Whether you choose to hem your pants by hand, with a sewing machine, or with high-quality hem tape, it’s important to keep basic supplies on hand at all times. You never know when your favorite pants are going to split a hem and need a quick fix. Maybe you’ll even start shopping for pants on sale and then hemming your way to a perfect fit.
It’s all possible when you learn how to hem correctly. Cheap, basic jeans can become a stylish pair of jeans that your friends will envy. Those pants that get too short on your child while still fitting at the waist can become an adorable pair of capris or shorts with nothing more than a pair of scissors and basic hem stitch.
Of course, there’s always those hip fringe or distressed jeans that you can make at home. It’s better than paying for designer jeans, right?
What is hemming?
Hemming is a sewing technique used to finish the edges on clothing or adjust the length of garments. The general approach is to fold the ends of the fabric over and then sew them down using secure yet straightforward stitches.
Hemming is a sewing technique used to finish the edges on clothing or adjust the length of garments. The general approach is to fold the ends of the fabric over and then sew them down using secure yet straightforward stitches.
Hemming is most useful when you want to reduce the length of a sleeve or pant leg. You can cut off the unwanted portion of the material and then hem the new edges to create a finished product. The process allows you to create perfectly proportioned garments that don’t hang to the floor or past your hands. The result is a more flattering appearance and possibly improved functionality for daily life as well.
Hemming is one of the more basic services offered by seamstresses. It’s also one of the most affordable services, but you can learn to hem at home to save a bit of money. For most materials, it’s a fast, straightforward process that only requires a sewing machine.
If you enjoy shopping the clearance racks and sales, you may find that you can buy slightly long clothing and fix it yourself rather than paying full price for another item in a different size. Just make sure the item won’t need the waistline taken in because it is a more extensive sewing process. Hemming is limited to sewing up the edges of the fabric.
The method you use to hem a garment depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The material you’re sewing.
- How you want the hem to look.
- Available tools.
- Available time.
You may take out needle and thread to complete a simple hem job on a skirt just before you walk out the door to start your day. On other occasions, you may spend more time working with a sewing machine to perform a more precise hem job.
Let’s take a look at some of the methods used to sew a hem so that you know your options.
Hemming by Hand
You will need the following items to hem by hand:
- Sewing needle.
This is the simplest way to hem pants, shorts, skirts, shirts, and any other item that may need a new, secure edge. It also requires more time because you don’t have the speed of a machine. If you just want to understand how to sew a hem, this is the fastest and easiest way to obtain that knowledge and get a little practice.
Hemming by hand allows you to remain in control of the sewing process from start to finish. You will need to fold the material carefully and watch your lines throughout the process, ensuring that you end up with straight lines that look professionally sewn.
If you’re concerned about precision and consistency in stitching, then hemming with a sewing machine may better suit your interests. Let’s take a look at that hemming method next!
Hemming with a Sewing Machine
Hemming with a sewing machine requires a sewing machine set up with the thread you want to use. You can use a variety of hem stitches, depending on what’s available for your sewing machine. This is the fastest way to complete a hem job, and it should provide more precision in stitching than you would have when hemming by hand.
Control is an essential factor when using a sewing machine. You want to place the fabric under the sewing machine head at the right angle and with the fold. Then you need to guide the fabric so that the stitches fall in the right place on your garment. It can take a little practice, but using a sewing machine is still faster than hand sewing for most people.
The Invisible Hem
You can create invisible hems that aren’t noticeable on the outside of your clothing. You do this using a sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch pattern. The goal is to fold the garment so that the stitching falls at just the right place.
Before You Start – What You Need to Know About Hemming
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about hemming, including guidelines to master the most commonly used stitches for hemming. I’ll wrap up this chapter with an in-depth list of tips and tricks that will help you understand the process of hemming in general. You can then move forward to learn how to hem your pants, skirts, shirts, and any other garment in need of a fresh stitch or two.
Put garments on your body
Then measure to determine how much material you want to remove. It’s faster and easier to do this with the garment off your body. But, you will miscalculate the measurement if it’s not on your body. To see this in action, try measuring a pair of pants while they’re flat on a table and then do the same while wearing the pants. You’ll come out with different measurements more than likely.
Save your fabric scraps
You can use those scraps from your first few hem jobs to practice new sewing techniques before applying them to a garment.
Don’t cut too much
When cutting pants shorter to create a new hem, remember that the hem will make them about an inch shorter when folded. It’s always better to cut too little than to cut too much. You can’t put the material back, but you can snip more off if needed.
Place a stitch below the seam
You can prevent your pants from fraying at the bottom by placing a zig-zag stitch just below the seam. With time, the material below the zig-zag stitch will fray. You can then cut it off, leaving the zig-zag stitch at the bottom for a clean appearance.
Don’t overthink the hemming process.
The goal is to simply create a clean, attractive hem after modifying a garment. You can hem on many different fabrics as long as you know the right stitch to use for your desired outcome.
As you learn to hem, give yourself time to practice on scrap material. Mastering even basic hem stitches can take some time, or you could prove yourself to be a natural. Either way, you now have a foundation of knowledge that will make our upcoming discussion of hem stitches easier to understand. Let’s move on!
