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Turn Your Old Bell Bottoms, Bootcut, and Flare Jeans Into Skinny Jeans

I have a degree in ancient history and a passion for reading, cooking, DIY projects, tea, science fiction, and a myriad of other subjects.

Don't throw away your old jeans!

Don't throw away your old jeans!

Out With the Old, in With the Skinny

I was a late adopter of skinny jeans. I loved the way my flare jeans hugged my curves in all the right places, made my butt look amazing, and balanced my silhouette with a bit of extra fabric at the bottom.

But, alas, in the last couple of years, it's become pretty obvious that skinny jeans are the jeans of the 2010s—and flare, boot-cut, and bell-bottom jeans are just going more and more out of fashion.

If you're like me, a shopping spree to revamp your wardrobe is out of the question cost-wise, not to mention wasteful. After all, your old jeans still fit perfectly and have years of wear left in them (and let's be honest, they do make your butt look great). Fortunately, with a sewing machine and a little bit of work, you can easily convert those old jeans into skinny jeans for free.

This is a great sewing project for beginners.

My old flare jeans, ready for conversion

My old flare jeans, ready for conversion

What You'll Need

For this project, it helps to already have at least one pair of skinny jeans that fit you well. If you can't afford a pair of new jeans, you can always buy one to use as a template, leave the tags on, and return it when you're done. A thrift store is also a cheap option. I got my favorite skinny jeans that I use as a pattern for this project from Goodwill for $7.

An existing pair of skinny jeans is not necessary, but it makes the process a lot easier and will save you time and effort making adjustments before you sew.

You will also need a sewing machine, a non-permanent marker (a pen or pencil also work fine-- you can use anything that won't bleed through the fabric), a pair of scissors, and some pins.

Trace along a pair of skinny jeans!

Trace along a pair of skinny jeans!

Step 1: Mark Your Jeans for Sewing

  1. If this is your first time trying this project, start with your least-favorite jeans in case you make a mistake. Turn your old flare jeans inside out. You're going to be writing on them with a marker, so in case the ink doesn't all come out in the laundry, you want it to be on the inside where nobody will see. (If you plan to return your skinny jeans, be careful not to get any marker on them.)
  2. Make sure the fabric is laying perfectly flat with the seams at the edges. You may want to iron the legs before you start to make sure they don't wrinkle up while you work.
  3. Lay your favorite pair of skinny jeans over the top of the old jeans. The inside-of-the-leg seams should match up perfectly.
  4. Use your marker to trace the outer edge of your skinny jeans onto your old jeans. The thighs of both pairs should be about the same size already, so you will probably only have to go to the knee with your line.
Pin along the line, then try on before sewing.

Pin along the line, then try on before sewing.

Step 2: Pin Your Old Jeans (and Try Them on)

  1. Remove your skinny jeans. You're done with them for this project. If you bought them just for this, you can now safely return them.
  2. Pin your old jeans along the line you've drawn. You may want to use safety pins if you're worried about getting poked.
  3. Try on your jeans before you sew them to make sure you like the new fit. If they aren't skinny enough, redraw your line a little closer, repin, and try on again.
  4. Once you're happy with the fit, it's time to sew.
Sew your jeans along the line!

Sew your jeans along the line!

Step 3: Sew Your Jeans

  1. Follow the line you've drawn with your sewing machine. It will be your new outside seam.
  2. Starting with the pins still in place and taking them out one at a time while you go can help to keep the fabric from slipping while you sew.
  3. I always sew the seam twice for durability. I go over it once with regular stitches, and then I restitch it a second time with a tight zigzag stitch to help prevent fraying.
Cut your jeans along the new seam.

Cut your jeans along the new seam.

Step 4: Trim the Excess Fabric

  1. After sewing, try on your jeans one last time to be totally, completely sure you like the new fit. It's not too late to pop the stitches you've just sewn and start over, but once you start cutting it will be too late.
  2. Cut along the outside edge of the new seam you've just created. Be careful not to cut into the seams you just made! Once you've finished cutting off the extra fabric, your new jeans are good to go!

Happy Sewing!

For these jeans, I chose to leave about an inch of extra room in the ankles, but you can always go skinnier for a more dramatic look. Just try them on before sewing and cutting to make sure your feet can still fit through the holes. You may also want to try them on with socks to make certain the calves aren't too tight.

I wear my new modified skinny jeans all the time. I hope you love yours as much as I love mine. Happy sewing!

My new skinny jeans

My new skinny jeans


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 03, 2017:

What a great idea Kristy! I've 3 pair of flares ready and waiting to be altered into skinny jeans. Bit thanks for sharing this.

Brinafr3sh from West Coast, United States on July 25, 2016:

Hi Kristen, this article is just what I needed. I will follow the steps to turn my flared leg jeans into slim leg jeans. I had a new pair of jeans hanging in the closet for 2 years, now I can convert them into a slimmer leg. It took me a long time to decide when I would start slimming the jeans, now I can do it the right way. Thanks for the useful info.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 07, 2015:

Awesome idea! I wish I had flare jeans. Since I lost weight for the past couple of pounds, I need to get a new pair of jeans, since it's baggy and loose. I'll keep this in mind for future reference. Voted up!

msdielise on July 27, 2014:

Wow, thanks for sharing this nice hub. I always have passion for fashion and your hub teaches people to use their old jeans to contribute to our environment (as well as save money)

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on July 26, 2014:

Nice one, I have taken up sewing again recently and this is a perfect project from some of those old jeans I no longer wear.

Claudia Porter on July 26, 2014:

Very cool! I love doing different things with jeans and the nice thing about this is that it is so easy to do! Pinned.