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Altering Jeans: Shorter (with Identical Hem)

Can anyone on this planet find the perfect pair of jeans? 

There are so many things to look for in a perfect pair of jeans.  First, there’s the waist.  And then the fit in the legs.  And then the fabric stretch.  And ah man, now you have to choose from boot cut, skinny jeans, trouser cut, straight leg, blah, blah, blah.  And what about the color…..gosh, the right shade can do everything for a pair of pants.  And the list goes on.  And just when you think you have found the perfect pair of pants…….the length is off.  ((grumble))

I’m tall.  So is my husband.

I usually have to lengthen our pants.  So I never even think about clever ways to shorten pants.

But then my brother came over one day…….and showed me some pants he found.  And they were too long for him.  He’s tall too…..so it was weird to think he needed some pants shortened.  But when you find super long jeans for a good deal, you buy them.  And then alter them.  Right?

Okay, so I stewed and stewed over how to shorten them…….trying to figure out how to make them look like the original hem.  I was thinking about cutting them off, using the same thick yellow thread to hem them, and then sanding the edges to give it that worn look.  And then maybe using some bleach to fade them a bit?  Gah!  Sounded exhausting.

So I looked online.  Oh my word……and found the perfect solution from Cathe.  She learned this trick from the store she bought some jeans from, who offered free alterations.  Those smarty-pants altering people.  I love them for this.  And Cathe for sharing.

Check out those newly shortened jeans:

You can’t even tell that they have been shortened.

And I think it’s my hemmed jeans that make my brother look smokin’…….totally not him. Ha.

(And yeah, he’s single.  Any takers in Northern Colorado?)

Thanks Greg. 

I was at a loss as to how I was going to shorten your crazy long jeans.  Glad we figured it out (thanks to Cathe).

And it looks like we need to hem your daughter’s pants too.  Maybe she’s going for the cuffed look…….but long jeans aren’t safe around me anymore.  (Yep, that’s the same niece from this post.  Sweet little Claire!)

Anyone else need to hem some pants? 

How about the pants you bought (or will buy) for your little kiddos for the fall?  Did you buy them a little long, hoping they would last all winter?  We all know how fast those little ones grow.  Use this technique and then let them back out in a few months.  They’ll look great all season long.

Ready to hem some jeans? 

I just added a few more pictures of the process, to help those of you who are super visual.  But thanks again Cathe for sharing the trick you learned from those alterations people.

**Remember, this is a great technique for growing children.  Buy some jeans that are just a tad too long……and then follow the steps below to hem them.  And then un-hem them in a few months after they’ve grown too tall for them.**

Let’s get started.

Update:  If your pants are super flared or are boot cut and you’re cutting off tons of length, this may be more tricky.  The reason being is that the width around the bottom seam may be a little dirrferent from the point where you want to hem them up to. If this is the case, it may be better to cut off the bottom hem, then cut off the bottom of the pants to the length you want it, the re-attach the bottom hem where you need it.  And you will have to take in that bottom hem too, so that it’s the same width as where you’re re-attaching it.  But the pants shown below are boot cut and since I only took them up a few inches, it still worked great.

Try your jeans on yourself (or your subject) and mark with pins, the length that you want them to be.

(Be sure to wash/dry them first and try them on with shoes so that you are shortening them to the correct length.)

First of all, you will be keeping that very bottom hem on the pair of pants.  That’s why they will look so good at the end.

So measure the very bottom hem of the pants.  Measure from the very bottom of the pants where they’re rough and a bit rugged, to right above the seam and fold of the hem.  When you sew them up (in the next few steps) you don’t want to sew through the thickness of the hem, so mark your measurement to right above that hem.

If you see the picture below, the bottom hem of these pants was about a 1/2 inch tall.  Now, you need to measure up from your original row of pins, the measurement of your bottom hem height.  In my case, I measured up a 1/2 inch and then placed a new row of pins.

Then, fold up the bottom of the pants, to meet with that top row of pins.  Then pin the folded pant leg in place, all the way around.

