Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tutorial - Narrowing Pant Leg Width

As I have mentioned before, my Grandma taught me most of what I know about sewing.  She was very thorough in her teaching, and not only taught me how to make clothes from patterns, but also how to alter clothes.  So, I wanted to alter some chino pants that I had bought awhile back.  The leg width was 12" wide, and wore them once.  I got my foot caught in one leg and about tripped flat onto my face.  I also did not like the way I looked in them and just didm't like hated them, and consequently did not ever wear them.  I knew I could make the pant leg narrower, but I knew it would take longer than I wanted to spend the time doing it, so I put it off, and put it off, and kept putting it off.  Then when I started working full time I found it necessary to increase my wardrobe a bit, and I didn't want to spend any money.  Thus, the alteration of my pant leg width, and along with doing the alteration, I decided to write this tutorial.

It doesn't take much to do alterations.  Something to take apart the seams.  Most seamstress use a seam ripper, but my Grandma always used a razor blade, so that is how I learned and still use one today.  I found this handy razor holder in the hardware store along with a big box of single edged razors.  You will also need a marking pen of some kind, I use the SewLine brand, a pair of good scissors, and either a tape measure or a ruler.  And of course a sewing machine and matching thread of the garment you are altering.

Here is my first picture measuring the width of the the pant legs.  It shows that they measure 12", and I like my pant legs to measure between 8" to 10".  I actually measured the pant leg width of my favorite pair of pants to give me a a width I want to obtain on this pair.

First begin by removing the hem in each leg.  I always start at one of the side leg seams, because the cutting of the first couple of stitches are a little difficult.  Cutting into the side seam allows for any errors if you cut into the material.  You will only cut into the seam, and not part of the pants that would show a hole cut into the fabric.  

 Take the time to remove all the thread from the original hem.  This was something my Grandma emphasized, because leaving any bits and pieces can get sewn back into the seam and make it look very messy and after they get sewn in the seam, they can be very hard to remove.
I like to do each step to both legs.  Some do all the steps on one leg and then do the other leg.
 Then the next step is to begin taking apart the side leg seams.  You need to take out the seam out to about 2" above the knee.  You take this much out, to give you enough starting space, to taper in the leg at the bottom.  Doing this will give it a nice smooth blend into the original seam.

 Note here that most pants have a flat fell seam running down the outside seam from the waist to the hem.  Take care when taking out this seam, as it has three parts.  First is the main seam sewing the the front to the back, then the edges of the seam is served and then the seam is sewn flat on the right side of the pant leg.  You can find out more information about the different type of seams here.
                                                                                                                       Once this is done, you will notice that the back portion is wider than the front portion.  Keep this in mind when you cut away some of the side seams that you keep the portion ratio the same.  Once this is done, you will notice that the back portion is wider than the front portion.  Keep this in mind when you cut away some of the side seams that you keep the portion ratio the samFor example, in this pair of pants the back section is 13" and the front section is 11".  After my trimming down the side seams, my back section measured 10" and my front section measured 8", giving my width 9", which is right where I want my width to be.  

 Again, I do each step on both legs before proceeding to the next step.  So here I have take out both seams on each leg.

 Next, lay on a flat surface, the back leg on the table.  fold back the front piece of the pants.  Now we begin the process of trimming down the pant leg.

Start at the top most portion, where you tore apart the seam.  Right up against the sewn part of the seam.

Place a hard straight ruler along the edge of the seam, beginning at the top most part of the opened seam.  Then pivot it out at a small angle to gradually take in the edge.

Taking it down to the hem line, you have now angled it, taking in about 1 1/2 inches.  Repeat on the other back side seam.
Now, take your scissors at an angle and start cutting about 1/4" away from the line you drew down to the bottom of the pant leg.

This is a close up picture of how the pant leg will look after the cut has been made.

The pant legs should have the same same ratio to each other as they did before cutting the marked sides.  The front should be smaller than the back by the same amount on each side.

Pin the front to the back on the outside seam first. This is an important step if the seam is a flat fell seam.  Begin sewing together, starting about where my thumb is in the picture, taking it at an angle, until the stitch is making a 1/4" seam.
Once the outside seam is completed press the seam in the same direction as it is above the seam that was just sewn.  Then turn the pant leg over and on the right side, topstitch down the the leg.  Start the topstitching about two stitches over the existing topstitching.  Make the topstitching seam the same distance from the sewn seam as it is above the new seam.

This picture shows the finished seam with the topstitching done.

Do the inside seam next, starting above where the seam above is at, and sew down to the bottom of the pant.

Make sure the original hem lines match.  This is important when it comes time to re-hem the pant legs again.

At this point, I usually run a zig-zag seam down the inside seam that was just sewn.  This keeps the seam from fraying down to the seam, and coming apart at a later date.
The zig-zag doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be done to keep the fraying away.

Repeat all of the steps for the other pant leg.

Now it is time to hem each leg of the newly narrowed pant legs.  Hopefully, you have matched the hem lines on both seams of each leg.
Pin the hem back in place, along the existing fold lines from when the hem was taken out.
Turn the pant leg inside out, and following the original hem stitching, re-stitch the hem in place, starting at the inside seam of the pant leg.

And, there it is, a professional tailor job of narrowing the pant leg.  This pair of pants went from a 12" width to a 9" width.  This process takes about an hour and a half to do, but the benefits of having a "new pair" of pants has been worth the time and effort.


Connie said...

Wonderful tutorial, I used to sew all my clothes! Thanks for sharing.
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Margaret Milton said...

Best tutorial for altering trousers. I have trawled through about seven other sites and these instructions are comprehensive with the results giving a professional smart finish, just what is desired when altering expensive or your favourite coloured trousers. thank you

Rebecca said...

Thank you so much. This answered about a dozen questions I had for this process. I had a friend ask if I could do four pairs -- knowing that's a 1-1/2 hour job each was extremely helpful.

louna said...

I have one question. Do I have to trim down only the back leg not the front leg as well?