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 double folding the extra fabric.
This way to shorten pants looks good on most designs, including jeans. It doesn’t keep the worn out effect some original hems have, but it works fine too. You can find it on most woven ready to wear pants.
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
One of the most common ways to make a hem on pants is by double folding the allowance that is left in excess of the desired length of the pants.
The instruments 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 because 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, take 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 little 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 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 centimetres/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 length of both of the legs.The hem may be made on one side, or in the shape of a curve. Or, some of the vertical side seams may pull the fabric a bit up. This used to make me frustrated. I was not sure how to fix it and where to cut. What I find out 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.
Once you have that line made, you need to make another one below where you are going to cut (picture 5). You need to leave some more fabric for the fold. DO NOT CUT ON THE FIRST LINE. It is left for the edge of the hem and shows how long the pants are going to be when finished.
I like to double check if the lines of both legs match. This assures me that I measured correctly.
In this particular case,I had to remove the original seam. It didn’t allow me to leave the desired allowance. I aim for 2.5 cm/1 inch hem width as it was industrially made.
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 which matches the hem. I choose a thread that has the same colour 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 allowance of 5 cm/2 inches bellow 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.
This is the exact same technique I use to hem curtains, but if you want a wider hem, you might want to pin everything in place before sewing. I am going to make a new post about hemming curtains in a while.
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, but it is not a must.
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 might use a sticker, but the width of the hem will vary every time so you must remove the sticker after the hem is done. That is why I prefer the magnet, I use it on the straight stitching machine and on the coverstitch, too. The only limitation when using a magnetic seam guide is that your machine has to have a metal corpse, otherwise the magnet won’t stick.
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.
Now the hem is ready and it looks exactly the way it used to before we shorten the pants (pics 11 and 12).
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, please drop me a line below.