Flip the Shirt Collar to Extend Its Use

My husband had a job for many years where he had to wear dress shirts to work.

Sound familiar?

Invariably, the collars (where it folds over) would be the first thing on the shirts to wear out.

So, I’d flip them.

And the shirts would last twice as long.

Let me explain what I mean.

Here’s a typical dress shirt:

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A typical dress shirt has two parts to the collar: the upper collar with the points on it, and the lower collar that is the long skinny piece just below the upper collar.

Sometimes, the area just above the seam where  the upper collar meets the lower collar, gets worn out. There is fraying or there is staining so bad that it won’t come out.

To see if your shirt is “flippable”, look at the underside of the collar like this:

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If the under side of the collar has permanent bubbles in it and there’s no way an iron will smooth them out, then I don’t advise you to flip the collar.

These bubbles usually come from the iron-on interfacing that some companies use and the wrinkles are caused when the interfacing was not applied correctly.

The shirt in the photo above has permanent wrinkles and bubbles and wouldn’t be a good candidate.

But, if the under side of the collar is smooth and lays flat, you can flip it.

Here’s what you need to do.

There is a row of stitching that runs between the tips of the blue pens in the photo below.

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Take out that horozontal row of stitching.

That will separate the upper collar from the lower one.

Now, all you do, is flip the collar over and pin it back in place in the exact spot you took it out from.

Then restitch it back in following the same line of stitching that you took out in the first place.

Isn’t that simple?

And you just doubled the life of the shirt by doing so!

Putting Bustles On Your Wedding Gown

UPDATE 11/12/09: Read this post and then go back and read this one for a shortcut on one of the steps. You’ll be glad you did!

I have been altering wedding gowns for 25 years now, beginning with my own, 25 years ago!

One of the things I do often is put bustles on wedding gowns.

Do you need one on yours?

Let me show you how.

Today we are going to learn how to do an under bustle (some folks call them a French Bustle).

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An under bustle is just what it says, it is brought underneath the dress (so to speak) and secured underneath.

None of the ties, hooks, eyes, buttons, etc. will show from the outside of the gown.

All the workings are hidden beneath.

I use a loop and tie method that I figured out a long time ago. It has worked wonderfully and it is very simple to do.

Once again, don’t be intimidated.

First, measure the distance from the spot where the bustle will be hooked up, to the floor.

Let’s say the measurement is 24 inches.

Now, measure up from the edge of the train up 24 inches and put a pin there.

Bring the place where the pin is up and under the dress and match it to the place where you’ll fasten the bustle.

It may be off by a little, so adjust what you need to.

Put a pin in the dress on the outside of the dress to hold that bustle in place while you have the bride look at it and see if that’s where she’d like it.

Always pin on the seamline, never in the middle of the fabric (unless there is lace or something to cover up the small stitching you will do to hold these bustles in place).

On this dress, I put a pin in between two of those covered buttons to hold the under fabric in place.

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I also pulled up fabric to the left and right of the middle bustle and pinned those along the side back seams. (Side back seams are not the center back seam and they are not the side seams. They are the seams that run vertically between the center back seam and the side seam.)

So, this dress needed 3 bustles to get all the train up off the floor.

Normally, I like to make the bustle that is in the middle, a little higher than the outer two, but it didn’t work in this case. The train was of a shape that didn’t allow me to do that.

When making an under bustle, just know that you can’t put the bustle any higher than where the zipper ends on the center back seam. It needs to go at or below the zipper.

Now, let’s talk about how to make the workings of the bustle.

You don’t need many items to do this bustle.

You need some tiny scraps of fabric that doesn’t ravel.

I’ve always used a quilting product called Warm and Natural. This feels like a very soft blanket.

You could also use felt.

You could really use any fabric, but if it tends to ravel, finish the edges.

Whatever fabric you use, use one that is off white in color. If you use white with a white wedding gown, it may show from the right side.

Cut a rectangle of said fabric about 1 inch wide by 2 inches long for each bustle.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just estimate.

Then, take a piece of grosgrain ribbon that is  1/2 inch wide. Cut a piece that is 5 inches long for each bustle.

Referring to the photo below, fold the grosgrain ribbon in half and sew it like you see in the photo below.

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Stitch straight across the ribbon, back and forth, securing it tightly. Cut your threads off.

