shortening jeans while keeping the original hem

 I was shortening jeans the other day, my winter uniform that is (plus a waterproof jacket and shoes – I have already practised wearing these in a last couple of days as it is so wet up here…). OK, but back to jeans: as I was shortening them I realised that I could as well post about it, some of you might find this info helpful.

So this is sort of tutorial on how to shorten a pair of jeans and still have original (that nice wornout-look-like) hem at the bottom. Let’s say my jeans are 9 cm longer than they should be.

  • put on your new jeans and a pair of shoes you will usually wear them with (flat shoes, trainers, high heels all make difference in your height and leg length) and decide how much you need to shorten them. Add the “height” of the original worn out hem, eg. 1 cm. Remember this or make a note, in our case the jeans need to be shortened by 10 cm.  Divide this number by 2, that is 5 cm.
  • Fold the bottom of a trouser over with the wrong side up and measure 5cm from the edge of a trouser.  Pin and then stitch all around, right next (under) this hem (picture 1 and 2). Notice: I have stitched next (yellow thread which I am holding) not on the top of  the original seam (orange thread).

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  • Cut along the stitched line leaving cca 1 cm so that you could neaten it with a zig-zag stitch.

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    • Zig-zag stitch all around (pic 5).

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    • Open the seam so that you see only the right side of the fabric and topstitch right on the seam or as close as possible. You can see the finished shortened hem on picture 6. Because I stitched next (on the other side of the fabric) to the original orange thread  it is still visible(on the right side). My new seem is visible to, but just a little and since it is at the bottom of the trousers no one will notice (only if I put up my feet, which I don’t do in public anyway :).

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My jeans are straight, but I have done this with jeans which widen at the bottom as well. If you need instructions on how to do so, let me know, I will post about it too.

I hope, this all makes some sense. If not, please, let me know, I will make necessary corrections so that it is understandable.

for larger picture, go to my Flickr, please.

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49 thoughts on “shortening jeans while keeping the original hem

  1. Wow, nice tip. At the end of the post you mentioned how you successfully hemmed jeans that widen at the bottom. Could you explain how you do it?

  2. Hello!

    and thank you for your comment!

    The post is the most viewed one but no one has ever commented, so I was not sure how clear it is…, but just yesterday I changed photos, uploading bigger ones…so maybe it helped.

    As for the jeans, I am going to write another post, but won’t keep you waiting – I will have to find a pair of jeans which are wide at the bottom, till then here it is how I do it: If you followed the instructions from the published post, you would soon find out that the bottom of trousers is too wide and it has to be narrowed. What I do is to cut the original hem completely from both legs and adjust it’s width so that it would match the width of a shortened leg.

    let’s say I need to have jeans 10 cm shorter.

    1. turn jeans inside out and make all the marks on the inside

    2. mark a line with a pencil or a dressmaker chalk 1 cm from the bottom hem, from the place where original hem is stitched, this is for a seam allowance

    3. cut along this line with scissors, now the hems are apart from jeans

    4. mark a line 8 cm from this cut line all round and cut again, now you have ended up with three parts: shortened jeans, original hems and two pieces of fabrics of 8 cm height which you are not going to need anymore, what you need is the jeans and the hems.

    5. measure the width of the trouser’s bottom edge all round the leg, let’s say it is 50 cm

    6. now we need to adjust the width of the hems so that it would be the same – 50 cm. First we need to unpick the inside seam of both hems and approx 6 cm to the left and right to be able to open the hem a bit for what you will do in step 7.

    I know, we are going to touch the original seam, but because it is on the inside, it won’t be that visible if you topstich it with a similar thread at the end.

    With a pencil/chalk mark 25 + 1 cm for a seam allowance = 26 cm from the oustide seam of the hem, join with a pin and cut with scissors. Close the hem and topstich.

    7. sew the new seams together on both hems

    8. attatch each hem to the leg

    9. neaten the edges with zig-zag stitch

    10. you can topstich the hem with a thread of the same colour as trousers, to flatten it.

    Please, let me know, if it is clear enough and if not what should be changed! I would love to hear from you!

    Cheers,

    Monika

    • This is great! I’m handy with my sewing machine, but couldn’t parse out how the tailors did it. Given that I have to hem every pair of pants I buy, this is outstanding! Thanks for posting.

