Maybe Matilda: Turning Bootcut Jeans into Skinny Jeans

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Turning Bootcut Jeans into Skinny Jeans

I’ve come to a sad realization lately: my closet kind of sucks. I played along last month with Freckles in April’s winter fashion challenge—each day, Kayla gave a theme or an idea to inspire us to put together an outfit. The goal was to help us look at our closets in a new way, try new clothing combinations we hadn’t tried before, get out of a style rut and go for something different. While most participants commented throughout the challenge about how inspired they were and how much they were loving all the new possibilities they found in their closets, I’ve gotta tell you that an unfortunate lesson I learned was how little usable clothing I have. It was definitely helpful and fun to have a push to put more effort into my appearance and experiment with style, but I hadn’t realized that I own almost nothing with color or pattern or personality, not to mention that hardly anything I own really fits or flatters me. Quite sad.

The first big problem with my closet that I decided to address was a lack of pants that fit well. I hadn’t fully realized until I was taking a daily outfit photo that all of my pants look like clown pants. What I really wanted was just one pair of great-fitting skinny jeans. I remembered a pair of jeans I’ve had for a few years—I used to work at Maurices, where I once scored a pair of Silver jeans (which sell for something like $75-100+) for less than $10. Only problem: even though the fit was great, they had really big, goofy flare legs. Bootcut jeans are one thing, but these were in a league of their own. It’s going to take a lot of convincing to make me feel okay about wearing bellbottoms, so even though I’ve owned these jeans for at least 3 or 4 years and really love the way they fit, I’ve only worn them a few times.

I’ve seen tutorials here and there to turn bootcut or flared jeans into skinnies, so I decided to give it a try with my underworn Silvers. I read a lot of tutorials and instructions on how to make the switch before I got started, and they were all so different and left me a little confused about what to do—some of the tips and instructions listed in certain tutorials were specifically mentioned as “don’ts” in others; some were incredibly involved and laborious while others seemed deceptively simple. It was pretty confusing . . . I didn’t want to potentially ruin the only nice-fitting pair of jeans I own, so I thought it might be helpful for others who have thought about McGuyvering their jeans to hear what I did and how it turned out. None of these ideas/instructions are my own . . . I pieced them together from a few different tutorials I found online (the ones I found the most helpful were these instructions from Mmmcrafts, this one from Borderline, and this post on hemming jeans from Sew Much Ado). I read many more sets of instructions than those, but those are the tutorials that I found the most useful and practical.

DSC_0468 (The finished product!)

I started by putting the jeans on inside out and pinning the fabric along the outer seam, starting about mid-thigh and working down toward the ankle. This was a point of confusion for me—some tutorials said to only alter the inner seam, where your changes would be less noticeable; some said to only alter the seam that isn’t topstitched (usually the outer seam); and some said to alter the fit equally along both inner and outer seams. I decided that altering the outer seam made the most sense to me . . . I knew I couldn’t replicate the look of the heavy topstitching on the inner seam, so I didn’t dare touch it.

Anyway, I just worked my way down the leg, holding the outer seam as flat as possible and pinning where I wanted the new seam to go. I took the jeans off and used a pen and ruler to mark a straight, gradual line along the pins that I could follow, and started sewing (make sure to use a heavy-duty needle!). I started at the bottom of the leg and worked my way up. I think the most important point to take away from the many tutorials out there is to make sure your stitch line is smooth and gradual, and to blend it as smoothly and seamlessly as possible into the original stitch line when you reach the point along the thigh where you began pinning.

DSC_0457 This is what my pants looked like with one leg skinnified. (And yes, I’m standing on a bucket in my bathroom. This is why you don’t keep your tripod in your baby’s bedroom . . . he’ll inevitably be napping when it’s project picture time. It’s also a good lesson on the importance of buying a full-length mirror next time I’m out.) You can see, about mid-thigh, where I didn’t do a very good job of blending the new seam line into the old seam line—there’s some awkward puckering and bulging along the outer seam a few inches above my knee. I went back and sewed it again, making a longer, more gradual stitch line that blended less noticeably into the original seam, and it looks much more natural now.

