Learning from others

I know that when most people teach sewing, they have a curriculum and the student learns what the teacher decides to teach.  I have let my student set her agenda when it comes to her sewing lessons. I assume that if she wants to learn a skill then she will be eager to learn it, even if on paper it might seem too advanced for her.

Sometimes, my student wants to try things that I have not yet attempted to do. Today, my student came in with a pair of shorts similar to this pair.
They were a pair of shorts that she had purchased. She owns several pairs of pants made by the maker, so she bought them with out trying them on. There shorts, were however, more than three inches too big.

I have never altered pants for myself. My youngest, is skinny, and I  add elastic to the back waistband of his pants as a matter of course. We briefly discussed this option which might work for a boy who does not care a whole lot about fashion, but for a girl who cares deeply about fashion, this was clearly not an option.

The traditional two rows of buttons in front coupled with the fact that there just wasn't enough space in front  to make alterations meant that we were limited to making the alterations in on the back of the shorts.
If we had simply taken in the shorts at the center back seam, the black slot seam pockets would have appeared as one horizontal line across the back. That too was a bad option.

We decided that a proper alteration job, rather than a quick and dirty job was the way to go. No, I have never done a proper pants alteration. Pants alteration is a frequent topic on one of the sewing discussion groups that I subscribe to. While this has never been a topic of great interest to me, I have paid enough attention to figure out how to proceed. My knowledge of pants alteration remineded me of  one of the lines from the great 1970's satiric Israeli rock groups Poogy, in their iconic song, "Yo Ya", they desribe a hapless character who took a correspondance course in swimming - with the anticipated  bad consequenses.

I remembered what my fellow list members wrote, and together, my student and I, went on the adventure of altering the shorts.  We removed the waistband and added two darts on either side of the center back seam. My student tried the shorts on, and we rtealized that we needed to make the shirts still smaller.

My student suggested that we just add the additional  dart just  on one side. I explained that it would make her body look lopsided. So we added two more darts.  We then cut the waistband to the correct size, ans stitched it together. My strudent re- attached the waistband being sure to catch the shorts and the pocket bags within the stitching. Her first attempt was wonky. So i undid her stitching and her second try did the trick.

One of the advantages of teaching is that while my student sews, I can think ahead.  My student had also removed the label from the back of the waistband along with the belt loop. To make the alteration look truly professional, my student sewed the label back on, followed by the belt loop. I realiized that had I been working by myself, I would have done the belt loop first and would have had to undo it in order to re-stitch the label.

I am truly grateful to the members of CMN for asking questions that I don't yet need the answers for. I am even more grateful to the members of the list who are so generous with their wisdom. This is the sort of alteration my student will probably have to do often in her life. I'm glad she learned how,and with out tears.


  1. Wonderful blog, Sarah...it's gratifying to know that you are there passing skills to the next generation. Our home ec teacher/program has been cut from school so students will no longer learn sewing and cooking (she inspired many to become professional chefs) from our little northern Minnesota school - very sad. Keep up the inspiring work! Bonnie

  2. Bonnie-

    I didn't learn how to sew in school. My guess is, that if I had learned in a traditional home-ec class, I probably wouldn't be sewing today.

    Some home ec teachers were clearly inspirational. I also know many women who were terrorized by their home-ec teachers and are now afraid to sew on a button.

    I do agree that too many opportunities are being lost in the schools. Kids used to be taught to think with their hands, so to speak.Too many kids don't have those sorts of opportunities. Many of the solutions I turn to in sewing are those that I have learned in working with wood, or paper, or cooking.

    I try to teach my student to be a good problem solver. My sister, who no longer sews, was taught in a Singer store. She learned how to sew, but the insistance that there was only one correct way to do things made progressing difficult.

    I hear too many stories of home ec teachers acting like martinets, imposing arbitrary rules with a certain level of meanness towards their students.

    I think that websites like, patternreview and www.craftster.org help young people realize thatthey can own sewing.


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