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DIY: How to Sew an Original Hem

November 7, 2016
Do you have a favorite pair of jeans but they are just not the right length?  That happens to me quite frequently.  I am too tall for the petite length, but the regular length is often just a tad too long so they end up dragging on the floor and look sloppy.  Instead of spending money paying for alterations every single time I wanted to shorten my pants, I learned how to hem them myself.  

For slacks and dress pants, you don’t necessarily need to keep an original hem because there is no distressing or change in the material.  But for jeans, it’s pretty obvious if you have cut off the original hem and stitched them up.  They just look funny in my opinion.  Jeans often have distressing and decorative stitching at the hem and it’s a shame to lose that.  
I’m hear to teach you how to shorten the length of your jeans and still keep the original hem!  Don’t worry, it’s easy!  You will just need a sewing machine, some straight pins, and thread to match your jeans.
First, you will want to decide how much to shorten your pants by and then divide by 2.   Fold the bottom of the pants over so that the right sides are facing each other.  If you want your pants to be shortened by 1 inch, then you will measure 1/2 inch from the bottom of the original hem to the fold. 
Pin all the way around the cuff, making sure to keep the hem the same size.  Continue to measure it as you go.  I always err on the side of more pins because the more you have, the less likely it will be that your material will shift while you are sewing it.
 Assuming your legs are the same length, you can just measure and pin the other leg as well.  If you have one leg that is longer then the other, be sure to pay attention to which side needs to be shorter and which side needs to be longer.  This may seem odd to those of you who were blessed with even legs, but it’s actually a very common issue!  And there’s nothing more frustrating then hemming you pants and having one leg too short.
Sew all the way around in a straight line.  If your material is not too thick, you will want to sew right on the edge of the existing seam.   If your sewing machine can’t handle going through so much bulky material, just sew as close to the original seam as possible.  
After you have sewn all the way around, remove your pins and press the seam down with a hot iron so it looks like this.  You will want to press the excess folded material upwards towards the top of the pants and press the existing hem down.   At this point, it’s a good idea to try on your pants and make suer they are the length you want.  If they aren’t, it’s easy to rip out this seam and start over.  It will be more difficult to make changes later on.
Pin all the way around the pants again.  Then sew another straight line very close to the fold where the original hem meets the rest of the material.   It is kind of hard to see on this pair of jeans because the color is so dark.  Scroll down for some additional pictures of jeans I have previously hemmed.

 Now, you have a couple of options for what you can do with the excess material that is folded on the inside of your hem.  1) You can leave it there.  If it’s not too much material, and is not going to be very bulky when you wear it, a lot of times I just leave it alone.  By leaving it, you won’t have any fraying and you would always have the option to let out the seam if you wanted longer pants in the future.  You never know, 1960’s platform shoes might make a major comeback and you might need to have some extra length in your pants.  
2) Another option is to cut the excess material very closely to the seam to get rid of the excess bulk.  You can either just leave it with a raw cut, or you can use a serger to help keep the fray at a minimum.  If you don’t have a serger, you could use the zig zag option on your sewing machine and just zig zag down they very edge of the part you have cut off.  I think all basic sewing machines have a zig zag option and this will help keep it from fraying.   Honestly on some of my more distressed pairs, I just cut it and let it fray.  I kind of like the look of it!
So, there you have it!  Now you can make all of your jeans the perfect length without having to spend money on professional alterations!

Niki French

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Hey there!

I'm Niki, founder of Midwestern Mama. This lifestyle blog is a place where I get to share things I am passionate about with people like you! I love fashion, home decor, DIY's and easy meals, among other things. I'm so glad you're here! Read More


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