the edge of the seam.

Then you need to take in your waist band, by folding in half and making a new seam that is 1/2 of the width of the width that you took in your actual jeans.  I took in the jeans 1 1/2 inches on each side, so I took in the waist band on each side 3/4 inches.

Stitch and trim.

Fold your waist band back over, enclosing your new side seam. Pin your new waistband in place and sew your new seam, using your previous stitches as a guide.

Reattach your belt loop and you are good to go.


  1. Madeline P :
    This. is. genius. It is like you read my mind as I got dressed this morning (and every morning really). I have a pair of J.Crew toothpicks I scored for a deal but after one wear they were WAY too big in the waist.



    PS you are so funny, I giggle at every post you write. keep it up!
  2. Melissa :
    Susan, you are my hero! Have I told you how much I love my newly-tailored jeans?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!

    From someone who has paid a tailor to take in jeans (from the back), I totally prefer the fit of the side-seam method. This is genius.
  3. jill :
    This tutorial and the one to skinnify jeans will save my life. I sort of want to do this right now, but I should probably wait until I'm not pregnant. Well, like 6 months after I have the baby. Or a year.
  4. Karen :
    Hey can you send those three inches my way? That will be just enough for me to tuck in my muffin top. ugh...skinny people
  5. emily sparks :
    awesome! i will definitely be attempting this one:)!
  6. Marta :
    I just want to know where those fantastic blue pants came from... and where I can find a neighbor patient enough to help me do this!
  7. LKP :
    holy bananas, susan! i adore your blog. you are amaz-ing!!!
  8. rachel :
    What a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing.
  9. Lia :
    Holy crap! This IS mad genius. I can see why it's changed your life. I think it's gonna change mine, too. Yipee!
  10. Marie {Make and Takes} :
    Love this!! Great tut. Now I just need to you do it all over again on video!! YOU should do videos.

    And Melissa, it's just not fair, you rockin' hot mama!!
  11. Erin :
    this is amazing! i can't wait to try it. thanks!
  12. Jesslyn :
    Not kidding when I say I was JUST complaining about the waistband in the jeans I wore yesterday. The upper thigh also gaps a little so this technique will solve that as well. SO EXCITED to try it!
  13. Laraine Eddington :
    I am a born hipster and this tailoring tip is AWESOME! Just discovered your blog...it's great!
  14. Katie Jean :
    Susan!! This has to be the best.thing.ever. I have this problem all the time and now I need to do this to all of my pants! Thanks for the tutorial!
  15. Amy :
    That's so clever! I have a pile of jeans that fall down, I'll SO being doing this to them now, thanks! :D
  16. Pink Dogwood :
    All I can think while I read your tutorial is, "Dang! You GO girl." Wow. I'd definitely be too scared (and impatient) to pull apart a pair of jeans. Nice work!
  17. Lynne :
    Perfect photos for the instructions!girl, I need you to photograph for ME!
  18. Susan :
    marta, they are forever21 and i think that there is a place for rent down the street.
  19. Hint of Vintage :
    Oh my gosh I love this! I just love your blog because it makes me laugh with your commentary, instead of cry because I'm so confused. It is so easy to follow, i love it!
  20. Heather :
    love love love this. now i just need to lose some weight so i have an excuse to try this! ha ha. that or go buy some pants from the d.i. oh, and i feel your pain- all my friends, sister-in-laws, sister, etc are all skinny toothpicks- and all have had the same amount if not more kids than me.............oh how it is so not fair!!
  21. Madeline P :
    So, I just finished reworking my jeans, and I am completely enamored with them. You are amazing!
  22. Jean :
    Simple and brilliant! I've taken them in evenly (equal amount on both sides) before but this makes much more sense and looks so much better! Thanks.
  23. Brittany :
    Ohh this info is going to help me out so much. Do you have any idea how to take-in the inseam/crotch area of jeans? The problem I have with my denim is that if it fits my butt and hips, then its too big in the crotch.
  24. Susan :

    I've done it before only to have so-so results, i would trust a tailor with that though.
  25. Anonymous :
    You have literally just saved my life!! I have this problem in every pair of jeans I buy, no matter what the brand. Now I can keep getting my bargain priced old navy jeans and give them a custom fit. I cannot thank you enough again. I don't have a sewing machine, but I have some sturdy needles so I'll try to tackle this by hand. The alterations cannot wait until I have enough money to get a machine.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

    p.s. I found this post by way of Rachel's blog Notions, and I found her blog by way of another Rachel's blog, Smile and Wave.
  26. Ginger Roxy :
    Great Blog!!!



