How To Hem Jeans Using The Original Hem

So many of you have wondered how to hem your jeans by using the original rolled hem.

I had never done this before as I hadn’t personally had any customers ask for it.

Until now.

My own daughter asked me to hem hers that way.

So, who better to try a new technique on than my own offspring?

Based on her recommendations, which corresponded to some of your instructions, I hemmed her jeans in no time.

I’ve always written posts based on alterations I have done before.

Some of them I’ve done hundreds of times.

But, this is the first post where I am a rookie.

So, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail with your technique for getting this done.

(Update January 12th: Here is a photo of my daughter’s jeans using two different techniques:

The technique for the leg on the right (Technique #1) is described below.

Ignore the thread bits I forgot to pull off the hem before I shot the photo!

I did the left leg based on instructions that Blankenmom gave us in the comment section and the link which shows us step by step how she does it.

Technique #1

The basic idea is that I am going to cut off the old hem and restitch it farther up the pant leg.

The new seam I make will next to the stitching on the original rolled hem.

Let’s take a look at this technique step by step.

First, I had my daughter try on the jeans.

I folded up the jeans and pinned the denim where she wanted the bottom edge of the hem to be:

Next, I pressed that bottom edge with an iron:

(Yes, you could turn the hem to the inside and press it the other way, but this edge isn’t going to show later, so I eliminated a step by just pressing it as is.)

This pressed edge will be our guide to show us where to stitch the new seamline for the hem.

The next step is to trim off the original hem edge.

I don’t want to cut right next to the rolled hem edge because that wouldn’t give me any seam allowance and I’d have to sew over the big hump of fabric at the hem.

I decided that one inch allowance gave me enough “insurance” and gave the hem enough extra fabric so that the hem doesn’t roll to the outside while wearing the jeans.

So, I cut the jeans like this:

Do you see the extra fabric I have to the right of the scissors?

I cut it far enough away that I can make a seam allowance.

That’s the amount that is crucial to the success of this hem. Make sure you give yourself enough denim.

As I mentioned, I gave it an inch.

This is what it should look like, completely cut away from the jeans:

Next, you’re going to match this “circle of denim” right sides together to the pant leg.

Match up the side seams.

then, pull ithe “circle” down the leg (up the leg?) like this and pin below that pressed fold:

Now, we’re going to make sure it is in the right spot.

Fold up that original rolled hem and peek under the cut edge to make sure the rolled hem edge lines up with the fold that you pressed earlier like this:

Looking at the above photo, the pressed folded edge is lined up with the rolled hem edge. You just can’t see it because the rolled hem is covering it up.

But, it’s there, under my thumbnail.

Everything from the top of my thumb down, will be what the jeans will look like when we’re finished.

Is this making sense?

Ok, holding that rolled hem edge very carefully, so that nothing slips, unfold that rolled hem edge and put a pin in that spot like this:

You’re now going to sew right next to the rolled hem edge like this:

Just make sure you don’t sew over any pins.

Take them out before that happens!

Now. fold the raw edges under to the inside of the jeans.

From the right side of the jeans, the new hem should look like this:

This is what it looks like if you peek inside the jeans:

My raw edges are not finished yet.

I want my daughter to try them on first, before I trim anything or finish the edges.

This is what they look like after I pressed them on the outside:

Ok, now you’ve seen this first technique.

Now jump over to Blankenmom’s website and see how she does it.

My daughter liked her technique better.

I do too.

It seems like the hem will stay down better and not flip up.

It also encases the raw edges, which is another plus.

Thanks again, Blankenmom!

We all learned something new.

Sewing Machine Needles…How to Choose The Right One

How do you know what kind of sewing machine needles to use in your machine?

Well, I prefer to use Schmetz brand needles.

They work.

They work well.

I have been using them for at least 27 years.

Before that, I used my mom’s Singer machine and just used Singer needles on it.

But then, my Dad bought me a Bernina, and the rest is history.

But, when it comes to needles, I like Schmetz because they never let me down.