 

 

Now, slide the end of the pant leg under the needle and stitch all the way around………right next to that fold of fabric.  Stick right next to it to give your new hem a nice even look from the other side.

See how it’s all nice and sewn in place?

Do the same to both pant legs.

Now, you can cut this excess fabric off and zig-zag (or serge) the raw edges or just keep it for future length.  Whatever you do, fold the edge or excess fabric up towards the inside of the pant legs.

Then press it nice and flat.  Use steam……..and lots of it.

If you keep the excess fabric (and don’t cut it off and zig-zag/serge it), lay it up nice and flat on the inside and then tack it in place along the side seams with a few hand stitches.  You don’t want it to flap down.  (Need help with hand stitching?  Click here.)  It also helped to do the same along the back in a few places too……just so my brother wasn’t stepping on the extra fabric that was coming down just a bit by his heel.

And that’s it. 

All hemmed up.  And ready to wear.

 

Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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Comments

  1. Steffi Glauß says:

    Hello,
    thanks for this helpful tutorial! It is a shame that it’s from 2011. Greg isn’t still single, is he? ;)
    Greetings from germany,
    Steffi

  2. Irene says:

    This is great – as a short person I appreciate this so much! About to hem my third pair of jeans this way. The only concern I have though, came from when talking to my Dad who said that his Mum used to hem jeans this way until she found that the crease collected a lot of dirt and grime – has anyone else had this problem?

  3. Nikki says:

    Yep your brother is sooooo cute! Oh oh and thanks for the excellent tip! Clever!

  4. Lezlie says:

    I’ve been doing this for several years to my whole families pants (we all are on the short side). No one ever notices the new hem. I do keep the extra fabric on my kids and adjust as needed. Just wish I knew about this when I was a young.

  5. Dana says:

    Love the tutorial….and yes, your brother is indeed handsome. I’m single and in Colorado….but I highly doubt he is still single.

  6. Leslie says:

    I see it’s been awhile since this was first posted, just wondering if Greg is still looking for someone to hem his jeans? ?

  7. Rach says:

    Thank you for sharing this! It worked out perfectly, and I was soo scared to hem jeans. Thank you!!!

  8. fanfan says:

    Merci pour cette super astuce , ai raccourci deux jeans en 30 mn et sans casser d’aiguille.

  9. Sherry says:

    Love this idea! One suggestion though. Use the zipper pressure foot. You can sew real close to that original hem without all that bulk under the pressure foot.

  10. Sherry says:

    Love this idea! One suggestion though. Use your zipper foot on your sewing machine. You can get real close to that original hem without having all of that bulk under the pressure foot.

  11. Ruth says:

    This article does not go far enough. What about the width of the pants? I am quite short and if the legs aren’t tapered they can just look like a baggy mess as they will be wide in places you don’t want them to be. This is fine for maybe 1 – 1/2 inches, but more than that I strongly advise not being so cheap and going to your tailor.

  12. Delfina mayoral says:

    I sincerey couldn’t continue paying attention to the sewing tutorial (to which i’ll return ) after i saw your brother’s pictures!!! Please do tell him, that he has a taker here in the super beautiful country that’s Argentina, where i live. Maybe you all need a little holydays!!!

    Thanks fof the tutorial and the treat for the eyes. Delfina

  13. Sabrina says:

    DUDE it worked great and was super easy, thanks for the tutorial!!!!

  14. Rebecca says:

    This is the very first thing I have ever tried to do with a sewing machine. It worked PERFECTLY! I even used my daughters “toy” sewing machine. Thank you for the simple and detailed instructions. I especially like that the extra fabric is still attached. I had to hem my daughters jeans and now I can let them out as she grows.

  15. Becky says:

    You are a genius and thank you for sharing this information. I just hemmed a pair of 505’s down two inches they look amazing, I mean amazing. No one could tell they were hemmed. Thank you thank you, my son is so picky and this was just perfect!!!! This works, just make sure you have an 110 18 needle when through the denim like butter!