  27. Beth :
    I love this! I'm definitely going to try it out. Thank you!
  28. Southern Gal :
    Thanks for this. My kids and husband love to point and say (yell), "Crack kills!" whenever I happen to bend over in their presence.
  29. hawkeyejlp :
    THANK YOU and thank you! One pair down, several to go.
  30. Cathy :
    Thanks for the great tutorial. I just used it to fix a pair of thrift store jeans that otherwise fit perfectly.
  31. fairyprincess :
    Absolute genius!
    Your tutorial is so clear and easy to follow. Thank you!
    I think every pair of jeans I ever buy/try on have to have the waist band taken in due to me having a waist to go with my hips and thighs GRRR!
  32. Kelly B :
    Just linked to this tute in my blog - hope that's ok! It's a fab tutorial, really clear. :)
  33. Kelly B :
    Sorry... forgot the link. Typical!

  34. Roundy Clan :
    Can't wait to try this! I have big hips and a big booty so I ALWAYS have to wear a belt and I hate it. This would help a LOT!
  35. jaya pratheesh :
    very clear tute. i dont know if i have the patience to unpick the jeans myself, but i'm pretty sure that with this tute, i can pay someone else to do it this way.. thank you!
  36. Sabrina :
    I am a beginner and I stumbled upon this tutorial while I searched for projects to do with my new machine. This tutorial was amazingly helpful. I recently lost a lot of weight and I had a drawer full of jeans and pants that are size 4 (I am now size 0). I am finally able to wear them again! (Although I did have to work all the way down the leg on them because they were just too big and it worked like a charm) :D
  37. Rachel R. :
    Awesome; thank you!

    Now, do you have a tutorial for hemming boot-cut jeans while preserving the original hem? Straight ones are no problem, but I can't figure out how to do boot-cut. Surely there's some "trick."
  38. katkeen :
    I love you! This is awesome! Ive lost some weight and now my fav jeans dont fit!! YEAH!! Im soo glad I kept them with the hopes of being able to do something like this with them! THANK YOU!!!
  39. josh and annie :
    You are so cool. My husband (bless his stinking heart) bought himself some jeans that were 2 inches too big in the waist. Now I have fixed them and I can let him wear them without looking like a thug. THANK YOU! :)
  40. Stacy :
    Thank you for this tutorial. I recently lost weight and this will let me extend the life of my wardrobe before I have to buy more clothes.
  41. Eric :
    So easy even a guy can do it :-) . The mechanics are really simple once you open it up. First one took me all afternoon, but I'm sure I could get the time down significantly for future runs.

    I had a few gotchas and made one small change to the tutorial. First off I took out the waistband all the way around the back since I though I might need to take in the center as well. Guy jeans often have larger pockets that make taking it in on the rear sides tricky. I was able to get the space I needed by rounding the cut-in slightly at the top. The waistband I cut just off center, overlapped 1 CM at the center and then sewed back on. There is a raw edge, but it's covered by the belt loop.

    After losing weight nothing fits and even store bought are usually a poor fit in the waist for someone who needs less than a 30. This will allow me to find things that are good for color and style or color and size and tailor the problem areas.

    Thank you!
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  43. Ryan, Corrie, Max, and Jack :
    I love you I love you I love you. not to sound like a creepy stalker.... lol, sorry. Yes, you have saved my life (okay, my jeans') too. And my hubby's. You're amazing.
  44. mimi :
    great tut, thanks! i always have gaping jeans as my thighs fit a different jean size to my waist, so this is what i was looking for thanks!
  45. Anonymous :
    Thank you ! Thank You! I just finished a pair of jeans and it worked great! I had some troubles but next pair will be better! Awesome!
  46. Anna :
    I have some questions about finishing up the waist band. I followed this tutorial with a pair of jeans but was pretty confused by the pictures at the waist band. So I just sewed it right across (which was really difficult because it was soo thick). But then, I couldn't put the top of the jeans into the waist band because it was sewn shut. What is really supposed to be going on there? Thanks
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  49. Julie :
    This is genius!! pun full intended. I have this problem with every single pair of pants I own, which I always attributed to having a bit of a non-existent bottom. I can't wait to try this!!
  50. CatZilla :
    Ok, seriously! I also have this problem but it's mostly due to my Yo-Yo dieting :) So, I googled how to do this. First up came the orriginal post you were talking about from Burdastyle.com. That made me nervous...I couldn't wrap my head around the steps.