Here are the types I use on a regular basis:

There’s the Universal, Leather, Microtex, Jersey/Ball Point, Jeans/Denim, Twin, and Stretch.

When I went to write this post about all the different types of needles, their uses and what size/kind you need for different fabrics and applications, I went over to the Schmetz site and found their brochure.

Then, I realized that it would be much better if I just gave you the link to it.

It’s very complete and detailed. There are photos of all the choices of needles.

There’s also this helpful chart.

Also, if you can’t find a certain needle in your local fabric store, (I can never find the Stretch twin needles anymore) you can order them online at this Schmetz site.

I found needles I didn’t even know existed!

So, I will be one of those internet shoppers myself there in a few minutes!

Who knew they had twin denim needles?

Or the extra wide twin needles? Awesome!

How about a quick threading needle? Yep!

A double eyed needle…..again, who knew?

I can’t speak to the embroidery and metallic thread type needles as I don’t sew in those categories.

But, you’ve got to check it out.

The only additional thing I can think to add is this:

If your threads are skipping or coming out as you sew, replace your needle first and see if that takes care of the problem.

Once in awhile, you have a needle that doesn’t cooperate or last as long as it should.

I have been told that you should replace your needle after every 8 hours of sewing.

So, I do.

For those who sew all day every day, that means changing it every day or two at the most.

Since I change my needles for different projects throughout the day, I make sure I put my used needles in one spot and keep my new needles in another. Then, when the time is up, I throw them away.

I bet one of you out there will tell us you sharpen your needles for another 8 hour run.

How do you do it?

That would be a good tip to know.

Until then, we just keep buying them and thanking Schmetz for all the choices.

Happy Sewing!

Hem…Using the Inseam Measurement

Several of my customers leave their pants to be hemmed on my porch without ever coming inside.

It’s because I hem their pants using their inseam measurement.

Once I know what their inseam measurement is, they never have to try pants on for me again.

I just sew each pair of pants at that same length.

This works well for men’s pants especially.

Men’s pants fit pretty uniformally across the board.

I’ll use the inseam measurement for some women too.

Women’s pants, however, can fit differently in the crotch area depending on the style and brand.

Some hang low in the crotch area and some don’t.

That can make for a variation in the inseam measurement.

Today I received a few pairs of men’s slacks for hemming.

This customer wants his pants hemmed with a 27 1/2″ inseam.

(Just so you know, that is a very short inseam. Most inseams are between 28″-36″)

There are two ways to find out what your inseam measurement is.

First, you can measure a pair of pants that you already have where the hem is the length you want.

Secondly, you can measure your body, from the crotch area to the point at which you want your hem to be.

For this example, I will show you how to measure the pants.

In this photo, you can see that I have laid the pants on the floor so that the inseam is showing from the intersection of the two seams to the bottom of the pants:

Here’s a close up view of that intersection of the two seams:

To get the inseam measurement, place a measuring tape at the point where the seams intersect:

Run the tape measure down the inside leg seam to the bottom of the pants. Whatever that measurement is, that’s your inseam.

Because my customer wants his pants to be at 27 1/2″, that is where I put a pin:

Notice the hem. It is put in by topstitching with a sewing machine. I always try to duplicate the original hem when I put the new one in.

First, take out the original hem with a seam ripper:

Take note that the original hem was 1 1/2″ deep:

Once you have taken out all the thread, spread out the entire hem so you can see all the way to the raw edge of the fabric.

If you measure from the fold of the original hem, you’ll see that there is 2 inches of fabric beyond that.

Measure from the folded edge to the pin.

That will tell you how much fabric to press up for the new hem.

Or you can measure from the original fold to the pin:

Press up that amount all the way around the hem:

Then, measure out that 2 inches and trim off the excess:

You’ll now fold up 1/2″. I know that because I left 2 inches of extra fabric and my original hem was 1 1/2″ deep. So, 1/2″ is what’s left to turn under.

Fold under the hem twice and pin in place, matching the side seam of the fold to the side seam of the pants:

You don’t have to pin this hem in place. You can just stitch if you like and if you feel comfortable doing that.

