How to Shorten Jeans {Original Hem, Machine, Hand, No-Sew}

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Learn how to shorten jeans! Jeans, especially denim jeans, have become the most well-known clothing item. They suit young and old and can be made to look smart or casual. Everyone enjoys wearing a good, hard-wearing pair of jeans and they are easy to shorten to the perfect length for your taste and body shape.

How to Shorten JeansPinHow to Shorten Jeans

Contents

How to Shorten Jeans Tutorial for BeginnersHow to Shorten Jeans Supplies How to Shorten Jeans That Are Too Long – 5 Ways Tips for Sewing Jean HemsMethod 1 – How to Shorten Jeans & Keep the Original HemMethod 2 – Cutting the Jeans Hem and Making a New HemMethod 3 – How to Shorten Jeans by FrayingMethod 4 – How to Shorten Jeans by Hand SewingMethod 5 – How to Shorten Jeans Without Sewing How to Shorten Jeans in Different StylesHow to Shorten Jeans – In ConclusionMore Jeans ArticlesHow to Shorten JeansToolsMaterialsInstructions

How to Shorten Jeans Tutorial for Beginners

Jeans come in different styles from boot length to skinny and even flared jeans. There are tapered jeans, baggy jeans, all with different styles of fit and waist size or rise. The one thing they all have in common is a hem. 

If your jeans’ hem is too long you will want it made shorter. You may be thinking you could just roll the hem up and there it is done and shorter. Then there is the option of just cutting the hem, but then what will you do if it needs lengthening at some stage? Jeans last for a long time so it is a good idea to have some knowledge of how they can be shortened, but still retain their style.

How to Shorten Jeans Supplies

JEANS – Your jeans or pants.MEASURING TOOLS – ruler, tape measure, and optional hem gauge.SEWING BASICS – Scissors, pins, iron.THREAD – Jeans hems are traditionally sewn with a gold thread. You may choose to match that thread color or match the color of the actual jeans fabric. Thicker denim thread is available. OPTIONAL – Sewing machine.OPTIONAL – Hand sewing needle and thread. OPTIONAL – Hemming tape

How to Shorten Jeans That Are Too Long – 5 Ways

Here are several ways to consider when shortening the hem of your jeans.

Keeping the original hem – This is good for kids where you may want to take the jeans down at a later stage as they grow Cutting the original hem – This method will make the jeans look like they were made in this length. The best method for adult jeans!Fraying the edges – Great for a trendy look!Hand sewing – Ideal if you don`t have a sewing machine. Hemming tape – This no-sew method is quick and easy.

Tips for Sewing Jean Hems

Here are three tips for shortening jeans to ensure a great result:

NEEDLES – Always use a new needle on denim. The needle must be sharp enough and be an appropriate thickness. You can purchase specialty denim needles which are thick and strong. SLOW DOWN – Take the sewing process slowly along the denim fabric. Denim can be very thick and heavy depending on your jeans. Sewing at a fast speed may cause the fabric to get stuck or the needle to break.PREWASH – Make sure your denim has been pre-washed and ironed because this helps to soften the fabric. You also don`t want to hem jeans that haven`t been pre-washed as they may shrink and leave your hems too short.

Method 1 – How to Shorten Jeans & Keep the Original Hem

This is the best method to use when you want to keep your original hem. It is especially good when you want the option to let the length down later. Keeping the original hem also enables you to keep the original look of the jeans. It can often be hard to match jeans stitching.

Step 1 – Fitting the Jeans to Shorten

Put your jeans on and turn up the hem on the outside of the jeans to the length you want the newly finished hem to be. Make sure you are wearing the shoes or heels that you will pair with the jeans. Once you have folded the jeans up pin the amount of fabric turned up in place and remove the jeans. Safety pins are better than regular pins for holding the hem in place as you won`t stab yourself trying to get the jeans off. The amount you have turned up will be on the right side of the jeans, but this is just for marking purposes.

 How to Shorten Jeans - Measuring How to Shorten Jeans - MeasuringPin How to Shorten Jeans – Measuring

Step 2 – Align and Pin

Check the side seams of the jeans and line them up. Match the sides to each other and fold the jeans to match the inner leg seams as well.  Ensure both legs are the same. Pin along the edge of the folded hem. This will mark your desired hem`s position.

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Open up the hem, being careful that the pins don`t fall out. Using fabric chalk or a removable marker, mark along the pin line. Remove the pins.

