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Altering Jeans: Bootcut to Skinny & How to Hem Jeans

Recently, I was shown how to turn a pair of looser fitting jeans (flared, bootcut, straight leg, wide leg, etc.) into skinny jeans with a simple technique. I decided I’d give it a shot and combine that with the hemming technique I’ve done once before for shortening a pair of jeans.

I’ve had these jeans for years. They’re bootcut and too long. I have hardly worn them because I always felt like they were a little boyish fitting, even if I cuffed the bottoms. The waist and hips fit fine—I have a feeling that’s key in this technique working well.

To start out making my loose jeans fit like skinny jeans, I laid out a pair of jeans that fit well on top of the inside-out ill fitting jeans. The pair on top are actually a little too short but that doesn’t matter at this point. I lined up the inner leg seams and the crotches.

Then, I pinned along the outside edge of the template pair. The goal is to gradually meet the existing side seam of the loose jeans. This can even happen at the base of the pocket, as long as the rivet still shows.

Once both side seams were pinned, I was ready to sew along my pin line.

I didn’t take a picture of the sewing. You can imagine what that looked like. Just a simple straight stitch up the pinned line. I decided to sew a second stitch to give the new seam a little extra reinforcement. Cutting off the excess material is optional, though it makes for less bulk inside the pant legs. I left my edges unfinished where I cut and I don’t have a surge machine. That’s another benefit to having two stitched seams, in case the denim frays back after being washed several times.

Time to try them on! They were still way too long at this point so it was hard to tell if the fit was better. Cuffing is no longer an option because of the extra material or unfinished edges.

I folded up one pant leg to the length I wanted (my left leg). See the difference? The right leg is about 2″ too long. The length is a personal preference. I like for the back of the pant leg to just barely touch the ground when I’m wearing a pair of flats. If you where heels a lot, longer is probably necessary.

There is a neat trick to hem a pair of jeans while maintaining the original stitching at the bottom of the leg. The extra material was folded upwards, inside the pant leg.

Then, I stitched around the fold, as close to the edge as possible but making sure the tan threads of the original hem are still visible. I used light blue thread because it was already in my sewing machine. A little darker blue would have been even less noticeable.

Close up it looks a little strange but after ironing the seam and once they’re on, it’s almost impossible to tell they’ve been hemmed.

The finished jeans:

It’s a subtle change (made even more subtle by my poor DIY bathroom mirror photography…) but I feel like I got a whole new pair of jeans for free.

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15 Responses to Altering Jeans: Bootcut to Skinny & How to Hem Jeans

  1. 7cakes says:

    I did this exact thing a few days ago! Yours are really cute =D
    http://agastronomescloset.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/jean-slimming/

    • mahlbrandt says:

      How funny! Nice job on the $1 jeans find. Yeah, fitting into tall boots and with flats are the only ways I’m comfortable wearing skinny jeans.

  2. Cotton Handy says:

    Oh this is great! I am wearing jeans right now that could do with this effort…thanks! 🙂

  3. Cotton Handy says:

    Oh this is great! I am wearing jeans right now that could do with this effort…thanks!

  4. Sari says:

    You have opened a whole new world to me. Goodwill, here I come… Thanks! 🙂

  5. great tutorial! Wish I had kept a pair of flared jeans instead of giving them to Goodwill.

  6. PJ Gibson says:

    Thanks I have several pairs of boot cut jeans and a pair of flared jeans too!! Going to get the sewing machine out n give this a go. I can’t get skinny jeans to go over my calves so this maybe the solution x

  7. Ashley Lewis says:

    This is an absolutely brilliant tutorial! I just altered two pairs of my AE jeans that I can only seem to find in boot cut. You’re instructions were very detailed and easy to follow. I’m new at sewing and this success certainly boosted my confidence. Thank you so much!

  8. Marge..... says:

    very helpful….thanks….

  9. I have sooo many jeans & cords that I hate wearing (don’t have the heart to get rid of them) because they are too wide in the leg & some are too long. I will definitely get out my machine & give this a go. Thanks for the easy to follow directions!

  10. Ok, so yesterday I decided to give this a go! And now I have 5 new pairs of jean/cords that I can feel good about wearing. Molly, thank you sooo much you’re a genious!!!

  11. Great helpful!!! Now I can redesign black bootcut jeans for women in my wardrope. Thank you!

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