Fix Your Jeans: Tapering the Leg

I come from a generation that never really appreciated the straight leg jean.

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Ok maybe it’s just me.

I can do skinny jeans, bootcut, trouser cut and even certain flares, but straight leg? Fug.

And no, the boyfriend jeans style is basically that nerd in grade six who volunteered at the library and didn’t laugh at fart jokes. Fuck you Wendy, I’m tapering those jeans down.

1) Start by unpicking the hem. You take your stitch ripper and pull out a few stitches:

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And then you jam the ripper into the open space (ball side down inside the hem, pokey side up. I know, weird, right? But it actually cuts thread better and faster than pokey side down) and just zip it around the hemline, which will tear out the stitches smooth as butter.

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And here’s a picture of what the stitch ripper looks like inside the hem:

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Alternately, if your ripper hits a snag, or just isn’t sharp enough to zip around, you can use the old Pick n’ Tug method. You just place your ripper between the pant leg and the hem, pick a stitch, and tug it open. This method works well on thick fabrics, like denim, but don’t try it on anything stretchy or lightweight, or you’ll tear a huge hole into it!

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2) Once your hems are open, press ’em flat – that’s pro talk for “use your steam iron on the hottest setting that’s appropriate for the fabric you’re working with, and hold it down with a clapper (video demo) until the creases are nothing but a faint memory”.

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3) While you’re at it, you also want to press the side seam on the jeans that isn’t topstitched down.

Take a look at this picture:

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You’ll notice that one side has fancy topstitching, and the other side is just a plain seam. The plain seam is the one you press flat.

4) At the hemline of your jeans, mark down where you want your new seam line. I went in about 1.5″ and you don’t really want to taper it much more than that, unless you have a lot of excess fabric in the legs that you want to get rid of (I’ll explain in a minute).

Draw a line starting at around knee height and going to the newly tapered ankle.

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Explanation, as promised: Notice how the angle of the new seam line tapers in from the original seam (look at the angle of the pen line starting at the knee)? If you were to taper the ankle even further than 1.5″ you’d have a noticeable bump at the side of the knee because of your sharp turn. If your jeans are kinda loose, you can start your new seam line higher up the thigh, but for a more fitted jean, you can’t comfortably get above the knee.

Also note: See how the pen line squares off after the hemline? It doesn’t continue to taper inwards. That’s on purpose, and it’s because when you fold up your hem to sew it again, you want it to fold straight. A tapered hem will not fold straight, and will bunch up and look like yuck.

5) Pin and sew the new seam line, starting at whichever end (knee or hem) works easiest for you. Try to keep the excess fabric flat on the seam allowance side of the seam line, so that it doesn’t bunch up when you’re sewing.

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Also  notice that I used an actual pen to mark the seam line; that’s just so that it stands out better in the pictures. You can use regular tailor’s chalk; or dressmaker’s pencils, if you’re into that waxy junk.

6) Trim off the excess fabric, leaving between 1/2″ to 5/8″ seam allowance.

7) Serge or zigzag stitch the raw edge of the fabric.

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8) Fold up your hemline again. Press it, pin it, sew it in place.

And here’s your new leg:

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And it barely looks like much of a difference in this pic, aside from the new colour of stitching at the hem. Great. My angle was off when I took the picture, and I knew that at the time, and I still only took like one picture because I’m cocky. Bah!

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