  3. You just saved me about $30. that my tailor was going to charge to shorten a pair of flared jeans! I paid too much for jeans that were too long ;( and then didn’t want to ruin them by doing a poor job shortening. Thanks so much, your instructions are great.

  4. Thank you so much! I was looking for a way to shorten jeans that would preserve the look of the jeans. Your instructions seem easy to follow and I will certainly give this “new” method a try the next time I buy jeans.

  5. Thank you for the 1st post and pictures. You have saved me time and a lot of $$$. I am sooo glad I decided to google hemming. However, I get a lil confused about the flared bottoms. Can you post pictures?

    Thanks!!

  6. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea. I just read “How Not To Look Old” by Charla Krupp and in the jeans section she mentioned an expensive tailor in NY who shortened jeans while leaving the original hem. Now, thanks to you, I know how to do it too!

  7. hi, thanks for the demo. i don’t have a sewing machine, so i can’t do the zig-zag part, is it a must to have that done? many thanks!

  8. Great tutorial. I had these jeans next to my sewing machine for about 10 month (!) now. I read your post just 30 min ago and the jeans fit perfectly. Thanks so much.

  9. Hi Monika,

    Thanks for sharing the great idea. I have several pairs of jeans that need to be shorten. Your 1st post seem ealy to follow, but I am more interested on the 2nd way. I did not mention that I am a Thai and I often see people make money by shorten jeans and adjust clothing. And your 2nd tip is quite popular over there. I could not sew yet ^_^but I am always interested to learn but have not got a chance yet (people always make excuse:”), But i finally decide that i will learn this time. I have a friend that can sew, i will ask her to help me with these jeans.

    So, could you please post picture of how to do the 2nd way too if you could manage.

    Thanks so much.
    Nion (neon)

  10. Thank you! Have 2 pair designer jeans just sitting here. I figured out what should be done, but too scared to ruin the jeans without knowing exactly! I tried your method with a basting stich first, in case i messed up; but I didn’t because your instructions were perfect! Thanks again for saving me $60 and making my children happy with the original hem!

  11. Thank you so much, I just finished shortening my jeans and they look absolutely wonderful and, in all modesty, rather professionally hemmed!! And I am a total amateur!!!!!! Your post is a treasure, the pics helped so much, as well as the explanation of the overall idea.

    May I only say that the measuring bit confused me, as it seems to me that it did not add up right. I had to shorten the jeans by 8 cm, but by adding 1.8 (the hem) =9.8cm and divinding by 2, the hem would end up approx 1.8 cm lower than wehere it was supposed to go. There is a chance that I calculated that wrong, but in any case, I figured the correct position, by making sure that the bottom end of the hem touched the line I had drawn as to where my jeans were supposed to end!!!

  12. The only thing is if you want to turn them up you can;t because of the extra tucked under neath is there any way of loosing the extra material left?

  13. Phil, I think the only way to ‘hide’ the extra fabric for seams is to have seams on the right side of the jeans, but then you can not wear them turned up. I can not think of any other solution – just to decide how I want to wear them and hide the seam….

  14. I get lost at the zigzag part — do you have any video tutorials? The beginning makes total sense, and actually works. You add on this zigzag part. What is the point of that, and what does it change? Thanks!

  15. Hi there!
    And thank you for your comment/s.
    The zig-zag part is done after the new hem has been sewn on (topstiched) at the bottom of the jeans. I only do it to prevent the fabric from fraying.
    I am afraid I don’t have any video on this, hard to believe but since I did this jeans there hasn’t been a pair around which I would need to alternate.

  16. Thank you so so SO much! I’ve spent the entire morning and early part of the afternoon researching how to hem flared pants. I’ve dones regular pants and new it can be easy. The other posts available were too complicated, or impossible to follow. As soon as I found this post, I had the pants trimmed in 45 minutes.

  17. Hi there,

    Thanks for this helpful post. I am confused about adding the height of the old hem. In your example, you say the old hem is 1 cm. Did you add that to the amount that the jeans needed to be shortened. I am unclear as to what with do with the height of the old hem.

    Thanks for the great post.
    bridget

  18. Thank you very much again for leaving all the positive comments, it makes me really happyt that the post is being usefull. And I hope I will be able to write another one with pictures on flared hem jeans.

    Bridget, this is what I do when I need to shorten jeans. I have them on, with my shoes on, in front of a mirror. Then I turn up the bottom part of jeans, pin and keep doing so until I like the new lenght.

