How to Take in Jeans "the Proper Way" For a Perfect Fit

Lydia Naomi
by Lydia Naomi
10 Materials
2 Hours

You found the perfect jeans. They fit great at the hips and the length is ideal. The only problem? The waist is way too big. You might be thinking of getting your jeans altered but that’s expensive!

In my previous tutorial, I showed you an easy hack to downsize jeans with waist elastic. However, that's more of a quick fix or temporary solution. Today. I want to show you how to take in jeans "the proper way."

It's more time-consuming, but when you know how to take in your jeans at the waist and the side seams, your jeans will fit so much better.

Tools and materials:

  • Denim needle - I used a size 16 needle
  • Thread - I used a Tex60 polyester thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Wire end cutters or another tool
  • Clear grid ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Hip curve
  • Pins

Make sure your machine has a strong motor and a high presser foot to accommodate the bulky fabric.

Some cheaper machines have plastic inner workings that won’t be able to handle sewing denim. Know before you sew!

How to take in jeans the proper way

1. Get the right fit

Pinch the jeans in the back at the center back seam to find how much you need to take in.

You might think “oh this is where I will take it in and it will look great” but you may notice how the seams slant on the outer side seams when you pull back.

How to take in jeans at the side seam

This means you’re going to have to take the jeans in from the back and the 2 sides to keep all the seams nice and straight. 

Measuring how much to take in

Measure the amount you need to take in.

My measurement for a perfect waist fit is about 4 inches. Your measurement may be different but the technique is the same.

Removing the label on the jeans

2. Rip the seams

Use your seam ripper to open up the waistband.

If your jeans have a label at the back, carefully remove it. Set it aside to sew back on when you’ve finished your tailoring.

Seam ripping the waistband of the jeans

Open up the waistband seam from the outer side seam on one side across the entire back to the other outer side seam.

Lift up the bottom of all the belt loops. Completely remove the center back belt loop - you’ll reposition it on your new center back later.

Opening the back center seam of the jeans

Open up the back center seam to just below the back pockets. 

Seam ripping the side seams of the jeans

Open up both side seams. This part is challenging because the side seams are usually serged on the inside. Take your time and have some patience.

Opening up the side seams of the jeans

Go down to the same length as the back center seam - just below the back pockets.

Removing rivets from the jeans

3. Remove the rivets

Some jeans have rivets right at the side seam near the front pockets. Use a wire cutting tool or another tool to remove them. You won’t be able to reattach them. Please be careful with this step!

Measuring the amount to take in at each seam

4. Measure how much to take in

Once everything is open, it’s time to figure out how much to take in at each seam. You’ll be taking in from all 3 seams.

In my case, I needed to take in 4 inches, which is 1.333 inches per seam.

For simplicity’s sake and your sanity, I suggest leaving fractions behind and going for 1 inch at each seam.

Pinning the back seam in by 1 inch

Start with the back center seam. After measuring, pin in 1 inch. 

How to take in the waist of jeans by hand

For each side seam, after measuring 1 inch, pin towards the front of the jeans. 

How to take in jeans at the waist

5. Modifying the waistband

When you move the center back seam, you have to make sure the stitching along the top is removed so you can create a very clean new seam.

Taking out the top seam stitches.

Take out the top seam stitches. 

Opening up the waistband

Open up the waistband and pull it out.

On the wrong side, measure about 2 inches. You’ll need to take off a bit from that measurement, close to a ¼ of an inch because you’ll need to mark it on a slant.

If you recall, we removed 3 inches from the waistband but the waistband needs to be a bit wider at the bottom where it meets the body and smaller at the top (think about your own waist). 

Trying on the pinned jeans to see the fit

Try on the pinned jeans and see how they fit. If they fit perfectly, congratulations! You’re ready to sew. If they don’t, reposition the waistband until they fit properly.

Taking in the jeans by sewing

6. Start sewing

Get a nice cotton thread to match as close as possible to your jeans’ thread. Sew where the stitching was previously. 

Topstitching the new seams

It's best to sew on the wrong side first to secure and then topstitch.

Jeans take a lot of stress, especially if there’s little stretch. I recommend double stitching to help keep everything secure.

Sewing the center back seam

Sew the center back seam on the waistband. Snip off some of the excess. Slant the edges of the seam allowance so it doesn’t poke out when you sew it down. 

Lining up the waistband

Line up the outer waistband to the new waist of the jeans and straight stitch along the seam.

How to sew jeans

The center back seam where you took it in should line up with the center backstitching of your jeans.

Once that’s secure, topstitch over the bottom seam and lift up the belt loops as you sew across. Then, topstitch the top.

Reattaching the back center belt loop

Reattach the back center belt loop. Secure the bottoms of the other belt loops.

Finished jeans at the side
Finished jeans at the back

Finished jeans at the front

How to take in jeans tutorial

I hope this tutorial on how to take in jeans helps you alter ill-fitting jeans by yourself. I'm really happy with my results.

Let me know in the comments what you think!

Suggested materials:
  • Denim needle - I used a size 16 needle
  • Thread - I used a Tex60 polyester thread
  • Sewing machine
See all materials

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