DSC_0462 Here’s what the stitch line looked like from the inside. One point I was confused about when I began was the “bowleg” issue. Many tutorials recommended using a pair of skinny jeans as a tailoring guide, and lining up the inner seam of the skinnies with the inner seam of the bootcuts, then marking along the outside of the skinnies to get our new seam line. My confusion was that this causes a sort of curved leg—unless you’re taking material off both sides of the jeans, matching up the inner seams will leave you with a skinny leg that curves inward as it follows the inner seam of the flare (as you can see in my picture ab0ve). Maybe a professional seamstress would notice the difference, but in my case, I can’t tell (nor do I care) that the legs are curved at the bottom. Once you’re wearing the jeans, they’re straightened out over your legs, so it hardly matters and no one will ever notice. Sew on!

Try the jeans on after sewing before you cut off the extra fabric to make sure you like the fit and can easily get your foot in and out. If something doesn’t look or fit right, adjust. If you like it, cut off the extra material  and zig-zag stitch over the raw edges. Instead of fitting and pinning for the second leg, I just folded the first leg over the second one and used it as a guide.

DSC_0460 I had never realized before just how long these jeans are! I used Sew Much Ado’s hemming tutorial (which uses the original hem for a more natural look) to take them up so they hit just below the ankles—a good length for flats and heels.

DSC_0505

(Since I get a comment asking where these shoes are from every time they sneak into a picture . . . I got them a few months ago at KMart, of all places. They were on clearance, so they might not still be there now, but it’s worth a shot!)

You can see the new, altered seam pretty well in that last picture above—the old seam at the top of the leg looks more “original,” and my new seam line comes in just above the knee.

DSC_0496 Overall, here are my thoughts on skinnifying bootcut jeans:

- I’ll never hem jeans any other way—Sew Much Ado’s method is fast, straightforward, and leaves the hemline looking very natural and unaltered. Definitely give it a shot if you have some jeans that need to be hemmed!

- Although I can tell that these jeans look altered now, I’m very happy with how they came out, especially considering how little time and effort I spent on them. At some point, alterations don’t feel worth the work to me . . . if I’m going to be spending very much time, I’d rather just go buy something new that won’t need any work done. But this project was pretty quick and simple—just pinning and sewing with a few little modifications afterwards to adjust any odd spots—and I’m not at all bothered by the look of the new, altered seam. I was worried that they’d come out looking too “homemade” and I’d be embarrassed to wear them, but I’m definitely happy with how they turned out . . . I’m not sure anyone would ever notice that they don’t still have the original seam on the outer leg.

- I would definitely do this project again. It turned a pair of jeans that had been neglected and ignored for the past few years into my new favorite pair. They fit like a glove and I’ve worn them almost every day since I altered them. That’s a success in my book.

28 comments :

  1. You should be a skinny jean maker and model. No wonder all of your pants look like clown pants-- you're so skinny! Take that as a compliment not an insult. I'm not going to tell you to go eat a sangwich.

    I think they turned out beautifully! They don't look homemade at all! My mom usually has to tailor my pants and jeans for me because clothing makers hate tall people. I'll have to try Sew Much Ado's tutorial because I think my mom is getting tired of sewing every time I visit.

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  2. I was just trawling tutorials about this and getting totally confused by the do's and don't as well! I will now just copy what you have done, thanks!!

    Alison
    x

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  3. Great refashion idea. I've considered making a couple of my unloved jeans into skinny jeans as well! Glad to have some tips on how best to go about it

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  4. These look AWESOME on you. I'm totally impressed.

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  5. Very impressive! I think I already rid myself of all pairs of flare leg jeans...(which is a shame because I'm remembering a pair from AE that fit great, but the flare was ridiculous...actually, I'm going to have to check the closet on that...)
    I'm checking out that hemming tutorial. My husband needs pants hemmed all the time and usually his mom does it and my father in law says to my husband "what's wrong with your wife? Can't she do it?" :P

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  6. Wow! I'm totally impressed. I own two pairs of skinny jeans right now and one is too tight for this preggo belly and the other is a maternity pair that are too loose. I think I'm going to have to try this out with some old maternity jeans!!!

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  7. Thanks for making this seem like it's not super overwhelming. I never would've tried it because I would've been too intimidated, but now I think I might!!

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  8. You are a sewing magician! They look great - I can't even tell that they used to be flares.

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  9. Fantastic! They look really great!

