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altering pants

llou1of7 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Greetings! I’ve been an avid Threads reader for many years, and I’ve been sewing for 30+ years. But I’m only now venturing into the brave new world of altering pants (eek!). I have two questions.

RTW pants these days ride so low on the waist. I’ve been trying to figure out: if I sew a deeper crotch seam into them and cut out the excess, would that raise the pants higher so they’d fit closer to a natural waist? I know I would have to adjust the waistband accordingly and that’s fine.

Also, I’ve managed to lose a bunch of weight but I don’t want to buy new pants or make new, especially since cotton knit suitable for pants is so VERY hard to find. So far I’ve been doing pretty well by taking in the inseam and elastic waist. I know I should be taking them in at the sides as well, but I don’t want to mess with the pockets. At least in knit pants, this technique has worked pretty well and the drape looks fine.

But I’m still losing weight and I wonder at what point this will no longer work, and at that point –what should I do?

Thanks much,


  1. Ralphetta | | #1

    First, yes, you can raise the waist a little by doing as you said.  But, since the pant legs get shorter, it doesn't take much before they will be too short.

    Second, I found that  unless they were really expensive, it just wasn't worth all the time it took to alter pants after I lost about 15 lbs.  There's a lot of ripping apart to do.  You will notice that the style that flattered your heavier body, doesn't do justice to your new shape.  Because the style camouflaged my fat body, they didn't reveal any difference in my slimmer body.  I didn't want to look just as fat.

    1. llou1of7 | | #2

      Actually, the fact that it would shorten the pants is not a problem for me. I've never met a pair of pants I didn't have to shorten ;)The problem I've had with starting from scratch in making pants is finding suitable fabric, since I really prefer knit. I remember the days when fabric stores were piled high with lots of wonderful cotton knit of different weights. Velour, interlock, sweatshirt and terrycloth knit, etc, etc. have become really hard to find, even at my favorite huge fabric store, Vogue, in Evanston IL. Now the pickings are really slim. . Even RTW t-shirts these days are flimsy and loaded with spandex. Wha-happened? Any suggestions?L'lou

  2. Christy | | #3

    Hi Llou1of7

    I can feel your pain,  I have a large bottom and i always have to alter my pants in the waist because of this.  What I do is put darts in the side seams and they fit perfectly.  First your try on the pants wrong side out and then you pin how much you want to take in.  Start sewing at the waistband in the shape of a dart and let the tip of the dart fade right into the side seam.  I've been doing this for a long time and it works find with me.  I also press the excess fabric nice and crisp and i NEVER cut it off because my weight fluctuates so much that i'll end up having to let them out some if i've gain weight.

    Hope this helps you!

  3. fabricholic | | #4

    Hi Llou,

    I just have to say, I don't know if you wanted to lose all this weight, but if you did, congratulations!  I admire people who can do so.

    If you add to the top of the pants, with coordinating color, would that not work?  Maybe if you wore long shirts, it might.


  4. SewNancy | | #5

    I lost about 75 lbs and taking in works for about 1 size and then you have to bite the bullet and either buy or make new. Keep it simple without pockets and it is easier to use a faced pant then you can easily take it off and take in side seams and darts. Use a cb zipper and you'll also have to take up the crotch so I'd make sure that you have at least a 2" hem allowance because they will quickly get too short as someone elese pointed out. I used to take in knit t's and sweaters with the serger and again, it works for maybe 1 or 2 sizes. the shoulders start to get too wide quickly.

  5. jcsews | | #6

    Hi,I do alterations and have taken in thousands of pants. The deeper crotch will get you a slightly higher waist. Also, I always take in at the back seam. In mens RTW it's very easiy because the waistband is seamed right into the back seam. In womens you have to remove the waistband for a few inches take in the back seem..tapering to the crotch and then cut open the waistband and seam it  to fit. Then sew it back on. This works best for only 1-2 sizes. Also, if you have a baggy seat problem you can take in the upper leg. This involves taking the inseam out from the knee to the crotch and sewing a new inseam that takes more from the back than the front, tapering to nothing at the knee. This does shorten the crotch a little bit. PS. Unless you're really in love with an old pair of jeans that are too large, it's really a pain to take them in. I too, lost about 17# and had to buy a couple of new pairs of jeans.  

