How to Hem Pants

How to Hem Pants

We’ve all been there before when we’ve found the perfect pants but they’re just a bit too long. Regardless, if you have shorter legs or are simply petite, we’ve all encountered a pair of perfect pants that are just too long. While rolling them up can be a great solution for some, for others, it’s better to get them altered. Garment alterations are pretty common, and many alterations are easy enough to do on your own, even if you don’t have the skills yet.

The hem or hemline refers to the level that is the lower end of the garment. For a pair of pants or a women’s skirt, this means the bottom of the pant legs or the bottom end of the skirt. Rather than dragging the hem of your pants on the floor, perhaps have them altered to raise the hemline so it fits and doesn’t trip you. Hemming your pants is also a good way to lengthen them if they were originally manufactured with extra fabric at the bottom for this exact purpose.

When planning to hem your pants, some people prefer to take them to a professional. Tailors and seamstresses are the hemming pros, and can typically hem your pants for anywhere between $15-$30 depending on the pants. While some people prefer to get them hemmed for them, many people enjoy saving a little money and getting the job done themselves. This can be a fun DIY project if you are crafty or just prefer to do it yourself. Tailors also have other work to do, so sometimes the turnaround time for hemming your pants can take anywhere from three days to over a week.

If you want your pants hemmed sooner, then doing it yourself is the better bet. Home-hemmed pants are simple enough that it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a little over an hour. The time it takes for hemming depends mainly on the material and structure of the pants. Hemming wool and silk-lined dress pants, for example, is going to be slightly different than hemming jeans. Also, hemming your pants with a sewing machine is going to be different than hemming with your hands. Here, we’re going to cover the steps for both.

How to Hem Pants With a Sewing Machine

For those who own or can borrow a sewing machine, using a sewing machine is a simple way to hem your pants.

1. Try on your pants.

The first step to hemming your pants is to try them on. To determine the correct length the hemline should be, you need to wear them. If you plan on wearing these pants with shoes that affect your height, like a pair of heels, then wear the intended heels while trying on the pants to gauge exactly how long or short you want them.

2. Pin them.

Pin your pants at the length you want to hem them to. Fold the leg to the correct length and pin in place. To keep the length of the fold even, it’s always good to have a friend or someone else on hand to make sure you’ve pinned the fabric fold level.

3. Remove and measure.

Remove the pants and use a measuring tape or a sewing gauge to measure the length at which you folded the hem. Fold the fabric on the inside of the pants to the correct length and pin it carefully because this is where you’re going to be sewing. Measure all around the leg to make sure the hem is even, pinning as you go along, and then finish it off by pressing it gently with an iron to get a clear fold crease at the bottom. You can fold the edge of the fabric under to make a double fold hem, or carefully trim off any excess fabric. As you are working with each pant leg, don’t forget to measure and match the length of the hem fold on each leg.

In certain cases, you can use your seam ripper to remove the old hem, which requires some gentle handy work, but is also pretty easy. This will minimize bulk when folding over to create a clean, streamlined leg. This is especially important for women’s and men’s jeans where the original hemline is going to be bulky. Otherwise, just work with the original hemline in place and simply fold it over.

4. Sew!

Use a standard straight stitch setting on your machine to sew the new hemline in place. Remember, when working with the tougher denim fabric, you will want to use a heavy-duty needle so you don’t ruin your machine. And your newly hemmed pants are done!

How to Hem Pants by Hand

Hemming pants by hand is just about as easy as hemming them with a machine. Even if you don’t have any sewing skills (yet!), sewing something as straightforward as a hemline isn’t going to ruin your clothes. If you are feeling a lack of confidence in your sewing skills, perhaps take some extra fabric that is similar to the fabric of the women’s pants you are looking to hem, and do a few practice rounds with folding and sewing in a straight line. This is also where using a measuring tape and chalk can be helpful to ensure your lines are straight and not wobbly.

The steps for hemming your pants by hand are almost exactly the same as hemming with a machine. The only difference is that you are going to sew the new hem by hand, rather than with the machine. Go through each step carefully and be a little patient and meticulous. Hemming your own pants is pretty easy, but take the time you need to measure and adjust each pant leg to ensure you get the end result you’re looking for.

Here’s What You Need to Hem Pants

Hemming doesn’t take a lot of high-tech or specialty tools. A simple sewing kit will do just fine. To get ready to hem your pants, you will need these simple tools:

  • Seam ripper, if you are removing the old seams
  • Fabric chalk or pencil, if you want to mark up your new hemline
  • Pins
  • If hemming yourself, a full-length mirror; otherwise, have a friend help you
  • Sewing gauge or measuring tape
  • Iron and an ironing board
  • Thread that matches the color of the garment
  • Sewing kit

Keep in mind that if you are planning to hem your women’s jeans, you will want to be sure you have a thick or heavy-duty needle that is appropriate for sewing through the thick jean fabric.

Hemming your pants is pretty straightforward and gives you some creative freedom to do alterations on your own clothes. Many women love the look of a hemline that sits just above the ankle. This look is particularly stylish with a pair of wedges and a women’s blouse or women's dress shirt.

Alternatively, transform an old pair of straight-legged jeans into a summery pair of women’s cropped pants or capris that are both fun and flirty to wear in the warmer months. Altering your own clothes opens up a universe of possibilities for adjusting your existing wardrobe to fit you better.

Altering and hemming your own clothes for both practical and stylish reasons is a fun hobby to get into and a good skill to have. With your new tailoring skills, you will feel more comfortable buying garments that are a little too long and fixing them up to fit just right. With a little practice and patience, you’ll be hemming like a pro in no time.

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