Every person has slight differences in height, but the pants and jeans you buy at the store all come in set sizes. This means that if you want the right pant length for your legs, you may need to learn how to hem pants! Fortunately, you can follow a few easy steps to hem your pants and avoid tripping over the too-long legs everywhere you go.
The best way to hem pants is to use hand sewing that creates invisible stitches and a flexible fold. Other popular techniques include using a sewing machine with a blind stitch, straight stitch, or zigzag stitch to create a hem. Pant-hem hacks include folding up the pant leg, using fabric glue, or using duct tape to hold a temporary hem in place.
In this article, you will learn how to measure yourself for the correct hem length. You will learn ten simple methods for hemming your own pants. Finally, you will find tips for how to hem jeans and sweatpants.
- What Does Hemming Pants Mean?
- Can You Hem Pants at Home?
- How to Hem Pants: 6 Methods
- Is it Better to Hem Pants By Hand or By Machine?
- What Stitch is Best for Hemming Pants?
- How Long Does it Take To Hem Pants?
- How to Hem:
- Where to Go to Hem Pants?
- How Much Does it Cost to Hem Pants?
What Does Hemming Pants Mean?
Hemming pants means creating a new, shorter, finished edge at the bottom of the legs. Hemming pants means you can change the length of the legs to suit your height.
Many types of pants, like dress pants, may come unhemmed to allow you to tailor the bottom edge to your build. Or you may have to buy over-long pants to get a size big enough to fit your muscled thighs. Either way, hemming the pants gives your the perfect fit!
The most common method of hemming pants is to fold under the bottom edge of the leg and fix it using various sewing methods. But pants can have many kinds of hems, ranging from a folded cuff to a frayed edge. The style of pants, such as jeans vs sweatpants, can help you determine what type of finished edge will look best.
No matter what method you choose, hemming creates a neat, finished, shorter edge at the bottom of the pant leg.
Can You Hem Pants at Home?
You can hem pants at home by learning a simple hand sewing technique or using your trusty sewing machine. Hemming is something of a lost art, it’s true, but once you learn this skill, you can ensure that all of your pants, skirts, dresses, and sleeves fit you at exactly the right length! This can make your clothes look tailored and expensive.
Learning to hem is not like learning how to sew a shirt. You can think of it as learning how to sew on a button. It is a simple technique that requires just a little sewing expertise.
Depending on how professional and permanent your hem looks, you can even cheat and use quick hem-repair methods such as ironing in fusible tape instead!
One thing you may wonder before you start hemming is how short you should make your pants. In general, dress pants and khakis should hang at least a half inch off the floor when your wear shoes. Jean lengths vary a lot based on style, so this rule can depend on the type of pants.
How to Hem Pants: 6 Methods
You can hem your pants using the traditional hand-held needle and thread, or even try a no-sew technique such as hem tape! A sewing machine can help you hem all types of pants, from sweatpants to suit pants. Of course, you can also use several emergency hacks as simple as applying duct tape if you need your pants to look hemmed in a hurry!
1. By Hand
The best way to hem dress pants, suit pants, or tuxedo pants is to hem them by hand using a needle and thread. This method does take a few minutes but is easy to master, and once you know how to hem your pants, you never have to wear too-long pants again!
- First, try on your pants while wearing shoes and fold under the bottom edge of the pant leg to the length you want. Use a safety pin or sewing pin to hold this fold in place.
- If the dress pants have a cuff at the bottom, you will want to use tiny scissors or a seam ripper to remove the few stitches holding the cuff folded up carefully. Release the cuff so that the whole pant leg hangs straight.
- Take off your pants and measure the depth of the fold. Use chalk or a fabric marker to measure this same depth around the circle of the pant leg.
- Next, measure two inches down from this marking all the way around. Cut away any fabric below this second chalk line.
- Use your iron to help you turn under a 1” fold around the raw edge.
- Fold over the fold again, which should take up the extra two inches of fabric you measured at the bottom edge. Press this second fold into place with your iron.
- Find a sharp hand needle and thread that closely matches your pants. Cut a length of thread about twelve inches long.
- Thread the needle and tie a knot at the other end of the thread.
- To hem the double fold to the inside of your pant leg, you want to use a stitch that looks invisible from the outside of the pants. You can learn several hand hemming stitches, but a blind stitch works well.
