Hemming 101: Dress Pants & Jeans

I love having a sewing machine because I can buy any length pant in my size and know they’ll fit perfectly after some quick hemming. I have probably saved hundreds of dollars buying too long pants (either on sale or instead of petite sizes) over the years and hemming them.

Here’s a quick how-to on two different kinds of hemming jobs (my most used methods): dress pants and keeping on original hem on jeans.

A couple tips even before you start:

– Have a seam ripper handy, it’ll make quick work if you make a mistake.
Try the pants on after every pinning! Try them on barefoot and in whatever shoes you wear most often. Both pant legs should hit the floor at the same point (anywhere you like but I prefer mine to just touch the floor behind my heel).
Before you sew anything try on the pants and then sit down in them. If the pants ride really high off the ground you may want to adjust the hemline.

OK, onward!

1) Hemming Dress Pants

The first thing you need to do is figure out your inseam. The directions here are good and use my favorite method: finding the inseam of your favorite pair of pants. Mine is 29″ which I’ve marked with a pin below.

I then measure the excess and pin up that much on the inside of the to-be-hemmed pants. In this case, it was 3″ of excess.

Then let her rip! Pick a point on the plate under the sewing foot to line up with (most machines have some preset lines) and use that as your guide all the way around. For dress pants I like to sew on the outside of the pants so I can see the progress. Lighter fabrics tend to tangle my bobbin and I’d rather that happen on the underside and not the top.

Cut away any excess you might have on the underside when you’re done.

*A note about this though. I tend to only cut off the excess on light fabrics. I find they don’t warp or flip backwards when washed and don’t need special attention like ironing before wearing. For example: on these dress pants I cut off roughly 2″ of excess fabric because it’s light and will just hang naturally when I wear them but on the jeans I left the excess on (more below).

Before and After:

OK, the After Picture looks like they are a little pegged but I swear they aren’t! They hemmed up perfectly.

2) Hemming Jeans and Keeping the Original Hem

I found this method years ago and it works awesome.The only special thing you really need is brown/tan thread that matches the original hem on your jeans.

The first step is the same as above: find your inseam and the excess/difference between the bottom of the pants and your inseam. In this case I had 4″ of excess. Fold up the excess so that when the hem is folded over is equals the same number as your inseam. I folded my hem over 1.5″ (1.5″ on the front + 1.5″ on the back + 1″ orignal hem = 4″ of excess).

This sounds confusing, there are some clearer instructions and pictures over on this site.

Once everything is pinned you’re ready to sew!

Line up the needle ON the original hem and let that be your guide. Sew all the way around on the original hem.

When you fold the new hem back over on your jeans the original hem will be visible.

A note about the excess underneath: As I said above, for heavier fabrics like denim I leave the excess on. It does feel a little bulky but it’s worth it. I find that if you cut the excess off then wash your jeans, the original hem tends to flip up and you need to iron the heck out of it get it to lay flat. In leaving the excess I find that the heavy flap weighs the hem down so there’s no flipping upward even after a wash (and if there is, just fold it really flat or iron it).

Also, if you cut a heavy fabric like denim with scissors and then wash it, it’s going to fray. Since I don’t like Mystery Fray trailing out of a pant leg that that is obviously hemmed, I don’t trim the excess for that reason too.

Before and After:

Yay! Three new pairs of pants! Voila!

And for the record, these are all GAP pants. Wearable, washable, hemm-able.

Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

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