How to Hem Jeans

Kate Miller-Wilson
hemming jeans

Finding a great pair of jeans isn't easy, and you may find yourself with cuffs that drag on the ground or puddle around your ankles. Luckily, if you're handy with a sewing machine, you can hem your jeans at home.

How to Hem Jeans in Six Easy Steps

While hemming regular slacks or pants usually consists of simply rolling the hem to the desired length and using a hem stitch to fix the hem in place, hemming jeans has an added complication. Most jeans have distressed seams and hems, giving them a lived-in look. Simply making your own hem will change the style of your jeans, so it's important to retain the original factory hem when you change the length.

Fortunately, even if you're a novice seamstress, you'll find it easy to hem your jeans. This project should take you less than an hour per pair.

Things You'll Need

  • Jeans
  • Shoes
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
  • Fabric pencil
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Fusible hem tape

What to Do

  1. Before you begin sewing the hem on your jeans, you'll need to determine exactly how long you want them to be. Try on your jeans in front of a mirror. Be sure to put on the shoes you plan to wear with these jeans. Fold up the cuff of the jeans so that they are exactly the right length for you.
  2. Pin the cuffs to hold them in place. Then take off your jeans and examine the cuffs you made. Use a measuring tape to determine exactly how much extra length you have. Divide this number by two.
  3. Uncuff your jeans. Starting above the stitching for the existing hem, use the measuring tape and a fabric pencil to mark a spot along the outside seam of your jeans that corresponds to the measurement you found in step 2. Fold the cuff of the jeans to be exactly this dimension. Pin the cuff in place.
  4. Use your sewing machine to sew a seam just above the existing hem of the jeans. Start sewing at the outside seam.
  5. When you're done sewing, you'll have a wide band of extra fabric inside your jeans. Fold this up into the jeans, so the old hem shows on the bottom of the cuff. Try your jeans on to make sure they are now the right length.
  6. Next, use your iron to press the new hem. Apply the fusible hem tape to the excess fabric inside your jeans, and use the iron to adhere the extra fabric to the cuff. Your jeans are ready to wear!

Tips to Keep in Mind

When making alterations on your jeans, keep these tips in mind:

  • Try on your jeans frequently as you work. You can always use a seam ripper to take out your stitches if you find the length isn't right.
  • If you are hemming flared-leg jeans, you may find that you have excess fabric to take up when you shorten your hem. Take a small tuck along the inside seam of the jeans to use up any surplus.
  • If possible, take your jeans with you to the fabric store when you pick out thread. Jeans come in several different shades of blue, as well as many other colors. Closely matching your thread to the color of the jeans will make your work look more professional.
  • Give a great deal of thought to the shoes you will wear with your jeans. Heel height can have a major effect on the appropriate length for pants.
  • If you're shortening these jeans for a child, skip the step of using the fusible hem tape. Instead, take a few stitches to hold the excess fabric up inside the cuff. That way, you can take out your work to lengthen the jeans when the child is taller.

Be Your Own Tailor

Hemming your own jeans is a great way to save on clothing alteration bills and give yourself a little extra sewing experience. If you have some spare time and a bit of basic sewing know-how, you can be your own tailor.

How to Hem Jeans