Now, just flip that grosgrain ribbon over the top of the stitching you just did (see photo below) and stitch straight across again.

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This is what you end up with:

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Now, you need to attach this to the dress.

To do so, you are going to need to look at the dress again.

At each spot where you have the fabric pinned up, you will need to mark not only the top spot where the pin is, but you’ll also need to mark where the fabric has been pinned underneath. I do this with more pins or tailor tacks.

I don’t use a marking pen because it may not come out.

So, for every bustle, you should have two marks. One will be higher up on the train than the other, but they should be along the same seamline.

If you find that you didn’t pin exactly on the seamline, that’s no problem. Just move the marking over to the seamline.

Once you have all the markings marked, you are going to attach your loop to the dress.

You’ll have one loop per bustle.

On the inside of the dress, transfer the marking from the outside to the inside of the dress with either a pin or a tailor tack.

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Working with the top marking only at this time, place the bottom  edge of the loop (that you made earlier) at the pin placement. This means the whole loop contraption is sitting above the pin or the mark you made. (The reason for this is that when you tie the bustle together, it will meet exactly where you want it. If you don’t understand now, you will later when you see how the bustle hangs).

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Pin that fabric square onto the dress.

From the right side of the dress, stitch right in the seam to hold  the area just above the loop to the dress. (If we stitch from the wrong side of the dress, the stitches may show if we didn’t line the dress up correctly, and it wouldn’t look very good.) See the talior tack down below the pin? I left that in so you could see all the steps involved.

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From the wrong side, it will look like this:

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Ok, now we’re going to make sure that the fabric square is really held on good. It is already held on well, but this gives me peace of mind.

Turn the dress inside out again and find the loop.

The bottom edge of this fabric square is not sewn down.

So sew it down.

I do it by hand because I don’t want another bit of stitching to do from the front side in case I get it wrong, there’s less chance for error. So, sew it down to the lining only by hand like this:

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Now let’s go to the second marking on the dress,  below your newly attached loop.

Again, mark the inside of the dress, making sure that the lining and the dress are in the correct position and that they lay flat. This time I use a pin, pinning it vertically along the seamline from the right side of the fabric.

Take a piece of 1/4″ wide off white ribbon that is about 20 inches long.

Now, turn the dress inside out and thread that ribbon through the pin that you placed along the seamline. It will be in the perfect position now. See how it is threaded through the pin in the photo below?

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Turn the dress right side out and  make sure the ribbon isn’t all scrunched up underneath. Smooth it out and then stitch along the seamline back and forth a couple to times to secure it.

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It is barely noticeable from the front. Your guests won’t notice it.

Now, after the ceremony, just have a bridesmaid or someone else who is nearby, lift the skirt and take each ribbon and run it through its corresponding loop.

Tie the ribbons just like a shoelace.

Then, drop the train and smooth it out.

That’s all there is to it!

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****Note: After having been to many weddings, as a coordinator and a guest, I just have to say….make sure the bride wears off white under garments. If you/she is wearing a white dress, this is so important because white undergarments will show under a white dress. But, the off white won’t show, unless you are using a yellowish off white under garment. And please don’t wear a colored pair of underwear under your wedding dress! That looks so tacky. Wedding guests everywhere will thank you!

How to Hem Lining on Pants (or Skirts)

We’ve covered so many ways to hem pants so far.

If you’ve missed those posts, look at the left hand column on this page and click on “All Past Categories” and the arrow by “Select Categories”. Then, click on “Hems”.

There are still some more ways to sew hems which I’ll cover in future posts.

But, I didn’t want to overlook how to hem lining.

It’s very simple.

Don’t be intimidated.

First, let’s just look at a typical pair of pants that have lining.

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You’ll notice that the lining is turned up twice and stitched, like you would do to some pants hems.

But, let’s look at how to get to that point.

Basically, if the lining you have in the pants is hanging at a good length (it’s not hanging out from under the pants and it’s not too short), then my basic rule of thumb is this:

Whatever amount you raise the hem of the pants is the same amount you’ll raise the lining.

So, take a look at where the lining hangs on your pants before you hem them. Do you like where the lining falls? If so, let’s proceed.

If you don’t, then figure out how much you need to take up. Sometimes, you don’t need to hem the lining at all.

But that’s rare.

