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Sewing Tutorial with Cynthia: When Your Pants Are Too Big

I learned how to sew some 20-odd years ago, and have spent the last 15ish years as a professional seamstress, first as a costume seamstress for a large theme park down in Florida, then in the Plattsburgh and Burlington areas doing bridal and everyday alterations since 2008. Now that I’ve switched careers and am finishing up my teaching degree, I still do a lot of sewing for myself and my daughter, but I love helping others out by doing little fixes or teaching them how to sew for themselves in an online sewing tutorial.

Since we’re gearing up for back-to-school and a change in seasonal wardrobes, I decided to make a little sewing tutorial about how to alter some slightly-too-big dress pants.

This technique won’t work for every pair, but it’s a really helpful, easy way to get most pants just an inch or two smaller in the waist without having to use a belt. This is the first of (hopefully) many sewing projects I’m planning on sharing with you all. I hope you enjoy my tutorial, especially the moment when I make a huge mistake!

Things you’ll need:

  1. A pair of pants that are too big at the waist. (Consignment and thrift shops are great at having clothes for the whole family that just need a few tweaks.)
  2. A sewing machine, thread, pins, etc.
  3. Elastic that’s slightly smaller than the height of your waistband. (i.e. for a 1” waistband, I would get ¾” elastic) and slightly shorter than the back half of your waist (measure from side to side in the back for that.)
  4. About 15 minutes.
  5. Hands.

My sewing tutorial is in 2 parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

For reference, here’s a quick list of the steps:

  1. Try on pants.
  2. Get frustrated that pants don’t fit in the waist, but are perfect everywhere else. Buy them anyway.
  3. Watch my video.
  4. Get elastic.
  5. Open the side seams of the pants.
  6. Thread elastic through the opened waistband.
  7. Pin elastic to the sides.
  8. Sew sides back together, making sure you catch the elastic in the stitching!
  9. Put pants on.
  10. Look fabulous.

For some other tips, check out my long neglected sewing blog from those days long ago when I had more time.

I’m always open to suggestions, so if there’s a sewing dilemma you’ve got, or just really want to see how something is done, leave me a comment below!

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