  16. Denim jeans says:

    Nice dictation of jeans :)

  17. Fluid says:

    Because if you don’t know how well you can do to assist them. It seems as if one of those people that are making tons of money from all these ideas are the ones to succeed. You can build a brilliant marketing program only to have it right.

  18. Suellen Mollenhauer says:

    This put up is really helpful. I’m able to override author’, email’ and url’ default settings, but I am not able to override comment_field’, it is getting duplicated, i.e. the default textarea is also appearing with my custom comment textarea. Any help would be appreciated.

  19. Penny says:

    I am using this today. I do some of my grand children’s jeans, and this is going to be great!!

  20. mary says:

    Question-can you hem capris to make shorts or long dresses to shorter length using this same method? Of course fabric may also need to be trimmed away, but I would love to keep the original look of the hem. Any input? Thanks.
    Mary

  21. Sue says:

    Great idea. I would serge or overcast the edge and fold it down, rather than up. That way, when putting on the jeans, you’re not constantly putting your leg int o a seam that’s face upward!!!

  22. sheen says:

    Thanks this was very helpful

  23. Bekki says:

    I loved this so much! I’m 4 foot asian! and can’t ever find short enough legs on jeans.

    Anywho, I live in Northern Colorado! And although I am married, my 26 year old sister is single and I know this may be a long shot since it’s been a few years since you posted this, but if your brother is still single then we should totally set these two up! LOLOL.

    Send me an email if you want!

  24. Guilla says:

    OMG!! I am sooo doing this with all of my jeans! I am a shortie so many of my jeans are just a little too long! I really appreciate you posted this! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I love your blog, you are a real inspiration, hopefully I will be as skillful as you are!
    Many blessings, keep it up! ;)

  25. Kathy says:

    Had an occasion to use this tutorial today…soo easy and now I have great fitting jeans that I won’t trip over!

  26. anitia says:

    Still difficult to try and adjust to shorten the hem when and since Im totaaly shrot this is great for the jean what about the dress pants only.

  27. Megan@BlueStarVermont.com says:

    Thanks for a great way to sneak in a “jeans’ look hem.

  28. debbie says:

    just wanted to say thanks for this great idea on heming jeans …you have made my life sooooo much easier…and i just wanted to thank you

  29. Sophie says:

    I tried it! And they are the best hems I’ve ever done!
    Another good thing, I can retry them before finishing (i.e. cutting the excess) and I’m sure of the final look. No surprise.

    Quick, easy and good looking.

    Thanks for sharing this tip!

  30. Stacy says:

    Just followed this tutorial to hem my MIL’s jeans–they turned out great! Thanks!!

  31. kate says:

    Thank you thank you! Nice and simple-worked great!

  32. Amy says:

    You are my hero. I was about to take some miss me jeans to be altered. I have been holding off because I was afraid of how they would look with the altered hem. However the jeans were about 4 inches too long and I’d never wear them without the alteration. I do not sew. I own a $10 battery operated machine for emergencies. I completed this projectdespite these odds against me and the jeans look amazing!!! Thank you so much for the idea.

  33. Sarah says:

    I just shortened a pair of my husband’s jeans, and they turned out great! However, I ran across a measurement problem that I think I figured out. I’m just not sure if I can explain it to you just with words, but I’ll give it a shot. I haven’t read all the comments to see if anyone else noticed this.

    Say your first row of pins (the length you want the jeans to be) is 2 inches from the bottom of the jean… if you add half an inch (the length of the original hem) to that for the second row of pins and fold the bottom of the jeans up to that, then if you measure the length that is actually being removed when you sew just below the existing hem, it measures only 1.5 inches. (in other words, the distance from the sewn line to the bottom is 3/4 inch.) The jeans end up half an inch longer than I wanted them to be. To remedy this, I had to double the length of the hem (1/2 inch to 1 inch) when I put in the second row of pins to fold up to.

    Does this make sense? It only makes sense to me when I’m holding the jeans in my hand and looking at it, so I’m not sure if I can translate that into text.

  34. Joni says:

    After washing the jeans, does the hem stay flat or do you have to iron it every time?