In this case, I hemmed the pants up 1 3/4″. So, I am going to take up the lining by 1 3/4″ also.

I begin by pressing the lining up 1 3/4″.

WARNING: Be careful to check and see what the lining fabric is made of. You might assume that it’s polyester and set your iron to polyester, but many times the lining is made of acetate, which takes a much cooler iron.

I know because I’ve melted my share of linings.

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Once I have that amount pressed up on both legs, then, in this case, I am going to trim off the lining right next to the original stitching.

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That original hem was 1/2″ wide, so when I cut it off, I had 1 1/4″ left from the fold to the cut edge.

You need at least 1 1/4″ between the foldline and the cut edge of the fabric. If you don’t have that much, you’ll need to rip out the original stitches of the lining hem and press the fabric out flat.  Then, cut your lining 1 1/4″ out from the fold line. so that it looks like this:

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If you are only taking up your hem 1/2″ or 1″, you can probably just fold it up once and stitch it. It will probably look just fine that way.

But, for lining that has to be raised up more than that, we’ll continue with this next step:

Bring the cut edge of the fabric to the fold and press the edge like this:

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You should have two parallel folds in the hem area now.

Fold up the lining twice on those folds and stitch it like this:

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Sometimes, in nice slacks, you’ll notice that there is a thick cord holding the lining to the pant at the side seam or the inseam.

(You may have had to cut that before you started this project).

Or, you may want one in if it didn’t come that way.

So, I use one of two options: Pearl Cotton thread or satin ribbon.

This is Pearl Cotton thread in a size 8. If I were you, I’d get a thicker size. This one is a little thin for my liking:

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You can get it at your local fabric or quilt shop.

I like it because it is stronger than thread.

Or you can look for some cording, which is even thicker and stronger than this.

You just thread it on a needle and knot the end.

Then, make sure your lining isn’t twisted inside the pants and lay them flat so that the lining and the pant are laying where they should.

Lift up the pants and see where the lining and the pants go together.

Now, take a stitch into the side seam allowance of either the lining or the pants about an inch or two above the hemline.

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As you can see, I like to come in from behind the seam and hide the knot.

Then, take a stitch into the other seam allowance. Do not pull the thread all the way. Leave about an inch and a half of thread because you want it to have some “wiggle room”.

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Then, anchor it good with several knots.

You can achieve the same effect, and it may be a stronger solution, with satin ribbon.

I cut a piece of ribbon about 2 inches long and attach one end to the lining seam allowance and one end to the pant seam allowance.

Make sure you tuck the raw edges of the ribbon underneath like this before you sew them to the seam allowances:

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And there you have it!

Lining that’s really simple.

Magnetic Pin Cushions

It took me years to realize how great magnetic pin cushions are.

I had used the old stuffed “tomato” pin cushion during my youthful sewing years.

Remember these?

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I still use one for my needles as you can see. That way, I can see the eye of each needle at a glance and grab the one I need.

But, for years, I used the tomato to hold my pins.

That’s all I knew.

And when that’s all you know, you’re fine with it.

Then, I realized, that I needed to have more pins on hand than what the tomato would hold.

So, I kept my pins in the box they came in.

I figured they’d be easier to grab than pulling them one by one out of the tomato.

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That worked great except for the times I dropped the box all over the floor.

And picking them up wasn’t so bad, except that it became a regular habit….

like twice a week.

I had heard about magnetic pin holders, so I determined to go and look for one.

I found this one at the Bernina store:

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It has a powerful magnet.

When you drop your box of pins on the floor, you just wave this pin cushion over the pins and it picks up every last one of them in seconds.

I’ve been tempted to keep dropping boxloads just to watch this thing in action!

Since I alter clothes for other people, I need both hands free to pinch and pin the garments that folks try on.

To do that meant that I had to put the pin holder down on a table or on the floor while I worked.

That meant bending over to get my pins, one by one.

Or, sometimes, my customer would hold the pin cushion while I pinned.

Neither option was great.

About the time I began pondering my little dilemma,

I noticed this brilliant invention at JoAnn Fabrics:

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You wrap it around your wrist and then secure it with the velcro strap it comes with.

And, of course, it’s magnetic.

And your hands are free to pin garments, pin fabric, pin quilts, pin whatever.

And you can use it while working with customers and you can use it while sewing at your machine.

