How to Hem Jeans Using the Original Hem

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retrochick.JPGMichele says:

I have come to the realization that sharing my willingness to toss old socks has made me out to be exactly what I’m not: wasteful.  I’ve darned a slew of sweaters and I’ve frozen enough manager’s special groceries to feed the Army and the Navy.  I’ve never, ever missed an opportunity to haggle and (perhaps needless to say) I always shop the clearance rack when my family needs clothes.  I try not to spend more than $20 on any given article of clothing, which means that my pickings are often slim.  Since I’m pretty handy at sewing, however, I shop with the knowledge that many things can be changed.  Tacky embellishments can be removed, an undershirt can make a top more modest, and anything can be hemmed without looking hemmed.

Yes, even jeans.

I live in the NYC metro area where it seems that every new purchase is sent to a tailor for tweaking.  When I learned that people spend $20 per pair of jeans to have them hemmed without looking hemmed, I giggled; it’s a job so simple that even a novice hand sewer can get it done in less than 30 minutes!  So, stop stepping on the hems of your jeans—or worse, settling for an obviously modified hem—and let’s get stitching.

How to Hem Jeans Using the Original Hem


What You’ll Need:

  • pair of jeans that need hemming (no flares, please)
  • tape measure
  • matching thread (I recommend blue denim thread)
  • medium-thick needle
  • chalk
  • seam gauge (optional, but highly recommended)
  • sharp scissors
  • pinking shears
  • straight pins
  • steam iron

Step One: If you don’t know your inseam length, measure a pair of well-fitting trousers from crotch to ankle (as we did in the first hand hemming post).  I don’t recommend measuring your own inseam any other way.  Add half of an inch seam allowance to your measurement; write the number down to avoid forgetting.  For example: If your inseam is 32”, your inseam for hemming jeans using this method is 32” + ½” = 32 ½”

Measure the inseam of the jeans that you are hemming, then subtract your inseam plus seam allowance to figure out how much you need to remove.  For example: If my too long trousers are 34 inches, I would subtract 32 1/2 inches from 34 inches and come up with 1 1/2 inches of length that need to be removed.

Step Two: Use your seam gauge to measure the width of the hem.  Subtract that number from your inseam.  For example: If you need to shorten the jeans by 1 ½ inches and your original hem is ½ inch wide, the amount of fabric you’ll need to remove is 2 inches from the bottom of the hem.  Use chalk to mark this spot on your jeans.



Measure again to check your work, then cut off the excess length using pinking shears.  Save the hem!

Use your seam gauge to measure a ¼” seam allowance above the existing hem.  Use chalk to mark this spot on your jeans.  Measure again for accuracy, then cut off the excess length with your pinking shears.


Step Three: Turn the jeans inside out (remember to turn the removed hem inside out, too).  Making sure that the side seams match up, pin the right side of the jeans to the right side of the hem.


Step Four: Thread your needle and knot the thread.  Insert the needle through the wrong side of the jeans as close to on the original hem stitch as possible without covering the original stitching.


Make a straight stitch, reinserting the needle about 1/8 of an inch away.


Repeat these straight stitches all the way around the hem of the jeans, remembering to stay as close to the original hem as possible.


When you reach the end, reinforce your work as we did in the straight stitch post.


Step Five: Tie off the thread and flatten the new hem with your hands.  It will look a little funny at this point, but it’s nothing a little heat can’t fix.


Step Six: Repeat steps one through five on the second leg.

Step Seven: Preheat your iron and then firmly press the new hems.  Turn the jeans right side out and press the hem a second time.

Should you feel so inclined, you can use your pinking shears to trim the excess seam allowance.  You’re done—and you never have to pay a tailor or dry cleaner to hem your jeans again!


Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor.  You can read her near daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.

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7 thoughts on “How to Hem Jeans Using the Original Hem”

  1. I’ve used this method and it is definitely easier/cheaper than getting them tailored in my opinion 🙂 I’m actually kind of lazy about it and don’t bother cutting the material, I just pin up the extra fabric and sew, and tack down the flap in a few places. This lets me take it out and fix it if I hem it too short (which I manage to do all the time no matter how much I measure) or if I want to pass the jeans on to someone else eventually. It works best if you don’t have to hem too much though, more than an inch or two gets problematic.

    PS I haven’t darned socks yet but I have darned a few sweaters!

    • That’s a smart idea! I’m going to file that one away in the “when I have kids” category. You know, I seem to be doing that a lot with comments on Home Ec 101 posts. You guys are great! 🙂

  2. I way actually start hemming my jeans now! I always step on the back and end up wearing it down. I might try Elaine’s idea for my kids so that I can let the hem back out when they have a growth spurt.

    • I love Elaine’s idea too, but be sure not to tumble dry or iron the the hem too often when using her method! (Do people even iron kids’ clothes? If not, disregard.) The heat can distress the crease and leave faded lines that you’ll see when you let the hem back down. Low heat drying helps ensure the clothes last long enough to need to let them down (and maybe even hand them down), too! 😉 The faded lines are no big deal for children’s jeans, obviously, but they’re not so attractive on the dark washed “fancy” jeans or dress clothes.


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