My “Finished on Friday” project this week has turned into a tutorial. I think you are going to love it. I had written a similar tutorial about a month ago complete with pictures. Something just didn’t feel right about it, though. I figured there must be an easier way to tackle this problem. Then I found a great fitting pair of jeans at the thrift store. The secret: a “comfort elastic waistband.” See how the elastic is incorporated around the entire waist?

take in pants jeans at the waist

Then my friend Amy commented on my frustrations taking in the waist on these pants. “When I have encountered that I sometimes just open the side seam in the waistband area and thread new elastic right over the old.”

Aha! Remember my adjustable elastic tutorial? This is kind of the same, but better. The elastic goes around the entire waist, so there’s no bunching up in any one place. The fabric is evenly distributed for a smoother finish.

You can even do this without a sewing machine as long as you don’t mind a little hand stitching.

take in pants jeans at the waist

3/4″ or 1″ wide elastic
small, sharp pair of scissors
Fray Check
pin, needle and thread

Step 1
Snip two holes on either side of the waist to create a casing for the elastic — one just inside the buttonhole/snap and the other just inside the button/other snap. Make sure your scissors don’t go through to the other side! Apply Fray Check to the raw edges.

Step 2
Thread the elastic through the casing and secure with stitches on one side. (My thread matched the denim a little too well. The arrow is pointing to the stitches. If you look really close, you’ll see them.)

Step 3
Try on pants and pull on the elastic until you’ve got a good fit.

Step 4
Pin elastic in place, take off pants and secure with stitches on the other side. Trim excess elastic.

That’s it! Totally easy! You can do this to any pants that:

  • fit your hips, but are too big in the waist
  • fit everywhere except that annoying gap in the back
  • are made of denim without that 2% of spandex to make then snap back into shape after one wearing
  • need to tide you over while you lose weight and fit into the next size

26 Responses to how to adjust the waist of your pants/jeans in 4 easy steps

  1. That is such a fantastic tutorial thank you. And perfect as I have two daughters and need to do a lot of adjusting of the older one’s clothes to fit the younger one who has a tiny waist. Such a great way to do it. Thank you.

  2. Anne says:

    Brilliant!! It’s like an elastic-y belt, but inside the jeans.

    I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  3. Michel says:

    Great idea! Thanks!


    I love this idea,Thank you

  5. Jocelyn Mast says:

    Super awesome idea – I have mostly sewn darts at the waist but that isn’t comfortable and doesn’t look great. I’m going to try this out this weekend. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Kelly F. says:

    This only took me about 10 minutes – thanks for the tutorial! Now my boys’ jeans will actually fit! I put a link up on my blog for this – can’t wait to check out all your other ideas. :)

  7. Lil B says:

    Thank you, I have a 6 foot son who need pant taken in from 32 inch to 29 inch waist. Your idea in 4 simple steps was fast, and inexpensive. No more sagging pants :)

  8. Marsha says:

    In 5 minutes this worked, thank you

  9. Rebeca says:

    Fantástico! Que grande ideia! Obrigada por compartilhar!

  10. marcey mcatee says:

    love your tutorials! can you tell me the brand name and where you were able to get the blue comfort band elastic pictured in the adjusting waste bands tutorial. It looks very professional compared to other elastics. thank you

  11. […] 12 to a size 8 and I’m still shrinking. (Trust me when I tell you that there is only so much elastic you can sew into your waistband before you need to just go and buy a new pair of jeans.) All of the skirts I made and refashioned […]

  12. Aloha, excellent post turned tutorial! I’ve been meaning to fix a couple of pairs of jeans before the season starts to get colder. You’ve just renewed my desire to do the task.
    BTW, I found your blog on the Sewing Savvy newsletter.
    Thanks for sharing your sewing skills with us.

  13. joanne schmuck says:

    my problem is usually the other way. I have to let things out, how do you do that- not as simple

  14. Deb Kempen says:

    Just discovered you–an instant bookmark.
    This tip is SO SIMPLE AND GREAT. I’ve had to adjust for my tiny waist/big butt all my life. Mostly I’d pick out the waistband stitching, adjust the darts or (encase elastic like you did), and re-stitch it all back together. Who’da thunk – so simple – slick trick.

  15. Alice says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Now I feel that I can finally buy a pair of jeans. I’ve found in the past that if they fit my hips they are way to big in the waist. You have provided a quick and easy solution. Many thanks.

  16. sam says:

    My daughter asked me to look on the web to take in her jeans. I sew by hand like buttons, darn socks.
    Hopefully, I can do it and save us money fixing the problem for her.

  17. Dee says:

    I would like to alter a pair of pants that have an elastic waist. I have lost weight and would like to
    remove the elastic and take in the pants then put on
    a fitted waistband. Any tips on how to do this?

  18. Silvergirl says:

    Julie: Brilliant! Finally got me to do something about the waist of two pairs of fab black wide legs lurking in my wardrobe since I lost 2 inches off my waist. They cost over £50 each so I didn’t want to chuck or charity them. Both pairs altered in about 20 minutes each. And it means that if I put the inches back on I can revert to the larger size. (I’m a realist and hopeful). I didn’t have fray stop, so I will sew some seam tape over the slit area to neaten it. Also best to secure the elastic at both ends with safety pins, and to adjust the elastic when wearing the pants inside out. Thank you so very much.

  19. Jennifer Decker says:

    I too have used this to take in jeans/pants. My struggle today is how to expand a waist band without taking everything apart and making new. Thanks

  20. Jet Lauderdale says:

    I have no sewing knowledge except how to thread a needle but was able to do this fairly easily. My jeans had a gap in the back that was so big a belt did not even help. Now they fit great- thanks so much!

  21. Lewis says:

    Your tutorial works like a charm. My weight and waistline fluctuate because of the medications I take. I went from a 32 inch waist to 34 and now I have shrunk back to a 31. I was planning a full morning of cutting and sewing to take in the waist line of two pair of blue jeans, and wondering if I could find a way to reverse the process when my weight and waistline return, as will doubtless occur. I have only just started sewing 2 years ago and even I found this method easy-peasy. Thanks.

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  23. Anne D says:

    This works awesome!!!! thanks so much!!!!

  24. […] this tutorial because my daughter says the buttonhole elastic is uncomfortable. I can understand. It won’t […]

  25. Crystal says:

    This is completely brilliant, easy, and mind-blowing. I’ll be sharing this on my blog in the coming weeks, if you don’t mind. I’ll definitely link back.

  26. Julia says:

    That’s a wonderful idea and I wish I’d seen it before making ugly darts all over my favorite jeans… oh well. Thank you very much!