10 Hemming Stitches
Hemming stitches range from decorative to completely invisible. Some are fast and simple to sew, while others might take a bit more practice to master. The hem you choose should match the project at hand on the following points:
- Type of material.
- Skill level.
- Available time.
- Desired look or style.
What stitch to use for hemming pants?
I’m about to show you 10 of the most common hemming stitches. Mastering even a few of these stitches will give you the skill needed to hem most pants. I’ll discuss what type of material and projects are suitable for each stitch so that you can find the right stitch for the next pair of pants in need of a good hem.
What is a blind hem?
A blind hem is an invisible hemming method that is often used on the bottom and side clothing hems, drapery, and other household fabrics. If you want to create clean lines that show no hint of hemming on a garment exterior, a blind hem is a good option.
Blind hems are best applied to light or medium weight material. They work well on pants as well as dresses, blouses, and other light clothing. For better results, make sure the garment has a hem depth of at least 1 inch. The hem is created by sewing two folded edges together. So, you need at least an inch of material to successfully complete the stitch.
You can sew a blind hem by hand or with a sewing machine. The basic process is as follows:
- Cut away the excess of fabric, leaving the length you want the garment to maintain plus at least one inch of fabric for the hem.
- Fold the edge up part way and iron it flat. The exact measurement for the fold will depend on your project and the depth of your hem.
- Fold the edge up again part way and iron it flat. The exact measurement for the fold will depend on your project. You have now created two folded edges, which you can sew together on the inside so that the stitching isn’t visible.
- Sew along the backside of the rolled edge, which was created by the two folded edges. You should pick up just a couple of threads from the back fabric as you stitch, ensuring not to pick up enough back fabric to show the stitch on the front of the garment.
Blind hem foot
What is a blind hem foot?
A blind hem foot is a sewing machine attachment designed to make sewing a blind hem easier and more accurate. The foot guides the stitch, ensuring the hem is straight and precise. While you don’t need a blind hem foot for blind stitching, it does make the job a bit easier and may result in a more even hemline.
Most modern sewing machines have a blind stitch setting. If you don’t have that setting or a foot appropriate for this stitch, you can still use the basic instructions detailed above to create the stitch on your own. You can even stitch blind with basic thread and needle.
What is a rolled hem?
A rolled hem is a tiny stitch that creates a small hem unlikely to flip up on delicate and lightweight materials. It’s used primarily on lightweight material but may work well for some medium-weight fabrics as well. It isn’t suitable for heavy materials. You may also see the rolled hem referred to as a baby hem or narrow hem.
Rolled hems are widely used in bridal wear and other clothing classifications that use light woven materials. If you’re hemming a garment made from a light, flowy material and want to keep the hemline small, then a rolled hem is a good skill to master.
You may also use a rolled hem for many household fabrics. For example, lightweight sheers are often hemmed in this way. Since you will sew less than half an inch of fabric to create the hemline, it’s important to only use this stitch on materials that are light enough to easily roll and sew with a small amount of fabric in hand.
The basic process to create a rolled hem is as follows:
- Cut the hem depth down to about ¼ inch and iron it flat with the edge down. You can sew a line across the fabric to show your hemline if it helps, but that isn’t required.
- Sew about five stitches in a zig-zag pattern, leaving the stitches loose.
- Pull the stitches tight at once, allowing the fabric to roll back into the stitch. The rolled hem should cover the stitches, placing them inside the roll.
You can do a rolled stitch on a sewing machine or by hand.
Rolled hem presser foot
What is a rolled hem presser foot?
A rolled hem foot is a sewing machine attachment designed to make sewing a rolled hem faster and easier. You can sew a rolled hem without a presser foot. Yet, you may have cleaner, more precise lines when you use the footer as a guide.
Many modern sewing machines have settings for rolled hems. You may see the settings listed as baby hems. Follow the directions on your footer to determine the best measurements for cutting and sewing your hems.
What is a baby hem?
A baby hem is a tiny-stitched hem used primarily on delicate, lightweight fabrics. It’s a type of rolled hem. The terms “rolled hem” and “baby hem” are often used interchangeably. The goal is to create a slightly rolled in hem that allows the material to maintain its free-flowing qualities.
I’ve already explained how to sew a baby hem above under the rolled hem section. When you see the term baby hem, the sewing process is the same but with a tiny amount of fabric sewed and rolled under. Some rolled hems could technically create a slightly larger hem than you would create with a baby hem. So, there is a subtle difference in the terms.
You can use a baby hem on any light fabric that you want to finish without drawing attention to the seams. This stitch is often used to finish dresses and pants made from extremely lightweight fabrics. You may also use a baby hem when stitching sheer curtains and other lightweight materials found around the home.
You can sew a baby hem with a sewing machine or by hand. Using a machine may allow you to roll the hem smaller while saving time easily.
What is a fringe hem?
A fringe hem is a distressed hem style often used to make blue jeans more stylish. Instead of finishing a clean, straight hemline, you allow the bottom of the pants to hang in what appears to be shreds or stringy strips of material. While it can look messy, the goal is to create an even line of shaggy fringe that hangs at the same length all the way around the leg or ankle.
