Friday 11 March 2016

Hemming Jeans by Hand

What do you do with a favourite pair of jeans that unfortunately has some visible stains? If you're lucky enough, the stains will be on the lower legs, so you'll be able to shorten the jeans and get rid of the marks. Today I'll show you how I re-hemmed my shortened jeans and extended their life.

How to hem jeans by hand. This tutorial will show how to take up jeans, resulting in a neat and tidy finish. ~ Threading My Way

When I attended the Screen Printing Workshop with Saffron Craig, I managed to get some tiny spots of black ink on my jeans while cleaning up. That was almost two years ago. The marks were hardly noticeable, and so I continued wearing the jeans.

A couple of weeks ago, however, Little Miss commented on my dirty jeans. That took me by surprise until she pointed to some new brown marks, also on the lower legs. Try as I might, I couldn't remove the new stains, and so I cut them off.

Here's how I created a new hem by hand...

  • Turn jeans inside out.
  • Fold up ½" and hold in place with clips. You could use pins, but I find the Wonder clips so much easier with thick fabric.

  • Baste (long hand stitching) in place.
  • Remove clips.

  • Fold up another ½" and hold in place with clips. You don't need to baste again, unless you want to.

Knot the thread securely. It's a bit hard to describe, but here's how I make my knots...
  • Wind the end of the thread 1¼ times around the forefinger.
  • Place thumb and forefinger together.
  • Pull the forefinger back, gliding it across the thumb. The thread will twist.
  • Place the middle finger at the top of the twisted thread.
  • Pull the thread with the other hand.
To make doubly sure, I do a second knot..
  • Slide the needle under the hem, where you'll begin sewing.
  • Make a loop and thread the needle through the loop a couple of times.
  • Tighten
For more visuals on knots, see my sewing hexies post.

Using a slip stitch, hand sew the hem. 
  • Catch one or two threads of the jeans. The more fabric you catch, the more the stitches will show. With jeans I tend to catch two threads, but don't go right through the threads.
  • Slide the needle through a small section of the hem and pull the thread through.
  • Repeat the process till finished.
  • Knot securely to finish off. Again, I do two knots.

My stitches are about ¼" apart. To begin with, you may need to do a two step process to catch the threads and slide through the hem. With practise you'll be able to do this as one step.

When I reach the seams, I stop slip stitching and I sew through the seam, catching way more than the two stitches. This bit doesn't look as neat as the slip stitching, but it does add strength to the hem. 

Be careful as you sew this part, as the needle can be quite hard to push through, because you are sewing through more fabric. A thimble will make it easier and will prevent the eye end of the needle injuring your finger. I find I can hold the needle with the jeans and push it through that way.

You will need a strong needle to sew denim. Miss Sews-it-all has an informative post on needles for hand sewing.

The length was determined purely by where the stains were, so a little shorter than I'd normally wear, but good for our abnormally hot Autumn weather.

There was a time when I always kept my legs covered, due to a scar from surgery, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm not quite so self conscious. Our society is so obsessed with perfect looks and I'm so over it. If others don't like what they see, that's their problem, not mine.

I'm really pleased I took the time (about ½ an hour) to shorten my jeans. I like the look and, they still look good with the red and white blouse I always wore with them. It's 100% cotton, and so cool for Summer.

Next up is an alteration to a pair of sports pants.

How do you feel about clothing alterations?

... Pam

If you think others would benefit from reading this post, I'd love you to share on social media.


  1. That looks like a ladder stitch! I just learned how to do that at Christmas and I'm kicking my own butt that I didn't learn it earlier - it's a great stitch :) Nice job fixing your jeans - so funny that Little Miss was the one to spur you on to action, haha! I hate doing alterations - mine always involve letting OUT clothing so I just don't do 'em :) I sometimes mend worn out jeans for DS1 for work, but I prefer to just cut them up and use the unstained denim for making zipper bags :D I had 2 pairs of track pants to hem for myself - I bought them in the spring last year and hemmed one pair - the other pair is still sitting at my sewing table! And that's really ridiculous, since it only takes - what - less than half an hour? I'm SHAMEFUL! :D

  2. Thanks for taking the time for that lesson I always enjoy your post,

  3. In my imagination I alter clothing but the reality is that I never actually get around to it :( I am full of good intentions!

  4. These look great! I love that color and can see why you would want to keep them! I saw your post and decided to try to hem some pants this morning, just because I am so short. I have to take 6" off of some of them! I didn't get them finished quite yet, but I was going to do it by machine and keep the original hem. If I was shortening them for capri length hand sewing would definitely be the way to go!

  5. It's neat and clear. Looks a good matching.

  6. Why is it always a favourite pair of xxx that this happens to?! I do it almost the same way except I feel life is too short or I'm too lazy for basting. I just iron the crease in place with a lot of steam and use the very same clips.

  7. I have never even once entertained the idea of shortening jeans. What a great save with repairing them, but even just to shorten them, now I know is possible! LOL How is it that some things never even occur to us until we see someone else doing it?

  8. Now I wish I had opted to hem by hand... I went to finish them this morning and forgot to change to a denim needle. My old, worn-out needle shattered at the side seam and a piece hit me in the eye! That is always my worst fear when sewing! Thankfully, everything checked out OK and is expected to heal quickly. I got some new needles and some safety glasses now, too!

  9. Hi Pam! You know, that's how I usually end up doing them, if I can ever be bothered. The fabric is usually too thick to go in my machine and I usually have the right length of jeans for my height. Thanks so much for linking up as usual. I'm featuring this one at tomorrow's Thriving on Thursday party. (PS It's wonderful to see you in photos.)

    Anne xx

  10. I'm all for alterations, though they sometimes sit in my basket for too long waiting to happen, and more often I just ignore the dirty stains! Those jeans look like they were always meant to be that length, and I'm so glad you no longer worry about covering up.


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