And, and, and!

It’s awesome!

Many customers have raved over it.

They want to go right out and get one, even though they don’t sew!

That’s the sign of a good invention.

I only wish I had thought of it first!

***Update: My friend, Mason, had an important thought about these magnetic pin cushions.

Here’s part of what she wrote:

“Hi Linda, just a thought on this magnetic pin cushion.  I could be completely off base on this and hope I am.  I purchased a Singer embroidery machine a few years ago that takes cards to get patterns from (computerized).  Like I do on many of my new gadgets I had to have…I didn’t use it for a long time.  A few months ago, I thought this is ridiculous, I need to learn how to do this and actually use it!  I found that the machine will not read the card…it acts like there is no card in there.
I haven’t taken it to a repair shop yet as I’m scared the whole computer section is screwed up.  My thought was that maybe I messed it up by using the magnetic pin holders close to the machine when I was sewing other types of things.  I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t get a magnet close to your computer.”

So, she Googled the question and came back with all sorts of answers, both pro and con. It looked to me like there are just as many people out there saying it could happen as those that don’t. Maybe it would be  best to call your sewing machine company and see what they say. Of course, you may not get an accurate response if the technician doesn’t know their product or they are, heaven forbid, trying to hide that info from you. But here is one response from her Google search:

“Magnets can damage magnetic computer data, therefore, use caution. Do not put them in direct contact with diskettes, and memory sticks. Some design cards are susceptible as well. To be on the safe side, watch where you put your magnets! The manufacturer of the Magna-Hoop does not take responsibility for damaged diskettes, memory sticks, design cards or other media that is damaged due to user error.”

So, I hope that helps those of you who have computerized machines to show some caution before using these. If it’s true, it is a bummer because there are several magnetic products out there that make sewing much easier.

Thanks, Mason! We really appreciate this! 🙂

Hem With a Vent (or Slit)…Technique #2

The last post was on how to hem a pair of pants with a vent or slit in the side.

This post will give you instructions on how to do a vent another way.

Here’s what this pair looks like:

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This pair had topstitching all along the edge of the vent.

Take a look at the inside of the pants where the hem is.

I took the topstitching out and spread the vents open so you could see:

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After you’ve taken apart the vents, measure the width of the hem.

In this case, it’s 1 1/2″ wide.

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Now, measure the vent opening. In this case it is 2 3/4″.

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For this customer, I needed to raise the hem by 5″. 

Raise your hem according to the measurement you need to raise it by.

Press a new hemline all the way around your pants.

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You may need to take out some side seam stitches because your new vent will be open for 2 3/4″  above the hem edge.

So, on these pants, I need to first take out the serged seam allowance (see the scissors below. I like to use small pointed scissors for this task.)

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Remember, my hem width was 1 1/2″? So, I will cut off the pants 1 1/2″ below the pressed hemline.

Serge the cut edge if you have a serger. If not, finish it with a zig zag or other finish.

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Serge the opening of the vents so that the edge doesn’t ravel.

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Now you can see in the photo below that I have the vent area all serged and the new hemline pressed and ready to go.

Do you see, also , that I have the side seam stopping at about the same place as the vent opens up?

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Turn up the hem along the foldline:

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Remember, if your hem doesn’t lay flat because your pants are tapered or flared, you must read this post first!

Once you have the hem edge turned up, measure the openings to the vents and make sure they are even. Lay one vent on top of the other and line them up. Make any necessary adjustments to insure that those edges are even.

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Now, you can put the hem in using a blindstitch hem foot like this:

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If you are unsure of how to do the hem that way, read this post.

Or, you could put the hem in by hand.

Once you have the hem in, turn the vertical edge of the vent in (1/4″ ) once like this:

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Now, turn the vent edge in one more time and pin all the edges.

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Topstitch just under 1/4″ all the way around the vent openings, making sure that you catch all the edges as you sew.

I like to topstitch from the right side of the garment like this:

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And there you have it…another way to put a vent in your pair of pants!

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Hemming Pants With a Vent (or Slit) in Them

Once in awhile,  you’ll buy a pair of pants that have a vent in the hem like these:

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The vent is a slit that is located on the side seam of the pants at the hem.

You may want to hem those pants up, but you don’t know how to replicate that vent.

It looks intimidating, but it’s not difficult.