If I do pin the slacks, I like to pin on the outside (right side) of the pants.

I place a pin at each side seam and one if the center front of the pant and one in the center back.

Then, topstitch the hem in place.

On the next post, I’ll give you some pointers to make your topstitching look great.

***Note…if you want to learn how to sew many different types of hems, look under “More Articles” on the left side of this page and click on the arrow “Select Category”, then “Hems”. You’ll find several pages worth of hem “How To’s”. There’s sure to be the one you’re looking for.

How To Mark Your Pants For Hemming…One Method

There are several ways to mark a pair of pants in order to hem them.

I have used the same method for years.

It is so easy that your kids, husband, neighbor, or friend could do it easily.

And so can you!

First, I make sure the customer has on a pair of shoes that they will wear with the pants.

Then, I have them stand on the wood floor facing a full length mirror.

Then I grab a seam gauge like this one:

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It is a handy tool for this assignment.

I ask the customer how high off the ground they’d like their pants to be.

If they don’t know, I start by folding the hem up 1/2″ off the ground, using the seam gauge as my guide.

Then I have the customer look and see if they like it at that point.

This customer wanted hers higher, so I folded them up 3/4″ from the ground and put a pin in there. (In the photo below, I pushed the blue slide up out of the way so you can see the fold of the pants better. Sorry, but I took this picture with the camera on the floor and didn’t look through the viewfinder first. It’s a little distorted and I didn’t look at the photo until she left.)

But, you get the idea, don’t you?

You can see in the photo below that I have turned the hem over to look at the wrong side of it:

The seam gauge shows that I had turned the hem up one inch.

(Let’s recap: The pants are 3/4″ up off the ground and the pants are folded up 1″. That is why you have the two different measurements, in case you were wondering).

Next, I put three more pins into each pant leg (one at each side seam and one in the center front of the pant on each leg).

So, at each of the three points, I will fold the pants up one inch and put a pin in to secure it.

You should have a total of four pins per pant leg:

I let my customer look at the pants now that the 4 pins are in each leg and they let me know if they like the length.

If so, we’re finished and I go on to hemming them.

If not, I raise or lower the foldline according to what they want and then change the other three pins accordingly.

This may seem like a long process, but it only takes a minute or two.

Once you have marked the hemline, you’ll want to sew the hem. To do so, you’ll want to read my posts on:

How To Hem Pants and Skirts

Hem Your Jeans the Professional Way

How To Hem Without Puckers for Flared or Tapered Pants

How To Hand Sew a Hem

There are several other posts on specific hemming solutions, so look at the left toolbar and click on “More Articles” and then “Hems”.

My next post will cover another way to mark your hems so stay tuned!

Taking in the Waist and Center Back on Denim Pants and Skirts

One of the more common alterations I do is taking in the waist and center back on pants and skirts.

Most people try and solve this problem by just making a dart or two in the back of the pants.

That doesn’t work too well if your pants or skirt is made of thick fabric and has double stitched seams.

This is when this alteration comes in handy and it works on pants and skirts alike.

For this illustration, I have a skirt:

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Pin how much you need to take in and record the amounts along the waist and the center back seam as I did in the second photo of this post.

Or use your favorite method of transferring markings.

This skirt has a belt loop at the center back. With a seam ripper or a pair of small pointed scissors, take off the belt loop, making sure you pay attention to how it is attached because you are going to reattach it in the same way after you make the alteration:

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Remove any tags that are sewn in:

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Open up the horozontal waist seam by about four inches or more (2″ on either side of the center back) with your seam ripper or scissors:

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If there is stitching along the top edge of the waistband, take out about 3 inches of that (1 1/2″ on either side of the center back seam).

Now, this skirt does not have a center back seam. Most pants and jeans don’t either.

If yours doesn’t have a center back seam, don’t worry, we are going to put one in and it won’t show, as I’ll illustrate later.

This skirt needed to be taken in 3/4″ total in the waist. So, that means, I need to take in 3/8″ on both sides of the center back.

