How To Hem Your Jeans With The Original Hem

We did a post on this about a year and a half ago but the pictures were not very big. I thought I would do an updated version of my own jeans that I have hemmed using the original hem method. It’s really easy, anyone can do it even if you are not a master with the sewing machine.

* Be sure to only do this method on skinny or straight jeans as it doesn’t work on bootcut or flares due to the fabric not being the same width around the ankle area.

All you need to hem your jeans is: Tape measure, pins/safety pins, needle & thread (or sewing machine), iron and of course your jeans.


1) Lie your jeans out on a flat surface and measure the inseam. Note down how much you want to take off of the length and half it. Always remember not to include the actual hem itself in your measurements as you will not be taking any off the hem. It’s easier to do one leg at a time so you wont have to undo both if any mistakes are made.



2) Fold the hem of your jeans inside out to the correct length you have measured, in the example this would be measuring 1″ of the fold as I am taking off 2″ in total (do not include the hem itself in the measurement). Re measure from the crotch to just under the original hem that has been folded outwards and make sure it is your perfect length (minus the hem width itself). Do not measure right to the end of the jeans where the fold is, your jeans will not be this long as you are not sewing at the bottom of the fold. You might want to get an iron and make sure that the fold is flattened down, I personally use an old hair straightener quickly (be careful not to press it down for a long time so you don’t burn the denim) as it’s easier to put the plates each side and flatten it. Make sure the seams on the left and right side of the leg match up correctly to the hem once it’s folded. Now put some pins in all the way around to hold your fold in place.


3) Now you are going to sew all the way around the hem. I have drawn some pink stitch marks on the image so you can see where to sew. You need to sew right under the hem, not on the actual hem itself. Sew just under it so you are only going through 2 pieces of denim (the folded bit). You can either do this by hand with a simple forward stitch secured at both ends or with a sewing machine. I personally do it by hand as it’s easier for me and it’s easier if you wish to let the hem down. It doesn’t matter which colour thread you use or how neat your sewing is as the stitching will be on the inside of the jeans and invisible on the outside. Be sure not to sew the leg opening together so opening ends up closed.


4) Take out all of the pins once you have finished your sewing. Now comes the tricky part. Fold the hem back down/in so the folded part you have sewn goes back inside the jeans. Get your iron or old hair straightener in my case and flatten it all out, you need to make sure you have flattened and pressed the hem down all the way around. If you have done it correctly it should look like the images below.


Now you have a pair of original hemmed jeans. Since we didn’t cut the hem off and re attach it this is a perfect way to let the hem down again back to the original length if you need to. If you have any questions just post a comment and I will be happy to reply.

Happy Hemming!

Written by Lorna Burford


  1. Thanks for the tip!! That will save lots of money and could allow my sister and I to share jeans even though we are 3 inches apart!!

  2. This is a great post. I have to alter all my jeans but it would be nice to be able to wear them with boots in the winter and flats in the summer. I love this tip, thanks!!

  3. Love the wash and distressing on your jeans Lorna – would you be able to tell me which brand they are? Thanks x

  4. PS: What you’ll have to worry about if you decide to let the hem down..

    Is the fade/crease that’s made by the inner cuff.

    Just a heads up. I have to get my Rock n Republics done by a tailor now because of that.

  5. Thank you so much for this! I can’t believe it took me this long to learn to do what you’ve shown. You have seriously freed me from my tailor!

  6. One more thing I wanted to add for anyone else interested: To make the hem look really good, make sure to sew literally right underneath the hem, not just next to it. Thanks again!

  7. I’m glad I could help you πŸ™‚ And you are right sew really close to the original hem line but not right on it otherwise you wont see it when you flip them inside out again πŸ˜€

  8. Any suggestions for how to get both pant legs the same length? I had to redo a couple of times… Also, how do you keep the folded-under part from catching on your shoes?

