How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

Hemming a pair of pants is a great beginner project. Great results are easy to achieve, and the effort is rewarded in spades. Standard pant lengths for offthe-rack clothes simply do not flatter everyone. People's bodies vary: This man needs a large waist, so the pants are cut long. This woman has a long torso, but short legs. That kid grew 6 inches in a year, and his ankles are sticking out like a baby giraffe's. The correct pant length goes a long way toward cutting a fine figure.

Don't suffer pants that don't fit, and don't go broke over pricey trips to the tailor and dry cleaner. Follow these steps, and you'll be walking tall in no time.

1 Wash it. Check the fabric care label on your pants. If your pants are made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of both, preshrink them by following the manufacturer's washing and drying directions. Iron the pants before you start to stretch and smooth the material. A warm wash also gets rid of any stiffener, which would make it more difficult to get an even hem.

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

2 Rip it. Using a seam ripper, take out the stitches of the original hem. If the fabric doesn't hang downward, iron it down.

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

3 Mark it. If possible, enlist a friend to help you with this. Try on the pants and stand on a chair. Have your friend fold the fabric at the bottom of the pants upward and inward, until the fold hits about three quarters of the way down the back of your heel, and, using one straight pin at the back, mark the spot.

If you're on your own, do this in front of a full-length mirror. Be aware, though, that bending and standing will change the length, so you may have to try a few times to get it right.

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

4 Measure, fold, and press. Take off the pants you're hemming and turn them inside out. Measure the inseam, which is the seam that runs from the crotch down the inside of the leg, all the way to the bottom of the hem. Then measure the inseam on a pair of pants you already wear. Compare the two to make sure your measurements are correct.

Starting at the pin on one leg, use a tape measure to measure the length from the edge of the fabric to the bottom fold. Use that measurement to fold and pin the hem around the bottom of the leg with five or six straight pins. Repeat the process on the other leg. Iron the hems where you want them to be, making a crease. With the pants still inside out, use your tape measure to measure 2 inches of fabric from the ironed hemline. Mark the pants with tailor's chalk, making a dotted line around the entire leg.

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

5 Cut. Take out the pins and cut the fabric on the dotted line (use pinking shears if you have them; the jagged scissor edge prevents fraying).

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

6 Pin the hem back into place using the five or six pins. Thread a sharp with the right thread for the pants. Don't double the thread over. Instead, pull about an inch of thread through the needle and knot the opposite end. With the pants inside out, sew a blind hem stitch (see How to Fix a Hole in Your Shirt) beginning at the side seam. Knot the thread on the inside of the pants when you've sewn the entire leg. Repeat for the other leg. When finished, iron the hems flat. Then iron the pants and hang them in the closet.

How to Hem Pants with Needle and Thread

Glossary of Hemming Accessories

Sewing pins. Used to temporarily hold fabric together prior to sewing and when attaching or cutting patterns. The shaft of the pin is typically made of brass, nickel, steel, or a combination of those metals. When used for machine sewing, you can quickly and easily remove them as you stitch. Sold in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, as well as with different types of pinheads.

• Glass-head pins. Straight pins topped with large, colored balls made of glass, making them easier to see and grasp, and allowing them to withstand heat from irons and dryers.

• Color-ball pins. Like glass heads, but less expensive, and topped with plastic heads. Not suitable for use with heat.

• Flat-head pins. The most common type of straight pin, they feature bluntnubbed "heads" of the same metal as the pin shaft.

Seam gauge. A sewing gauge is a small ruler used in sewing. Generally 6 inches in length, it has a sliding marker, or flange, that is set to a specific measurement and is especially useful when measuring the same length repeatedly.


• Check your hemline against a pair of your pants in your closet by laying the pants flat, one pair over the other, on an ironing board. Take the measurements from the inseam, not the waistband.

• If you like the way the original hem was sewn, examine it and take notes about it before you start sewing the new hem. There may be something about the style you'd like to copy.

• Just like a carpenter does: Measure twice, cut once.

• If you've no one to help you pin your pants, you can tape a fabric marker to a chair leg, put on your pants, and spin yourself in a circle.

• Compare your thread color to your pants both in natural sunlight and under harsh bathroom lights.

• Wear shoes with the same heel that you're likely to wear with your pants as you measure.

• Stand on a chair or hard floor as you measure. (Avoid shag rugs or flooring with padding!)

• Measure both legs. All of us have one shorter and one longer leg, which may not be apparent to the naked eye.