  35. ChickadeeJess says:

    Hi. I enjoyed your great tutorial and linked to it here https://chickadeejess.blogspot.com/2012/10/kcwc-challenge-days-1-and-2-magic-jeans.htm

    Thanks!

  36. Kaoru says:

    Hello Ashley,

    THank you so much for this wonderful tutorial! I just finished heming my jeans and I am loving it!

    Cheers,
    Kaoru

  37. Kirsten says:

    Seriously….you are a genius!!! I am obsessed! Thank you, thank you, thank you! From my little 5’1″ body…thank you!!

  38. Natalie says:

    It seems to me that this will leave the pants 1/2 inch longer than you actually want them. What am I missing?

    1. Louise G says:

      You are right Natalie, the technique is good but her measurement calculations are wrong. For anyone else reading this you need to double the depth of the hem measurement, i.e. put your pins not ½ ” but 1″ above your desired finished length.

  39. Natalie says:

    I feel so dumb, help me out here. Doesn’t this actually make the pants 1/2inch longer than you want them? Why can’t I get it? Thanks!

    1. Sarah says:

      See my comment (#143).

    2. Natalie says:

      Thanks Sarah for confirming that. I was thinking I was the only person who found that and so I must be wrong.

  40. Michelle says:

    This is flippin brilliant. Being 5’2″ since 8th grade, I have passed up many pairs of great jeans because they were too long, and I hate the look of “hemmed” jeans. I am new to sewing and just bought my almost 5 year old a pair of jeans that were on a great sale, fit great in the waist, and are way too long. So I came here because I knew you would have a fantastic way to fix these jeans, and I was right! LOVE your blog I have learned so much! And now I never have to leave a perfect pair of jeans in the store because of the length!

  41. KarinSDCA says:

    This is great! Thank you for sharing!

    I used a similar method for a pair of pajama bottoms for my daughter last year, but I didn’t tack up the extra. They were pjs, so we didn’t care that much and I sewed the “make do” seam high enough up that the excess fabric could fall down and not be seen. We let them out recently and you cannot tell they were ever shorter.

    For converting too-short jeans into “boyfriend” shorts (knee-length) for her this spring, I took the time to cut the legs off and double-stitch a new hem with thread similar to the original. I am wondering if this would have worked for that much excess fabric? I am sure I will have more opportunities to try this out!

  42. emily buehler says:

    When my kids were toddlers, I used a very similar method on their sleeves.

  43. Mary Boshell says:

    This is a great tutorial! I have hemmed about 12 pairs of my husband’s jeans AND it works wonders on slacks with cuffs! Someone told my husband he was a 32 length…so far I have hemmed his pants to 28….Yes, I am SO glad I found this great tutorial!

  44. gina says:

    I am short, so this is great, found it on pinterest. And your brother is surely date worthy. His daughter is darling. Too bad he’s in Colorado….I’m in Utah!

  45. moonlake says:

    This is really a good idea. Always need to shorten my jeans.

  46. julia says:

    Today for the first time on your site, but i love it!! Thanks!! Now i can try to do it my self instead of paying 15 euro to have it done! Btw unfortunatly i live in the netherlands otherwise, i would love to have a lunch with your brother :-))

  47. Pvc fabric says:

    I always have to shorten my jeans. Now I know how to make them look better. Thanks.

  48. Paula says:

    I did this on some pj`s and it did great. Thanks for the information.

  49. Kitty says:

    I love your idea to shorten jeans. I always have to buy my jeans long because I ride so I use your method and some duck tape on the inside of the pant leg to temporarily shorten them for my non horsey outfits. Thank you for sharing your great idea and helping to inspire the rest of us to come up with our own. BTW: Your brother is a cutie. Is he still single? :)

  50. Abbie says:

    I’m in Northern Colorado and definitely a taker for your brother! Haha

  51. Gabriela Pinera says:

    I love your blog it is so easy to understand, I’m so glad I found you can’t wait to go through your whole website. My husband always needs his jeans hemmed his 5’6′ and it;s hard to fine jeans in a 28 length.

