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How to sew trousers (and how to alter them!)

Oversized trousers? You can still wear them; all you need to know is to how to alter trousers that are too big.

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How to sew trousers (and how to alter them!)

With a little DIY, trousers can go from good to perfect. If you want to know how to take up trousers by hand, for example, you’re in the right place. Here’s how to alter trousers that are too big, with advice on how to sew trousers together if you’re feeling ambitious; we have faith in you!

Key Steps

If you want to know how to alter trousers that are too big:

  1. Wash before altering.

  2. Try on the trousers and mark where the alteration needs to be made.

  3. When you’re sewing, use thread close to the fabric colour and make sure the trousers are inside out.

How to hem trousers by hand

  1. Wash your trousers first. Some materials shrink on a first wash, so hemming them before washing could leave them too short later.

  2. Unpick the current hem. If you don’t have a stitch ripper, this can be done with patience and fingernails once you’ve carefully cut the first stitch.

  3. Put on the trousers and establish where you want the new hem to be. Turn up the fabric – inside the leg, rather than outside – and pin it securely in place.

  4. Lay the trousers inside out and iron the hems flat. Don’t iron directly over the pins.

  5. Use a ruler to check that the hem is even. For example, if you’ve turned up 7cm of fabric at the front of the left leg, you should also have turned up 7cm at the back and sides, and around the right leg.

  6. Measure about 5cm up from the new hem on the turned-up fabric. Mark with a pen or fabric pencil. Go around the leg, measuring and marking every couple of centimetres.

  7. Cut away the excess fabric, from the original end of the leg to the line you’ve marked. Use pinking shears, which will reduce fraying. Double-check that the trousers are inside out before you start sewing.

  8. Single-thread your needle and knot the end. Use a colour close to the fabric.

  9. Use a blind stitch to sew the hem in place. You’re passing the needle through two pieces of fabric here: the turned-up fabric and the ‘main’ trouser leg. Try to pass the needle through only one or two threads of the main trouser leg at a time, so the appearances of the thread on the outside of the leg will be unnoticeably tiny.

  10. When you’ve finished stitching the hem in place, secure the thread. Pass the needle under the closest stitch, then pass it through the resulting loop and pull gently to knot the thread against the fabric. Repeat if necessary.

  11. Unpin the finished hem. Then, repeat the whole process with the other leg. And that’s how to turn up trousers by hand!

Is the extra material inside your DIY trousers uncomfortable after taking them in at the waist? If you’re not planning to let the trousers out again later, you can cut the excess loop of material away.

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How to alter trouser waist if trousers are too big

Again, wash your trousers before you try to alter them. Some fabric conditioner, such as Comfort Intense Fuchsia Passion, can leave the fabric more supple and easier to work with. After washing your trousers, check if there’s a belt loop or fabric tag above the central back seam. If so, take out the stitches to remove it. Now, you are all set to start:

  1. Put on your trousers, inside out, and do them up.

    Pinch the waistband together at the back, either side of the vertical back seam, until it’s tight enough. Pin it in place, then keep going down vertically, pinching the excess fabric together and pinning it, until you reach the point where there’s no excess. You’re marking the elongated V shape you need to take out of your trousers.

    This step is easier if a friend is willing to help.

  2. Take off your trousers, still inside out.

    Fold them along the back seam with one leg on top of the other. Make sure your pinned line goes down to meet the central back seam on both sides.

  3. Double-check that your trousers are inside out.

    Then, stitch along the line you’ve pinned.

  4. Finally, try the trousers on.

    If you’re happy with the fit, do another line or two over your first line of stitches.

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How to sew trousers together

Your pattern will guide you on how to put together your chosen trousers, but here are some general tips on sewing trousers together.

  • If you’re a beginner, use inexpensive fabrics to build up your experience.

  • Cotton is one of the easier trouser material types to work with, so it’s a solid choice for your first pair.

  • You may find buying a physical sewing pattern easier than downloading one, as your trousers may end up the wrong size if you print your pattern incorrectly.

  • If you’re struggling to get through the fabric, try a thicker needle.

  • Pay attention to which way up the pattern should be laid on the fabric and which side of the fabric it should be laid on, or you could end up assembling your trousers inside out.

As a final note, if you’re struggling with these methods for how to alter trousers by hand, there’s always the option of professional tailoring. Some clothes shops offer alterations to their products for a small fee, or even at no expense.

Originally published