While creating fringe at the bottom of your pantlegs is considered a method of hemming, you won’t need heightened sewing skills to create this look at home. Many expensive blue jeans from leading brand names are now being sold for hundreds of dollars with fringe hems, but you can get the same look with any pair of blue jeans in your closet if you master the fringe hem.
How do you create fringe on your blue jeans? The general process goes like this:
- Decide how long you want the fringe to hang, measure that far up from the bottom seam of your pants, and then mark a line with chalk. In most cases, the fringe will hang between four and six inches off the bottom of the pants. The chalk line tells you where the fringe will start.
- Use sharp scissors to cut ¼-inch strips of fabric from the bottom hem up to the chalk line.
- Wash and dry the blue jeans, which should allow the strips you just cut to fray. That means the threads in the cut fabric will pull apart, leading to that fringed look.
- Brush the fringe with a hairbrush, and then continue washing and drying until you get the perfect fringe look.
The fringe hem is one of the simplest because you don’t need a sewing machine. You don’t even need a needle and thread.
Catch Stitch Hem
What is a catch stitch hem?
A catch stitch hem is a zig-zag stitch often used to hold multiple layers of fabric together, such as when hemming a dress with a built-in lining or slip. It’s ideal for bulky or heavyweight fabric, including materials that have more elasticity. Tailored garments are easily hemmed with a catch stitch as well.
It’s best to use the catch stitch on garments with a wide hem. The stitches are a bit larger than some other hemming stitches. Besides, they look better when placed along the top edge of a wider hem panel.
You may also see the catch stitch referred to as the herringbone stitch. It is always performed by hand. So, you don’t need a sewing machine to finish your pants with this professional hemming method. The stitch line looks like large, sloped lines that overlap one another at the top and bottom. It creates the look of a small X at the top and bottom of every stitch.
So, how do you sew a catch stitch when hemming? The basic steps are as follows:
- Fold your fabric up to create the hem allowance and iron down flat.
- Press the needle into the fold of the hem, approximately ½ or ¼-inch from the fold. You want the knot to rest in the fold of the hem rather than on the very edge.
- Sew diagonal line stitches, crossing over one another at the bottom and catching only the folded hem and not going through the fabric. This is an invisible hem stitch that should not show on the outside surface of your garment. This is a back-and-forth motion that you continue until you have completed your hem
What is a banded hem?
A banded hem is a hemming method that extends the garment’s length by adding a wide band to the bottom. Wide-banded tops are popular in women’s fashion. But you can also add a banded hem to skirts, dresses, and even pants if you want to get creative.
While most hemming methods are designed to shorten an item in your closet, the banded hem is used when you need to add length. You can add a band of fabric that is the same as the rest of the garment or play around with adding shapes, patterns, and contrasting colors to allow the band to stand out as a stylistic choice.
You can use a banded hem to add visual interest to items in your closet or extend the life of items that have become too short for your body. For instance, hemming a thick band to the bottom of a too-short dress could allow you to wear it for a longer period of time. You may find that useful when extending the life of children’s clothing, but it applies to an adult’s closet as well.
The following steps will walk you through the basic process of sewing a banded hem:
- Decide the width of your band. Most banded hems are much wider than your typical hem panel.
- If you’re extending the length of a garment, cut your band material from your choice fabric, and don’t cut into the garment. You need two band pieces, both double the length of your intended band. For example, you should cut two pieces at 8 inches if you want to create a 4-inch band.
- If your goal is to add a band without extending the garment’s length, then also cut material from the bottom of the garment to equal the amount of fabric you will add on through the band. The band and garment length together should equal your desired length for the garment once sewing is done.
- Stitch the band pieces together on one side.
- Fold the band pieces in half, placing the down or wrong sides together. Iron it flat.
- Place the band over the garment’s bottom edge, making sure the raw edges on both pieces come together. Pin the band in place.
- Stitch the garment’s bottom edge and the band material together, and then fold the band up and finish with a final hem stitch.
You can use the hemming stitch of your choice to finish your banded hem.
Slip Stitch Hem
What is a slip stitch hem?
A slip stitch hem is a sewing method used to create a visible seam without an obvious line of stitches in view. It’s often used to sew up pillows and stuffed animals. But, it’s also used in the clothing industry to create a defined seam with individual stitches hidden on both sides of the garment. Since the stitches are hard to see, you may see this stitch referred to as an invisible hem.
You should perform the slip stitch by hand. So, no sewing machine is needed for this fast and easy hemming method. If you’re a beginner and don’t want to practice a more complicated hemming stitch, the slip stitch is a good entry-level option. It shouldn’t take too much time or spare fabric to master.
The following steps will give you a basic idea of how slip stitched hems are created:
- Fold the bottom of the garment up into a double fold. And then iron it down flat. You do that by folding the hem up. And then refolding it over itself, ensuring that the fabric’s right sides are placed together.
- Stitch the hem. Starting by grabbing just a few threads from the front of the garment. And then grabbing along the hem’s underside. When grabbing from the portion visible on the front of your garment, you want to grab as little as possible to ensure strength without making the stitch visible.
- You will end up with ¼-inch stitches on the underside with small catches on the garment’s front.
What is a faced hem?
A faced hem is a hemming method that utilizes a separate fabric to create a thin hem. You can use this method when you want to finish a garment without sacrificing a lot of fabric or length to the hem. If you want to add a decorative touch to a garment, you can choose a hem fabric in a different color or pattern than the rest of the garment.
