At one point or another, we’ve all needed one basic thing- to have our jeans hemmed. I’ve walked on the back of countless pairs of mine, so that it looks like something took a huge bite off of the back of my pant leg. It’s annoying to say the least, but cutting off your jeans and turning them under gives them the “oh-look-I’m-vertically-challenged-and-my-mom-hemmed-these” look. To fix that, you do what’s called a “tricky hem”, where you put the original fancy hem back on your jeans.
I did a few hundred of this type of jean hem in my last job doing alterations. One of the keys to making sure your hems will be long (or short) enough is to wear the right shoes with them and take a look at the fit. If you want to wear a pair of jeans with both flats and heels, too bad. They’re either going to be long or short, so buy a second pair. Second, don’t pull them down so that they’re straight on your legs if they’re really tight and will gather behind your knees when you walk. Instead, put them on and walk around or sit down in them so you’ll have them hemmed where they’ll actually sit when you wear them out.
To mark jeans (or other pants):
Have the person who is begging and pleading with you to have their jeans hemmed put them on and and stand facing away from you. It’s important that they don’t look down at you to see what you’re doing or they won’t be marked correctly. Mark each pant leg at the 12″ mark on a ruler. You can use chalk if you’d like, but if you use pins, be sure to put them in parallel to the floor. Next, mark the hem on one leg, making it about a 1/4″ off the floor, or shorter if they like.
Tell them to take off their pants:
Say it in a deep creepy voice- it’ll make the whole experience much more memorable.
Line up the pant legs:
Lay the legs of your jeans flat, lining up the inseams. This is where the 12″ marks come into play. When you line up your pins (or chalk marks), you will be able to see if your legs are uneven by seeing the difference between the two original hemlines. If they are different, that’s fine- just don’t let it be more than 1″. If it is more than 1″, I would try them on again and double-check to make sure your markings are correct. If you’re satisfied with how everything lines up, make a line perpendicular to the outer seam where you want your finished hem length to be.
Cutting the hems:
This is where it might start to get scary. Yes, you actually cut off the old hems, exactly where you want your new hem to be. I know it sounds crazy, but I promise it works.
Prepping old hems:
To do this, use a seam gauge to measure how wide the old hem was. You will then use this measurement to cut a seam allowance just above the old hem’s stitching. This will make more sense when you start sewing.
Pin the hems:
Line up the two cut edges you have made and pin them together. Make sure that you have the right hem on the right leg! You can check this by comparing the inseams to see if the stitching goes the same way.
Sew the hems:
First, before you even begin sewing, you’re going to want to put in a VERY strong needle. I recommend using a leather needle, and nothing smaller than a 14, because at a few points you’ll be going thru at least 6 layers of denim. It’s okay to go very slowly here and even turn your hand wheel to help your needle go thru everything. You’ll want to stitch barely to the right of the old hem’s stitching (with a long basting stitch). This way it will be almost seamless when you finish. After these are sewn and pressed, the old hem will flip down and be exactly where you wanted the hem of your jeans to lay.
These hems are going to look so good, no one will even think about how short you are! Yaaaaaaay!
Finish the edges:Now I’m lucky enough to own an ancient serger that can get the job done and put up with denim like a pro. Thanks, Craigslist! If you don’t, and can’t finish your edges with a nifty second machine, use whatever you have. A zigzag stitch, binding tape, or don’t do anything if you don’t care.
Turn, iron, and glue:
For you, this step may or may not be interrupted with an annoying smacking sound from the little dog behind you. You’ll realize that he’s trying to chew his bone without actually holding on it, because he’s being incredibly lazy.
I glue the edges down with something called “Stitch-Witchery”. You can find it at Modern Domestic with the rest of the notions, and it’s pretty handy stuff. Put it on the underside of your hem and iron it down. The more steam and heat you use, the better it will stick.
You’re done! Eat a cookie!
If everything went according to plan, your hems should look like this. No one will be able to tell they’ve been done! YOU’RE FREAKING MAGIC NOW.