How to Custom-Fit Pants

Taking in or letting out a pair of pants can make all the difference in the fit, and you don't need a tailor to do the job. Use this technique on men's pants and some women's pants.

Tools: seam ripper, scissors, fabric marker or pencil, straight pins, needle, sewing machine.

Materials: pants, thread.

Time: 1/2 to 1 hour.

Men's pants -- and sometimes women's -- are designed to be adjusted at the center back seam, and can be taken in or let out 1 inch or more without affecting the fit elsewhere. Have the wearer try the pants on to see how much adjustment is needed, and estimate the work you'll have to do.

If there's a belt loop at the top of the center back seam, carefully remove it with a seam ripper. With the seam ripper, remove the stitching from the waistband facing for 2 or 3 inches on each side of the seam. Then remove the stitching from the seam, being careful not to damage the fabric. Open the seam with the seam ripper, almost down to the crotch.

On the inside of the pants, mark a line on each side of the pants where you estimate the new seam should be, either farther into the pieces of fabric or closer to their cut edges. Mark the lines with a fabric marker or a pencil. Starting at the top of the seam, draw a smooth, gradual curve on each piece of fabric, tapering gradually to blend into the old seam line at the bottom. Don't curve the new seam sharply or the new seam won't fit properly.

Pin the seam together along the new seam lines and then baste it together and remove the pins. Have the wearer try the pants on again to make sure the pants fit correctly. If the seat of the pants is baggy, open the inseams of the pants legs, from the crotch down 10 or 12 inches. Make a new seam line along each inseam to narrow the back of the leg slightly; taper the new seam line into the old one. Pin, baste, and have the wearer try the pants on; readjust as necessary until you get a good fit.

If you opened the inseams of the pants legs, stitch the new inseams, tapering the new seam line into the old one on each leg. Stitch the new seam line at the back of each leg to the old seam line at the front of the leg. Trim away excess fabric.

When no further adjustments are necessary, stitch the crotch seam with a sewing machine. In the seat area, stretch the seam a little as you sew; or, if your machine has a stretch stitch, use it in this area. Make a second row of machine stitching 1/8 inch closer to the cut edges of the seam, to reinforce it. Backstitch at the beginning and the end of each line of stitching. If you're taking the pants in, trim excess fabric after stitching.

Finally, adjust the waistband to match the new back seam. Open the back seam on the waistband and either let out the fabric or take in the same amount you took in from the back pants seam. Stitch the new waistband seam closed. Turn the waistband down and smooth it back over the back of the pants and the adjusted seam; stitch it into place the way it was stitched before. If you removed the back belt loop, replace the loop; sew it on the same way it was attached before.

Next, learn which mending material makes putting in a hem a breeze.