My sister recently gifted me a pair of jeans that didn’t work out for her. We do this all the time since we have different body shapes but are pretty close to the same size. Lucky for me, I really liked the color, stretch, style and the way these jeans fit everywhere except from my calves down. They fit like skinny jeans from my calves up, but from my calves down, they were slacking – literally. It’s like they weren’t wide enough to be bootcut but they really fell short of being skinnies too. One thing that really makes skinnies appeal to me is the way they hug the ankle. I personally love the way the contrast in shape from a skinny ankle really shows off a fun pair of shoes! I also find that skinny jeans that are snug everywhere except under the calf just aren’t as flattering as when I take them in to have a sleeker profile. Luckily, sewing jeans tighter at the ankle is such a gratifying quick fix. Here are the 10 steps to sewing your jeans skinnier at the ankle!
Table of Contents
- tailor’s chalk or fabric marking pen
- french curve
- clips and/or pins
- tape measure
- seam ripper
- sewing machine
- iron, (this is a basic model that I would recommend)
- Optional, but give professional results:
- seam roll
- serger, (this is a basic model that I would recommend)
Step 1- Pin your jeans
Put the skinny jeans on inside out, and pin the excess on one leg until you have them as snug as you would like them to be. Be sure to pin the side of the leg that has single needle stitching.
Step 2- Mark them up
Mark your pin locations with chalk or pencil. You only need to mark one side of the fabric. Once you’ve marked all the pins, unpin them, and take the jeans off.
Step 3- Measure your heel
Measure your foot around your heel. This is the minimum circumference your pants leg will need to be in order to get them on and off easily. If you value snugness at the ankle above ease of removal, you can make your jeans hem a little bit smaller than your foot/heel measurement but only if your jeans have stretch to them. Even if it is stretch denim, the hem won’t stretch as much as the rest of the jeans, so be conservative. For example, on my last pair of edited stretch jeans, I was able to take ~1.5″ off my foot/heel measurement for the hem circumference. These jeans are delightfully snug at my ankle but require me to pull them off inside out, instead of simply stepping out of them. It’s totally your choice, but use trial and error – once you cut, there’s no going back!
Step 4- Connect the dots
Connect your pin markings in a smooth line and adjust for heel measurement. Use a french curve where necessary, such as when tapering your line into your existing calf seam. This is your stitching line.
Step 5- Undo the hem
Seam rip the hem of the jeans open for 1.5″ on either side of the line you just drew. Also seam rip from the new stitching line to the old stitching line. Then, unfold the hem, continue your traced stitching line down through the hem allowance and pin it flat.
Step 6- Stitch your seam
Sew along your smoothed stitching line. Be sure to sew smoothly into the existing stitches, and extend your stitching on top of the existing stitches for about 1/2-1″ before backstitching to secure your seam.
Step 7- Make a template
Leaving a 3/8″ seam allowance, neatly trim the excess fabric. This piece can be oriented correctly, then laid on top of the other leg. Once in place, trace your cutting line onto your other jean leg.
Step 8- Repeat on other leg
Draw a smooth line 3/8″ in from the cutting line you just drew – this is your stitching line. Repeat steps 5 & 6 for the other leg, then finish all raw edges.
Step 9- Press seams
Press your new seam to the side to match the rest of the jeans leg, and re-fold your hem. Optionally, you can use a tip from Mallory and Zede at their blog, www.sewhere.com, to reduce bulk. To do this, unfold the hem you just pressed. Next, you will make a cut starting at the raw edge on either side of your new seam allowance, leaving it pressed to the side. Now refold the hem as usual, and but leave the tab sticking straight up out of the hem fold. This step will allow you to reduce the thickness at the side seam when sewing your hem – see the illustration below for details!
Step 10- Re-sew the hems
Re-sew the hems. If you don’t have the exact color of topstitching thread, just use a color that disappears into the denim color. Press your seams, and you have completed your newly ankle-hugging jeans! Please share pictures – I’d love to see your results!