I took a ruler and marked the skirt 3/8″ away from the center back (make sure you mark to the left of the center and to the right of the center), one  at the top of the band and one at the bottom of the band:

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See the blue pen mark in the photo above? Well, you probably don’t want to use a blue pen, but I thought you’d be able to see it better than my marking pen.

Make these marks on the outside waistband and the inside waistband because you have to take in both!

Just to clarify, your markings should look like this:

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As you can tell in the photo above, if you don’t have a center back seam, you can draw one with a washable marker, or press it in, or eyeball it.

When you don’t have a center back seam, you are going to create one to take the waistline in. Don’t worry, it will be covered by the belt loop. The best way I’ve found to insure that my seam is hidden under the belt loop, is to sew it to the right (or left) of the actual center back seam that you see double stitched below the waistband. See how it doesn’t line up exactly? That’s what you want. In this case, I moved it over about 1/8″ inch.

To take in the waistband, fold the waistband along the new imaginary seamline, right sides together. (If your garment came with a center back seam, of course you’ll just stitch a line parallel to the seamline.) Match the blue dots to each other and pin them in place:

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Stitch in that new 3/8″ seam:

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Most of the time, I cut the fold and spread the new seam out flat to reduce bulk in the waistband area.

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However, if this is your first time with this alteration, wait and make sure everything is going fit together well before you trim it. If you have taken in a small amount, you may just want to leave it alone and not trim it. It’s up to you.

Now, we’re going to move to the skirt (or pants) for a few minutes, so leave the waistband until later.

Turn the skirt or pants to the underside. You need to take out the topstitching next.

Sometimes, the manufacturer will stitch the topstitching with a chain stitch. These are great because you can grab one thread and pull and the whole seam will come out. Just make sure you don’t pull out more than you meant to!

On this skirt I had one row of chain stitch and one row of regular stitching:

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Take out the topstitching with a seam ripper or scissors.

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Take in the skirt or pants the desired amount, tapering the seam towards the original seam like this:

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Again, I don’t just guess on how much to take in, I have pinned it first and then transferred the markings so I know exactly where to stitch the new seam.

Once you have the new seam stitched, turn the garment to the right side and topstitch the seam just like it was originally:

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In the photo above, you can tell where the old seam was, but don’t worry, that will fade quickly and most people don’t notice it anyway.

Here is where you want to reattach the belt loop.

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Stitch the labels back on:

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Now, topstitch to top of the waistband:

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Stitch the waistband to the skirt (or pants). I usually topstitch this area closed:

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Topstitch the top of the belt loop and then the bottom to hold it in place:

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Here’s a look at the inside:

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This is what it should look like on the outside. It should look the same as before you started, only smaller!

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Jean-a-ma-jig…what is that?

Yesterday, we covered how to hem your jeans the professional way. In that post, I mentioned that you have to have a jean-a-ma-jig.

They look like this:












They are a small flat hard plastic gizmo that you use to help get over the big seam allowances that you find on jeans. 


Sewing without one, means that you break alot of needles and/or your thread gets all caught up in the bobbin and you have a bird’s nest of thread to cut and pull out of there…a total mess.  Have you had that happen when you’ve sewn on jeans before?


By using this gadget, you are keeping the presser foot flat as it sews over this junction and you have success.  Don’t ask me why. I don’t know the physics or the psychics or anything, I just know it works.

News Flash: In this post, I will use the words “gizmo” and “gadget”  interchangeably. It’s only so I don’t have to type “jean-a-ma-jig” over and over.

So, now let’s look at how to use it. When you are sewing the hem and you are approaching the big hump on a pair of jeans or heavy jacket or whatever, you stitch right up to the hump and then lift your presser foot and slide the gizmo behind the presser foot like this:












Then, make sure you put the presser foot down and stitch until you sew to the edge of the hump. (this may be four or five stitches.) At that point, if your hump is not too big, you may be able to lift the presser foot up, take the gizmo out , put the presser foot down and just continue sewing.


