Sewing Blog

How to Alter the Waistband on Jeans for a Perfect Fit

Do you have trouble finding jeans that fit? For many of us, jeans frequently fit in the hip and leg area but are too big in the waist. You might think that cinching them up with a belt is the only option, but you can actually sew them to fit you perfectly. Read on to learn how to alter jeans to fit your waist. 

How to Alter Jeans Waistband completed jeans with altered waistband

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How to alter jeans at the waist for a perfect fit

Step 1:

pin wedge at jeans waist

The first step is to carefully remove the belt loop at the center back of your jeans. Set that aside, as you will replace it after altering.

Then try on your jeans and pin the waist to indicate how much you need to take out. You can try them on inside-out and pin them — just make sure you can get them off again without losing any pins. Or, try them on right-side-out, and pin the wedge outside of your body. We will be marking it with thread, so it can be done either way.

Don’t be tempted to make the waist super tight. Before pinning, try moving around and even sitting down so that there is still enough ease for comfort after doing the alteration. 

Step 2:

thread baste the adjustment

Using a contrasting thread, use the hand baste stitch to trace the amount you want to remove from the waist of the jeans. Usually this is a wedge shape, tapering at about 3 – 4 inches down the center back seam. However, your adjustment could be different depending on how much you are taking out.

Step 3:

measure adjustment amount

With the back of the jeans folded at the center mark, measure how much you are taking out of either side of the center back waist. Here, the measurement is 1.5″. Note the measurement for a later step. We are removing a total of 3″ from the waist of these jeans, all at the center back.

Step 4:

unstitch the waistband at center back

Take out the stitching that holds the waistband to the back yoke, at the center back. I find it helps to unpick a good 2 or 3 inches more than the wedge that will be removed — it just gives you more room to sew easily. 

Step 5:

cut the waistband at the center back

On most jeans, the seams are overlocked and then pressed to one side. Then, a double row of topstitching keeps them flat. We want to get to the actual seam of the center back, so the topstitching needs to be removed and the seam pressed flat away from the garment.

Undo the topstitching about 2 to 3 inches below where the bottom of the wedge is marked. This makes it easier to sew and gives more room to get a nice tapering line to meet up with the original seam stitching.

Match up your thread trace lines on either side of that seam — rather like matching the two legs of a dart — and sew up the new center back seam. Next, cut the waistband at the center back.

Step 6:

press the center back seam

At this point, you might want to try the jeans on again, just to be sure you like the fit. Also check that the sides of the yoke still meet properly in the center back. If it is good to go, then trim the seam and overlock if possible.

Now that the center back seam is sewn, give it a good press, turning the seam allowance the same direction as the rest of the seam below the point where you removed the original topstitching. 

Step 7:

Redo topstitching at center back

Before you re-attach the waistband, topstitch the center back seam as it was previously. Take a look at the rest of the topstitching and adjust your stitch length before you start. Remember to use a denim needle in your machine, as these intersections can be very thick. 

Step 8:

sew center back waistband seam

Now that the back and yoke portion is completed, it’s time to finish the waistband. Match the cut edges and stitch them together at the measurement we noted in Step 3. So this example has a center back seam of 1.5″. 

Step 9:

press new waistband seam

Trim the center back waistband seam down to a manageable amount, around 1/2″. Press open and then press the edges of the waistband inside as they were when you unpicked the waistband from the jeans.

Step 10:

waistband ready to sew back onsew waistband back on the jeans and topstitch

Sandwich the jeans yoke back into the waistband and pin. Check that the waistband is enclosing the edge of the yoke on both the inside and the outside of the jeans. Topstitch closed to reattach the jeans yoke to the waistband. 

Step 11:

replace belt loop at center back

Replace the belt loop at the center back that we removed in Step 1.

A few minutes at the sewing machine and your jeans fit perfectly!

You also might like:

Pro Alterations: How to Shorten Jeans With the Original Hem
Sew Your Own Jeans: It’s Easier Than You Think!
The Perfect Jeans: Fitting Techniques for Every Body

completed jeans with altered waistband

FREE Guide: Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Learn fitting fundamentals for sewing breathtaking projects that flatter any body style!Get My FREE Guide»

21 Comments

AmyScrapSpot.BlogSpot.com

Wow! This is a great tutorial!! I will be using it for my sons pants!!

Thanks for sharing!!

Reply
Mary Hilliard

I have learned to open the casing next to the button, then open the same next to button hole. Insert elastic that fits your waist. Sew both ends to jeans. You can eve make a button hole if you like. I just sewed the casing back together. I neve tuck my shirt in anyway, so it’s never seen. Worked for me. I’m so much happier now.