The faced hem will create a neat, professional appearance both inside and outside of the garment. The secondary fabric that you select will run along the bottom of the hem. This isn’t a complicated hemming stitch to learn. Besides, it allows you to create precise lines that give the garment a polished appearance.
How do you sew a faced hem? Fold back less than an inch of fabric from the garment. Then add a secondary panel of fabric on the garment’s underside to complete the hem. You end up with a thicker hem while only using a small amount of fabric from the actual garment.
Faced hems are typically sewn by hand. Thus, you don’t need a sewing machine to learn this hemming method.
Twin Needle Hem
What is a twin needle hem?
A twin needle hem is a garment finishing technique that utilizes two needles to create two stitching lines that run parallel to one another. This is a versatile hem stitch that is suitable for virtually any fabric, including those with more elasticity.
You will need to add twin needles to your sewing machine to make this hemming method work. The dimensions given when buying twin needles refer to the distance the needles are placed apart rather than the needles’ size. It would be best to choose a distance that will create the hem size and design you want to achieve. The smaller the number, the closer your parallel hem lines will appear to one another.
To thread both needles on the sewing machine, place a spool of thread on the secondary thread stand that you may have otherwise used to wind the bobbin. That gives you two threads that are then attached to needles.
This is a more advanced hemming method that you cannot sew by hand. It may take more practice to master. So, make sure you have some scrap fabric on hand. Simply fold the hem up and place it on the sewing machine. Practice time is needed to properly place the fabric and make sure both stitch lines go where you want them to land.
What is a lettuce-edge hem?
A lettuce-edge hem is a finishing method that creates a curled or waved hemline that adds visual interest to a garment. This hemming method is best suited to fabrics that have some stretch. And it is typically performed on a serger. You can use a standard sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch setting to achieve the same results.
You won’t use a lettuce-edge hem on just any garment. This is a decorative hemming approach that creates a unique hemline. It’s often used to add more interest to skirts or blouses. Thus, it’s not suitable for blue jeans and other items that require a flat, straight hemline.
Lettuce edges aren’t suitable for fabrics that don’t stretch. The material needs to curl up a little when cut, which won’t happen with most non-stretch fabrics. If the goal is to create this decorative hemline, you should choose your material accordingly. The more stretch, the more likely you will achieve a beautiful lettuce hem.
You can only create this hem with a sewing machine or serger. The goal is to roll the hem up slightly, allowing the fabric to curl naturally before sewing the hem. You may need more practice time to master this hem. So, get that scrap fabric ready.
How to hem pants by hand
A sewing machine can speed up the hemming pants process and help you create straight, even stitch lines, but you don’t need a machine to hem. In fact, some people find the process of buying and learning to use a machine more time-intensive than it’s worth. Others start out learning to hem by hand and later invest in a sewing machine after realizing how much fun it is to customize clothing at home.
If your goal is to shorten pants as needed quickly, hemming by hand is likely the easiest and most cost-effective option. I’d love to help you through the learning curve. Keep reading for step-by-step tutorials and high-value hand hemming tips. How to hand hem pants:
Fold the bottom of the pants up until the bottom fold rests at your desired length.
Put on the pants that you want to hem along with a pair of shoes that you are likely to wear with those pants. Fold the bottom of the pants up until the bottom fold rests at your desired length.
That is often easier if you stand in front of a full-length mirror or place a smaller mirror on the floor so that you can inspect the pants and shoes all the way around. Ask someone to help you if you struggle to get the fold in the right place.
Use straight sewing needles to hold the folded pants in place.
One pin placed at the back of the fold on each pant leg is usually enough. But, you may want to add a pin at the front as well if you’re hemming light fabric that can easily fall out of the fold.
Take the pants off and lay them flat on a table.
Once you get pins on your pants to mark your pants’ desired length, it’s time you take them off and lay them flat on a table. This is vital for the next step.
Use a ruler, measuring tape, or hem gauge to measure from the original hem to the folded edge.
With your pants laid out on a table, pick up either a ruler, measuring tape or hem gauge to measure from the original hem to the folded edge. This is critical to ensure your pants length is the same all over the pants leg.
Remove the straight pins from each pant leg
When you no longer need them, you can get rid of the straight pins. Then, turn the pants inside out and laid them out flat on a table again.
Measure from the bottom hem up to the measurement you took in step four
For instance, if you measured 4 inches in step four, you would now measure from the bottom of the pants up to four inches. Mark the pants with a pen, pencil, or chalk to designate the new hemline.
Measure and mark one inch below the new hemline
Start at the line that you marked in step six and measure down one inch. Mark that spot.
Use sharp scissors to cut the bottom of the pant legs off
Make sure you cut one inch below the new hemline. Simply follow the 1-inch line that you marked in step seven. Be careful with the scissors and do not cut more fabric than you wish.
Fold the newly cut end of each pant leg up to the marked new hemline and iron it down flat.
As soon as you finish with the cutting, you must fold each pant leg end up to the marked hemline. Afterward, you’ll need to iron it down flat.