  9. Emily – to keep the folder-under part from catching – assuming you don’t want to undo the alteration, you could use a lightweight fusible tape, ironing it in after you’re sure the hem is correct. Re leg length, as Lorna said, sometimes you need to have each leg a different measured length because your legs are actually different lengths. If this is a real issue for you, as she said, just keep measuring & re-pinning, and try them on to double check before sewing. Having a friend help might save some time, since s/he could pin & re-pin them for you while you wear them.

    Lorna- great idea to use a hair straightener/flat iron! Much easier than hauling out the ironing board. Also, I like this version of the method better than the one that involves cutting off the hem. This seems easier to manage overall & less scary, not to mention that it should hold up better (since you don’t end up with fraying edges. I ditto the concern that if you are planning to let them down, fading & creasing could be an issue, especially if they’re washed a lot; plus I don’t see it worth the effort on a frequent basis – just buy 2 pairs – one to leave long & one to shorten!

  10. I used this method to hem a pair of jeans and it worked great! My only concern is will I have to iron the jeans every time I wear them to prevent the hem from flipping up?

  11. I don’t have to πŸ™‚ But then I only do it on skinnys and straight legs, I don’t do it on bootcuts as I don’t wear them. If it’s skinnys or straights should be fine πŸ™‚

  12. To keep your hem from “flipping up” try this. After following the above and you have ironed your new hem flat, sew (with thread to match your jeans), right on top of where the new crease is, pulling taunt as you sew.
    Also an easier measuring method is to pin up the length you want your finished jeans to be. Measure that and then 1/2 the measurement. Cuff up hem as shown above and using that measurement, place your ruler right above the original hem.(use it like a ledge),do not include the hem you are keeping in your measurements)) and mark all the way around and pin. For instance if I want my jeans 3″ shorter, I would turn up the hem (cuff it) mark off 1 1/2″ all the way around and pin.

  13. They don’t flip up on skinnys or straights, but if they do with your bootcuts you could try something as simple as using hem tape to tack the folded hem underneath to the inside of the jeans to stay there, maybe?

  14. I must be missing something. if I want my jeans 3 in shorter, I fold them up 1 1/2 in. and then sew just under the old hem stitching. If the old hem is 1/2 in. wouldn’t this make the finished shortened length 3 in plus the 1/2 in old hem. which would be shortened total amount of 2 1/2 inches.

  15. You need to include the original hem measurement in the amount you are taking up. If you want to take off 3 inches and your hem measurement is 0.20 inches (example) then you need to fold the hem in half to about 1.4 inches πŸ™‚ Then once it’s sewn and let down the hem measurement will be included in the 3 inches πŸ™‚

  16. Thank you so much. This is so much simpler than any other explanation that I have read. I really think that I can do it. I might even try it on my children’s jeans so theirs look hip as well.

  17. My question is regarding hemming bootcut jeans. I’ve done this with skinnies and it has worked well. However, when it comes time to hemming bootcut jeans, the hem is much longer (or wider) than farther up the leg where I am shortening the jeans to. So, whenever I go to sew the original hem up higher on the leg, I have extra hem that bunches. Anyhow advice on fixing this? Should I cut the original hem near the seam, maybe??

  18. I know what you mean, I find you can only hem a little bit with this method on bootcut or flared jeans otherwise there is too much excess material. I would probably say cutting it is the best option unfortunately or if you do need to hem a lot you could cut the hem off then cut the seam and take some of the hems circumference off then re-attach it but that would be really complicated. This method really only works with straight legs or skinnys πŸ™‚

  19. Darn, I was hoping you had a better solution than cutting the hem!! πŸ™‚ Oh well, maybe I will take some time one of these days and practice and see if I can come up with a easier way of remedying this. If I do, I will definitely be sharing. Thanks for the quick reply!