- For extra security, you may want to use sewing pins to hold your folded edge neatly in place as you sew.
- Insert the needle into the fold on the wrong side of the fabric, inside the pants leg. This way, the knot you tied at the end of the thread will stick on the inside.
- Draw the needle through and carefully take a stitch on the outside of the pant leg catching just about three threads in the weave of the fabric. You want this tiny stitch to barely show!
- Bring the needle back to the inside of the leg. You will now slide it about half an inch to the left of your first stitch, along the edge of the folded fabric. Bring it up beneath the folded edge so the thread goes through the edge of the fold.
- Then take the needle down at that same point to the outside of the pant leg and catch just a few threads again.
- Repeat this stitching pattern until you have circled the pant leg.
- Tie a knot inside the pant leg to keep the stitches in place, then cut the thread.
2. On Sewing Machine
If you have a sewing machine, the quickest way to permanently hem your pants is to use a straight, blind, or zigzag stitch to hem your pants.
You can use a single line of straight stitches to hem your pants or a double line of straight stitches if you have a sewing machine capable of using a double needle.
- First, take out the current hem in the pants.
- Then try on the too-long pants while wearing shoes. Mark where you would like the new hem to end. Getting a friend to help with this is a good idea!
- Next, take the pants off and measure the distance from the current hem to the new marking. Mark this point around both pant legs.
- Draw a second line two inches below that line, and cut off the pant legs at the second, lower line.
- Turn the pants inside out. Use a ruler to help you turn up a 1” fold around the pant legs. Press this into place with a little ironing.
- Turn that fold up to the inside of the pants once more to create a double fold. Press again.
- Next, set up your sewing machine. Most sewing machines allow you to remove a portion of the casing to enable the free arm setting. This leaves just a narrow portion of the body sticking out to the left of the needle plate. The narrow free arm allows you to easily slide a pant leg beneath the needle.
- Wind a bobbin and thread the machine with a color of thread that matches your pants.
- Finally, insert the pant leg over the free arm so that the top edge of the fold (on the inside of the pant leg) rests just beneath the needle. You want to stitch as close to the edge of the fold as possible.
- Sew around the circle of the pant leg, and then carefully snip away loose threads.
Some sewing machines can use a bind stitch foot, which looks like a discreet hand-stitched hem! A blind stitch foot usually has the familiar rectangular shape of a basic presser foot but includes a slit or guide in the middle to help you line up the folded edge of the hem.
Besides attaching the blind stitch presser foot, your machine also needs to have a setting for a blind stitch. The pictograph for this stitch often looks like two half-hexagons in a row. A blind stitch will look like several straight stitches followed by a zigzag on the inside of the pant leg and like tiny spaced-apart single stitches on the outside of the pant leg.
- Measure and cut the pant legs, leaving an extra two inches below your desired final hem length.
- Wind a bobbin and thread the machine with thread that matches your pants.
- Remove the front portion of the body to give you access to the free arm.
- Snap the blind stitch presser foot into place. You may want to refer to your sewing machine manual to learn how to switch feet on your machine.
- Select the blind stitch option from the stitch settings using your touchscreen, buttons, or dials.
- Fold under a ½” edge and quickly press that fold into place.
- Next, slot the opening of the pant leg over the free arm. Use a long basting stitch and a ¼” seam allowance from the fold to quickly fix your first fold in pace around the pants leg.
- Fold your stitched ½” fold back to the outside of the pant leg. This means that your line of basting will show on the outside of the pant leg as if the fold were a cuff at the bottom of the pants.
- Turn your pants back inside out and look at the hem from the wrong side, or inside, of the pants. You should see an indentation above the very lowest edge to show where your basting stitches lie outside the leg. You will stitch just below that indentation, with only the tip of the zigzag part of the stitching landing above the indentation.
- Use the slot in the blind stitch presser foot to make sure you stay aligned just below that indentation as you sew around the leg.
- Take out your original basting stitches and fold everything to the inside of the leg, then give it a quick pressing with an iron.
The best way to sew a hem on sweatpants or any stretchy fabric such as t-shirt cloth or Lycra is to use a zigzag stitch. Alternatively, if your sewing machine has a stretch stitch feature, you can try that!
Check out these tips for hemming with a zigzag stitch:
- Knit fabric such as sweatshirt fleece will not fray, so you only need to fold under a single fold before stitching your hem into place.
