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Learn How to Hem Pants by Hand (With & Without a Sewing Machine)

Properly hemming your pants is an essential skill. The length of your slacks, jeans or chinos drastically changes the style you’re going for and also has a surprising effect on how your body looks. If you go too long, you’ll look inches shorter.

That small bit of fabric that bunches at your ankle is called the break, and too much of it can make a professional outfit seem sloppy. On the flip side, the right amount of break (a good hem) can instantly fix up your whole look.

While guys used to get their pants hemmed at a tailor for around $10 to $20, many dudes are now taking the matter into their own hands. Hemming your own pants is actually easier than you might think, and it only requires a few simple sewing tools. Knowing how to hem pants comes in handy when you need a quick nip and tuck before, say, a wedding or impromptu party.

Below is our guide to nailing a hem on your own, including all the tools you’ll need.


Step 1: Get the Tools

Like any new skill, you can only learn how to hem pants by practicing. And to do that, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Fortunately, that’s the easy part.

Coquimbo Sewing Kit

A compact, affordable sewing kit like this one from Coquimbo will be ideal for hemming pants. It comes with a tape measure, sewing scissors, a thread ripper, needles, thread and more. It’ll cover every step of the process, but there are a few optional items below if you want an easier job.

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Dritz Sewing Gauge

Another tool you should have in any hemming arsenal is a sewing gauge. It’s essentially a ruler with a sliding marker to make exact measurements. This sewing kit allows precise, identical measurements on both legs and throughout the hem.

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Varmax Mini Sewing Machine (Optional)

While hand-sewing a hem is fairly simple, a sewing machine will make it much easier and faster. Mini sewing machines like this Varmax are available for less than $30, so it won’t break the bank. And who knows? You might fall in love with sewing and make it a regular hobby.

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Iron and Ironing Board (Optional)

Ironing pants can make things easier by removing the current hem crease, and cementing the new hem at the end of the process. We like this pair of iron and ironing board below because they’re affordable, highly-rated and versatile for sewing jobs or regular ironing.

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Courtesy of Amazon

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Courtesy of Amazon


Step 2: Measure the Inseam

To measure the right length of your new hem, try on the pants with the shoes you’ll wear the most. Then, you’ll want to measure the inseam, which is the length from the crotch to the spot where the pants should end. Measuring the exact length yourself can be tricky (because bending down means pulling the pants up) so have someone else tuck the pants and measure for you, or measure your favorite pair of pants and then use the same measurement on the new ones, or just measure freely if you know your inseam length.


Step 3: Remove the Stitching

Grab the seam ripper from your sewing kit and carefully remove the stitching from your pants’ hem. This could be on the inside or outside of the pant legs depending on the style. Then unfold the pants to their full length. If you’ve got an iron, flatten out the current creases with that.

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Step 4: Measure the Pants

Once you have the current hem removed, turn the pant inside out and lay them out on a flat surface. Grab the ruler and measure your desired inseam length (again, from the crotch). Then, mark the proper hem length plus an extra inch that will be folded up to create the actual hem.

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Step 5: Cut the Fabric

Using your scissors and a sturdy ruler, cut the excess fabric off the pants. Be sure to hold the ruler firmly against the pants, cutting along it, and maybe even leave a tiny bit of fabric for errors (especially if it’s your first time) – you can always remove more.


Step 6: Measure the Hem

Take the sewing gauge and set it to half-inch and fold up the pant legs accordingly (usually on the inside of the pants). Be sure that both sides of each fold are exactly half-inch, as any discrepancy can make the hem puffy and uneven. If you have the iron, use it again here to create a new crease on the bottom of the legs.

Then, fold the pants up another half-inch (this will keep the frayed edges tidy inside the hem). Double-check the width with your sewing gauge and then put a pin on either side of the hem.


Step 7: Sew the Hem


1) Measure out a piece of thread 4 times the width of the pant leg (so it could wrap around the pants twice).

2) Thread a needle and double up the thread, tying the two ends together and making a knot.

3) Insert some extra pins in the hem to make sure it stays secure while you sew.

4) Put the thread through the seam on the inside of the pants leg and then through the top of the new hem cuff.

5) Move down the cuff about 1/8th of an inch and repeat step 4, leaving a loop of thread available.

6) Put the needle through the loop you’ve just created to secure the thread.

7 )Start stitching by angling the needle against the cuff and inserting the needle through the cuff.

8) Pick up just a thread or two from the main pant leg using the needle, and then come back all the way through the cuff.

9) Continue around the leg.

10) Tie off the thread when you’ve gotten back to the seam.

11) Iron the new hem flat.

With a Sewing Machine

1) Put your thread into the bobby pin and spool.

2) Use a medium straight stitch (or the cuff setting on the Varmax machine above) and sew about a quarter-inch from the top of the cuff.

3) Once you’re back at the beginning, lock the stitch and remove your newly hemmed pants!


The Shortcut: Fabric Fuse Tape

Sound like too much work? There’s a shortcut, although it should really be saved for emergency hems. This fabric tape allows you to cut your pants, roll them up inside the leg and tape the ragged edge to the inside of your pant leg. You’ll look sharp and no one will be the wiser.

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