How to Taper Jeans

As trends change, you might want to keep up with them without buying a whole new wardrobe. Tapering your jeans can completely alter their style, and you don’t have to be a seamstress to do it successfully. First narrow the lower leg and then make a new hem to convert your flares to a straight or skinny jean.


EditNarrowing the Lower Leg

  1. Put on your jeans inside out. Before you start making permanent changes to your jeans, put them on inside out and pull and pinch the excess fabric around the inner calf and ankle area that you’d like to make more narrow. Doing this while the jeans are inside out is best because you’ll need to alter the inside seams to taper the jean correctly.[1]
    Taper Jeans Step 1 Version 2.jpg
  2. Mark the area you want taken in. Using a washable fabric marker or chalk, mark small dots in a straight line where you’re pinching the fabric. These dots should start right below your knees and continue down to the very bottom of the pant legs.
    • Give yourself just a little extra room around the thicker part of the calf. You don’t want to make them too tight to put on and take off.[2]
  3. Pin the bunched material together. After you’ve taken the jeans off, use sewing pins to pin together the fabric at the dots you marked. The pinning should simulate the pinching you did while you were wearing the jeans. [3]
  4. Sew and cut excess fabric. Using a sewing machine, sew along the dotted lines that you created on each pant leg from below the knees to the bottom of the jeans. Once you do this, use scissors to cut off the extra fabric, including the old seams. Make sure not to cut any closer to your new seams than ¼ inch or ½ inch.[4]
  5. Sew the fabric together where you just cut off the old material. At this point, the raw edges that are exposed will need to be secured. In order to prevent fraying, sew the raw edges together using a zigzag stitch pattern. It may be difficult to make this look attractive, but that’s okay because this stitch won’t ever be visible while you’re wearing the jeans.[5]

EditMaking a New Hem

  1. Put your jeans back on and cuff your preferred new hem length. Put your jeans back on, but the right way this time. Your jeans should now be much more fitted from your knee down, but the very bottoms of your jeans are most likely still too wide. Cuff your jeans so that the old hem is where you want your jeans to end. This decision will depend greatly on exactly what kind of jean you’re aiming to create.
    • Skinny jeans should end at the top of the ankle.
    • Straight leg jeans should end at the bottom of your ankle, just before your foot.
    • Ankle jeans should fall at the slimmest part of the ankle.[6]
  2. Pin your cuffs. While keeping the jeans on, use sewing pins vertically to mark where you’ll sew, making sure that the vertical pin tops all line up evenly and are equidistant from the bottom of the fabric.[7]
  3. Sew across the pin tops and then cut off excess fabric. Take your jeans off and sew horizontal lines where your pin tops are. Once you’re done, you can cut the bottom of your pants off, leaving about a quarter or half inch of fabric below where you just sewed.[8]
  4. Zigzag stitch the edges to keep them from fraying. Just as you needed to create a zigzag stitch along the inside of the raw edges running vertically, you’ll need to do the same horizontally on the bottom of the jeans.[9]
  5. Flip right side in and iron smooth. Turn the edge back under so that you can see the original hem and iron over the bottom of the jeans to smooth and flatten them out.[10]

EditThings You’ll Need

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing pins
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Fabric marker or chalk
  • Iron

EditSources and Citations

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