    THEN- I notice the second result on Google was THIS post. Since I was already a fan of yours, of course I checked it out and Ba-DOW--You explain it SO much simpler!! I have already dont this to 2 pairs of jeans and a pair of work slacks! I can't thank you enough for this!! Keep on keepin on!
  51. Tasha :
    Wow what an easy yet amazing way to custom fit jeans! Just wondering if the Diet Coke featured at step 4ish or 5ish is a requirement? lol
    But really thank you!
  52. Anita :
    Thanks for a most helpful tutorial. I had been reluctant to undo the waistband, but you made it very easy. I have lost some weight, and hope to loose more, so I altered only 1 side of 2 jeans. If I'm lucky I'll do the other side later. The imbalance not noticeable except to me. I also went further down the leg to make them less baggy. For one pair I had matching topstitch thread. For the other one I saved the original thread and did it by hand, which took more time, but they look great.
  53. shopgirl :
    great tutorial. Excellent pictures. VERY helpful.
  54. Lynsie :
    Thank You for the great tut!!! I have always paid someone to take mine in. She does it right above the back pockets though, and your technique seems like it would work much better for my body! Definitely going to try this. Now I won't be so turned off to buying new jeans, only to have to drop them off to get altered :)
  55. Heidi :
    Whew! I'm going to try this TODAY! I'm a super beginner at sewing, but my favorite pair of jeans now fall off! =( I can't afford to buy new ones right now, so I don't have much to lose!
  56. Anonymous :
    Awesome!! Thanks for posting this tutorial. I can do anything with good instructions!! Rawr!
  57. HilT :
    Just took in some jeans that I love, but were too big. Your tutorial was perfect! The jeans came out great...all of the pictures helped a lot! Thanks!
  58. patchesdesignfactory :
    I used your tutorial to take in some awesome but way huge jean shorts. And they came out PERFECT! Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial!
  59. Amanda @ The Little Giggler :
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this! I always thought taking in jeans would be so difficult, but it was so easy. You saved me so much money!
  60. Alma’s Sewing Adventures :
    I just found this post.. Cannot wait to get home and fix all my jeans.. I am so happy you posted this and made it simple for even a beginner like me!. thanks! :)
  61. Stephanie :
    Awesome, thank you so much! Just yesterday I was wearing a pair of jeans that were just too, uh, cracktastic =D I can't wait to do this to all of my pants!
  62. Denise Mackenzie :
    Well, I wou'd certainly do this, but not sure my daughter would! 'Make do and mend' is a dying art I'm sorry to say. I hope posts like this will be an inspiration to the 'twenty somethings' in this world.
  63. Tyler and Valerie Nelson :
    Thank you for posting this....I was looking online for an easy tutorial and have never done anything like this. After reading yours, I tried it and they turned out perfectly - Thank you for making it so easy! Keep posting!
  64. Kimberly :
    I just saw this an hour ago on pinterest. Now I have been reunited with an old favorite pair of jeans that I haven't worn in over a year! No exaggeration when you said life-changing. It was so easy, and I am thrilled! Thank you!
    • Susan :
      yeah! best news ever.
  65. Michelle Lubbers :
    I am so glad we've met. Genius.
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  67. Robin :
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I found a post of this on pinterest and pinned it a few months ago, I finally got around to doing it today and it's works perfectly. I'll be busy for a while doing this to all of my pants and shorts.
  68. Thif :
    I have that problem with my pants all the time! Last week I made an attempt of taking it in through the middle and luckily these weren't my favorite pair of paints to begin with.. I felt more confident with your technique and just used it on one of my favorite jeans and I am very satisfied! Only problem I had was that my material was very thick on the waistband and it looked bulky when I folded it back over. Took me a lot of time to get it over control but it doesn't matter so much because could hide the remaining bulkiness with the belt loop. Thanks for the tutorial!
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  71. Rachel :
    Ive done this alteration a few times. I also sometimes take in the center back seam. Some jeans are more trouser than jean (with the back yoke) so this alteration is just as simple.
  72. Pingback: Style: Friends and Florals » ISLY | I Still Love You

  73. LediaJ – Healthy Beauty :
    This is amazing!!!! I don't dare to do it myself though :D
  74. Pingback: Refashion: Darts + Jeans » ISLY | I Still Love You