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  10. I've done this a few times and I'm considering doing it with a pair of my maternity jeans. I feel like I'm thinking of committing a deadly sin or something, for some reason maternity clothes just seem sacred and unalterable. But these ones are a bit loose in the leg anyways and I do have a pair that fit perfect that I wore a few ... okay, five... times last week. In a row. So what is the worse that could happen? Sweatpants twice a week, that's what. And how can something that feels so right be so wrong? It can't. So, skinny jeans they will be!

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  11. I have done this to a bunch of my pairs of jeans. I'm wearing a pair right now :) I love how yours turned out. A really well written and detailed post on how to do it!

    Christine @ Projectsaroundthehouse.blogspot.com

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  12. Oh Silver jeans. I remember them. Back when I spent money on clothes. Way to rock the skinny jeans!!

    I totally hear you on pants not fitting. I don't know why I'm not capable of buying clothes that fit me.

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  13. Hola y gracias por tus lindas palabras. Te quedan perfectos los pantalones de pitillo y con tacones estilizan la figura.
    Un saludo.
    Susana.

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  14. You used to work at Maurice's??? All my used to work at jobs are like---the gas station, a waitress, a Subway "sandwhich artist"...nothing even close to cool...I've always been hopelessly uncool..

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  15. You did such a great job on these jeans! I have some that I need to do this to. =) I did find a couple of pair of "skinny" jeans at Wal-Mart for less than $20 a pair. Got them with my birthday money last year. =) Thank you so much for the great tip!

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  16. I absolutely love your shoes. Please give me the source. Thnx

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  17. Okay, so I went through your whole blog to find this tutorial to alter some jeans today. It was so easy, thanks to your advice to not care about the bowleg issue (UM, mine were SUPER bowlegged.) Also, THANK YOU for standing on a bucket. Because I was so confused trying to see the bottom of my jeans in the mirror and doing high kicks just wasn't working. Of course we didn't bring a full-length mirror to Dallas, but we DID bring a bucket (of rice....seriously who does that?) so my ankles were seen for the first time in the mirror in months today!
    But seriously, thanks for making this so easy. :)

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  18. Finally! I have a pair of gorgeous expensive jeans I bought years ago when bootcut was in, well now it's not so much in. This saves me throwing them out, YAY!
    Ps My name really is Matilda! Love your blog. xx

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  19. I just converted a pair of my bootcuts following your tutorial and they look great! Thanks especially for clearing up the bowleg issue. I had been afraid to alter my jeans because of it, but no more.

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  20. This worked great! Thanks especially for clearing up the bowleg issue.

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  21. Thank you, thank you for this tutorial! I just bought a couple of pairs of straight leg jeans but they werent quite "skinny" enough for some of my boots etc but I dont like the low rise fit of the juniors jeans that fit closer to the leg than misses sizes. This worked great! Cant wait to wear my new, custom pants with my riding boots tomorrow!!! :)

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  22. I was looking for the perfect pair of red jeans and while these are not perfect they come very close. The color is as pictured and the length is perfect for me (I'm 5'3"). They stretch quite a bit but stay in form. My only complaint is that they are a little more in the jogging category than jeans. I plan to order Barely There 4J56

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  23. Great instructions! I've been snarling at all the bootcut jeans lately, and you've reminded me I used to be pretty good at skinnifying the jeans with legs I didn't like (even way back in the nineties, oh dear!). I will look up how you did the hems, too, and attack my stack of jeans! If the outside seam looks too obvious to you, try the old sandpaper trick. gently and carefully (those dry heel foot file thingies work really well). Your jeans look great. Thanks!

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  24. Hey,

    Glad to have found your tut! I would throw some black dye on these too! Best, P

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  25. Yay! Thank you so much for this tutorial - I just took in a pair of bootcut jeans and they turned out perfect!! :)

    Looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

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  26. Thanks for posting this! I hated bootcut jeans, but it seemed like a waste of money to just chuck them. Now I'm going to make them look cute. Haha! ;)

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  27. I, too, had a pair of great-fitting jeans with clown-pant legs, sadly purchased at the tail end of the "boot cut" era. I followed your easy instructions and now have a great pair of much more contemporary black jeans. (I only did one thing differently, basting for a last try-on before the final stitching, and the result was totally worth it.) Thanks so much for your blog!

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  28. Just rub that outside seam with a fine sanding block (for wood or fingernails) and it'll look a little less perfect.

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Thanks for commenting!