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How to sew a hem: three easy methods

Turning jeans into shorts, or finishing off a skirt hem? Here’s your guide to how to hand sew a hem, how to use hemming tape, or sew a rolled hem!

Updated

How to saw a hem

Want to turn that maxi dress into a more versatile midi, or trim a few inches off trailing trouser legs? Knowing how to hem jeans by hand or shorten a dress neatly means you can tailor your wardrobe to suit you perfectly and re-purpose garments that might otherwise go to waste.

Looking for tips on how to hem pants for beginners? Enlist a helping hand in your household to mark out your ideal hem length while you wear them, so you don’t accidentally change the length while you’re reaching down.

Preparing your garment for hemming

Follow these initial steps for marking out your hem and removing excess length:

  1. Iron the garment thoroughly

    This will help to get any creases out that might cause irregular results. To avoid static in your clothes and help them to hang better, fill up your iron with Comfort Intense Vaporesse first.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 finding out how to hem trousers by hand and you’re only turning them up by an inch or so, you can skip this step.

Method 1: How to hand sew a hem

Once you’ve got your new hemline marked out and you’ve removed any excess length, you’re ready to learn how to hand stitch 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Now, time to learn how to hand stitch a hem!

    Start by anchoring your thread with a few little stitches on top of each other on at the top of the folded hem. For this, 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

Hemming tape is double-sided adhesive tape that is activated by ironing, and it works as an easy alternative to sewing. In particular, it’s a great answer to how to hem jeans by hand or hem thick fabrics that are difficult to sew through. Once you’ve marked out your hemline and cut off the excess fabric, follow these steps for how to hem pants with tape:

  1. Create a hem with two folds, as above.

    Follow steps 1-3, as if you were about to hand-sew your hem.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

And that’s how to use hemming tape! You should now have a neat, seamless hem on both sides. It’s a great answer to how to hem pants for beginners, but 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.

To reduce the impact of the friction in the washing machine and help your clothes last longer, it’s always a good idea to wash on a gentle cycle, using Comfort fabric conditioner alongside your detergent.

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

Method 3: How to do a rolled 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.

  1. Cut your hem as per the instructions above, around an inch below the desired length.

  2. On the machine, sew a line of straight stitch to around 0.5cm below your final hem length.

  3. 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.

  4. Cut away the excess folded fabric, another 2.5mm from the other side of the new line of sewing, so that it is in the centre of the new fold.

  5. Then, fold this new 0.5cm edge over itself on the ‘wrong’ side to create another fold.

  6. With the line of sewing in the middle of the edge facing upwards, do another line of straight stitch on the machine, directly over the last line.

You’ll be left with a tiny, neat hem with two rows of stitch visible on the ‘wrong’ side and just one visible on the ‘right’ side. Knowing how to sew a hem is a key skill for any budding clothes-upcycler, and it’ll help you get your everything in your wardrobe just the way you want them. Time to get trimming!

Originally published