How To Hem Pants and Skirts

I realized after posting yesterday that I hadn’t shown you how to hem a pair of straight leg pants (or skirts. The application here can be applied to both.)

So, let’s sew.

Grab a pair of straight leg pants  that need to be hemmed (we’ll talk about the flared ones later in this post).  This is a pair of one of my customers. I happen to know that she likes her dress slacks with a 30 1/4″ inseam. If you don’t know the inseam measurement, refer to the post on hemming your jeans the professional way and see how I marked them.

Now, I begin by taking out the old hem. On this particular pair, the hem was sewn with a blind hem machine by the manufacturer. In this case it was Ann Taylor. You’ll see the thick thread. That had been attached from the pant leg to the lining fabric. Just cut it. Then, clip a few threads of the hem and find the thread that when you pull on it, the whole hem unravels easily. This may take a minute to find it and you may have to cut a few more threads and pull each one until you do.

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Now, spread the slacks out so that one leg lays flat. Measure from the intersection of the crotch seams down the one leg.

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Measure down and put a pin in the side seam perpendicular to the seam as shown. For these pants, I am measuring to the 30 1/4″ mark.

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Measure the distance of the original hem. This one is 1 1/2″ deep.

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That will be how deep your new hem will be also. Now, if you have a rotary cutter and mat, slip the mat under the slacks as shown. Make sure the slacks edges are lined upon one of the yellow vertical lines. Use a clear ruler and line up the side seam along one of the horozontal lines on the ruler. In this case, you can see the seam coming out from the 12 1/2″ mark on the ruler.

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Measure the hem 1 1/2″ away from the pin and trim off the excess fabric. (Do you see the pinhead on the fabric under the ruler? Make sure you cut 1 1/2″ away from that.)

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Now, go to your iron, set at the correct temperature for the fabric as found on the garment label and fold up 1 1/2″ and press on that line all around the hem.

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It’s time to check and see if your pants are really straight legged or not. Turn up the edge along the new hemline fold and put both hands inside the leg and see if they lay flat against each other. If there is any puckering in the pant leg, you have a flared leg. If you have puckering in the hem, you have tapered pants.

So, if you have flared or tapered pants, see this post on How to Hem Without Puckers on Tapered or Flared Pants.

Most pants these days are straight legged, especially in men’s wear. These are straight leg pants. Do you see how the hem lays flat against the pant leg. That’s your clue.

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Now, first step is that you are going to want to finish the edge of the hem so that the fabric doesn’t ravel. If you have a serger, this is the time to use it. If you do not, I recommend zig zagging the edge. I don’t like to use hem tape or hem lace as they end up puckering, and then your edge doesn’t lay flat against the pants.

After you serge the edge, leave a thread tail. Thread the tail onto a big eyed needle and weave the tail back into the serged area and then cut it off. If you just cut off the thread tail, without weaving it back through, it will unravel and you’ll have an ugly sight and a weakened serged edge.

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Now, fold up the pants along the fold line and put pins in parallel to the foldline, halfway between the fold and the finished edge.

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Set up your machine for a blind stitch using the blind stitch hem foot if your machine has one. Check your machine’s manual for details on the set up of the foot and the dials on the machine. If it does not have this type of a foot, you should be able to buy one at your local sewing machine dealer, online from the manufacturer, or a place like ebay. If that is not feasable, you can hand stitch the hem with a needle and thread.

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Stitch around the hem. The machine will take two or three stitches on the flat (or the fabric to the right of the needle) side of the fabric and then take one tiny stitch into the fold, so that it is barely noticeable from the right side.

You are now ready to shorten the lining fabric. You’ll need to shorten the lining the same amount that you shortened the pants themselves. In this case, we took up 1 1/2″, so press the lining up 1 1/2″ as well.

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I trimmed off  the old hem as close to the old stitching as possible. Then, I folded the cut edge up to the fold line and pressed a second fold line into the lining:

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Now, fold up the lining twice on the fold lines and stitch around the edge as shown:

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Chances are the lining doesn’t need pressing, but the pants do. Always press from the inside of the pants.

If you press on the right side of the pants, always cover the pants with a lightweight piece of cotton fabric (sometimes called a press cloth) so that the iron won’t leave a “shine” on the fabric. Never, never, press over the stitched area if you are pressing from the right side because it will leave unsightly lumps and bumps that you can rarely get out.

It’s perfectly fine to press over the stitches if you iron the wrong side (inside) of the pants:

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In the photo above, you can see that I used a darker bobbin thread so that the blind hem stitch would show up.

This is what your pants should look like when you are finished…nice and professional looking!

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If you need to hem a pair of flared or tapered pants (or skirt), you’ll need to look at this technique.

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