Changing Your Clothes

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Makeover Monday: Cuff ‘Em!

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I confess to a fashion crime… my narrow-leg jeans are just a tiny bit too short. Usually, with a narrower leg, I can get away with a “regular” length, meaning a 31-32″ inseam; with wider legs like boot-cuts, I’d have to go to a “tall” or “long” length (33-34″ inseam). These jeans seemed perfect at first, but after a solid 2 years of a lot of wearing and washing, they’ve gradually gotten a little shorter, to the point where I can only (barely) get away with wearing them with high heels; with flats, they’re maybe 3/4″ too short, at least to my eye. What to do, what to do…

When I was in the fabric store a few weeks ago (getting more dye for my other jeans’ makeover), this idea popped into my head: why not add a contrast band or cuff to the legs of my jeans to lengthen them?

In spite of a rather bewildering array of denim fabric choices, I couldn’t find the black denim I wanted, but I did find an intriguing piece with a bronze metallic finish on one side, very like the lacquered treatments so popular in denim right now. Here are my jeans in their sad “before” condition, and the fabric I found to cuff ’em:

"Before" jeans and bronze-finish denim for cuffs (these are not the same jeans as the ones I dyed on previous Makeover Mondays).

“Before” jeans and bronze-finish denim for cuffs. (These are not the same jeans as the ones I dyed on previous Makeover Mondays, by the way. Now I’m starting to think my whole denim wardrobe is just sad…)

Tip: When choosing fabric for a project like this where you’re adding to an existing garment, try to find fabric with the same fiber content, and especially in the case of jeans, as near the same weight as possible. This will go a long way towards making the new fabric look integrated with the original garment. Also, be sure to preshrink your new fabric; I washed my fabric with my jeans, to be sure they would be laundry-compatible.

Since I was thinking of adding a 6-7″-deep cuff to my jeans, I thought 1/4 yard (9″) of fabric would be plenty, so that’s what I bought. (More about the quantity later on.) After preshrinking the fabric (see Tip, above), I experimented with folding the fabric around one jeans leg to get an idea of the cuff length, in proportion to the width of the leg:

Gauging cuff length

Gauging cuff length: I wanted the cuff to be deep enough to make a bold statement, but to still be proportional to the width of the leg. Here, I’ve folded the fabric around the jeans leg to get an idea of the right length.

Since I’m adding to the inseam length as well as adding the cuff itself, I’ll have to do some careful measuring, not just to cut the new cuffs, but to figure out how much to cut off the existing jeans legs. I want to add 1″ to the inseam length, and I’ve decided I want a 7″-deep cuff; here, I’ve laid out the various pieces on my cutting mat:

Measuring fabric and new inseam length

Measuring fabric and new inseam length. I’m adding 1″ to the length, and allowing 1″ for the seam and hem allowances. This will help me determine how much to cut off the existing jeans leg before adding the cuffs.

At this point, I had a new idea (why should today be different?): what if I did a double-layer cuff by folding the fabric at the hemline, so I could have the option of folding the cuff up, creating a cropped-jeans look? (The cuff fabric is a little lighter-weight than my jeans, so this would be workable.) Brilliant, I say! I continued on my merry way, measuring and cutting, when…

I realized I didn’t have enough fabric to do double-layer cuffs. At least not on both legs.

Back to Plan A, and cutting my (single-layer) cuffs. Gloom.

Tip: But wait! All is not lost! It occurred to me a little later, when I was sewing the second cuff in place, that I could either (a) get more of the same fabric and add it on, like a lining, to the cuffs I’m putting on today, or (b) even better, add a completely different fabric— so when I fold the cuff up (hiding the bronze denim), I’d have a completely new look! I’ll rummage through my scrap stash, find something fabulous, and I’ll have another Really Big Dramatic Reveal of the results on the next Makeover Monday!

Another super-helpful Tip: If you want to go the double-layer route, I’d recommend 1/2 yard (or more, depending on the desired depth of your cuffs).

Marking and cutting the jeans

Marking and cutting the jeans. I’ve also measured the width of the leg at the point where I will cut them, to know how wide to make my cuffs. Looks like I need to cut each piece for an 8″ width, plus seam allowances.

In the photo above, you can see where I’ve marked the new seam line (where cuff attaches to jeans leg), and 1″ below that, another mark indicating where I’m going to cut the leg off. (I like large seam allowances.) I’ve also measured across the width of the leg at this point, so I’ll know how wide to make the cuffs; even on straight-leg jeans like these, this measurement could be different than at the hem, so it’s good to double-check. Looks like my cuffs will need to be 8″ wide (16″ total circumference), plus 1″ for seam allowances (1/2″ each for side seam and inseam).

So I’m going to cut my cuff pieces 9″ wide x 8″ high (this height is determined in the previous photo with the tape measure).

On to the sewing! This is really simple, since I’m just working with rectangles. I sewed the 2 seams on each cuff, serged the raw edges, turned them right-side-out, pressed the seams, then serged one raw edge on each cuff to finish the hem edge.

Tip: Since the cuffs are now pretty narrow tubes, I found it easiest to press the seams by slipping a tailor’s ham inside the tubes. This is a sort of ham-shaped object stuffed with (I think) sawdust, that makes it much easier to press curving edges (like armhole seams), as well as tubes like my cuffs. See a tailor’s ham here.

Here’s one cuff pinned in place for sewing onto the jeans:

Cuff pinned in place

Cuff pinned in place and ready to sew.

Now, all I have to do is finish the hems, but I think I’ll wait to do that, and just press them under for now. One silver lining to the whole not-enough-fabric-for-double-layer-cuff debacle is that I now have the opportunity to double-check my hem length; in the photo below, I’ve marked the new hemline to create my desired 33″-inseam length.

Checking the new inseam length

Checking the new inseam length: I’ve put the pin where I will fold up the new hem. (Or will I?? Tune in to next week’s episode to find out!)

Yes, I nearly got away with a crime against fashion, but I hope that this makeover will count towards my community-service penance. I’ll leave you with this Pretty Big Dramatic Reveal:

Before and After!

Before (sad, plain jeans) and After (fabulous bronze-cuffed jeans)!

In case you’re wondering why I’m not finishing the hems now, well, you’ll find out on the thrilling conclusion to this episode of… Makeover Monday!

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Author: colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, costumes, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

4 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: Cuff ‘Em!

  1. Love the gold contrast – can’t wait to see the finished work of art!

  2. Pingback: Makeover Monday: Cuff ‘Em! (The Sequel) | Changing Your Clothes

  3. That is such a good idea! I’m pretty petite so pants are usually too long, but if any of my friends or family have this problem , I’ll be sure to remember it.

    • Thank you! Did you see the Makeover Monday from this week? It’s a follow-up to this one, showing how to add a lining to the cuff so you can roll them up to a shorter length. This might work for you! (Funny how you and I have the opposite length problems, but they can both be solved with this cuff idea!)

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