However, if you have a really huge bump, (Like Levi jeans have) you can lift the presser foot up, move the jean-a-ma-jig to the front of the presser foot , put the presser foot back down and contunue stitching until you have passed the danger zone (until you have sewn past the hump area completely). Just make sure that the gadget is positioned so that the long narrow opening is in front of the needle.












Do you see how I have the gadget butted up against the seam where it is the thickest? You can tell I’ve already stitched the seam, but I wanted to let you see how it lines up with the gizmo. Once you have sewn over the hump and completely passed it, then take the gizmo out and make sure the presser foot is still down and continue sewing around the hem. It’s easier than it looks, but e-mail me or leave a comment if you have any trouble. We’re all about helping you get it right!

Here’s where you can buy one:

At $3.48, it’s a bargain. See how inexpensive your toys are when you sew?!!!

Hem Your Jeans the Professional Way

Want your jeans to look good after you hem them? It’s easy. You just need a few pointers, the right needle and thread and a special inexpensive gadget.

This method on this post is for straight leg jeans only. (To hem tapered or bell-bottomed pants, there’s a few extra steps involved, and you’ll want to look at this post.)

First, I have my customer try on the pants and put on the shoes they will most likely wear with them. Then, I tuck the excess material up and underneath until I reach the length the customer wants them to be in the back of the pants. I put a pin in to hold it there. Then, I measure the amount I folded up. I measure this same amount in the front and on the 2 side seams and put pins in those areas as I go around the pant leg putting a pin in each spot. There should be a total of four pins on each leg. Once the customer approves, I get to work on them.












Double check the measurement at each of the 4 spots. You can use a seam gauge for this.

The measurement should be the same at each pin. If not, make the adjustment.

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Now press the folded edge so there is a crease.

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I press on the inside of the leg so there is no chance of “shine”. That shouldn’t happen on cotton, but if there is any man-made fibers in there such as polyester, nylon, etc. the man-made fibers can produce a shine.












Now, look at the jeans hem. How wide is the folded edge right now before you do anything to it? Most jeans hems are 5/8″ wide. Since it is folded over twice, double the measurement. In this case. 5/8 + 5/8 = 1  1/4 inches.











So, as you can see in the photo above, I will cut the jeans one and one fourth inches longer than the new fold line (or one and one fourth inches towards the original seam edge.)











Now fold the cut edge to meet the fold and press a second fold into the jeans. Get your sewing machine ready to stitch on denim. You’ll need a Schmetz “jean” needle and thread to match the color of the original hem.

I like Gutermann’s heavy duty thread. It is much thicker than regular thread but works great in most machines. They have an amazing copper color that matches most hems. (I buy Gutermann color #887 for most topstitching).

Don’t go for the bright gold…ever! It never matches. I know they market it as the gold used on jeans, but you’ll never use it for that. I use a regular thread in the bobbin that matches the denim (blue of some shade). For some reason, the thick thread doesn’t work well if you use it in both places. It gets caught up in the bobbin.











Now, fold the new hem up twice at the fold lines . You’ll stitch from the right side of the jeans. Start stitching at one of the side seams and stitch all around the hem  using your 1/2″ mark on your machine.

(If you don’t have the seam allowances marked on your machine, measure from the tip of the needle out to the right 1/2″ and place a piece of masking tape parallel to the presser foot edge.) Stitching 1/2″ away will insure that you don’t go off the folded edge and miss some stitches (Remember, we folded it at 5/8″, so you shouldn’t have any trouble if you stay on the 1/2″ mark!).

Be sure and use a “Jean-a-ma-jig” when going over the bumps at the side seams. Also, use it when you return at the end of the seam because that’s where I start.










Here’s the finished product. Now go hem those jeans! It’s easier than you think with the right tools and gadgets.

Speaking of gadgets, tomorrow we’ll look closer at the “Jean-a-ma-jig”, what it does, and why you have to have one!

Note: To find other posts related to many different hemming techniques, look at the left side of this page. Click under “All Past Articles.” You’ll get a drop down menu. Just click on “Hems” to direct you to them. I hope you enjoy this site!