At this very moment, I have a pair of jeans I absolutely love sitting in my dresser. They fit me just right in almost every way…but sadly, the legs are too long for my 5'4" frame and I have yet to wear them outside my apartment. Yeah, I know I could wear heels or wedges and this whole problem would be solved, but I simply refuse to wear anything other than sneakers or flats. And anyway, I shouldn’t have to change my footwear just so my pants don’t drag on the ground!
If this scenario is relatable, this is where some sewing skills come in handy so you can hem and shorten pants yourself. But if you’re a newbie to the whole thread and needle thing, don’t worry. Follow this step-by-step guide, courtesy of some knowledgeable YouTube creators, and then you can finally wear pants that are the perfect length. (Just a warning though: Once you become an expert, don’t be surprised if your friends start asking for some alterations too.)
How to hem your pants by hand:
You’ll definitely need some equipment for this that you might not already have, like a seam ripper, thread, and fabric scissors. You’ll start on one side first and then shorten the other side after, and while this might seem like a lot of info, it’ll go faster on the second pant leg because you’ll just be repeating the steps from the other leg. Basically, just be super methodical about it and you’ll get better with practice. (Or worst-case scenario, if you mess up, just explain the sitch to your local tailor if they’re open and they’ll likely be able to fix it.)
Take the seam ripper and cut the existing thread of the hem on both legs.
Unroll the hem, put the pants on, and roll the material up on the outside to where you want the new hem to hit. Once it’s at the right length and even on all sides, stick a pin along the fold so it stays put. (Do this on one side only—you can use the same measurements on the other once you’re done.)
Measure the hem from the top to where the new fold is, and make sure the measurement is the same going all the way around the pant leg. Stick in more pins to hold in place once you’ve ensured it’s even.
After you added more pins, measure 2 inches from the fold and mark the measurement around the leg with a pen.
Cut along the pen marks you just created to get rid of the excess fabric.
Repeat steps 1 to 5 on the other pant leg using the same measurements.
Remove the pins, fold the cut hem down on both sides, and turn the entire pair of pants inside out.
Fold the bottom of one pant leg back up 2 inches and iron the fabric all the way around the pant leg evenly so there’s a defined crease. This will keep your new hem in place without any pins.
Then grab the side with the raw hem (you might notice it’s unraveling already) and fold it underneath about a quarter of an inch. Do this all the way around the pant leg while using the iron to keep it in place.
Thread a needle, and starting at the side seam, stitch the top part of the hem to the pants so it’s secure. If you need more of an intro, watch this tutorial for an in-depth look at a hemming stitch, and you’ll want to choose thread that’s close to the color of your pants if you want it to blend in.
Repeat steps 8 to 10 on the other side, flip your pants back out, and you’re done!
How to hem your pants with a sewing machine:
If hand-stitching sounds like a chore and you have a sewing machine, consider the below steps and video tutorial that actually preserve the original hem—i.e., the finished product will look magically shortened and not like you simply folded the fabric underneath.
Try on your pants or jeans in the mirror and fold up the bottoms on one side to where you want the new hem to sit. Measure the length of the fold after you take them off so you can repeat the steps on the other side.
Use tailor’s chalk or lightly mark with a pen where the end is folded up on the pant leg. Mark half an inch above the previous mark, too, and use a ruler to make sure all lines you draw are even. Do these same steps on the back of the pant leg.
Make sure the fold goes up to the highest mark and start pinning vertically all around the leg so the fold stays in place.
Cut off the fabric around the leg so there’s about an inch left and then sew right underneath the original hem, removing the needles and smoothing out the material (you don’t want any puckering!) as you go.
Cut the excess fabric at the end of the leg, leaving about half an inch. Then with your seam ripper, remove the original stitching to open up the existing hem. Remember that for this one, you’re not removing the original hem and creating a new one, you’re using the original hem at your desired shortened length.
Cut out the side seams that usually form a heavy square area and also the inside seam slightly where you’ll resew. Next, cut the excess fabric at the end of the pant leg down to a quarter inch. All this cutting you’re doing is removing extra bulk, so the finished hem will look more smooth from the front when you’re done.
Fold the raw edge back underneath, hiding any extra fabric that’s left. You can hammer the hem, which will soften stiffer materials like thick denim and make them easier to sew, per this YouTuber here.
Using the machine, sew the new hem slowly, folding it under as you go so that you’re lined up correctly.
Repeat all the steps on the other leg, and then you’ve hemmed your very own pair of pants using the original hem! How nifty!
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