Do you have a pair of pants that seem too long? Why don’t you learn how to shorten pants yourself? All you need is a sewing machine, chalk, and some pins.
There are a few different ways to shorten pants, depending on the type of stitch you use, the fabric your pants are made of, and the design of the pants.
In this tutorial, I am going to show you one of the most common ways of hemming – by folding the extra fabric.
This way to shorten pants looks good on most pants, including jeans. You can find it on most woven ready-to-wear pants. It doesn’t keep the worn-out effect some original hems have. If you want to learn how to do this as well, here is another tutorial on how to keep the original hem on jeans.
If you prefer to watch the video tutorial, scroll down to the bottom of the page. If you’d rather follow written instructions, please keep on reading.
How to hem pants
What we are going to need:
Before I discovered water-soluble chalk, I used small slivers of dried soap (the one you use in the bathroom 🙂 ) instead of regular chalk. The reason for that is that regular chalk often leaves marks that are not easy to clean after you are done, especially on delicate fabrics. Soap, on the other hand, would vanish with the steam of the iron. I still use it when I run out of supplies of chalk. It does a perfect job.
You will need it to cut out the excess fabric after you leave the allowance for the fold.
- seam ripper.
If the pants are just a little bit longer than they should be, the original stitches must be removed so that you can leave enough excess fabric for the double hem.
- regular sewing machine.
Measure for the hem
First, measure exactly how much you want to shorten the pants. The length that usually works well with any design is by the end of the heel when you are standing. This length lets you wear the pants with a different style of shoes, flats, or high heels.
If you are about to wear the pants only with high heels, you might leave them a bit longer, because it usually looks better. Another thing you might have in mind when choosing the length is that pants with wider legs look better when longer and slims look better a bit shorter. Otherwise, slim pants tend to make folds on the ankle that do not always look good.
After I take measure by folding the excess fabric up, I pin it so that the fold doesn’t move (picture 1). Then I measure how many centimeters/inches the fold is and make a mark with the chalk (picture 2). I put marks on both sides of the leg and connect them with the ruler (picture 3). I do this on both sides of the leg and connect the marks in a circle (picture 4).
TIP. Very often there is some difference in the length of both of the legs. The hem may be made in the shape of a curve. Or, some of the vertical side seams may pull the fabric a bit up. This used to be frustrating for me as a beginner. I was not sure how to fix it or where to cut. What I find to be working is to make the marks on both sides of the leg and make a straight line, disregarding the differences in the middle.
Mark the new length
TIP. Fabrics, made of non-synthetic, natural materials (like cotton, rayon, linen, etc.) tend to shrink a bit in length after treatment like washing for example. You risk having them shorter than you want after they are washed. If you are not sure about the material your pants are made from, make sure you wash them before making the hem.
So, when all the preparation is done, let’s make the hem.
Leaving the allowance for the folding
When I make a hem, I usually aim for the same look as the original. This is important when, for example, the pants have some decorative stitching elsewhere that matches the hem. I choose a thread that has the same color and thickness as the original one.
Next, I measure the width of the original hem and double it. In this case, it was a 2.5 cm/1 inch. This means that had to leave an allowance of 5 cm/2 inches below my first line. Then, I draw a line at that mark, too (picture 5).
This is where I cut all the excess fabric (picture 6). I repeat these steps on the other leg and measure if the legs are even from the waistline to the marks we made.
Make the seams
Once I’ve cut the excess fabric, I fold the fabric exactly in the middle once (picture 7) and then once more (picture 8) so that the first line is exactly on the edge of the leg and the excess fabric is folded exactly twice.
It might be easier for you to make an additional line in the middle of the allowance where you should fold the first time.
Then, I turn the leg on the wrong side and start to sew on the edge of the fold (picture 9). I use a magnetic seam guide, which helps me to make an exactly straight line when sewing.
If you don’t have one, you can follow the guidance lines on you sewing machine’s plate as well.
You should finish the hem with some forward and back stitching as any straight seam is finished and aim for sewing exactly on the thread where you started.
The last thing you need to do is to
Iron the hem (picture 10)
TIP> Be very careful when ironing delicate fabrics on the hem. There are many layers of fabric and ironing might leave shiny marks that don’t look good. To prevent that, always iron on the wrong side, especially if the material is delicate. My go-to prop here is this iron shoe that allows for higher iron temperatures even on delicate fabrics.
Now the hem is ready and it looks exactly the way it used to before we shorten the pants (pics 11 and 12).
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Here is a video tutorial I made showing how to make this hem:
If you have any questions or want to show off with your newly hemmed pants, drop me a line below.
- Sewing a hem with an overlocker (serger)
- How to keep the original hem on jeans (2 options)
- How to replace a zipper on jeans
- What is a coverstitch machine and how to use it
- From jeans to shorts – easy and fast
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