How to hem trousers and other clothes: a step-by-step guide
Learning how to hem is a great skill to have, whether you want to create shorts from a pair of jeans or finish off a new skirt. Read on for our simple guide for how to hem trousers and other clothes.
Updated By Cleanipedia Team
If you want to turn your favourite maxi dress into a more versatile midi, or trim a few inches off trailing trouser legs, you've come to the right place. In this guide we'll show you how to hem trousers and other clothes to tailor your wardrobe to suit you perfectly.
- Sewing machine
- Washable fabric chalk
- Hemming tape
How to hem: the basic starting steps
Before we show you how to sew a hem on a dress or pair of trousers, we need to help you get your garment ready to hem.
Make sure your clothes are clean.
During the process of sewing a hem, you will need to apply an iron, and heat can cause stains to set into fabrics. To avoid this, make sure you check the care label and wash your clothes using a good quality detergent like Persil and a fabric conditioner like Comfort Ultimate Care. For more advice to take the best care of your clothing, check out our guide on how to make clothes smell good and stay fresh.
Iron the garment thoroughly.
This will help to get any creases out that might cause a wonky hem line. For the best results, read our guide on how to iron clothes.
To avoid static in your clothes and help them to hang better, fill up your iron with Comfort Intense Vaporesse first.
Mark out your ideal hem length.
Put the garment on in front of the mirror and decide the final length you want it to be. Then, mark this out with a line of washable fabric chalk or pins.
To avoid any errors when marking out the new length, ask someone to help.
Cut off the excess length, leaving some fabric below the new hemline.
If you’re not sure how much extra fabric to leave, 1-1 ½ inches is usually a safe amount.
If you’re planning to follow out steps for how to hem trousers by hand as you’re only turning them up by an inch or so, you can skip this step.
Method 1: How to hand sew a hem
Now your clothes are prepped and ready to go, it's time to show you how to shorten a dress by hand, or turn up trousers, with our simple steps to hand sew a hem. If you’re only turning the hem up by an inch or so (for example if you’re here to find out how to hem jeans by hand), then skip to step 3.
Fold the cut edge over itself.
Turn your garment inside-out, so that the “wrong” (inside) side is on the outside. Then fold the cut edge over once, to around 1/3 of the length below your marked-out hemline. Keep this in place with more pins.
Iron the first fold.
Return the garment to the ironing board and iron this fold in place carefully, making sure that the folded-over length is even. Then, remove the pins.
Fold again, along your marked-out hemline.
Keeping your first fold in place, fold the edge of the garment up to the desired hemline. Keep this in place with pins and press into shape with the iron.
Start by anchoring your thread.
Add a few little stitches on top of each other on at the top of the folded hem.
Take care to only pass the needle through the top fold of the fabric, so that it doesn’t come through the “right” (outside) side of the garment.
Make a small stitch through all of the hem layers.
This should be as small as possible (ideally 1mm or less across) so that it’s not too visible on the right side.
Make a second stitch that only passes through the folded underside.
This moves the stitch along the hemline without touching the ‘right’ side, and it’s a good trick for how to hand sew a hem that won’t be too visible when you’re wearing the garment.
Repeat steps 5-6 all the way along the hem until you get back to your first stitch.
Then, anchor your thread again as before without passing it through the ‘right’ side, and trim away excess thread to leave a neat hemline.
For more tips, check out our guide to all the basics of sewing clothes.
Method 2: How to use hemming tape
We've show you how to hand sew a hem, but let's be honest - it's not the most time efficient option. Here's some simple steps for how to use hemming tape as an easy alternative.
Create a hem with two folds, as above.
Follow steps 1-3, as if you were about to hand-sew your hem.
Cut hemming tape to the length of your hem and place along the ‘wrong’ side of the hem.
Open the folded hem and tuck the tape neatly along the main ironed fold, making sure that none of it is exposed when the fabric is folded back over it.
Iron over the folded fabric to activate the adhesive.
Take care that the hot iron doesn’t come into direct contact with the hemming tape, or you’ll be left with a sticky iron!
Hemming tape is a great option if you need to hem thick fabrics that are difficult to sew through as well as an easy alternative for beginners. The downside is that it won’t stay in place as long as stitching and will usually need to be re-applied after a few washes.
Method 3: How to sew a hem on the sewing machine
If you want to create a very small, neat hem, knowing how to do a rolled hem is a handy skill. For speed and neatness, it’s best to do this on a sewing machine.
Prep your garment following the steps above.
Cut your hem around an inch below the desired length.
On the machine, sew a line of straight stitch.
This should be done to around 0.5cm below your final hem length.
Fold the fabric up over the ‘wrong’ side, along the sewed edge.
Then, sew another line of straight stitch over both layers, around 2.5mm away from the folded edge.
Cut away the excess folded fabric.
This will be another 2.5mm from the other side of the new line of sewing, so that it is in the centre of the new fold.
Fold this new 0.5cm edge over itself.
Work on the ‘wrong’ side to create another fold.
Do another line of straight stitch on the machine.
With the line of sewing in the middle of the edge facing upwards, sew directly over the last line.
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So, there you go. With just a few simple steps you now know how to hem trousers and other clothes and re-purpose garments that might otherwise go to waste. Knowing how to sew a hem is a key skill for any budding clothes-upcycler, so it's time to get trimming!
Frequently asked questions on how to hem trousers and other clothing
How should I place my pins to ensure they're easy to remove as I sew my hem?
You should always push the needle end of the pin in towards the fabric, leaving the blunt end sticks out from the hem. As you sew you will be able to slip the pin out of the fabric. This is especially key if you are following our guide for how to sew a hem using a sewing machine.
What thread should I use to hem my clothes?
Thin, lightweight threads are prone to snapping easily, so we recommend you choose a sturdier cotton or polyester thread – especially if you’re following our steps as a go to for how to hem jeans and other thicker fabrics.
What is hemming tape?
Hemming tape is double-sided adhesive tape that is activated by ironing. It works as a quick and easy alternative to sewing.