  75. Sherry :
    I've had this same problem with almost every pant I've tried on for the past 3 years. Thx for the excellent tutorial. The BIG question: Why hasn't the garment industry recognized this population of small waisted people exists and make some styles that would fit off the rack??? Look at how many people have commented here....
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  77. Vanessa :
    Love it! I was just on that other website and I had no idea what she was talking about. The pictures you used helped clarify it a LOT. Thank you!!
    • Susan :
      thank you!
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  79. MrsAmyS :
    Susan, thank you for posting this!! I just completed this on a pair of jeans that I've been wanting to wear for a long time!! I am a beginning sewer and was a little nervous about cutting open my jeans but you were right, it's super easy! Thanks again!!
  80. Kate :
    Thank you SO much for this! I found it on Pinterest and am now reclaiming my jeans left and right. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to do this because learning this skill from you has been a lifesaver - and a wallet saver!
  81. Elaine :
    Can you use this same method but instead lay the back against the front and remove the excess from the front of the jeans?
  82. Lindsey :
    Hi! I was wondering if you could use the same technique to alter in a pair of short shorts. I wouldn't be able to open the side seam 12 inches so that is my only concern because I'm not sure if it would make a difference, thanks!
  83. Nique :
    Thank you and do you like this method better then the dart method some people use?
  84. Nique :
    Thank you, and do you like this method better than the dart method? Which one would you prefer and why?
  85. debbie :
    No matter how skinny or fat I am........my waist is always waaaay smaller than my butt. I am now going to "fix" all of my ill fitting jeans. Thanks so much for all the pics..........I am a visual learner LOL hugs
  86. Abbie R :
    Thank you so much for this! I got an awesome pair of new jeans this week that fit great everywhere except the waist and I've been looking for a good tutorial for how to take them in. As a beginning sewer, the Burdastyle tutorial was a bit beyond me, but thanks to this post I think I should be able to do it! :)
  87. Farhana :
    This is actually amazing! My butt is non-existent so my jeans fall down when I'm walking, never mind when I bend over! I'm so sick of always having to wear a belt! I'm going to try this on one of my less favourite jeans first though because I am terrible with a sewing machine!
  88. Emma :
    This has made buying jeans on ebay not even a risk! Thanks for helping me save money :)
  89. Cheryl :
    Thank you so much for this tutorial, just followed it and now my jeans are perfect. Thank you :-)
  90. Leslie :
    Can you use the same technique to add a few more inches on your jeans?
  91. Athena :
    I lost a lot of weight recently and now have a bunch of jeans that are too big. I think I will try to take them in so I can wear them again. Thanks for the tutorial. :) I don't want to get rid of them because they are nice jeans from JC Penney.
  92. Jessica :
    Thank you for such a clear and easy to follow tutorial! I just finished doing this for the first time and I'm so unbelievably pleased with how well my jeans fit me now!
  93. aline magre :
    ik vind dit nog vrij moeilijk als een broek te wijd is koop ik elastiek wat iets smaller isdan de boord van de broek. Dan naai ik aan weerszijden van midden achter een stukje van dat elastiek al naaiende rek je dat elastiek uit . het is nog geen drie minuten werk en de broek zit perfect.
  94. Dalya :
    When I thought of making some of my jeans smaller, I said nooo it can't be done! Up comes your tutorial in a search with pretty photos and clear instructions! I just finished this on some jeans that needed a total of 6 inches taken off. My stitches may not look pretty and I've had to hammer some of the thick seams down but yay! Thank you SO much <3! I used this tutorial (http://quilt-knit-run-sew.blogspot.com/2009/05/tutorial-hemming-jeans-quilters.html) along with yours :)
  95. Allison :
    Thank you sooo very much!!! i just got 4 pair of jeans from a friend and they are just a little too loose in the waist for ages i have been thinking i should do this but was unsure and a little scared but your tutorial is so simple and it really didnt take long at all xxxxxx
  96. Deb :
    How do I find the skinny jeans tutorial someone mentioned???
  97. Vanessa :
    Do you know how to take in a skirt with pleats at the waistline? That would be AMAZING!! If you do post an article on that, please email me the link to vanessa.adeana@yahoo.com Thanks!
  98. Jenna :
    So great! But i have a question: Why did you only take in the waistband half the length of what you took in on the actual jeans? and did you do both sides? Sorry, I want to get that clarifies before I begin taking in my three pairs of jeans...:-D

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