    Let’s say, I have turned up 9 cm, this needs to go away. But within this 9 cm there is 1 cm of old hem included which will be sewn back. If I cut away 9 cm only and then sew on 1 cm old hem, it means I have got rid off of 8 cm only. But I need to cut away 9 cm. That’s why I had to add 1 cm (the width of the old hem) to the lengh I have turned up.

  19. Thanks for the tips, but I have one more question. Have you done jeans with stretch? If so, how do you get it so that it isn’t stretched out when you are done?

    • Yes, I have used the same method to shorten highly elastic jeans. It works well, I would suggest basting rather than pinning before sewing on the machine. The hem was slightly wavy, but doesn’t get noticed too much as it is at the bottom. I would just recommend to be very carefull not to stretch fabrics when sewing.

      Hope this helps.

  20. This note is to Phil – if you want to be able to turn up your jeans, with the new “original” hem after shortening, and NOT have it showing, is to use a different method of hemming, where you rip out the original orange stitching from the hem, tuck the NEW seam underneath it, and then re-topstitch in exactly the same spot as the original topstitching was. You have to be very careful to do a neat job with the top AND underneath at the same time, so pin, pin, pin!! before sewing. There IS a tutorial on this method on Youtube, I think it is called the “Professional” method or “invisible” method of doing an original hem. Hope this helps!! PS – – I can not BELIEVE how much people charge to do these hems, I only charge $8 per pair of jeans!!!

    • Thank you, Gladys, for your tip, it certainly is the neatest way to do the hem. I would suggest to test the sewing machine beforehand to see how it manages to sew through more denim layers and also if the sewing thread which is going to be used actually matches the original, otherwise the hem will not look like the original one.

  21. how can i shorten jeans and not make the hem any wider than it already is? or is that a job for a tailor.

    • I am not sure, Zaki, what you mean. The hem will be as wide as the bottom of the trousers, unless you make them narrower first and then make the hem.

    • zaki – if you dont know how to sew with a machine, you should leave the job to a tailor or someone who knows how to do it. You have to cut off part of the jeans if you are shortening them, then either make a NEW hem or RE-ATTACH the old hem if you are using that method.

  22. I have trouble with the thick seams on jeans. My machine can not sew over them and have broken two needles sofar. Would appreciate some help. Thank you Mary

    • Hi Mary, have you tried needles for heavyweight fabrics? And very very slow sewing? Sometimes, I only turn the ‘wheel’ on the right of the machine with my hand, without using foot. But, it also depends on the type of the machine, some are less powerful. I have Pfaff and it can sew through thin metal. If all fails, I am afraid, you will need to hand sew.

  23. Hi,
    Just found this website, I love flare jeans but unfortunately I’m short, so after alteration end up with straight cut jeans 😦

    Any way I can alter them yet keep the flare. Please say yes

    Thank you

  24. Hi Monica,

    I just found your site. Is there any way to shorten flare jeans without losing it’s flare? Please say yes…

    • Julie, I have just e-mailed you. And for others, I am afraid if a lot has to be cut from the bottom of the jeans then the flare will have to go too. So I am afraid my answer is no…

      • Hi again Monica,

        I’m in abit of a fix, I have a jeans that needs to be shortened 5.5cm which is the exact size of my hem, how do I do this?

        Thank you

    • In the ’70s, we used to sew EXTRA width into our jeans to get REALLY wide bell bottoms, which were in style back then. A person could still do this to jeans – shorten them to the right length, then open the seams and insert an inverted triangle piece of fabric into the seam, either just on the outside seams OR on both sides of the leg; you can use any fabric you like (We tended to use floral cotton back then) or you can use denim from and old pair of jeans. Just a suggestion!

  25. Julie, no matter how much you have to shorten and how big your hem is the principle is the same. If you follow the steps, you will get there. I am sorry I cant help more over the internet, no demonstrating, just words.

  26. Hi Monika, Finally found the time to alter my jeans. Your idea works beautifully. Had to adjust the measurements a bit on the jeans which I had to alter the same amount as my hems but it’s just simple maths. Thank you so much!

  27. Why do you need to divide in two the length you want to take up – sorry I don’t understand?? Thanks, Sarah

    • Hello, I think you are referring to step ? Because you are going to fold over bottom of the hem and stich along the original seam. Just do what you see on the photos and it will become clear.

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