5 Best and easy ways to Hem and Shorten your JEANS

How to hem Jeans 

hemming jeans

If you want a style like this just fold up the hem and leave it at that – donot read further. But if you definitely want to shorten your jeans read on.

Being short is not a crime but it is definitely an inconveniencehow to hem jeans
– especially when it comes to getting the right length jeans. All the jeans I buy have some extra length. The extra length almost always end up under my heels gathering all the dirt underfoot, or bunched up near the ankle looking horrible.

I suppose this length problem is one  many people have to deal with. The problem is with the jeans manufacturers. Like they have different waist sizes, why do they not have different inseam lengths. 

Another problem which used to make me hesitate before taking on the daunting task of changing the hem of my too long jeans is what happens when I sew it. The denim is so thick, that sewing over the side seams caused many a swear words and skipped stitches and at times broken needles. Chekout this post on sewing denim for more details

Since then I have learned better. You can keep the original hem  or you can decide to cut off the hem and shorten the jeans  and sew the hem a certain way. Both the methods are described below but my favourite is the second one, as I love the distressed look of the jeans’ original hem and I am lazy. 

Note : Do not forget to wash your jeans atleast 2 times before altering it. For all you know, it might shrink enough to fit you by those washes. Also wear your daily use heels when measuring – you wouldn’t want a too short jeans. A little too long is anyday better than a little too short. 

What do you need to have to hem jeans 

  1. A tape measure 
  2. For the first method Matching thread (not blue; but matching the other top stitching thread in your jeans. Sometimes an orange colour which surprisingly looks good ); For the Second method a thread matching your jeans colour would do
  3. Sewing machine needle which will sew thick fabric ( you will get denim needles or use leather sewing needles) ; A size 14 machine needle will sew through thick layers.
  4. A pair of jeans you always wanted to wear, but for the bunching up near the ankles, over the shoes. 
  5. A sewing machine with stitch length adjusted to a little longer than what you normally sew with. Using the free arm of the machine is ideal as you can insert the leg and circulate it around as you sew
  6. Measure correctly : Make the person stand in front of you barefoot wearing the jeans when measuring
  7. You need to be very careful with a tapered jeans with spandex in them (Read stretch jeans). It is a different animal. The hem will be narrower than your leg, its circumference smaller. When you stretch it and sew it back it will look all wrinkled . Beware when you have to cut it a  lot shorter

Method 1. A new hem to your jeans

You need a jeans needle to sew the hem of a jeans comfortably. Your ordinary needle maynot be able to sew up all those folded edges of the thick denim.checkout this post on selecting sewing needles.

Measure the height you need for your jeans -for that you had better wear and get someone to mark  the correct height with a pin . Or you can take the measure of a good pants you already own. You will need to add seam allowance of 1 inch to this measure, for folding under.

Take off jeans and press the hemline ( without the seam allowance) on both the legs. Make sure that the length is even on both the legs.

Mark the seam allowance 1 inch from the hem line and cut all around for both the legs

On each of the legs, make 2 small cuts of 1/2 inch long , 1/4 inch to either sides of the pant side seams. Total 4 cuts for each pant leg.This is to ease the width of the pant leg to the new hemline.

how to hem jeans

Now turn under the seam allowance inside all except the side seam piece. Let it stick out.
Start stitching the hem from the inside of the pant leg, from the side of a side seam, till you reach the next side seam .

jeans hem

Adjust the side seam so that the folded edge is over the cut edge. Sew over it till the next side seam. Make the same adjustment there too. After sewing the whole hem,cut off the part sticking out. ( The reason I am not folding this area is obvious – it is super thick and bulky and very very frustrating to sew over )

You have the new hem ready. 

But if you are not confident about making an entirely new hem for your jeans and wants to keep the original hem as it is, in it all its distressed glory, there is this second easy method. You can always use the sandpaper to make a fake distressed look. 

Method 2. Hem Jeans Keeping the original hem

The jeans has a hem which is stitched with a special machines and looks very distinctive with its slightly distressed look. You can hem your jeans ensuring that them is retained

Wear the jeans and stand straight. You need help if you are going to decide on the correct length. Decide on the hemline. 

Calculate how much you need off your jeans to be of the correct length for you. Divide this measure by two. Mark the hem line and the halfway mark on the wrong side, above the original hem.jeans hem

Fold by the center mark at C . 

You need to stitch near the hem catching the two layers at A & B. Start stitching just under the original hem’s edge. You may need to stop at the thick side seams and afterwards hand stitch that part if you do not have a denim needle. 

jeans hem stitching

You can hem this part entirely using hand stitching also. Most of the time if I am altering kids’ jeans I will hand stitch the hem. Mainly because they need the stitches to be taken off after a year or so and hand stitches are very easy to rip off with a seam ripper ( easier than machine stitches anyways – donot ask me how I know ) Also the kids jeans legs are small and need only this many stitches.I would be using a  back stitch to sew the hem. Refer this post on the hand stitches to learn about this stitch. 

After the plain seam 1/4 inch from this sew a zig zag stitching line

You can cut off beyond this line. Or you can also keep the fold inside without cutting it off. Finish with a serger

how to sew jeans hem

 Method 3. Hem your jeans to a frayed look. 

fringe hem for denim

This is the easy method to shorten your jeans and  get the look of frayed raw hem.

Just cut off the original hem of the jeans, where you want it to end. Leave the raw edge as is and after a wash or two in the washing machine you will get the frayed edge which is so trendy. You can also use the seam ripper to remove the weft threads ( the horizontally woven thread in the fabric) .Checkout the post  on making a knee ripped jeans without removing the white threads for more details on this


Method 4. Easy way Using bias tape

Checkout this post on making a bias tape .

Cut a 1/2 inch wide piece of bias tape of length = measure the leg round plus add 1/2 inch
Mark your hem with a chalk or marking pen all around the leg, on the hem line.
Add 1/2 inch seam allowance. Cut off the excess.
Keep the hem tape along this hem line ( right under the hemline) on the right side of the jeans. The tape bottom edge will be aligned with the fabric bottom edge.

Starting stitching along the top edge from the side seam.
Stop stitching 1 inch before the same place where you started.Fold the tape about 1/4 inch and continue stitching.
Now stitch the bottom edge of the tape the same way.
Turn the hem with the tape stitched to the wrong side of the jeans
Top stitch 1/2 inch from the bottom edge catching the tape hem in place.

Method 5 Altering  a wide legged jeans hem

What if you have a very wide legged jeans and you would like to keep the original hem intact but reduce the length. This video shows a way

Disclaimer – Please do not blame me if you attempt alteration on your super expensive jeans and mess it up. Try on your average joe jeans first.

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