Fold the bottom up again
Stop at the new hemline so that the pant leg’s raw edge goes inside the fold. Iron in place again. You can use straight pins to hold the new fold in place. The number of pins used will depend on how well your pant material stays in place.
Thread your needle and sew the new fold down to the pants
You can use any stitch featured in chapter two of this guide or create a simple in and out motion as you move around your pants for a basic stitch. Knot the end of the thread and cut it off after going all the way around.
Remove the straight pins and inspect your work
Finally, the only thing left is to take the straight pins left and check your work. Hopefully, It’ll be a complete success! And you’ll feel rewarded as you did it all by yourself.
- Sewing Needle
- Straight sewing pins
- Measuring tape, hem gauge, or ruler
- Ink pen, fabric chalk, or white pencil
Hemming pants by hand tips and advice
It may seem like extra work to wear the pants and your shoes while marking your new hemline, but don’t skip that step. Holding the pants up to your legs won’t allow the most accurate measurement, and you could end up with pants that are too long or short. This is a crucial step in hemming pants.
If you want to practice stitching straight before you start hemming your pants, use the scrap material that you cut off the end of the pant legs. Follow the hand hemming instructions up to that point. And then pause to practice on the scraps. Invisible stitching can take a bit of time to master.
Take your time. The fastest way to go crooked or make other mistakes is to speed through the hemming process.
The simplest hand hem is created by turning the end of the pant leg under and using a quick slip stitch to hold it in place. Try that if you don’t have a lot of time and your pants are made from light to medium-weight material.
How to hem pants with a sewing machine
It may seem like hemming with a machine is the faster option, but keep in mind that you may need some time to learn how to use a sewing machine. Even if you have some machine sewing experience, you may need to look at the hem settings or perhaps invest in a new footer to get your desired results.
You can create more intricate and decorative hem stitches with a machine. The machine will also guide your hand. So, you’re more likely to create an even line with stitches of a consistent size and angle. You may also have more stitch options than the ones presented in chapter two of this guide, depending on your machine’s settings.
You will need more than just the machine to complete a hemming project. Let’s move on to a quick list of required supplies!
What will you need
A sewing machine may seem like it’s all you need to hem your own pants. Still, a few miscellaneous items will also come into play. The good news is that anyone who owns a sewing machine will likely already have these items on hand.
If you just purchased your sewing machine and don’t have many supplies, you can pick most items up at a fabric store, arts and crafts store, or basic box store near your home. Ordering online may give you even more product options.
To hem pants by machine, you will need the following items:
- Sewing machine.
- Straight sewing pins.
- Ink pen, sewing chalk, or white pencil.
- Rule, measuring tape, or hem gauge.
For most hemming projects, you will want to match the thread to your pants’ color or choose a neutral color that blends into the fabric well. You can use a contrasting color to create a more decorative accent on the pants, but consider practicing to see how it will look on the material first.
With your supplies in hand, it’s time to walk you through the process of machine hemming your pants at home.
Just like in the tutorial for hemming pants by hand, I’m going to give you the simplest instructions for doing a basic alteration on pant length at home. There are many other ways to do this. Some are more sophisticated and detailed than others. The easiest way is the best way to start learning. So, work with this tutorial and then consider learning more if you want to take your sewing skills to the next level.
You can play with stitches to determine the best option for every project as well. See chapter two of this guide for an introduction to some of the most common hem stitches.
Let’s jump into the step-by-step guide to hemming pants with a sewing machine:
- Put on the pants that you want to hem along with the shoes that will likely complete your look. You can wear shoes in a given style if you don’t know exactly what shoe you will wear with the pants. Place a mirror at floor level or use a full-length mirror that makes it easy to see down to your feet and all-around your foot.
- Fold the pant legs up to the desired height. Place straight pins in the back of each rolled pant leg to hold the fold in place. The fold now marks the new hemline and length for your pants.
- Take your pants off, turn them inside out, and lay them across a table or flat surface with easy access to the pant legs. Make sure that both pant legs are pinned at the same height. You want to make sure your legs end up the exact same length after sewn.
- Turn your pants right side out and iron the folded pant leg down flat. That should hold the fold in place so that you can remove the straight pins.
- Measure from the ironed crease—the new hemline for your pants—down toward the pants’ existing hem. Mark the pants 2 inches below the crease, going all the way around with chalk, white pencil, or ink pen if it’s all you have. That is the standard depth of a pant hem, but you may leave more or a bit less material below the crease if you want to alter the depth of your hem.
- Carefully cut the excess material from the end of each pant leg, following that line two inches below the ironed crease.
- Fold the raw edge of each pant leg up to the creased hemline and iron it down flat.
- Fold the end of the hem up to the creased line again, which should put the raw edge of the material inside the fold. Iron the fold and use straight pins to hold it in place all the way around if needed. Some thicker pant materials will stay in place after ironing, so pins aren’t always needed.
- Set your machine up for your desired hemstitch. And then sew the top edge of the fold down to the pant legs. This is the fastest part. So, you’ve almost completed your first pant hemming project.
That last step may seem to rush through the actual process of sewing your new hem. That’s because the setup of a sewing machine varies, depending on the design of the machine and the type of stitch that you want to use.
You should read the manual that comes with your sewing machine, explore the stitch options in chapter two of this guide, and practice a bit with different stitch settings before sewing your first pair of hemmed pants.
