How to Alter Your Own Jeans

I have a love/hate relationship with jeans. I wear them everyday, but it’s so hard to find a pair that fits right. Last year, I had a pair that fit great in every place except the waist. They would slide down and look gappy, so I had them altered. When I got them back, they fit great, and it looked like something I could even pull off myself. The next time I was at H&M, they were having a sale on jeans, and I found a pair that would be perfect for experimenting.

Disclaimer: I’m not very scientific when it comes to sewing projects. I tend to make things up as I go and see what feels right. If you’re not comfortable with guestimating, this may not be the tutorial for you!


  • Jeans you’re willing to take a risk on. Should fit well everywhere, but be too big in the waist.
  • Scissors
  • Thick sewing needle
  • Strong thread
  • Thimble
  • Pins
  • Chalk
  • Marker
  • Measuring tape
  • Clear nail polish
Try on your jeans and get a general feel of how much you’ll need to take in the waist.
You’re going to want to make two lines that will serve as darts. To make sure they’re equidistant, measure a certain amount (I used 2.5 inches) from the center of the jeans to chalkmark where the line will be on each side.

From the points you marked, draw a line straight down, about 1.5 inches. These will be your darts.
On one side, cut along your marked line.

Pin the fabric back together, making sure the edges line up.
Draw a diagonal line (more or less angled depending on how much you need to take in) from the bottom of your cut to the top of the jeans. The line should touch the bottom of the cut and go outwards towards the top of the jeans.

With your needle and thread, straight-stich over the line you drew. I broke 2 needles on my sewing machine and decided it would be easier to just do it by hand. Go over the line at least 3 times.
Repeat steps 3-7 for the other dart.
Try on the jeans to see how they fit! If they’re too tight, stitch another line inside your first line. If they’re too loose, stitch another line wider than your first line and take out the first stitches.
Once you like how they fit, put a little bit of clear nail polish on the inside where the bottom of the cut meets the bottom of the line. That area tends to be a bit weak and could fray.
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