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Step 3 – Marking and Folding

Mark 1 inch ABOVE the pinline for jeans hems that are a standard ½ inch (12mm) wide. {If your original jeans hem is ¾ inch then mark 1 ½ inches highter than the pin line.}

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Fold the cuff of the jeans up again so the original hem, of the jeans meets the second higher marked line. (Yellow line in our case)Pin the hem all the way around using vertical pins.

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Step 3 – Stitching the Shortened Jeans Hem

Sew a straight line right below the original hemline. Do not sew on the hem but just below it. (Using the free arm of your sewing machine will make this much easier.)

Tips for Stitching the Original Jeans Hem:

Use a bobbin in the color that matches the rest of the jeans. In most cases this will be a caramel color. Remember to use thick or specialty denim needles and strong thread. Remove the pins as you sew. Do not sew over them. Go slowly, especially over the side seams!

 How to Shorten Jeans - Sewing How to Shorten Jeans - SewingPin How to Shorten Jeans – Sewing

Step 4 – Removing Excess

At this point, you have two choices. 

OPTION #1 – HOW TO SHORTEN JEANS WITHOUT CUTTING

There are times you may want to shorten jeans without cutting off the excess. This is particularly important when shortening kids` jeans where they are likely to grow taller quickly.

Press the extra fabric up into the leg of the jeans. If the excess is quite wide, you can catch the new hem on the inside at the side seams with a couple of hand stitches. Leaving the fabric like this is best for kids who are growing as it allows you to let out the hem in a year or two.

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OPTION #2 – CUT THE EXCESS

If folding results in too much bulk, you can cut below the stitching and zigzag or serger the edges to prevent fraying. Press the seam upwards.

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Step 5 – Press the Shortened Jeans Hem

Turn the jeans the right way out and give the new hems a good press along the seam line.

 How to Shorten Jeans with the Original Hem How to Shorten Jeans with the Original HemPin How to Shorten Jeans with the Original Hem

Method 2 – Cutting the Jeans Hem and Making a New Hem

This method gives you a new double-fold hem that looks similar to the original.

Step 1 & 2- Fitting and Marking

This is the same as steps 1 and 2 above.

With your jeans the right way out, try them on and fold up the jeans to the correct length. Pin the cuff in place with safety pins.Remove the jeans.Place pins along the crease of the cuff and mark across that line with tailor`s chalk. Remove the pins.

Step 3 – Marking and Cutting

Mark a cutting line 1 inch (2.5cm) BELOW the pin line. (Note that this is different from method #1 where we marked above the pin line.)

 How to Shorten Jeans - Marking How to Shorten Jeans - MarkingPin How to Shorten Jeans – Marking

Cut the excess fabric along the lower marked line. (yellow in our case).

 How to Shorten Jeans - Cutting How to Shorten Jeans - CuttingPin How to Shorten Jeans – Cutting

Step 4 – Press

Turn the jeans to the wrong side. Press up the raw edge by ½ inch (12mm)Press over the hem again by ½ inch (12mm). This will create a double hem where the raw edges are enclosed so they cannot fray.

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Step 5 – Stitch

On the wrong side of the jeans, sew the hem with a straight stitch along the top of the fold.

Tips for Sewing the New Jeans Hem:

Use a bobbin in a caramel color to match the jean`s stitching. Or otherwise use a matching blue if you don`t want the hem stitching to show. You will need to use denim or thick needles. Go slowly, especially over the side seams where it is much thicker.

 How to Shorten Jeans - Stitching How to Shorten Jeans - StitchingPin How to Shorten Jeans – Stitching

TOPSTITCHING WITH THICK THREAD – If you are using a thick topstitching thread, you will sew on the right side instead of the inside as you would with regular thread. (Read how to topstitch.)

Step 6 – Press

Press firmly with an iron and your jeans are good to go.

How to Shorten Jeans by CuttingHow to Shorten Jeans by CuttingPinHow to Shorten Jeans by Cutting

Method 3 – How to Shorten Jeans by Fraying

How about the frayed fabric look? Here is a way to shorten the hem of your jeans and keep them casually trendy. 

Step 1 – Mark the New Hemline

Measure where you want the new hem of your jeans to be using steps 1 & 2 of method 1.

Step 2 – Cut

Measure 1 inch (2.5cm) BELOW the marked pinline and cut across. The reason to cut across slightly lower than your desired hem is that the fraying edges tend to curl up and make your jeans appear shorter. I sometimes add even more than 1 inch. You can always cut the frayed edge shorter but you can`t add some back on if you miscalculate.

