How to Hem Pants

Tailor cutting jeans with scissors at workshop
photoguns / Getty Images

Altering the length of trousers or other pants is easy for any beginning sewist and you don't even need a sewing machine! Learn how to hem pants and you'll always have the fit you need.

Whether you want to change the style of a pair of pants or your height makes buying off the rack difficult, or even if you need to alter some hand-me-downs, learning to sew a hem is an important home sewing skill.

  • 01 of 07

    Gather Your Materials and Prepare the Hem

    Sewing materials arranged on a pair of pants.

    Igor Golovniov / Getty Images

    To hem a pair of pants, you need a few basic sewing tools.

    • seam ripper
    • pins
    • full-length mirror (if hemming yourself)
    • sewing gauge or measuring tape
    • iron and ironing board
    • matching thread
    • sewing kit or sewing machine

    If you are shortening the hem, you may be able to do so without doing anything to prepare the hem, but you can unpick the original hem to reduce bulk. When lengthening the hem, you'll always need to start by unpicking the original hem. Use a seam ripper to carefully remove the stitching.

  • 02 of 07

    Try on the Pants

    How to Hem Pants
    Mollie Johanson

    To determine the correct length for your pants, you need to wear them. It's also important to wear the type of shoes that you intend to wear with the pants. That's because almost any shoe adds height, which affects the length of the pants.

    For example, if you measure the hem while barefoot, when you go to wear shoes the pants will end up much shorter than you wanted.

  • 03 of 07

    Pin the Hem to the Correct Length

    Pin the Hem to the Correct Length
    Mollie Johanson

    Fold the hem up to the correct length and pin in place. Be sure to use the length at the back of your foot for your measurement, as the front will set or break on top of your foot. You want the hem to be straight!

    It's helpful to have someone who can do this for you because it keeps the length even. Bending to pin it yourself alters the length. That said, you can pin the hem and then stand up and check the length in a mirror. Adjust as needed, and repeat.

  • 04 of 07

    Measure and Pin Around the Hem

    Use a Sewing Gauge as You Pin the Hem
    Mollie Johanson

    After you remove the pants and working on the inside of the fabric, use a sewing gauge to measure the length to which you folded the hem.

    Measure all the way around both legs to make sure that the fold is even, pinning as you go. Press the hem with an iron to crease the bottom edge.

    Fold the edge of the fabric under to make it a double-fold hem.

    If there is a lot of extra fabric from shortening the hem, you may want to trim the excess first. If you do this, be sure to finish the edge of the fabric to prevent fraying.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Hand Sew the Hem

    Sew the Hem with Blind Hem Stitch
    Mollie Johanson

    There are several ways to sew your new hem, but hand sewing is easy enough to learn.

    Thread a needle and tie a large knot at the other end.

    Note: These photos show light-colored thread so it's easy to see, but you should always use matching thread so the stitches don't show as much.

    Bring the needle up through the top edge of the folded hem. Sew with blind hem stitch, making tiny stitches through the fabric on the outside of the pants and longer stitches through the folded fabric on the back.

  • 06 of 07

    Finish Hand Sewing the Hem

    Tiny Stitches on the Right Side
    Mollie Johanson

    Sew around the entire hem, keeping the stitches small and even. As you can see, even with contrasting thread, the stitches are barely visible. With matching thread, you won't even notice them, but you will be proud of your beautifully finished pants!

  • 07 of 07

    More Ways to Hem Your Pants

    Machine Sewn Hem
    Mollie Johanson

    If you don't want to hand sew the hem of the pants, you can try these other methods!

    Machine: Use a standard straight stitch to sew the new hem in place. Keep the stitching straight and even for a professional finish. If you're familiar with the different stitches on your sewing machine, you can also sew with a blind hem stitch by machine. The look is similar to the hand-sewn version.

    No-Sew: This isn't usually a good permanent solution, but there are several types of adhesive tapes designed for hemming. Some are iron-on and others are a peel-off tape. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions before you use these materials.