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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… 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

Administrator 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 the 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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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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