The Trouser Refashion Swap: Elastic Hem Trousers {tutorial}

by This is Carrie on September 26, 2012

I remember watching the Button-Up Shirt Refashion Swap with envy, thinking how fun it would be to be a part of it.  But when I got the email asking if I’d like to join the swap this year, all of a sudden, I got scared.  Clicking through the amazing blogs of the women put the swap together and those who participated last time made me feel very inadequate.  So much talent! And the chosen item to refashion? Trousers. Yikes! Pants are so hard to fit – haven’t you watched Project Runway? 😉

But against my better judgement, I said yes. I accepted the challenge.  And boy has it been a challenge ruled by Murphy’s law.

Once I heard I was refashioning trousers for Melissa of ISLY, I felt a little better.  That girl can make anything look good.  I did a little thrift shopping, found a pair of black, flowy trousers and worked up a little sketch.  Since Melissa has two, young kids, I wanted to create something that was versatile, comfortable and washable but also something that could be dressed up.  I was excited to try out a stencil print using a spray fabric paint and a lace tablecloth I found at the thrift store.  But, it was a total flop. The “soft” fabric spray did not show up on the black fabric and the regular fabric spray paint made the soft trouser fabric all stiff and crunchy. Big Bummer.

So I had to change my plans.

i dug through my stash of men’s trousers waiting to be refashioned into Slim Slacks for the boys and found a cute (all be it enormous) pair of slacks with a tiny black houndstooth pattern. Same style, different starting point. No paint.

I was so disappointed by my first refashion fail that I forgot to take a photo of the trousers before I started ripping them apart so you’re going to have to use your imagination to experience the drastic refashion.

Make sure to visit the rest of the Trouser Refashion Swap participants today as everyone is posting about their projects (including tutorials). Then, come back next week once the projects are swapped for the big “reveal.”

Suzannah of Adventures in Dressmaking

Miriam of MadMim

Miranda of One Little Minute

Melissa of I Still Love You

Liz of Cotton & Curls

Krista of Lazy Saturdays

Kelli of True Bias

Kate of See Kate Sew

Jennifer of Grainline Studio

The Tutorial:

Let me start with a few little refashioning tips (especially when dealing with men’s trousers)

Wash your trousers before you start the refashion (and not just because they might have come from the thrift store).  Many trousers are “Dry Clean Only” but they actually do fine washed in cold and dried on low.  If my trousers don’t survive my “test wash” I find another option. I’m not a fan of dry cleaning.

-Many trousers fabrics fray excessively so make sure you have a fray control plan whether it’s zig zagging the edges, overlock or fray check.

-During the fitting process, sew the new style together first with a long stitch using contrast thread.  This way, you can make adjustments during the fitting process and easily unstitch the basting and resew with a nice matching stitch when you know it’s just right.

Double stitch (and even tripe stitch) the crotch seam. That seam takes a lot of strain, so a few extra lines of stitching might save the wearer from a little embarrassment down the road.

Leave seams pressed open instead of overlocked together so additional changes can be done easily in the future. With men’s trousers, it’s easy to leave the seams open since that’s how they are to begin with.

How to add and elastic hem to trousers:

To avoid unnecessary pain and struggles, start out with a pair of trousers that fit around the waist and/or hips (or are pretty close). Women’s or men’s trousers will work. Men’s slacks are made to be easily taken in at the back waist.  Taking in a couple inches there is usually fine. Any more than that and you’re going to start running into problems.  Ask me how I know.  The slacks I started out with were a men’s size 42.  And Melissa is about half that.  Anyway, start out with smaller trousers.

-Once you’ve established a good fit at the waist area, decide how wide you would like your trouser legs and take in on the outseam and inseam if necessary.  You could go baggy MC Hammer style or a more slim cut.  Both still look good with an elastic hem.

-Using your ankle measurement (+1″ for seam allowance), cut two pieces of 2″ wide elastic. You could also try skinnier elastic, I just like the look of a thicker cuff.

-Press and sew a 2 1/8″ casing at the hem of the pants and insert elastic.

-Sew elastic together using 3/8″ seam allowance and close up casing hole.

-Steam press your new elastic trouser cuffs.

Enjoy your “new” pair of trousers!


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Trouser Refashion Swap: The Big Reveal {Peplum Skirt} | This Mama Makes Stuff
October 5, 2012 at 6:02 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Twitter: livefreemiranda
September 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Yay! These look great! I actually totally dig the houndstooth and think Melissa will find them super versatile. And great tips for refashioning! I wash and wear almost all of my dry clean only…it’s the only way. Good work.


Miriam September 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I am really excited to see Melissa work these–can’t wait to see those elastic hems in action! My first refashion (the button up one) I totally had to scrap my first attempt too, so I feel you! Awesome job!


Melissa September 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I’m really excited to see these in person! The fabric looks amazing. Can’t wait!


Krista September 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

They look like they are going to look great on Melissa! Bummer about the fabric paint but I love the pants you ended up with :)


Clyde September 5, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Inspirring quezt there. What happened after? Takee care!


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