How to Shorten Jeans by FrayingHow to Shorten Jeans by FrayingPin How to Shorten Jeans by Fraying

Step 3 – Optional Stitch

Optional – Straight stitch along the pin line to limit the fraying. Pull a few threads out at the edge to start the fraying process. The rest will fray naturally as you wash and wear your jeans. You can speed the fraying process by using a seam ripper, pinking shears, or cutting strips. Read more about how to fray fabric.

How to Shorten Jeans by FrayingHow to Shorten Jeans by FrayingPinHow to Shorten Jeans by Fraying

Method 4 – How to Shorten Jeans by Hand Sewing

You can use method #1 or #2 and hand stitch instead of using a machine.

Thread your hand sewing needle with the most suitable color for stitching the jeans. If you want the color to match the topstitching on jeans, choose an appropriate gold or orange thread.  The best hand stitch to use is a backstitch. This will form a neat and strong row of stitches along the hem stitch line. The front of a backstitch looks better than the back so you will want to sew on the right side (outside) of the fabric.

 How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing  How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing Pin How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing

If you are an absolute beginner sewer, then a small running stitch will also work. A running stitch looks the same on both sides so can be stitched on the inside.

 How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing  How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing Pin How to Shorten Jeans with Hand Sewing

Method 5 – How to Shorten Jeans Without Sewing

If you don`t have a sewing machine then you can use hemming tape to shorten your jeans. Hemming tape is a fusible tape with a strong glue that is activated by the heat of the iron.

Use method #2 to cut the excess from the bottom of the jeans. Turn the jeans inside out and press up the raw edge by 1 inch (2.5cm) or the width of the hemming tape. Place the tape between the layers of the fold and press with an iron to activate the glue. Most brands of hemming tape recommend waiting before washing your jeans. Read my full article on how to use hemming tape.

How to Shorten Jeans without a Sewing MachineHow to Shorten Jeans without a Sewing MachinePinHow to Shorten Jeans without a Sewing Machine

How to Shorten Jeans in Different Styles

Not all jeans are equal in style. Over the years jeans manufacturers have produced different leg styles. Here are some ideas of how to shorten the more unusual styles of jeans.

Flared Jeans – Flared jeans have to look just right and rest on the shoes correctly to give the ultimate flared look. The best idea for flared jeans is to try them on with the shoes you will most likely wear them with. Then stand on a chair and get someone to measure exactly where you want the jeans to rest. Pin and measure the length carefully and sew according to method #2 either by machine or by hand.

Boot Cut Jeans – The boot cut has a flare designed to fit over boots. The hem must be measured the same way as flared jeans with some help. The cutting and sewing of the hem are important because the hem needs to sit well over the boots. A simple hem pressed flat is the best type of hem for a pair of boot-cut denim jeans.

Skinny Jeans – Skinny jeans typically fall on or just above your ankle to prevent them from bunching up.

Shortening Hems on JeansShortening Hems on JeansPinShortening Hems on Jeans

How to Shorten Jeans – In Conclusion

Jeans are really a part of everyone’s wardrobe. They are a very good item to take traveling with you because of their pack up and go ability. Knowing how to shorten jeans of any style is a valuable sewing technique.

More Jeans Articles

How to Fix a Hole in JeansHow to Distress JeansHow to Wash JeansHistory of JeansDIY Ripped JeansTypes of JeansHow to Cut Jeans into ShortsHow to Shorten JeansHemming Jeans

How to Shorten JeansHow to Shorten JeansPin

How to Shorten Jeans

Learn how to shorten jeans by keeping the original hem. Easy tutorial for beginners.

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Difficulty: Easy Beginner

Keyword: Sewing

Total Time: 15minutes

Tools

ScissorsMeasuring Tape or RulerPinsIron

Materials

Pair of Jeans

Instructions

Shorten Jeans Keeping the Original Hem

Try the jeans on and turn up a cuff on the outside where you want the new length. Pin around the bottom of the cuff to mark this new end point. Take the jeans off. The jeans should still be right way out. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinMake sure both legs are even and the marked cuffs match up. Mark along the pin line with tailor's chalk.Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinMark 1 inch (2.5cm) ABOVE the marked line for a ½ inch (12mm) original hem. If the original hem was ¾ inch (2cm) then mark 1.5 inches (4cm) above the marked line. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinFold the cuff back up to meet the higher marked line. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinStitch around the cuff as close as possible to the original hem. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinFold the hem back down. The excess fold should be pressed in the up direction. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinIf there is too much excess you can trim it and serger the edge. Leave this fold if you want to be able to take down the jeans later. Shorten JeansShorten JeansPinGive the hem a final press.Shorten JeansShorten JeansPin

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