Finding a pair of jeans that fits just right can be a challenge. Sometimes, in order to get the perfect fit, you have to go to a tailor, and if you have multiple pairs of jeans, the alteration fees can add up! So whether you’re taking sewing lessons or you just want to learn some money-saving DIY skills, learn how to hem jeans with this tutorial from sewing teacher Kari B…
Jeans are a wardrobe staple for many of us. They can be worn in nearly any situation, with the comfort, look, and durability of the most luxurious fabrics. Jeans have come a long way from where they started.
Jeans were first used extensively in the late 1800’s during the Gold Rush by railroad and mining workers. These workers needed pants that would stand up to the grease and grime of their labor but still be breathable in the hot southern California temperatures. The low thread count paired with thicker threads made jeans much more long-lasting than other readily available materials.
Today, jeans are used more for fashion than function. There are so many different types, shapes, and sizes that anyone could get quickly overwhelmed. Every brand has a different size measurement, and every country has a different sizing chart, which can make it challenging to find the perfect pair.
The solution: hem your own jeans! No two people are the same, and their pants shouldn’t be either. Wearing jeans that are too long or too short is always uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing. Luckily, there are many easy ways to hem jeans to get the look you desire.
How to Hem Jeans
Measure the Inseam
Regardless of which method you use, the first step to hem your own jeans is to measure efficiently and correctly. You need to find the inseam, the distance between the top of the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg. Once you determine the inseam, subtract that number from the current inseam, this will tell you how many inches to cut or fold.
For example, if your inseam is 30 inches and the jeans are currently 32 inches, you will need to remove two inches of fabric from the jeans. Mark the new hem location using a ruler and chalk or a fabric marker.
How to Hem Jeans With a Sewing Machine
The easiest and quickest (if you’re familiar with a sewing machine) method to hem jeans is with a standard sewing machine. The process takes around 30 minutes, and if you use the right stitch, your jeans will withstand wear and tear for many washes.
It’s very important to use the appropriate needle. I suggest a 100/16 denim needle, but any heavier needle should be appropriate.
After you mark and cut your jeans, stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. You can do this with a standard sewing machine zig-zag stitch, or a serger on the edges.
You will need to pin the jeans with a ½ inch seam allowance all the way around on both legs.
Now you’re ready to sew! Using a straight stitch with medium length and corresponding thread color, sew all the way around both pant legs, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. Trim all loose threads and you’re done!
For a finished, professional look, sew around the border of the leg with gold thread. It’s very important to use a straight, even stitch because of the contrasting thread color.
How to Hem Jeans by Hand
To hem jeans by hand, you will need a little more time (close to an hour depending on your stitching speed). You will need a medium length, heavyweight hand-sewing needle.
Follow the same steps: measure and mark the inseam (distance between the top of the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg) and cut or fold the excess fabric.
The best stitch to use for hand sewing is an invisible backstitch. This stitch will not be seen, so perfection is not important. It’s also a sturdy stitch that should stand up to as much, if not more, wear and tear as a sewing machine stitch.
Make sure to go around both edges of both legs with a few extra stabilization stitches at the beginning and end. To complete the hem, trim all loose threads and press with an iron.
How to Hem Jeans With the Original Hem
You can also use the hand-sewing method to hem jeans with the original hem. This will make it nearly impossible to see that the jeans have been altered.
To achieve this look, do not cut the jeans. Instead, take the existing seam and fold it to match the new hem line, and pin it in place. Then follow the exact same instructions for hand stitching.
This method is probably the best for beginners because you do not have a risk of cutting improperly and ruining the jeans. This is also great if you have young children who may need to have the hem lengthened when the next growth spurt happens! Simply tuck the excess fabric above the hem under the jeans and iron it flat. Once again, make sure to trim the loose threads.
How to Hem Skinny Jeans
Skinny jeans are a little different to hem than traditional jeans. The inseam will need to be a bit shorter because you want them to sit right at the ankle, so remember this when measuring.
You also may need to use a stretchy thread if the fabric has more movement than standard denim. Be careful when hemming skinny jeans with a machine, it’s very easy to catch an extra layer in the machine because the leg is so small. I recommend using a hand backstitch to hem skinny jeans.
Some people don’t like to hem skinny jeans, if you feel this way, make sure to check out this guide for four different ways to adjust your skinny jeans.
With a little bit of practice, you will be able to hem all of your own jeans. If you need any help, make sure to ask your sewing teacher!
Image courtesy Tamera Clark