Skip the Tailor: Learn How to Hem Your Own Pants

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Want to learn how to hem pants even if you don’t have sewing skills? Here are insider tips and step by step instructions showing how to hem your pants when you don’t want to, or can’t pay to have your pants hemmed. Share this post with all your friends so they can learn to hem their own pants!

Photo credit: Iryna Imago/Shutterstock.

Here are 2 Do It Yourself Methods for Hemming Pants

Basic supplies for hemming pants:

  • pants that are too long
  • pins
  • iron and ironing board
  • scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • tailor’s chalk
  • needle and matching thread or
  • any sewing machine
  • a tape measure, clear acrylic ruler or hem gauge
  • a full length mirrior, if possible

If you are hemming jeans, you will also want to have

  • a heavy duty ‘jeans’ needle for your sewing machine
  • thread the same color that matches the topstitching on your jeans.

Don’t have a sewing machine yet? See the Best Sewing Machines for a Beginner.

How long should your pants be?

The correct hem allowance varies with the type of pants, the shoes that will be worn with the pants, and the wearer’s preference.  And ‘just right’ can be different for various people. 

Dress pants or casual pants should never touch the floor or the hem will wear out and get ragged. A rule of thumb is to alter the pants so the back is about 1/2” above the floor when the person is wearing shoes.

But of course, people have different preferences. One lady I helped wanted her jeans to skim the floor when she was wearing heels. Make sure you have a mirror handy (near the floor) so the wearer can see the length.

It may be helpful to unpick the original hem using a seam ripper before getting started. This is my favorite seam ripper – it’s sharp and quick and makes it easy to remove an existing hem. If you remove the original folded hem, be sure to press out any creases so they won’t interfere with pinning the new hem.

pant leg pinning

Follow the first 4 steps below whether you plan to finish the hem with a sewing machine, or hand sew using an easy blind hem stitch that I’ll demonstrate with step by step photos.

1. Pin the pair of pants to the perfect length.

When you are hemming anything, it goes without saying, the owner of the item should be wearing it (with a pair of shoes) so you can get the desired length. If possible, have them stand in front of a full-length mirror.

Never trust people who simply say ‘hem them 2 inches,’ or ‘my inseam is 30 inches.’ Always have them try on the pants so you can pin them and let them see how the pant legs will look.

I like to place the heads of the pins at the bottom so I can easily grab them when the pants are inside out.

how to pin pants for hemming

Have the wearer take the pants off. Check to see if the amount to hem is the same on both pant legs. Minor adjustments are okay here. If you like, you can have the wearer try them on again before you proceed.

2. Measure the New Hemline

What should the width the new hemline be? A 1” hem is standard for dress pants or khakis. If you are hemming jeans, a 1/2” hem is standard.

Turn the pants inside out. For a 1” hem, use a tape measure or hem gauge to measure 2” above the pinned fold line.

 To sew a 1/2” wide hem on jeans, only measure 1” above the fold.

Mark the trimming line with a fabric marking pencil or tailor’s chalk on the inside of the pants.

3. Cut off the Excess Fabric

Turn the pants right side out again and use quality sewing shears to cut off the extra pant leg fabric along the chalked line that you marked. Read about my favorite sewing scissors and shears.

If you own a serger, you can use it to finish the raw edge, but that’s not necessary unless the fabric tends to fray a lot.

4. Press the New Hem

Turn the pants inside out again and take them to your ironing board.

Turn the bottom edge up to the inside by 1” (or 1/2” for jeans) and press. A hem gauge is handy so you can be precise.

Then turn the bottom edge up again by the same amount. Measure to make sure your hem is even. Press the new hem carefully.

Then turn the bottom edge up again by the same amount. Measure with the sewing gauge to make sure your hem is even. Press the new hem carefully.

5. Sew the Hem

How to hem a Pair of Pants by hand

needle and thread

Hand sewing your pants hem is ideal for dress pants because you can sew the hem without having your stitches show on the outside of your pants. The best way is to use a blind hem stitch. Here’s how:

Thread a needle with polyester thread that matches the pants. Polyester thread is strong and stretches the tiniest bit which makes it great for sewing clothing. Here are my tips for choosing thread.

Tie a knot at the end of the thread.

hemming by hand

With the pants still inside out, find one of the side seams and secure your thread to the side seam just above the folded edge of the hem. Be careful not to catch the outer fabric of the pants yet.

When the thread is secured, push your needle through the fold on the hem and take a nice big stitch (about 1/2” or 1cm), running your needle under the pressed edge.

Then take a tiny stitch on the pant leg that just catches a few threads.

Repeat and take a big stitch through the folded edge of the hem, and then a tiny stitch on the pant leg.

Take care not to pull your thread too tight so that it causes puckers.

If you want to work a little faster you can take the big stitch on the fold and then the tiny stitch on the pant leg before pulling the needle and thread through.

Hand sew all the way around until you reach the side seam where you started. Secure the hem by taking a few stitches in the same place, being careful not to let any large stitches show on the outside of the pants.

The blind hem stitch means that you have a beautiful hemmed pant with no stitches showing on the outside!

How to Hem pants with a Sewing Machine

If you are planning to sew the hem with a sewing machine, you should still measure, cut, press, and pin the hem the same way as I showed you before.

hemming with a sewing machine

Use a sewing machine to sew the hem close to the folded edge.

Almost every sewing machine these days has a free arm (sometimes you have to remove the table). With the pants still inside out, place the leg around the free arm of your sewing machine. Set it to a straight stitch, medium stitch length. Sew close to the folded edge all the way around.

If you are using a sewing machine to hem pants, the sewing part takes less than a minute! 

No matter how you choose to hem pants, careful measuring and pressing leading up to the sewing will set you up for success.

If you are just getting started sewing, I have lots more beginning sewing projects, including:

Or check out all my free sewing patterns.

Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