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Thrifting from Your Closet

During my challenge to be Locally Dressed, I looked into my own closet and found pants too small to wear. I didn't let that stop me. I picked up some leftover material and upcycled!

Added some bright cotton material to plain slacks that had gotten too tight to wear.

I know many upcyclers buy big and go small; it's challenging making clothing larger so you don't need to toss things away. BUT... I love a challenge!

It's a Pants Thing

Although I have some tops that no longer fit me in the closet, most of what I have are pants. I don't know why I kept them. They were my favorite or I loved the way they fit WHEN they fit. Who knows why, but I did and when the challenge came and I needed pants to wear, I thought it would be better to use what I already had than go to a thrift store. My own closet was my thrift store!

Expanding the Waist

I admit I have gained weight with age and my body has changed shape. Thicker in the midsection than I was when I was younger.

So, I picked out some pants that no longer would button and tried two different ways to make them fit my new shape.

For two pairs, I opened the side seams of the pants and added strips of material to enlarge the waist and as a side effect, widen the entire leg, too. I didn't want to purchase any additional material and used leftover denim from cutting jeans into shorts or light cotton material I stowed with my crafting supplies, probably for a quilting project.

Making the Cut

I had to figure out the measurements of the strips of materials both in length but mainly the width. I measured my waist snuggly with a tape and then added 2". The pants all had a bit of stretch. I wanted a snug fit—so I didn't add any extra inches for ease.

Why the 2"? I knew I needed to have seam allowance for restitching the new inserts to the pants. Since a strip was inserted in each leg, that meant I had 4 seams to sew. Each seam would have 0.5" allowance. If I needed to make any adjustments, I could play with the 0.5" allowances.

Seam Rippers—Must be Sharp!

I removed most of the waistband of my pants first. No need to take it all off, but you do need to remove the back & the sides. Leave the front alone after you remove the pant's side seams to help guide your restitching.

I then removed the side seams on the outer side of both legs with a seam ripper. I knew removing the side seam of the jeans would be difficult and involve a rivet that I would not be able to sew over. I would have some hand work to do around the rivet, but it was the only way to get the finish I wanted. So, I jumped in and hoped it would work out.

Adding Panels, Waistband & the Hem

After opening up each side seam, I pinned in the new material strips and sewed up each leg.

Finally the waistband was all that was left—the most difficult part!!

Because I added extra material to the sides, I now needed to add some fabric to the waistband, as well. I chose to add it in the middle of the back.

(It could have been done on the sides too. But I just thought the finish was better with a pop of color in the back.)

First, I needed to deconstruct the original waistband as a guide.

Did you know the fabric of a waistband is folded over 4 times?

This hides the raw edges and creates an inside and outside finished edge. Again, I cut the material to the extra width needed from my initial waist measurement and then added 1".

Because this was placed in the back middle of the pants, there were only 2 seams. For the height, I made sure it was just under 4X the height of the finished waistband. I ironed the material in half and then quarters, ensuring the raw edges were inside the fold AND that the height of the completed waistband matched the existing one.

Then it was time to bring it all together by:

  • Matching up the additional waistband, finished side to finished side

  • Sewing with 0.5" seam allowance

  • Hiding the raw edge within the fold

  • Repeating on the other side

TIP: If you want to have a hidden raw edge on this side as well, make a careful measurement of the exact width that is needed and mark it with soap. Then, repeat the sewing of the new material to the other side of the cut waistband.

Before going further, try on the pants and ensure the waistband is a good fit. At this point, if all is well, you can also trim extra seam allowance.

Now, lay open the waistband and insert the pants. Since you didn't remove the entire waistband, start at the front, matching the height of pant material and pin as you go for stability.

The final step is to stitch the waistband back onto the pants. If needed, do some top stitching over the new section to match the existing band. (Top stitching is the seam that runs along the top of the waistband to help hold the back and front of the band together.)

Same with Jeans!

I did the same sequence of deconstruction & reconstruction with a pair of jeans but with handstitching around the pocket rivet. Otherwise, the method is similar. I did pick lighter denims to add on the side of the jeans so the layers of denim didn't get too thick.

I also tried the v-fabric expansion where you only remove a bit of the waistband and unseam the back seam of the jeans. Most of the time people insert a v-shaped material in the opening and stitch the jeans up.

I didn't like this look and overlaid a rectangular panel instead that fit over the v-opening in the back. I sewed the rectangular panel on and also stitched the v-opening together with a piece of denim material UNDERNEATH for stability. Next time, I will add a heavy piece of elastic, as well, for a snugger fit.

One bonus with using the v-method is removing less of the waistband, BUT you also need to remove belt loops because they are jeans. So, it is really a visual choice.

I will say that I get LOTS of compliments on the denim with the added denim side panel. Everyone loves those jeans!

If you have a pair that's too small, maybe give it a try! And, if you need to, send me a note for help.

Side Note

This isn't a difficult task for thinner pants, but with jeans and several layers of denim, it can require a heavy duty machine and denim needles. I did the above pairs with a standard home machine but broke some needles.

After that experience, I invested in one of the cheapest heavy duty machines and I have been satisfied. They exist and can really help if you want to upcycle heavier materials.

Because I've decided upcycling and thrifting are going to be essential parts of my clothing journey, the investment feels worth it. And if being locally dressed makes you feel good about what you're wearing, the right tools can bring a lot of value.


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