  52. Lauren says:

    Your brother should come to Austin…just sayin’…

  53. poletje says:

    Thanks! Should have known this 45 years earlier ! Never too old to learn ……

  54. Mom says:

    At what point do you take the first row of pins out??

  55. Stephanie says:

    Omg thank you so much I have always had my grandmother hem my jeans for me and they never look the same. However, I have already tried this on a pair of jeans and they look amazing you can’t even tell. Now I can buy those awesome jeans I find at the store and don’t have to worry about them being to long.
    Thank you!

  56. Jamie says:

    Hello! I want to try this technique with my too long skinny jeans, but have a problem. Usually my mom alters my jeans, but they lose their “skinniness” because she cuts the ends off and sews a new hem. Do you think I can do this too? Should I make them skinny first and then do this or do this and then make them skinny?

  57. Sandi C says:

    Awesome!!! Just used this method!!!! Thumbs up!!!! Will use it often

  58. Nicci says:

    Love the idea.. HATE that I don’t live in Colorado.. very handsome and sharp brother ;)

  59. Tatertots says:

    Wow. I am 4ft9inches and have always hated hemming jeans. Now I cannot wait to tackle the next pair. Bring em on!
    Thank you for sharing!

  60. Katy D. says:

    My daughters and I are so grateful! We are of the big-bootied, short legged crowd. Love, love, love this!

  61. Jean says:

    My daughter was trying to explain how she has her jeans professionally hemmed by keeping the old hem. Thanks you so much for sharing. Now I can do it!

  62. Bonnie says:

    I love this. I just bought a pair of designer jeans for $7 and they are WAY too long. It was too good of a deal to pass up though. Just one question though… What happens when you put them through the washer? Will they stay in place or start to lay funny? Will I have to press them every time I take them out of the dryer?

    1. Michelle says:

      Bonnie (or anyone else): did you get an answer on this? I’m also wondering what happens when these are washed again. Just got some new pants that are way long and driving me crazy.

    2. Bonnie says:

      I never got a reply, no. I also haven’t tried shortening them either….

    3. margey says:

      press them every time, they do flip up!

    4. KarinSDCA says:

      Machine-stitch them the way someone upthread described (vertical stitches in a few places with thread that matches your jeans) and they won’t require constant ironing.

  63. Alexandria Capranica says:

    GREAT post!! Im 5’1 and can NEVER find jeans unless they are from Hollister or American Eagle because they offer “short” jeans.

    Btw, is brother still on the market? He’s a total babe ;). I work out in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah..

  64. Katie O. says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! This worked like a charm for my awesome new Gap jeans that needed to be hemmed just a bit. You are SO appreciated :) :) :) God bless you & your beautiful family – Merry Christmas!!!!

  65. Shelle says:

    Well, totally awesome idea. AND I’m single and moving to Eastern Wyoming in the Spring…..I will need someone fun to do things with–maybe a handsome brother?!?!?! ;)

  66. Lauren says:

    I finally get it. Thank you. I’ve seen so many tutorials fro this but haven’t understood until i saw yours.

  67. Ashlee says:

    First off, I just have to ask. Did you ever hate your name growing up? No? Just me? Okay. Moving on. I have to thank you for changing my life forever. Dramatic? Yes. True? Absolutely. All 5’3″ of me would like to thank you, as well as my 5’6″ husband, and most-likely-going-to-be-short kids. So thanks! Super clear, easy instructions! I linked back to you here: https://kickingmyash.blogspot.com/2011/11/life-changing-alteration.html Thank you! I’m so glad I found your site through this tutorial on Pinterest! I’m a follower now! And I love your Halloween costumes. We can be friends. I love costumes! Our family did a Tangled theme this year!

  68. Holly@Mimi's Dollhouse says:

    That might be the smartest thing I’ve seen in a long time!!! I never would have thought to fold the orignal hem up like that!!! I am 5’3” and ALL my pants are too long. All this time I’ve had to deal with either rolled pants or ugly hems…LOVE this website!!!