Additional tips and advice
When ironing your pant legs before hemming the pants, use a high heat setting for jeans and other heavy materials. Lightweight materials often need light to medium heat to get a good press.
Pant stitches aren’t permanent, even when sewn tight with a machine. Keep a seam ripper on hand so that you can undo mistakes and resew as needed. You may need to do this a time or two when first learning how to hem pants at home.
You don’t have to invest in footers for every stitch used to hem a pant leg. Some stitches are easier to sew correctly if you have a footer to guide your line. But, you can learn to stitch without the footers in most cases.
Don’t skip the step of wearing your pants with a well-chosen pair of shoes before deciding how much material to cut off the bottom. Holding the pants along the side of your body won’t give you the accuracy needed to cut the pants at the perfect height.
How to hem dress pants
You can follow the basic tutorial instructions above-mentioned to hem most dress pants correctly, but there are some additional tips to keep in mind:
- The hem for most dress pants has a depth of 1.5 inches. That means you should fold 1 ½ inch of fabric under when creating your new hem. Other pants may have wider or narrower depths, depending on the design and style.
- If you don’t have access to a sewing machine or serger, use a basic rolled hem to finish your pants’ raw edges after you cut off the excess material on each pant leg. That will give your pants a professional, sophisticated look inside and out. Add ½ inch to the pant length and then roll the pants up with that extra ½ inch to finish before you follow the tutorial instructions above.
- When sewing dress pants on a sewing machine, the zig-zag setting is typically best. If you don’t like that stitch, choose one that places the stitches close together. The further you go between stitches, the more likely your stitches are to fall out with lightweight dress pant material.
- Dress pant material can stretch a bit when sewn, so go through the tutorial steps with a bit more care than you would for a pair of heavy blue jeans.
How to hem jeans with original hem
We’re going to start with a fast and simple tutorial on reducing your jeans’ length and then creating a new hem. These steps will allow you to create a straight hem that looks professional and polished. When implemented correctly, no one should know that you hemmed the pants at home rather than visiting a tailor.
If you read through the previous chapter on hemming pants, note that the process outlined here is slightly different. Rather than cutting off the original hemline and creating a new one, we’re going to use the existing hem as the final hem. Keep reading to learn how to do that quickly.
What You Will Need
You can hem jeans with a sewing machine or by hand. The following list of supplies will cover everything you need to get the job done either way. You should choose either the sewing needle or the sewing machine, depending on your preferred method. Sewing thick jeans by hand is a bit more struggle than sewing lighter pants, and you’re most likely to achieve a straight, polished hemline if you use a machine.
The supplies needed to hem jeans include:
- Sewing machine or thick needle designed for heavy fabric.
- Fabric (tailor’s) chalk, ink pen, or colored pencil.
- Straight pins or safety pins.
- Measuring tape or ruler.
- Fabric adhesive (optional).
You can use a neutral thread color that will easily blend into the color of your blue jeans. Alternatively, try a thick stitch with thread in a contrasting color to add a decorative touch to your jeans. You can see a rundown of some common hemming stitches in chapter two of this guide.
It’s time to learn how to hem jeans at home with the simplest method possible. There are other options available if you want to further your sewing skills. But, these directions will walk you through a simple process that doesn’t take a lot of time or skill.
Follow these steps to create a basic straight hem on your blue jeans:
- Put the jeans on with a pair of shoes that represent the footwear style you will likely wear with the pants. While standing in front of a full-length mirror or a smaller mirror propped at foot level, fold the jeans up on the outside. The original hemline at the bottom of the jeans will become your new hemline. So, it should rest exactly where you want the shorter hem to fall.
- Hold the fold in place, using straight or safety pins. Most jean materials are thick enough to stay in place when folded up. But, you should still use pins to secure the fold. Safety pins won’t stick you but take a bit more work to remove.
- Take the jeans off and lay them out on a table. Compare the folded pant legs side by side, making sure that they are folded the same. The original hemline should line up on both legs.
- Sew a line directly below the original hemline, going all the way around both pant legs. You can use a neutral color or match the thread to your jeans’ color. Sill, this line won’t show on the outside, so any thread will work. If you use a sewing machine, try to put the pant leg around your machine not to accidentally sew the front and back of the legs together. A zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine works best here, but you can hand hem with a tight stitch.
- Remove the remaining material below the new stitch line. Seal the raw edge with a zig-zag stitch, or you can use fabric adhesive. This step is important because it will prevent your jeans from fraying on the ends.
- Iron the new hem for a flat, professional appearance.
What if you’re not interested in a straight hem for your jeans? You can have a little fun and add some personality to your jeans by adding a frayed hem or other decorative touches. Next, I’ll look at how some stylistic touches can be added quickly and easily.
DIY Raw Hem Jeans
Take a pair of scissors and chop off the ends of each pant leg on your favorite jeans. You just created your own raw hem jeans.
A raw hem is the unsewn edge of fabric. While most blue jeans are neatly hemmed prior to hitting store shelves, the deconstruction movement brought the raw hem into style. Perhaps you’ve seen them in stores, selling for the big bucks. I’m about to tell you how to create the look at home with any pair of jeans available.