- You do not need a fancy presser foot for a zigzag stitch. You can use a standard rectangular presser foot, but you will need to select the zigzag stitch option from the settings. This looks like tiny triangular peaks and valleys in a row.
- You may want to use a stabilizer fabric behind the knit fabric to prevent it from stretching out as you sew.
- Use a narrow zigzag stitch with fewer deep peaks and valleys for the best results.
- You may also need to use a ballpoint needle in your sewing machine for the best results.
3. Without Sewing/Hem Tape
The easiest way to hem pants without sewing is to use hem tape, also called iron-on or fusible tape. Hem tape looks like a thin strip of webbing or interfacing that has a smooth layer of hardened adhesive on both sides. Once you apply heat, the adhesive melts and adheres to the fabric.
You can order this tape online or find it at any sewing store.
Once you use your iron on it, hem tape is permanent. You cannot peel it back off to readjust the hem, so make sure you measure carefully before beginning!
- Try on your pants and mark the new length. Then draw another line one inch below that point, and cut the pants off at that point.
- Turn the pants inside out and fold up the inch of extra cloth. Irony his fold into place.
- Now measure the width of the pant leg at the hem, and double it. Cut a length of hem tape with that measurement.
- Unfold the pant hem you just ironed. Smooth the tape neatly behind it, then press the folded edge back down on top of the tape with the iron.
- Flip the pant leg over and repeat this process on its other side.
4. Without Cutting Pants
You can hem pants without cutting them if the pants hang just a bit too long and you can simply fold up the extra length inside, then use stitching or fusible tape to secure that fold.
Another option for jeans and khakis is to fold the hem in a special way to use the existing hem. You can find details on this technique in the “how to hem jeans” section later in this article!
If you do not want to alter the pant legs–for example, if you borrowed pants from a friend–you can also try the folding method to avoid cutting the pants.
5. Without Bunching
To hem tapered or flared pants without bunching or puckering, you have to alter the side seam of the pant leg just a bit. Tapered pants get narrower at the hem than they are at the knee. Flared pants get wider at the hem than they are at the knee.
For tapered pants, you can use most of the basic hemming methods described earlier, such as hemming by hand or using a sewing machine. But you do have to use one trick first with tapered legs: stitch a new side seam that angles out from the tapered seam, and then use a seam ripper to remove the old stitching. Otherwise, folding up a hem will force a smaller circle to fit over the larger circle of fabric higher on the pant leg, which can cause puckering.
For flared pant legs, you have the opposite problem–you have to try to fit a wider circle at the hem onto a slightly smaller circle higher up the pant leg. To solve this problem, Start at the original stitching and then sew a straight line down inside that stitching, creating a triangular between your straight stitches and the original flared stitches. This way, you can fold a hem onto a circle of fabric the same size as the bottom of the hem!
6. Pant Hem Hacks
When you need your pants hemmed pronto, you can try a quick hack such as using a special folding method or even duct tape!
On tightly fitted or tapered pants with a skinny leg opening, you can often get away with using several folding techniques instead of cutting and hemming the leg.
- On very tight pants, you can create a tall cuff by simply folding up the extra fabric on the outside of the pants. This works well on skinny jeans, in particular.
- For a more traditional cuff, do a double fold. On the outside of the pant leg, fold up about one inch of the hem. Then fold over this fold, creating ad double-folded cuff.
- For a pin roll, do the same actions, but use only a half-inch fold.
- For a less traditional approach, you can also fold the pant leg to the inside instead of creating a cuff on the outside.
This is not a good way to hem your pants, but in a real pinch, you can slap a strip of duct tape to the inside of your pant leg, holding a hem in place. You may want to try this if you rip out the hem in your pants while at work or an event.
All you have to do is fold the too-long section of the pant leg up inside. If you have an iron, press that fold to give it a nice crease. Then turn the pants inside out and use a piece of duct tape to hold the folded-under edge in place to the inside of the pant leg.
Removing the tape later may leave a residue on the fabric, though, so keep that in mind!
Once again, this is not the perfect, professional way to hem pants, but if you do not have any sewing tools, you can hem your pants using fabric glue. The danger with this is that sometimes the glue can cause stiff or discolored patches that show on the outside of the pants.
- To use fabric glue, go through all the same steps of measuring your pants and cutting off the excess fabric at the bottom of the legs.
