Watch our TikTok video to learn how we taper and take-in the waist on jeans.Read More →
Here’s what to do if you want to send your jeans or pants to a tailor for hemming service but don’t have a measuring tape. Because everyone has their own personal style, we won’t get into whether or not your pants should have a break, no-break, or hang just above your shoes. We will give you a few good tips on how to mark your desired inseam length.
- Put on your pants and approach a mirror wearing the shoe style you prefer with your pants.
- Cuff or roll the legs of your pants to the desired inseam length.
- Select the best-fitting leg, then bend down and secure it with a pin or clip at the folded edge.
- Uncuff or unroll the second leg so there is no confusion about which leg to use as the standard.
- Ship or hand-deliver the pants to your tailoring service and instruct them to follow the marked leg.
Because most people never mark both legs exactly the same, it is best to mark one leg. If the tailor needs to contact you to determine which size of the two legs is best, the tailoring process may be slowed.
If you don’t have a clip or pin, use an iron to press the cuff into place for a secure hold during the shipping or drop-off process. You can also mark the location with washable chalk or tape.
It seems needless to say, selvedge jeans should always be tapered from the inseam. However, some people still take jeans to local tailors or dry cleaners, who are not equipped with proper denim sewing machines and expect them to properly taper their jeans.
Tapering jeans with double-needle chain stitched flat-felled seams
This photo shows an example of tapering from the inseam in-process. These jeans were sewn with a double-needle chain stitched flat-felled (lap seam), so it has to be taken apart at the inseam. With the selvedge outseam shown at the center, the inseam is then trimmed to slim the leg down. Slimming is done from the hem, up to just above the knee, and eases out at the thigh.
A tailor without a feed-off-the-arm chain stitch sewing machine will never properly taper a pair of jeans with lap seam construction. Instead, they may use makeshift single needle sewing from the hem to the knee area. Leaving the area around the crotch and thigh with the original sewing, connecting the new sewing into the original.
For more detail on how we taper jeans constructed with a lap seam, watch our popular Youtube video.
How to taper jeans professionally
How to taper jeans with a single-needle overlocked inseam
Not all jeans have two needle chain stitch lap seam construction. Some have a single-needle topstitched inseam with overlock construction. We tapered the below Levi’s jeans, slimming the legs down and the excess fabric cut from them can be seen underneath.
Most tailors can handle overlocked jeans much easier than lap seams. Overlock sergers are machines commonly used by tailors. However, similar to how traditional tailors may handle lap seam sewing, they will likely remove the original topstitching to just above where the tapering will end. Then use the serger to sew the new leg shape. Finally, to reach high on the leg, so new topstitching can join with the original, the outseams are opened and subsequently closed after topstitching the inseam.
Process for tapering jeans with overlocked inseams as also seen in our TikTok video:
- Cut the inseam to the requested inseam length, plus 3/4″ to 1″ (depending on the hem height)
- Remove the single stitch on the inseam
- Press the inseam flat & draft the taper lines on each leg
- Trim & sew the new leg shape with a serger sewing machine
- Press the inseam to remove slack
- Sew a new single-needle chain stitch on the top of the inseam
- Chain stitch the hem
Depending on the details of the tapering, we first remove the entire original topstitching in order to sew a new unbroken/unjoined line. It doesn’t matter if the taper is to the knee, above the knee, or high into the thigh.
We taper jeans high into the thighs only when we get requests to make the thigh smaller. We always advise, that very little can be done at the thigh. Explaining, that the width of the thigh is in connection to the pattern’s shape. The seat, rise, and curve in the crotch (which affects movement) are all connected. Decreasing the thigh means the curve must be shortened and straightened, which will restrict movement. Taking from the curve also lowers the rise.
In other words, the best we suggest is easing the taper from the knee, high into the thigh, clipping a bit of the curve, thus reducing the thigh to a maximum close to 1/2 inch. We don’t feel comfortable taking much more.
Looking closely, the original overlock stitching can be seen in white thread and the new sewing in tan color. These jeans were tapered high, so we went completely around the crotch.
As demonstrated in the TikTok video below, one of the biggest things that separate our work from tailors and denim specialists is our use of the Union Special feed-of-the-arm chain stitch machine. On single-needle overlock constructed jeans, it allows us to completely topstitch the inseam from hem to hem without opening the outseams.
The Union Special is advantageous with selvedge jeans because you don’t want to disturb the outseams. Tailors who have to rely on tapering at the outseams will destroy the beauty of the selvedge jeans. The photo below is an example of what can happen when you give your jeans to a local tailor who doesn’t specialize in or understand denim. Luckily, he later did some research, found us and we saved his jeans.
We recently added an option for special request alterations that fall outside of our regular services. For example, shortening the inseam on these vintage Levi’s Engineered Jeans is far more time-consuming than chain stitch hemming. After all, you would not want to lose the sloped hem shape that uniquely identifies these by cutting them straight like regular jeans. This calls for more than our trouser or chain stitch hemming services.
For this style, we first record the size and shape of the original hem by creating a pattern to recut the newly positioned leg opening. After, we remove the inside panel at the hem stitch by stitch to keep it intact.
These jeans have a twisted leg, so measuring the inseam can be tricky. On jeans with a leg twist, you can’t just follow the inseam line down with the measuring tape. Instead, you must follow the shape of the leg down without turning under the seam. Following the inseam line on a twisted leg will ultimately mean that leg will be slightly shorter.
Finally, after the jeans are cut-down, the original inside hem panels are sewn back into the leg opening. Finished, the jeans keep the look of the original factory sewing and stitching while being customized to a concise length.
We are just getting started on TikTok creating cool, fun, and informative new videos. Take a look at this one which quickly takes you through the process of how to taper jeans to narrow the leg width on a pair of Samurai selvedge denim constructed with overlock sewing and a single-needle inseam.
Follow us on TikTok and Instagram @williamsburggar so you don’t miss new upcoming videos.
We take a quick and humorous look at the alterations process of hemming a t-shirt. Those looking to shorten the length of a tee or lightweight knit shirt that’s too long, or simply trying to restyle the look, should have a peek at this new tutorial video “how to hem a t-shirt.”