The steps are simple:
- Stand in front of a mirror wearing the jeans you want to cut and a pair of shoes that you may wear with those pants. Make sure the mirror is full length or placed on the ground to allow a clear view of both legs.
- Fold both pant legs up to the length you would like to cut them off.
- Place a straight pin on each folded pant leg to hold the folds in place.
- Take the jeans off and fold them in half with the pant legs stacked. Lay them out on a table or flat surface. Compare the folds side by side, ensuring the folds are even. That fold will become the new bottom edge for your raw hem jeans.
- Fold the bottom pant leg up so that you can access only the top leg first. Cut the top pant leg at the fold, going straight across.
- Fold the bottom leg back down, placing the previously cut pant leg on top as a guide.
- Cut the bottom pant leg to match the length of the top pant leg.
You just created a pair of raw hem jeans. No sewing required.
DIY Frayed Hem Jeans
To create your own frayed hem jeans, start by following the instructions for making raw hem jeans above. That will give you a rough, unfinished edge that will fray easily when the jeans are washed. Run the jeans through the washer and dryer until you achieve the desired amount of frayed edges. Keep in mind that the fraying will continue every time the jeans are washed, so this style gets better over time.
This is a simple, fast process that allows you to shorten a pair of jeans while adding a decorative touch. If you aren’t sure about your desired length, always go with the longer option first. You can cut again later on if it isn’t short enough, but of course, adding length back is more difficult.
DIY Fringe Hem Jeans
Fringe hem jeans are similar to frayed jeans, but they have longer pieces of frayed edges hanging off the ends. Like frayed hem jeans, the fringe will break apart more and get fluffier as they’re washed and worn with time. The process of fringing your jeans is slightly different from fraying jeans. Let’s look at it step by step!
Follow this process to create your own fringe hem jeans:
- Cut the bottom hem off the jeans. You can cut right above the hem if you’re doing this only for stylistic purposes. If you also need to reduce the pants’ length, put them on and fold the jeans up to determine where you should cut them off.
- Use scissors to cut an upward slit at each side seam. The slit should measure about ½ to ¾ inch. You can go a bit shorter or longer, depending on the length of fringe that you want to create.
- Use an unpicker to pull vertical threads loose, creating a fringed look slowly. If you don’t have an unpicker, you can use your fingers or even a comb to tease out the threads. Tweezers are helpful as well.
- Wash your jeans to see the full fringed look develop.
Additional tips and advice
Make sure to choose the right length when cutting off your jeans’ bottom for a hem job. Skinny jeans should rest right at the top of your ankle. However, straight jeans should rest at the bottom of your ankle. Boot cut jeans or those with a flared ankle can go down further, up to a half-inch from the floor.
Don’t skip the step of trying your jeans on with the right style of shoes. Holding blue jeans up to your body won’t deliver the same measurements as actually wearing the jeans. It’s important to get the right measurement for length.
You can add to your wardrobe by picking up jeans at consignment shops or yard sales and then adding decorative hems like fringe or frays. If they’re too long at first, you can cut them to the perfect length and add a straight hem that looks professional.
What is hem tape?
Hem tape is a roll of glue strips designed to hold two pieces of fabric together securely. The tape often has a webbed appearance. It’s easy to apply it directly to most fabrics in need of a quick hem. The glue is heat activated. So, you may need an iron to securely attach the tape to your clothing as a short-term or permanent fix for pant legs that are trip hazards and other unexpected wardrobe issues.
You may also see hem tape referred to as “hemming tape,” and I will use both terms throughout this guide. The tape is similar to what you may use to secure a piece of paper to a flat surface, except hem tape has adhesive on both sides of the strip. The glue’s strength can vary between products. So, it’s important to understand the difference between all types of hemming tape available today.
I want to simplify the process of selecting and using hem tape because you most likely won’t have a lot of time to read a tutorial when the need arises. Learning how to use hem tape and buying the kind you’re most likely to need right now could save you from a wardrobe disaster in the future.
You may also want to keep hem tape on hand if you don’t want to learn how to sew. If you buy the right type, it is a long-term or possibly permanent solution. Carry on reading to learn everything you need to know about hemming tape!
How to hem pants with tape
The application of hem tape is straight forward and simple. Still, there are some preparation steps that you shouldn’t skip. If you find yourself in an emergency with no time to pre-wash the clothing, you can try to apply hemming tape without washing the garment first. Just keep in mind that pre-washing increases your chances of creating a long-term or permanent hem that looks attractive.
The first step is to secure high-quality hem tape that is compatible with your goals. If you want permanent results, you should select hemming tape designed to attach securely and remain intact even after multiple washes and routine wear. If you don’t necessarily want to keep the hem in place forever, then a good temporary hem tape may better fit your needs.
Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on using the most common types of hem tape available today!
Iron-on hem tape
Iron-on hem tape is a webbed adhesive designed to hold two pieces of fabric together with glue. The webbing is rolled up just like the tape you might use to secure the paper to a book or another flat surface. The adhesive covers both sides of the tape. So, it can securely grab onto two fabric pieces and fuse them together with the application of heat.
