Ladyguides: How To Hem Your Own Pants

Last time we covered the basics of needle and thread, so today we;ll just jump right into hemming your own pants.

First things first, measuring how much you want to shorten.  You want your pants to be longer than you think.  When you are standing barefoot, your pants should just brush the floor.  That way, when you are wearing shoes, the back comes to the top of your shoe’s heel, it will drape nicely over the top of the shoe and when you sit down or cross your legs they won’t ride up too high.  I did not know this the first time I tried to alter my own pants.  I reasoned that they only needed to come down to the ankle, so that’s where I cut them off.  The result was just wrong.  Weird and wrong.  That is one of those subtle details that you never think about until it’s off and then you are sort of drawn to it with a feeling of “This shouldn’t bother me so much, but it does.”  It reminds me of John Pinette talking about having no eyebrows.  You should also probably have a friend help you with this.  If you try to do it yourself, your pants ride up when you bend over and you don’t know where to put a mark.  You will end up improvising with sticks, markers and duck tape and have very little success.  Ask me how I know.

Anyway, once you have your marks it’s time for ironing and pins.  Normally I am a lazy seamstress (I just found out that the word “sew-er” is actually sewer, and that’s why it’s not a real word) if I can skip ironing and pinning, I will.  But, again, a crappy hem stands out more than you think it will.  So, turn your pants inside out.  Fold up a little less than half as much as you want to hem and press.  If you are hemming less than an inch, you can skip this part and adjust later.  Now fold up again, so that your marks are right on the edge and press.  Now, while everything is nice and flat and lined up, go ahead and pin it down so nothing moves.  The side seams can be your friend here.  If you are doing a regular, straight hem you can use them to make sure you have your lines nice and straight.

Now you need to pick your thread.  You want to match the color as closely as possible, but if a perfect match isn’t in the cards choose a shade that is a little darker rather than one that is lighter.  I can’t explain it, but darker thread will blend in whereas lighter jump right out at you.  If you are working with a patterned fabric, match the thread to the predominant shade.

You’re finally ready to sew.  Huzzah!  Make sure you hold the fabric loosely.  If you bunch it up, even with all the ironing and pins, things will go astray.  I like to start near one of the seams, so I know everything is straight.  You have three layers of fabric you are dealing with here, the outside layer and the two folded layers of the hem.  You will be sewing right at the top of the fold.  Make a tiny stitch, no more than 1/8″, through all three layers of fabric, but when you come back through, only go through the outer layer.  Poke you needle straight down into the fold, directly across from where you came through the outer layer, so that the needle is between the two folded layers.  Now bring the needle back up through the fold about an inch away from where you went in.  Make another tiny stitch in the outside layer, starting directly across from where you came out of the fold, and do it all again.  Don’t pull your stitches too tight or they will pucker.  Do this all the way around.  When you are done, there should be almost no thread showing anywhere.

If you didn’t have enough material to fold over, and you are working with a raw edge, you use a slightly different stitch.  It’s the same basic premise, tiny stitches in the front, big ones in the back, but it’s more like a zigzag.  Make your tiny stitch in the front, then make a small stitch about half an inch away in the back, then skip another half inch and make another tiny stitch in the front.  Rinse and repeat.   This way is faster and easier, and from what I can see on YouTube this is how everyone else hems pants, but in my anal-retentiveness I don’t like it because I think it looks messy.  However, I will not be grading you on your work, so you figure out what works for you and run with it.

I couldn’t make a video this time (there were some minor technical difficulties), but there’s lots on YouTube.

Good luck!

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

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