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Tailoring Jeans

When I was learning to sew, the word “Tailoring” put the fear of God in me.  It represented sewing on a higher level than I ever imagined for myself.  The thought of stitching up jackets with lapels, hair canvas interfacing and bound button holes seemed impossible.  My mother, who had taught me to sew, did not aspire to sew or wear this type of clothing but she found women in her community of friends who shared some of these tailoring secrets with me.

I have made tailored women’s business suits for clients over the years, but I have embraced the freedom of wearing less structured garments as fashions have shifted toward a more relaxed silhouette. < If you have trouble seeing the photos, head on over to to read this on the website>

Tailoring jeans seems like an oximoron

Tailoring has come to have a second meaning, that of shaping up garments for a better fit, or redesigning ill-fitting and outdated garments to extend their usefulness in the closet.

The fabulous set at F & W set up for the vintage segment.

It is this definition of tailoring that guides the video series I developed and filmed for Craft University and Burda Style in February.  It will be live for viewing April 20, just around the corner, and you might want to take advantage of the live viewing days so you can pose follow up comments and questions.

Clowning around with Valerie, a wonderful video coordinator.

One of my favorite segments is about the special techniques that are used to shape up and repair jeans.  This is not a topic I would have imagined in a tailoring video when I was learning to sew but it sure seems timely today.  (I am not sure I could have even imagined sewing videos then, but that is another topic.)

A close up of the jean patches.

I did some Sachiko style patching on a tattered pair of jeans to include in the video.  I like it because it closed up the tear along my knee line plus it is subtle but interesting.  See the examples that inspired me on my Denim Details Pinterest page.

Edye and her excellent pants.

An amazingly patched pair of Edye’s jeans is also featured in the video segment.  These pants are an ongoing process for Edye, a wonderful sewing colleague, who adds more colorful patches each time another area becomes frayed.  Comfortable but tired jeans are a great place to begin fancifully “tailoring” and redesigning the unworn pants in your closet.

These jeans have aged well, but need a few patches.

To create a pair of jeans like this for myself, I pulled out one of the first pairs of jeans I ever made.   They have been worn to the point of needing patching, but the fabric is nice and soft and the topstitching is still in good order.  Then I realized why they have been languishing in the bottom of the drawer.  They were my first and worst effort at boot cut leg shaping.  The legs were too wide, even when they were longer and could be worn with boots with heels. Now that the pants have shrunk in length, they look absolutely goofy.  Yet, I could not dispose of them.  So on our travels this spring, I ripped out the inseam topstitching and the hem on both the inseams and side seams so I can taper the legs before the patchwork begins.

Determining the amount of taper on each side of each leg.

Tapering the legs of pants is another topic discussed in the tailoring video.  It wisely reminds us that in order to keep the pants legs on grain, the tapering below the knee must be done equally on the inseam and the side seam.  I used a favorite pair of tapered pants as a model to taper these old jeans for their new life.

Pinning the new seam on the inside of the pants.

If fitting and restyling garments is a topic that interests you, sign up now to participate in these two courses chock full of info and ideas.

Happy Sewing, RAE

2 thoughts on “Tailoring Jeans

  1. I tailor my RTW jeans. The last pair of Levis I bought were too wide to be considered straight leg, even though that is what the tag said. I ripped out the flat felled inseam and took them in, also taking in the outseam from the hips down. I usually have to take in the waist too, which i do at center back. Take off the belt loop, move over the flat felled seam and sew up thru the waistband. The belt loop covers it all up. I always have to shorten them! I can remember doing artistic patches on my jeans in high school. They say if you wore it the first time, you are too old to wear it again when it comes back around. But I don’t think that means jeans. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    1. TC, I challenge you to patch up some old jeans for fun! Glad you enjoyed the memories. RAE

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