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I’ve always been a short girl. Well, except for 5th grade, when I was the tallest kid in my class. Yeah, that didn’t last long.
I get it from my mom. She’s short too, and continues to shrink. I remember from a young age watching her pin her pant legs so she could sew them to create a new hem. She’d be sitting on the couch, pinning, watching 20/20 or something of the sort.
Well, now here I am as an adult, sitting on the couch, pinning, watching The Real Housewives or something of the sort, getting ready to hem jeans. Needless to say, I can’t count the number of jeans I’ve had to hem.
When I was younger I just always wore my jeans long because I didn’t like the way the jeans looked after I hemmed them. I remember thinking, how hard could it be to hem jeans? But I tried it and it lost that original hem look and I just looked like a weenie.
You know that bottom stitching that is just so classic for jeans? Yeah, I never had that when I hemmed my own jeans because I didn’t think there was a way you could do it with leaving the original hem in place (AKA the cool hem).
Well, short girls (and gents), I’m here to make your day. There is a way you can shorten your jeans without making yourself look like a total dork! It looks like they came that way straight from the store. The best part is, IT’S EASY TOO!
From start to finish it takes me about a half hour; give or take a few minutes. Pinning is the part that takes the most time because you have to measure to make sure it’s consistent all the way around.
If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can certainly do this by hand, but that will take you significantly longer.
This technique works on all types of jeans. I’ve shortened my own jeans numerous times, but have also shortened my step-daughters, nephews and co-worker’s pants. It really has taken a lot of stress out of my life because I used to walk around with long pants to avoid looking like a total nerd.
Thank God I learned how to hem jeans. I can just make sure my pants fit well and I don’t have to worry about the length because I know that I can easily shorten them. Here’s how to do it.
How to Hem Jeans and Keep the Original Hem
First, you want to make sure that you have washed and dried your jeans, if that’s how you typically care for them. If you’re a person that doesn’t dry jeans or has them dry cleaned then it’s not necessary to wash them. By washing them first, if they’re going to shrink it will happen before you cut your jeans, not after so you’re stuck looking like a flood is coming.
After that, it’s time to measure the hem to your comfort. I like a different length for different types of jeans. If I’m hemming skinny jeans, I like them to stop just above my ankle bone.
If I’m hemming boot cut jeans, I like to keep them a little longer because I may be wearing heels with them. My best advice is to pick the length with the shoes on that you will most likely wear with the jeans. That way you will be happy with the length after the fact.
Fold the jeans upward and outward, not inside the leg. Fold them to the length you desire.
If you can, have someone help you with this part because if you try to fold your own hem, it may move as you release the pants. Pin the hem in place with a safety pin so you don’t poke yourself taking the jeans off. This helps when hemming children’s pants too.
Next you want to measure the hem. I just completed another pair of jeans for my stepdaughter, and her length was 3.25 inches from bottom to the top of the folded hem. I took a tape measure and measured all the way around the pant leg to make sure the hem was uniform.
Now, you can take that measurement and do the same to the other leg like I do, but I’ve met people who think they have one leg longer than the other. If that’s the case with you, then you will want to pin the hem up like you did with the first leg, but follow it up with pinning the second leg as well.
Always start pinning on the side seam of the pant leg. This is a key part when learning to hem jeans.
You want your new hem to match that seam, or it will look funny. On jeans, this part is thick and will move easily, so I always start pinning there.
I place one pin on each side so it doesn’t move. I then do the same on the other side seam of the leg.
Place pins in the pant leg so the hem doesn’t move. I usually place a pin about every inch.
This seems to keep the hem in place well while I’m sewing. Stretchy fabric needs more pins or it will stretch while you sew on the machine, causing the whole hem to be off, so just be aware of that.
You want to make sure you have thread that matches the hem of the jeans. I bought some durable thread at the local fabric store that matches the usual yellow/orange color that most jean hems are. I don’t think I paid much for the spool. Here’s a link to the one I purchased.
I make sure the bobbin matches my thread too. I say this because I have spaced this before and ended up with jeans that had hot pink thread in the hem. You couldn’t really see it, but…who wants that?
After you’ve threaded your machine, you can start sewing. This part is EASY because you just sew along the hem that was already sewn! Just follow the same exact hem that came with the jeans.
When you come to the side seams, sometimes they can be a little thick. If you can’t power through them, I have stopped sewing with the machine and hand stitched that part. When you come to the end of the hem, back stitch a few times to secure the stitch.
Now you’re ready to cut. Cut the extra fabric up, starting from the bottom. Leave about a half inch of fabric between the hem and the scissors. Cut all the way around.
Finally, fold the new hem down and iron it if you think it needs it.
Voila! Now you know how to hem jeans with the original hem!
They will look fabulous and no one will ever know you changed them!
Monday 4th of January 2021
I have a great piece of plastic that you can put under your foot at the thickest seam ( it came as a piece with my sewing machine) but there is a gadget called a Jean amagig which does the same thing. It is awesome for thick seams.
Wednesday 19th of January 2022
I've been trying to find where how to order one of those because I have one and love it. However, I remember seeing one hanging back with the sewing notions about a month ago at JoAnns.
Wednesday 6th of January 2021
Hi Lesley, Thanks for the great tip! I'll look into it! Love the name! :)
Tuesday 20th of October 2020
I’m getting ready to try this for the first time. Other sites I found said that after you measure how much your turned up part is, you should take half that measurement and pin it up there. Makes sense because you are doubling the amount of leg when you sew and then cut it off. Looks like your method will make them way too short...
Wednesday 6th of January 2021
Hi Connie, Best wishes with your hem! This works well for me and it's never been too short.
20 of the Best Sewing Posts for Beginners - A Mama Blessed
Monday 13th of August 2018
[…] How to Sew a Perfect Hem You’ll sew a hem eventually and this will show you how to do it properly. To see how to sew a hem on jeans, see my post here. […]