How to Downsize Jeans With & Without Sewing - 6 Different Ways

8 Materials
30 Minutes

In this tutorial, I'll be showing you how to downsize jeans. If your jeans are too big, you may be wondering what you could do. So, here are 6 ways to DIY downsize jeans to make them fit your waist better.

Three involve sewing, and one of those techniques downsizes jeans with elastic. The other three teach you how to downsize jeans without sewing. How amazing is that? Let’s get started!

Tools and materials:

  • Jeans
  • Marking pen or pencil
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Elastic
  • Safety pin
  • Shoelace
  • Scarf
Large jeans that need to be downsized

1. Downsize jeans by sewing the sides

Sewing the waist at the sides

Mark the difference you need to reduce on either side of the waist. Mark the area in an inverted triangle or V shape right by the outer seam by the waist.

Thread a needle and start hand-sewing from the inside, hiding the knot in the inside of the jeans waistband. I'm using pink thread so you can easily see the stitches, but this would be less noticeable with a blue or white stitch.

Taking in the waist by hand-sewing

Sew in a straight horizontal line from the inside towards the other side.

How to downsize the waist of jeans by sewing

Pull the needle through the front of the jeans, rather than going back with the needle into the wrong side. Then, go back to the other side, parallel to the waistband.

Sewing a laddered inverted triangle

Continue across, following the lines of the inverted triangle, so it looks like a ladder. 

Pulling the thread to close the seam

When you get to the end, pull the thread tightly to close the seams and hide the stitches inside. This will automatically shrink the jeans!

Knotting the thread inside

Knot the thread on the inside.

DIY downsize jeans by hand-sewing

Do to both sides of the waistband. This is what it will look like on the inside.

DIY downsize jeans at the waist side seams

This is how it looks on the outside.

2. Downsize jeans by sewing the center

Marking where to sew the jeans

Sometimes you need to take in the jeans at the back, rather than at the sides of the waistband. Here, use the back center loop to serve as your boundary.

Drawing an inverted triangle at the back

Mark the amount you need to reduce the jeans by on either side of the loop with a pencil. Make small inverted triangles on either side of the loop.

How to downsize the jeans' waist at the back

Use the same ladder sewing method but in the back on either side of the back belt loop, leaving the belt loop in the same place. See how clean this looks?

3. Downsize jeans with elastic

Marking the inside jean waistband with pencil

Sometimes you may just need elastic in the back.

On the inner waistband at the back, mark the new measurement for reducing with the pencil.

Snipping the inner layer with scissors

Use scissors to cut on the two marks only in the inner layer.

Inserting elastic into jeans to downsize them

Take the small piece of elastic and hand sew to the hole on the right with about 5 to 6 stitches to secure it. Attach the safety pin or paper clip to the other end of the elastic. Thread through the waistband area to the second hole.

How to downsize jeans with elastic

Pull the elastic out, remove the safety pin, and secure with another 5-6 stitches. 

Downsizing jeans with elastic DIY

This is the easiest sewing method to downsize your jeans.

4. Tying jeans with shoelaces at the back

Threading a shoelace through the belt loops

This method of downsizing jeans is temporary - it could be a quick fix for when you're in a rush.

Take a long shoelace and start from the waist loop, threading it through the back only to the other waist loop.

Tying the shoelace at the back

Tie the shoelace together only in the back, securing it tightly. Then, tuck the bulky back inside.

Covering the tie with a jacket

The front of the jeans will look great! Place a longer jacket on top to hide your quick trick!

5. Downsizing jeans with a scarf

Tying a knot with a silk scarf

This is another quick-fix DIY hack. Take a silky scarf and roll it in a long roll. Insert it through 2 loops at either side of the waist. Pull the scarf ends tightly together and make a bow or knot to pull the jeans tight.

Knotted scarf, jeans, and t-shirt

Then, you can just wear as is - the scarf is a statement accessory! I even tied the scarf onto the knot in my t-shirt to make the look even more unique.

6. Pull the button through a belt loop

How to downsize jeans without sewing

If you haven’t got a jacket, shoelace, or scarf, and your shirt is long enough to cover your jean adjustment, this hack is for you!

Pulling the button through a belt loop

Pull the jeans button to the first loop and pull the button through the loop. Then pull the buttonhole and place the button into it.

Downsizing jeans without sewing

This is how it looks.

How to downsize jeans

You can wear something loose-fitting over it to hide the tie.

How to downsize jeans tutorial

I hope you try these techniques on how to downsize jeans in 6 different ways to help your jeans fit you better! Let me know in the comments which one you tried and which worked best for you!

Suggested materials:
  • Jeans
  • Marking pen or pencil
  • Needle and thread
See all materials

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Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Lra23041233 Lra23041233 on Dec 16, 2021

    I sew so the dart method I have used many times.

    For a non-sewer your methods are quick, cute and very clever!