Let me show you how.

The key to making a vent in the pants you bought, is to pay close attention to how it was done in the first place.

The hem I will show you today is the most common way they are done. I have seen a few other ways, but you’ll be able to figure it out once you follow this post.

Ok, I am going to inspect the hem before I begin.

I look to see how it was sewn together. Once I begin taking it apart, I’ll make a mental note of each step because I am going to recreate them in reverse order when putting it back together at the new hemline.

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As you can see, these were machine  top stitched. (Most hems with vents are not topstitched here. Most of them are stitched with a blind stitch hem foot.) We’ll cover that part later. Right now, just remember how the hem was sewn.

First, take out those stitches.

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Next, take out those vertical stitches that run along the edge of the vent. In the photo below, they are the stitches above my finger on the left side:

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Now, rip out the stitches on the other vent and spread the fabric out:

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This customer wanted her hem to be 3/4″ higher than it was when she brought it to me.

So, I measured up 3/4″ and pressed a new foldline all the way around the hem:

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Your hem may need to be taken up more than 3/4″. Just press up the hem by the amount you need.

Now, lay out all the material flat. Look from the left edge of the fabric over to the 2 1/2″ inch mark on the seam gauge. That is the total amount of the original hem. (We have added 3/4″ to that measurement, so the total is 3 1/4″. )

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But, we want our new hem to be 2 1/2″ again, the original depth of the hem, so that means we will cut off the extra 3/4″ from the cut edge.

***Usually, the amount you need to raise the hem is the amount you cut off of the cut edge of the hem.

Are you following me?

So, if you look at the photo, you’ll see that we are going to measure 2 1/2″ from the new hemline along the folded edge and cut off that extra 3/4″ from the cut edge:

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Here is the same thing, but from  a different view. I’ve unfolded the hem and you are looking at the wrong side of the fabric.

Cut off that extra hem amount as shown. Again, in this case it is 3/4″:

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Now, using the new hemline that you pressed awhile ago, fold it back on itself so that the fabric is right sides together (see photo below). I stuck a pin in it to hold it together for now.

Do you see that I have turned up a small amount near the head of the pin?

You need to fold under a little for this hem because you don’t want a raw edge showing when you turn the hem right side out.

Do you see the original seamline that runs parallel to the pin, just to the left of the pin?

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That is the seamline you are going to stitch on now.

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Do this for both sides of the vent.

Now, when you turn the vents right side out, this is what they look like on the wrong side:

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See how the edge is folded under instead of having a raw edge?

Now look at the right side of the vents.

Meet the two ends together and see if they are the same length. The two points should be the same length as in the photo below:

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If they are not, take out the stitches and refold them until they match and then resew them. Match them up again to make sure they match each other.

Once they match each other, press them so they lie flat.

Now, when I pinned this hem up, you can see that it doesn’t lie flat against the leg of the pants.

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There’s more leg fabric than there is hem.

That means I have some adjusting to do.

Remember the post, How to hem pants and skirts that are flared or tapered so that they don’t pucker?

Well, that’s what we have to do here. So, I’ll show you again.

On these pants, we need more material in the hem area so that it lies flat on the pants, right?

How do we get the extra fabric?

Well, let’s try increasing the  hem circumference  first.

To do that, turn the hem right side out again.

Sew from the hem fold out to the edge. Do you see the tip of the screw driver pointing to the diagonal seam I just made?

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Once you’ve added that little diagonal seam, rip out the original stitches that run vertically. (The ones that lie under the tip of the screwdriver.)

If you turn the pants over, you’ll see how letting out that old seam gives you a little extra fabric:

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From the wrong side of the fabric, press that area flat.

Now, for this pair of pants, I just needed to turn the edge under and topstitch it.

When I took out the original hem, it left holes where the original stitches were. So, I am going to stitch over that original hem again so that you won’t be able to tell that I put a new hem in. (see photo below).

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If your hem was not topstitched, you’ll want to hem it the way it was done originally. You may want to use a blindstitch hem or sew your hem by hand.

This is how mine looked when I finished:

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Here’s a side view:

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Remember to always press from the wrong side of the fabric or use a press cloth on the right side so as to protect the fabric from getting a “shine” from the iron.

Vents in slacks are too cute to just cut off.

Putting in new vents are worth the extra steps.

Give it a try!