How to Hem Your Pants: The Best Step-by-Step Techniques
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.
Here are 2 Do It Yourself Methods for Hemming Pants
Basic supplies for hemming pants:
- pants that are too long
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Happy sewing everyone – you have my permission to share this post with all your friends so they can learn to hem their own pants!
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. 🙂
Thank you! I HATE hemming pants and yes, I bookmarked the page.
This is EXACTLY what I do. Works like a charm. People are amazed that I can hem their pants in 10 minutes – TOTAL! And I’m no expert. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
I do a lot of pants hemming, but this one person told me to shorten them so they’re 27 inches. Discovered the leg was 25 inches before hemming. So I returned them as is. Told her to let me know when they dicided the correct length. Never heard back.
I have been hemming my own pants for over 50 years and I learned from this tutorial. Even though I hate hemming I can’t wait to try out step #4. Thanks so much.
Like Kaye, hemming pants isn’t my favorite thing to do, but is almost always necessary when I buy jeans because the legs are invariably too long for me. I will politely, but outright refuse to do the hemming for anyone outside my household because I hate it so much. The little trick of clipping the seam allowance looks like it will make the job easier; I’ll have to try it on my next pair of jeans.
I don’t want the stitches to show anymore than I can avoid, so I match the color of the jeans as closely as I can, not the topstitching. Mostly I do the stitches by hand, but if clipping the seam allowance relieves as much bulk as I think it will, I might switch to using my machine instead.
Yes! I get asked all the time. I am a quilter but because I like to be helpful,I learned how to hem pants and I get asked almost weekly! I like your tip about clipping the inside seam. I’ll try it next time.
Thank you for this. I got a sewing machine for Christmas because I’m never going to pay Pottery Barn prices for throw pillows. Next thing I know, my husband is handing me pants to hem. Wha?