Make ’em skinny

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As a member of the long-legged few, I have a fair amount of trouble finding pants that fit, especially when you take into account my unwillingness to try mail order or pay more than $50 for a pair of jeans. The problem lies in the fact that, up until very recently, I’ve been able to find the perfect jeans at Gap outlet stores for $20-$30. Why should I pay more?

In an attempt to try other brands after the recent, horrifying changes made to Gap’s jeans, I ordered a pair from Old Navy. I had some success with a pair of skinny jeans I found in the store that were just long enough to pass muster, so I thought I’d risk a few dollars on a pair of boot cut jeans with a long inseam…but they were just a bit too long. I kept them around for that rare laundry day when I was out of options until one day, my mom mentioned that she used to make regular jeans into skinny jeans all the time as a teenager. (It was the 80s, options were few.) I hadn’t been wearing them anyway, so I figured it was a perfect idea for how to make the jeans work.

Making Skinny Jeans out of Not-So-Skinny Jeans

Materials and Equipment needed:

  • Jeans
  • Thread
  • Marker
  • Pins
  • Measuring stick or ruler
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing Machine (makes it much easier, anyway)
  • A helpful friend

Although I’m sure it would be possible for the more flexible among us to complete this project without assistance, pinning the jeans while you’re wearing them is best left to a helper!


  • Turn the jeans inside out and put them on as best you can. Find a stool or something similar to stand on or, if you can’t find a stool, offer your helper a lower back massage as compensation.
  • Pin the jeans following the curve of your calf adjacent to the outside seam. (Inside seams are usually harder to replicate on a home machine.) We found it better to start at the top and work your way to the ankle. Take care to pin with a little extra room around the ankle, especially if the fabric isn’t very stretchy. Too tight and you won’t be able to get them off!

Pinning the jeans

  • Only pin one leg. By measuring the pinned area and marking it on the other leg, you will ensure that the legs are even.
  • Take the jeans off and put some other pants on, or not, if that’s what you’re into. Iron the pinned section.
  • Using a measuring stick, mark on the jeans where the pin at the ankle is and where the last pin at the widest point of the calf is–these jeans were plenty fitted at the knee, so we just went up to where that white pin is. Draw a straight line between the two using a measuring stick.

Marking the jeans

  • Mark where the pins are widest and draw a straight line from the top pin to that widest point. Then draw a line from that widest point straight down to the pin at the ankle. You want the new seam to progress as gradually as possible, so you will sew from the top pin to the widest point and then down to the ankle pin. Measure the same margins on the other leg. (Using the same measurements, rather than pinning both legs, ensures consistency in appearance.)

Marked jeans

  • Sew along the middle mark until you meet the line that is parallel to the outside seam, then sew straight down that line. Use a zig zag stitch to prevent fraying. Trim off the excess fabric and threads.
  • Turn the jeans right side out and see how you did! If it looks good, do the same to the other leg. If it doesn’t, don’t come after me!

Helpful kittyDottie the cat is very helpful when it comes to sewing projects.

The skinni-fied jeans work really well for me–they’re probably just a tiny bit too long, but that’s such a luxury for me I don’t mind. The only time it is a problem is when trying to stuff them into boots, but it’s really just not that big of a deal.Skinny jeansThe difference in the seam appearance is more noticeable in this picture than it is in real life, and I think that as the jeans wear, the color difference will be even less noticeable. From what I have observed on Pinterest, this technique can be used to also tailor jeans that don’t fit quite right. Luckily, this pair fit me fairly well to the knee, so that’s as far as we sewed. To go from a pair of jeans that I would rarely wear to a pair that is now in regular rotation feels like quite the success.

The Bronx

When looking into the history of denim blue jeans, I discovered that the words “denim” and “jeans” are corruptions of some French and Italian words (according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia). The original twill fabric was called “serge de Nîmes” and the first denim trousers were made in Genoa, Italy. In French, Genoa is translated to Gênes.
Hence, “denim” and “jeans”.

So for the cocktail to pair with this project, I wanted to find something that used both French (dry) and Italian (sweet) vermouth. I knew from reading The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book that the combination was popular back in the cocktail heyday, so I just needed to find the right one. The Perfect Martini seemed too upscale for the working person’s fabric, but add a splash of orange juice to make the Bronx and you’ve got one casual cocktail. The story behind the cocktail, as recorded in the Bar Book and retold on Wikipedia, is more about the borough’s zoo than the borough itself.

The Bronx Cocktail Hooch & HomeIngredients:

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • 3/4* part dry vermouth

Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass.

If you happen to be a fan of orange juice based drinks, you’ll probably like this one. I had one too many bad experiences with a Screwdriver (one experience), so it’s not my favorite mixer.

*The official proportions are 6:3:3:2, but that’s irritating to calculate in the brain. Fudge that 3/4 part up a bit and you’ll be fine.

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