    1. llou1of7 | | #7

      Thanks so much for all your replies. Great advice! Lots of you have recommended that I start from scratch with new pairs of pants as I continue to lose the weight. The problem I have with that is finding fabric --specifically good heavyweight cotton knit. I really prefer knit for pants, since I need lots of mobility in my work, and I generally find it much more comfortable. It also is more forgiving in terms of fit ;) Back in the 70's when I worked at a fabric store there was TONS of good quality cotton knit, in many colors. But now it's really hard to find. I've tried Googling for it, but even big online fabric stores seem to have really slim pickings when it comes to heavyweight cotton knit.Any suggestions?

      1. Jean | | #8

        i too have lost a lot of weight and am in the process of  altering several ready to wear slacks. These have elastic waist bands and never did fit properly through the rise- much too long in front to fit me well. They have beautifully made side pockets so I'm adjusting the fit by narrowing the legs at the inside seam and taking in the hip area by taking in the front and back seams, but without changing the crotch rise. I'm shortening the front rise when I apply the elastic.  So far it's working very well- going from an 18 to a 14 with good results. Any other style though, and I'd be out of luck.

      2. Beth | | #9

        Try Stretch and Sew in the search engine. There may be one of their stores in your area. For instance there is one in Stockton, CA.


      3. woggy | | #10

        Contact Stretch & Sew (google it) and ask if they can recommend a store selling knits.  Some of the old Stretch & Sew stores still operate but under different names.  Hartsdale Fabrics in Hartsdale, NY sells beautifu knits - I think at one time it was a Stretch & Sew store.

        I called Stretch & Sew a few years ago and they recommended a great store in California.  I was looking for nice bathing suit material at the time.  Spoke to the owner - lovely woman - told her what I wanted and she sent some beautiful swatches.  Good prices and not too bad on the shipping.


      4. Teaf5 | | #11

        Especially for knits, I like to buy really, really oversized ones of nice fabric, tear out a few seams, and lay out my smaller (correct size) pattern on the pieces.  It usually works fine with knit pants only one or two sizes too big; I line the pattern piece up with the outer seam and re-cut the waist, crotch curve, and inseam.  It's surprisingly quick and usually doesn't require new hems or waistbands.

        Congratulations on your weight loss--be sure to treat yourself now and then to a really great garment in your new size!

        1. llou1of7 | | #12

          Thanks for the good wishes. I actually just did that. I found a pair in size extra large and took them in. I'm wearing them as we "speak" :)

  6. mem | | #13

    congratulations . Maybe you actually would look great in a different style of pants now that you have lost weight?? Have looked at internet sights for buying the fabric you cant get anymore ??

  7. NovaSkills | | #14

    If you lower the crotch, you can get the waist to hit higher, but it has major drawbacks. The pockets, if any, will NOT be at the right place, which looks odd, and the waistline most likely has that nasty steep angle downward from center back to center front. This means you have to take the extra length out of the CB in addition to taking in the circumference.

    Trust me, it's not worth it. Consider, however, buying some very much too long and putting a yoke on top, with button closure, replacing entirely the waistband. Line up the button closure's underneath edge with the hidden side of the pants zipper, and the overlap side with the buttonholes should match the zipper's placket overlap.

    These lowriding pants are unflattering to 98% of American women, so why have they been on the market for so long? Today's women cannot usually afford to have their pants waists cut into our not-so-slender lower abdomens. It gives us beer bellies, which we claim to hate on men!

    As for coping with weight loss, shop the resale stores. In the end, major pants alteration, though possible, is not worth it.

  8. patternfreak | | #15

    adjusting waist in ski pants

    Does anyone have an idea of how to let out the waist of ski pants? My husband has grey ski pants that are too tight in the waist. They don't have a back waistband seam, it's all in one piece. They have velcroe strips at the side waist. I was thinking of putting some black elastic in between, but there's not much room in there under the velcroe. If I put it in the back waistband, it would be really obvious. Does anyone have any ideas?  Thank you.

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