- Then fold over the cut edge and iron it to get a nice crease.
- Unfold the edge, and apply a thin line of fabric glue to the backside of the fold.
- Use a popsicle stick or scrap of paper to smooth out the glue.
- Press the folded edge back down into place and let the glue dry.
Is it Better to Hem Pants By Hand or By Machine?
Whether or not it is better to hem pants by hand or machine depends on the type of pants in question.
- For dress pants, you get the most professional results hemming by hand unless you have a blind stitch option on your sewing machine.
- For jeans, you get the best results on a sewing machine because you will have a tough time stitching through denim by hand!
- For sweatpants, you get the best results using either a stretch stitch or zigzag stitch on a sewing machine.
What Stitch is Best for Hemming Pants?
The best stitch for hemming pants depends on the kind of pants.
- For dress pants, suit pants, or tuxedo pants, the best stitch is usually a blind hem stitch or sometimes a slip stitch if you want to hand sew the hem.
- For jeans and khakis, the best option is a straight stitch, preferably a double-needle straight stitch, if your sewing machine has that capability.
- For sweatpants, leggings, yoga pants, and anything stretchy, the best stitch is a machine-made stretch or narrow zigzag stitch.
How Long Does it Take To Hem Pants?
If you have some experience sewing, it will take you less than twenty minutes to hem pants in most cases. If you need to learn on the job and teach yourself how to hem by hand, or how to use a blind hem stitch presser foot on a machine, you may need to set aside an hour or so for the task.
Hemming pant legs usually does not take more than a few minutes because there is not much ground to cover–pant legs have pretty narrow openings!
How to Hem:
Now that you know the basic methods for hemming pants check out some tips on handling special kinds of hems!
The best way to hem dress pants is to hand sew a blind hem stitch. This is the method a tailor or seamstress will almost certainly use if you take your pants in for professional hemming!
You may have to rip out the original hem before you can measure the pants for a new, shorter hem. You can use a seam ripper for this process to avoid damaging the pants.
One of the best ways to hem jeans with straight legs is to keep the original jeans hem while still shortening the jeans. You may also need to use a special needle or thread for sewing on denim.
To do this:
- Start by trying on the jeans and marking the point where you want the new hem to end.
- Take off the jeans and turn them inside out. Fold the original hem so its lines of stitching lie on top of your marking. You want the original hem on top of the point where you want the new hem to go.
- Now sew around the jean leg, just below the line of original stitching.
- Cut off the folded edge below your new stitching.
- Next, press the raw, cut edge up to the inside of the jeans.
- Turn the jeans right side out and iron the hem down flat!
The best way to hem sweatpants or yoga pants is to use a narrow zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch on your sewing machine. Hemming sweatpants by hand does not look great and often leads to a lumpy or bulging hemline.
This is because knit fabrics are held together by many interlocking chains of looped threads that stretch out easily. You have to use a special kind of stitch that can stretch and then recover along with the fabric, or it will not turn out well.
Where to Go to Hem Pants?
Professional tailors, some dry cleaners, and some clothing stores all offer hemming services.
Professional tailors or seamstresses offer a variety of clothing alterations. Hemming pants is super easy and will take a tailor just a few minutes once they get your measurements.
Some dry cleaners also offer simple alterations such as adjusting a hem, though you will need to check with your local shops to find out for sure.
In some cases, high-end suit stores or even some department stores may offer alteration services as well, for a fee!
How Much Does it Cost to Hem Pants?
Professional alteration experts like tailors and seamstresses will hem pants for $15-$30. This clothing alteration costs very little because it is such a simple operation. That said, you should call your local tailor or seamstress to get a quote to find out for sure.
Hemming pants is the best way to shorten them so that the bottom of the pant leg falls to exactly the right point at your ankle or above the floor. You can hem pants yourself using either hand sewing or machine sewing methods. You can also use emergency hemming hacks such as applying duct tape to hold a hem in place, using folds to form a cuff at the bottom of tight pants, or even fabric glue in place of sewing.
The best way to hem dress pants is to use a hand sewing method such as blind hem stitching, though you can also simulate this method on some sewing machines. The best way to hem jeans is to use a straight stitch or to keep the original hem. The best way to hem any stretchy pants is to use a sewing machine and a zigzag stitch.