  20. Wow. OK. I admit it. I had no idea designer jeans required a special technique for hemming. I’m a life-long (non-professional) seamstress but when I agreed to hem jeans for a colleague, my daughter alerted me to the fact that you need to cut and reattach the original hem. Thank you so much for this blog. I love your method and your instructions and illustrations are extremely helpful. One question…regarding thread color. I have denim colored thread in my stash but rarely are jeans that color. What do you suggest???
    Thanks in advance and…thanks again for sharing your experience and expertise.

  21. Hi Diana πŸ™‚ Yeah the hems of jeans are completely different to a normal jean, they are stitched using a chain stitching method which makes the thread a lot thicker. With the way I do it you can’t see the thread anyway because it’s tucked underneath but in my opinion for a professional job I would use as close a colour you can get to the denim itself, like navy or black for very dark jeans, light blue for the lighter washes etc πŸ™‚

  22. Thank you so much for these instructions.I have been trying to find some one to do the California hem on my jeans and had no luck.Yesterday i decided to look on the internet.I do not sew,so of course I do not own a sewing machine.There you were with not only instructions but pictures too and when I read it could be done by hand I was thrilled.Today I hemmed per your instructions my New Radcliff London wide leg jeans and oh my gosh they came out perfect.I have 2 pair and I put my finished hem up to the pair I had not hemmed and you could not tell them apart.So I thank you for making my day and life so much easier.I am peite and I am always having to have things altered.Not any more.If I can do this,anyone can.

  23. Thank you so much for posting this! I recently bought 3 pairs of jeans and your tutorial saved me a bunch AND my jeans look like they came from the tailors!

  24. Thank you so much for the tip! I got some rather expensive jeans online and thought I would never be able to wear them because they were too long… I just sewed them up according to your instructions, and, even though it took me a while (I don’t have a sewing machine), your tips worked perfectly!! When I put the jeans on, I can’t even see the new seam myself! I am so happy and very grateful to you for this awesome technique! Thank you, and all the very best!!! πŸ™‚

  25. About the part that might catch on your shoe–couldn’t you just trim it off with a scissors, that is if you’ll never need to lengthen them.

  26. Thank you so much for this fantastic blog. I had just bought an awesome pair of Diesel jeans at my local goodwill and did not want to loose the original hem. Also I didn’t want to try the cut and sew method for fear of ruining them. They were about 2 1/2 inches to long and I used your hemming method and it worked great. Not only did I save a ton of money on jeans, I also saved on sending to a tailor.

  27. I can’t believe I’ve been cutting and hemming my whole life (I hate being short!).
    This method is amazing, worked a treat.

    It’s worth emphasizing that you really do need to sew right next to the original stitching. On my first go I stitched right next to the edge of the hem, rather than next to the stitching, and it just wasn’t good enough. Easily fixed tho – just went around a second time in the right spot.

    And I was already onto using my hair straightener as an iron. I don’t have an old one though – use my ghd and so far so good.

    Thanks for this πŸ™‚

  28. Thank you so much! Came across this blog today and did my jeans in about 20 minutes. Looks great! What an awesome tip. Thanks again

  29. It seems like I need to re-iron the hems after washing them every time. It’s kind of annoying, is there a fix for that?

  30. I just tried this and I found the best way to get rid of all the extra fabric that you fold under…is simply to cut it out! Thanks! This is going to save my short self a lot of money πŸ™‚

  31. Yeah you can cut it out πŸ™‚ That does mean you can never un-hem them though and it also means the denim might fray a bit if you don’t over lock the raw edges. I’m glad it worked for you though!

  32. Hi kelly, no it doesn’t work with boot cut jeans, if you are taking a lot off anyway. The hem of the boot cut jeans is wider than where you would be sewing it too, so it will be all lump and bumpy because of the excess fabric. The widest it works on is straight leg because the material is the same width.

  33. You may want to note somewhere in the post that this isn’t ideal for boot cut. I’m sure I’m not the first person to try this method before reading the comments and realizing that it’s not really the best method.

  34. I updated it with a note. I was sure that I added it into the post, but apparently I didn’t. It must have just been in the comments. But it’s updated now, thanks for notifying me.