Reply
Andie

I do the same thing – add elastic into the waistband to shrink it to the proper size. The advantage of that is if your waist size changes (eating too much on holidays), the jeans will still fit comfortably. 🙂 Also, it’s a quicker and easier alteration than other options

Reply
Sue Ashton

Have you tried undoing the w band same as you have done in this one but instead of taking in the back seam, make a dart each side which sometimes has to go through the yoke seam. Then close waist band and reattach loop. Waist sits much nicer and doesn’t form the v shape that you get doing it through centre back seam. Sue

Reply
Jennifer

This. 100% this.

Reply
Karen Clancy

Depending on how much needs to be removed and the shape of the individual being fitted, you are right, sometimes a better fit is achieved by taking several small darts (pleats) rather than taking all of the extra out of the center back.

Reply
paige

if you have a bigger butt and need to take in a lot from the waist the bump in the back is almost inevitable. i found that you need to just play with it and keep making alterations. it can be done but patience is key.

Reply
Linda

But then you have odd looking seams that make the alteration so obvious.

Reply
Karen Clancy

I’ve been doing this alteration for 20 + years, you have explained & illustrated it very clearly ~ well done!!!

Reply
Janice

Hi! To those of you who have done this….does it create a bump or bulge at the back of the jeans? Or is it still flat?

Reply
Karen Clancy

Janice,
This can leave a “bump” dependent upon how much you are trying to remove. Though pressing with steam and a tailors ham can help alleviate this, you may find that splitting the alteration will yield a “flatter” result. I do this by taking some out of the center back and then dividing the rest into 1-2 small darts on either side. Just keep in mind the shape of the individual you are attempting to fit. Sometimes you may need to take in at the side seam As well. Ideally you want to avoid massive distortion and to keep the side seams straight. (visually at least).

Reply
margaret fette

If done properly it should lay flat – remember to iron the center back waistband open.

Reply
margaret fette

This is a very good tutorial but I’m surprised that there was no mention to use care sewing back on the belt loop – sometime the pants material along with the belt loop is too thick for home sewing machines.

Reply
Andrea Letourneau

Great tutorial. I have used a slightly different solution – I open up the waistband at sideseam and thread a piece of elastic that’s about an inch shorter than half my waist measurement inside waistband. i then stitch the elastic into waistband and close the opening, resulting in a half-elasticated waistband (which expands when necessary)

Reply
Penelope

I tried this tutorial and miserably failed :/. I ended up messing up a pair of pants that I just bought and loved. I did everything to the t however there was this unflattering bump in the butt area that wouldn’t lay flat no matter what I did. Also it seems like the seam in the back wasn’t no longer straight. The right pocket seemed closer to the center Seam than the left one. Any idea how to fix this for the future?

Reply
Sandii

Hi Penelope. This is EXACTLY the same issue I have when attempting to alter the waist in my jeans. I tried this technique a couple of years ago and got the bump in the back along with the pocket being off. I’ve decided that I will practice this technique again on my older jeans that need to be scrapped. I’m willing to give it several tries…just not on my new jeans. I would like to know though if it is something I’m doing wrong. Perhaps I’ll try to go even lower when opening the seam. I’ll let you know what happens 🙂

Reply
Aunt Mary

Sometimes, with these kind of jeans seams, one side of the fabric is (in the seam allowance) is not exactly same. It may have trimmed or cut differently to limit the bulk in the seam. The only way to know is to be very careful and observant when you open the seam. For the amount of work involved, I’m not sure it would be worth the time for my own jeans. If a customer really wanted it, I might. I just take a dart in the waistband wherever it is needed- usually on either side of center back for me.

Reply
Linda

But then you have gathered fabric – not very flattering and prevents tucking in your shirt.

Reply
Dave Anderson

This tutorial is very helpful for those of us that are tired of constantly pulling up baggy jeans. I know that my wife will love to have some of her jeans tailored so that she can wear them more comfortably. My body type is a little weird and I usually end up with pants that fit me in the waist but are too long for my legs. I would love to get my pants hemmed so that I don’t have to keep rolling up the pant legs.

Reply
Jenny

Thank you!!! I have been taking up all my jeans for 2 decades, but couldn’t figure out how to do the waistband. This is much neater than the way I have been doing it.

Reply
Steva Mellman

OMG! I just tried the elastic in the waistband and it worked perfectly. Can’t believe I never figured this out on my own. Thanks Mary Hilliard!

Reply

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