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How to Hem Jeans the Easy Way + Keep the Original Hem

Did you ever get a pair of jeans and they look great but not exactly on you? Even though they fit you, they are simply too long for your legs.

Since it’s a gift, you don’t want to throw them away. You can take them to a tailor who will fix that for you, but that costs money. It’s much better to just hem them yourself.

Here’s a brief tutorial that will help you learn how to hem jeans properly with or without keeping the original hem. We’ll show you how to do it with a sewing machine, but if you wonder how to shorten jeans by hand – the technique is exactly the the same, just a bit more time-consuming!

Denim is a material that is a bit difficult to work with, so some sewing enthusiasts avoid it altogether. But if you know a couple of right tips and techniques, you don’t have to be one of them.

The basics: 2 Ways to hem jeans and 2 tips

tip #1: Before you start hemming your jeans, you should wash them at least twice as denim fabric tends to shrink and you may end up with jeans shorter than intended.A pair of jeans that were too long when you got them could turn out to be perfect for you after they’ve shrunken from washing.

tip #2: When testing the length, always wear heels. If the length is adequate with heels on, there’s no need for hemming. It’s always better to leave your pants slightly longer that to have them shorter that they should be.

If the jeans don’t shrink as much as you would want them to and they are still long even when wearing heels, you will have to hem them. You have two methods available for completing that task – the preservation method and the reconstruction method. The first one allows you to keep the original hem while shortening the jeans. The second one removes the manufacturer’s hem entirely and you recreate the jeans hem. We will be showing you both of those methods today.

Method 1: How to hem jeans and KEEP the original hem

Sewing with denim requires you to have a powerful sewing machine that can easily penetrate the hard material. You should also use needles specialized for denim because normal ones will break.

For this method, you will need some pins, a measure tape, a regular thread, and of course a sewing machine for hemming jeans. Also, you will have to use a zipper foot, so prepare that as well. You might need your scissors too, but we’ll get to that a little later on in this section.

Here’s a video that demonstrates this technique:

Step 1: Decide how much to shorten them

supplies needed to shorten the jeans

First you need to measure how much you wish to shorten your jeans. Put them on and fold them to your desired length. Remember, longer is better than shorter, especially with heels on.

Step 2: Measure and do the math

After that, you should measure the length of the fold. Measure from the fold to the beginning of the hem without including the hem and divide the measurements by two.

Step 3: Fold up and pin the hem

Unpin and fold the legs up according to the new measurements. Pin everything in place, both pant legs all the way around. Once again, don’t include the hem in the measurements.

measuring the hem of the jeans

Step 4: Stitch below the original hem

Thread the machine with a regular sewing thread both in the needle and bobbin. To make the alteration barely noticeable, make sure the color of the thread matches the color of your jeans. Use appropriate needle –  a 100/16 denim needle is best, but any heavier duty needle will work just fine.

Remove the free arm of the machine as this will make sewing the small cuff easier. Put a zipper foot on your sewing machine and position the needle so it sits on the outside of the foot right next to the original hem. Set the machine for straight stitch and sew around the legs, through both layers of denim, as close as possible to the original hem. Now it’s time to turn the fold to the inside and try the jeans on again to see if you’re happy with the new length.

how to hem jeans and keep the original stitching

Step 5: Cut the excess and finish the raw edge

If you had to shorten the jeans a lot and don’t plan to let them out later, cut the excess fabric with a pair of scissors. Then just serge or zig zag the raw edges and you won’t end up with a lot of bulk. You also might have to do this if the jeans are very thick.

unfolding the hem to trim the exess

Step 6: Press and top-stitch (OPTIONAL)

Press the new hem well to fix it in place and topstitch around the seams to secure it in place. The fold is barely noticeable. Here you can see how the new hem looks next to the old one.

old hem vs new jeans hem after shortening

Now repeat for the second leg.

RELATED: How to sew jeans from scratch

Method 2: Hemming jeans with a new hem

Now it’s time to see how you can hem your jeans without keeping the original hem.

For this method you will need a pair of scissors, some pins, a measuring tape, a thread that looks very similar to the jeans, and a sewing machine with the needle for denim.

  1. Start by measuring how much you want to shorten the pants. Wear heels and don’t be afraid to leave the legs just a tad longer. Fold them to your desired length and pin them in place.
  2.  Cut the original hem. Leave a one inch allowance, don’t cut to the folding line. Fold the fabric up about half an inch and then another half inch and use an iron to straighten it out. Use some pins to secure the fold and topstitch it.

If the jeans in question are particularly thick, you need to utilize a different technique for preparing the hem. Instead of folding the edge to the inside and topstitching it, trim the allowance by half an inch. Then use a regular sewing thread and an overedge stitch to finish the edge. You can also serger it if you have a machine capable of doing that.

  1. When you finish preparing the hem, pin the fold in place. Put a jeans thread in the top of the machine and a regular thread in the bobbin. The following task can be done much more easily if you set the machine to free arm mode. Use a straight stitch on medium long setting and sew around the hem area from the bottom edge to finish.
  2. Repeat for the second leg

If you find this article useful then our mission here is complete. Hopefully, you won’t have to pay a tailor to hem your jeans from now on. But more importantly, all jeans you own will fit you perfectly and look great on you.

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  1. Hemming Jeans Guide by Singer Sewing company –
  2. Easy technique for hemming jeans –
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Kathy - April 10, 2024

This doesn’t work worth a flip. They curl up or stick out. Don’t waste your time.

    Helen - April 23, 2024

    They only stick out if they are longer than the hem. Also – do you also handsew the seam to the side seams of the jeans? If not – that may be the culprit.
    I’ve been wearing jeans that were shortened using this method for ages and have no such problems


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