  35. This is a wonderful method – but I can’t see why the excess should not be cut off unless this method is used on children’s jeans. For adults there is no point in leaving all that bulk in the hem area as it is highly unlikely that the jeans would ever need to be lengthened again. Just cut it off and overlock the edge. I also cannot understand why anyone would think you can make a wider piece of material fix a narrower one i.e. on bootcut jeans!!!!

  36. Yeah you can definitely cut them off, you don’t have to keep the extra fabric under there, as long as you know how to overlock then it’s fine. But yeah, the bootcut definitely doesn’t work lol!

  37. Does this method also work with pants made out of other material (polyester, wool, cotton, linen, etc.)? Is the new seam (where the material is pinched in on the inside of the leg) in seen easier on those materials? Or does this method work best with jeans (where it’s harder to see the seam where the material is pinched in)? Thanks.

  38. Hi Barbara, I’ve never actually tried it with anything other than jeans. I think jeans would work best purely because the denim is thicker and the seam is thicker too, with other pants, it might get quite floppy. If there is a regular seam on your other pants then just making a new seam on the hem line is the best option I would say, we do this for jeans as the seam is chain stitched and hard to re create. Hope that helps!

  39. Hi Lorna. Your thoughts echo mine perfectly and definitely helps tremendously. I also suspected that the heavier denim material in jeans made this technique more suitable for jeans than for other non-denim pants. I also agree that the hard to re-create chain stitching on jeans necessitates a solution like this, as opposed to the much easier to copy stitching of other pants. Thanks again for your answer and great blog!

  40. I noticed someone’s comment about having to iron the folds flat after washing every time. Sounds like a couple things might be going on: it’s just finnicky fabric, or the jeans are being dried fully in the dryer.

    I haven’t tried this hemming method yet (will do so on a friend’s kid’s jeans soon though!), but I used to have indigo trouser-fit jeans that I put in a “fold crease” down the front, like on men’s trousers – looks great when paired with heels/boots, which always takes up some of that slack, so I always have 2 lengths of jeans going on anyway, heels and flats. I could get the crease out of any well-made wider/flared jeans pretty easily:
    1) Choose a crease line I want (or in this case, go with the new hem work)
    2) Iron the dickens out of it to set that line
    3) THEN after each washing:
    ÔÇó straight out of the washer, refold the WET crease you want, PRESS it, and fully air dry flat (easiest in dry months),
    ÔÇó or PARTLY dry in dryer (rainy days/months) and do the same – re-fold/press crease and finish drying flat.

    Same concept for any bend in the fabric, whether it runs vertically or horizontally.

    Oh, I just remembered: it doesn’t work as well on synthetics & synth-fabric blends, so if the fabric isn’t of 100% natural fibers (cotton/wool/linen), then the press-wet/damp-fold-then-air-dry method doesn’t hold nearly as well.
    So, in synthetic/blend casesÔÇâor if in a drying rush, well…happy ironing. πŸ™‚

    PS–sorry for the lengthy comment! I never realized how hard it is to explain something that’s easier shown…now I understand why a picture says a thousand words!

  41. It hasn’t with mine, but I can’t say for every jean, it would depend entirely how much you have hemmed them and how much folded fabric you have underneath I think.

  42. I’m a novice @ sewing… If I cut off the hem, how much do I leave for binding and how do I then overcast the edges? I have watched a video on how to overcast on my machine (not a serger,) but I don’t know if I should bind the two edges together or separately. Then, how do I keep it from ‘sticking out’ onto my leg?

  43. Hi! I have never actually cut the inside material off, usually over locking is done on single pieces of material though, but can be done on two. Maybe Google it and see what you find!

  44. Thank you so much for this information! I was able to do this on a pair of flares!! It turned out great!! I just wanted to take them up an inch, so not very much. Just enough to keep them off the ground. Maybe when there is not too much to alter it works for boot cut/flares? :). Many thanks!

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