When you purchase a high-quality iron-on hemming tape, you can expect the results to last forever even if you repeatedly wear and wash the garment. I recommend that you pay attention to details when applying this type of tape, even if you’re in a rush to hem a garment and get out the door in the middle of a fashion emergency. You may find it difficult, if not impossible, to remove this hem later unless you cut it out and shorten the garment in the process.
Let’s dig into my step-by-step tutorial on using iron-on hem tape for permanent results. Next, I’ll explain the alternative of using temporary hemming tape because you may not always want permanent results.
How to use iron-on hem tape
Follow these simple steps to apply iron-on hem tape when a completely new hem is required. Check the package instructions first to make sure there aren’t special steps needed for the specific iron-on hem tape that you purchased. Use these steps as a more generalized guide to how the process works.
- Wash the garment that you want to hem, but don’t use fabric softener. Fabric softener can interfere with the tape’s ability to attach to the fabric. Some fabrics will shrink the first time they’re washed, so pre-washing prevents this.
- If you want to shorten the sleeves or pant legs on the garment, put it on and stand in front of a full-length mirror. You can also use a smaller mirror placed at the appropriate height to see your legs or arms. Fold the material back so that the fold falls where you want the new hem to rest. Secure the fold with straight pins.
- Take off the garment and lay it flat on a table or another surface. Remove the straight pins and add at least 1 ¼ inch of material to the desired hem. That will account for the hem tape, typically 1 inch, plus a bit of material to fold the hem.
- Iron the new hemline to create a firm crease.
- Fold the edge of the garment up to the new hemline crease. You can iron the fold to hold it in place if the material doesn’t stay in place when you release your hand.
- If you haven’t used iron-on hem tape before, you may want to practice the next two steps before working with your garment. Practice keeping the tape secure within the hem so that it doesn’t melt on the iron and keep the tape straight to twist inside the hem.
- Cut the hemming tape to the hemline’s length and then insert it inside the fold of the hem. You can cut smaller segments if you don’t want to use one long strip. It should go underneath the top layer of fabric, hiding the adhesive inside the hem for a clean outside look.
- Iron the hemline, melting the glue for a secure hold on the fabric. Move in small segments, melting a strip of the adhesive at a time. Press firmly and then release. Don’t go over the same strip of tape repeatedly. If the material is too delicate for direct contact with a hot iron, add a piece of iron-safe cotton material between the garment and the iron. You should do that with synthetic materials as well.
Do you just need to repair a portion of a hem? You can skip straight to applying your iron-on hem tape to that portion of the hem and then ironing it down flat.
Temporary hem tape
What is Temporary hem tape?
Temporary hem tape is a rolled strip of adhesive designed to hold two pieces of fabric together for a short period of time. The tape has adhesive on both sides, allowing a firm grip on both pieces of the fabric. You don’t have to iron this tape on as you would in the case of many permanent hemming tapes.
You should use temporary hemming tape if you’re shortening a garment but might want to extend the length back out in the future. For example, you may go with temporary hemming products if you want to wear a pair of jeans with high heels and flats on different days. You can quickly pull the hem up or let it down, depending on how you want to style the jeans.
Continue reading for a step-by-step tutorial on using temporary hem tape!
How to Use Temporary Hem Tape
Temporary hem tape doesn’t require as much precision as permanent hem tape. Since you can easily redo and adjust the hem as needed, you don’t need to spend as much time measuring the hem’s exact length.
If you want to know how to temporarily hem pants, you should follow the instructions on the package for the temporary hem tape you purchase. Yet, the following steps will walk you through the general process:
- Determine the ideal length for your newly hemmed pants. You’ll get the most accurate measurement by putting the pants on with the shoes you intend to wear with them. Fold the pants up, allowing the folded edge to mark the new spot for your temporary hem.
- Use your temporary hem tape to hold the fold in place during use. Make sure the tape is folded into the temporary hem and pushed securely against the fabric.
You don’t need an iron, scissors, or any other supplies to use this type of hemming tape. Simply pull the tape out and unfold the pants when you’re ready to let the original hem down again.
Other types of hem tape
I’ve covered how to use permanent and temporary hem tape, but what other types of tape are there on the market today? I’m about to provide you with a shortlist of alternatives you may want to check out for your next DIY hem job, especially if you want to temporarily hem pants.
Fusible Hem Tape
When something is fused, it is melted down into a new state. Fusible hem tape refers to any type of tape that is melted with an iron or another heat source. Permanent hem tape is typically fusible because the adhesive is melted with an iron and it’s difficult if not impossible to remove after melting onto the fabric.
Adhesive Bonding Strips
Bonding strips instantly attach to fabric with no heat or sewing required. They’re often used on lightweight or fragile fabrics that aren’t suitable for iron-on permanent hemming products.
Regardless of what they’re called, hem tapes typically fall into one of two main categories: permanent or temporary. Some may last long term but eventually peel from the fabric, making them semi-permanent. They’re all valuable in their own way. It comes down to the goals for your current hemming project.
Happy Hemming! I appreciate you taking the time to read this post, and I hope my detailed tutorials help you hem pants like a pro without wasting time. Hopefully, the process is less mysterious and overwhelming at this point. Bookmark this guide and come back whenever you have a new hemming challenge on the horizon.
If you have a hemming story to share, please leave a comment below. You may help your fellow fashionistas learn to hem without making avoidable mistakes.
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