  69. Aimee says:

    Why I love this is because I have three boys and jeans are handed down. So with my chunkier oldest son, I can still pass it on to my taller, skinny middle child and so on. Thank you.

  70. katy says:

    I have been useing this technique for a while, but I wanted to add that after you are done cutting off the extra and folding the hem under you can sew above the top of your new stitch to hold the fabric in place also makes it less likley to fray…similr to your handstitching technique

  71. Lisa says:

    This makes my life so EASY! Thanks so much! I am petite, but cheap, so am always hemming pants I get on sale that are not in petite size. And now that my friends know I can sew, I’m the neighborhood seamstress! :o) Thanks so much for your great tutorials. Love them all!!!!

  72. Haley says:

    I just did this to a new pair of jeans and they look fabulous now! I do want to add, though, that it is necessary to take out the lower row of pins (where you want to hem to end up). I didn’t think it all through before I started sewing, and had to stop to pull out that row before I sewed them into that fold of extra material! I am sure that goes without saying, but it might be worth a mention!

  73. Crafty Carole says:

    oh my, you may not believe this but I just did this last week to my daughter’s uniform pants… and now this week I’m reading your blog. (was sent here to look at your adorable elephant tute from pinterest.com) You made me feel brilliant tonight… another advantage is when (as in the case for kids) you need to let them down for the growth issue, the bottom that gets worn that always shows after you let hemmed pants down will be the same bottom on the longer length… thanks for reaffirrming that in a pinch we do smart things… then wonder why we didn’t do it that way since ever.

  74. pkae says:

    Since there are over 100 comments, I not only didn’t read them all (I usually do), but will prob repeat what many said.

    OMG! I want to kiss you and anyone else who should share the lime light for this tip!!! I am 5 ft tall and NEVER can find jeans (pants in general) that don’t need hemming. Thus I usually wear mine till they are falling off!

    But now I can get my tall sister’s hand-me-downs (she’s far more of a fashionista than me, so I love them) and wear them with pride (not with head bent for the 6 roll ups that look hideous :-D )

    How simple but amazingly fantastic! Got a pile I’ll start on tomorrow! THANK YOU!!!

  75. Jean @ Quilted Cupcake says:

    Best jeans tutorial ever! My boys are going to love you, and they don’t even know you. They always complain that when I hem their jeans they don’t look “right” (aka original hem). Total game-changer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    p.s. – I agree your bro is easy on the eyes! Great photos.

  76. Cydne says:

    I love this technique, and for me I do serge the excess fabric off & don’t worry about tacking.

    One tip: If you hem children’s pants this way, you want to make sure that they don’t stay that way for more than a few months or the jeans will lighten where they were creased. Then when you let them out, there will be a lighter line around the bottom of the pants where they were hemmed. On some pants its not much of a problem, but on others, it is.

    Also, if you can’t use this technique, you can just use the yellow colored top stitching thread that matches, or regular yellow thread that matches with machine stitch that sews each stitch 3 times – then it will look like the heavy thread even though it isn’t.
    Then, just sand lightly along the hem and wash them a few times. You don’t have to worry about bleach. The sanding usually loosens up enough of the fiber that excess dye washes out quickly anyhow.

    Great tutorial!

  77. MarlisB says:

    you deserve the Nobel prize for this! My hubby is short and so am I and I am forever altering pants. This rockSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks!

  78. Amy M. says:

    I just used this tutorial to hem some jeans I bought recently that were too long. They turned out awesome. Thank you SOOOO much for this!!!!

  79. missvixen1969 says:

    Holy cow!!! Amazing thank you gals for sharing this. I’ve always been little (like 4″10) which means that even jeans that say they’re , “Short”, are not so. So ALL of my pants are altered. My neice makes fun of me, “Auntie, did you really cut 6 inches off?” Did I mention she’s 6 inches taller than me? (: Anyway, thanks for the post and many others I’ve read!

    1. Colton Flinner says:

      Hi there, I discovered your website by means of Google while searching for a similar subject, your web site came up, it seems to be great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

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