How to Hem Pants By Hand

About the only sewing I do these days is mending, but I actually do know how to sew. I made several of my maternity clothes with my first child and many a Halloween costume when they were little. However, it is more expensive to sew your own clothing these days most of the time. The price of patterns and material is outrageous. I have a pair of dress pants that I recently bought that the hem came out of. It seems that nothing is made very well any more. I needed to repair the hem and thought I’d do a little tutorial.

Hemming slacks is something that I do by hand rather than on the sewing machine. Hems on a sewing machine will be very visible as the stitching will show up as a continuous line. Typically the hem of dress pants are not very visible. Thus, the need to sew by hand.

Because this is a mending job, you can clearly see by the creases where the hem should be turned up to. If you are hemming a brand new garment or the crease is not obvious be sure to measure for the proper length by trying them on, turn up, and tack with a pin.

Visible Crease of Hem
Visible Crease of Hem

Once you know the width of the hem to fold over, turn the pants inside out. Begin folding the hem over all the way around by measuring and pinning as you go. It is very easy to get the hem uneven if measuring is not done all the way around.

Measuring Width of Hem
Measuring Width of Hem

Take care that the folded over material lays nice and flat correcting any puckers. When folding over pre-existing seams be sure to open the seam up and lay flat. If you do much sewing at all you will learn that ironing is crucial to keeping your work flat and creased.

Pin the Hem All the Way Around
Pin the Hem All the Way Around

Choose a thread that matches the color of the fabric. A close match will suffice since the thread is mostly hidden. However, never use a thread lighter than the fabric. If you do not have an exact match go a little darker with the thread. A lighter thread just stands out way too much on the darker fabric. In my case it is black slacks and black thread so it is a no brainer. Unwind enough thread from the spool to so that when it is doubled over it will more than go around the full circumference of the pant leg. Thread the needle and pull both ends of the thread together and tie a small tidy knot in both ends of the thread (sewing with a double strand).

Small Tidy Knot in Thread
Small Tidy Knot in Thread

There are various methods for knotting the thread, but I tie a knot the way Ms. Nunn taught me in school. Wrap the thread once around the tip of your index finger and hold in place with your thumb. Twist the thread forward between your index finger and your thumb sliding the thread off the end of your index finger, forming a loop. Hold the loop loosely between your index finger and your thumb while holding the thread tightly with your other hand. Pull down with your index finger and thumb to tighten the loop and form a knot. Trim the ends if necessary.

Start hemming at the inseam. Bring the needle through the back of the folded over material (not through the second layer of material), pulling it through so that the knot is on the underneath side between the folded material and the pant leg.

Start Hemming at the Inseam
Start Hemming at the Inseam

Next, take the tip of the needle and barely got through the material that is not folded over. Take care to make the stitch small. The thread on the other side will show on the outside of the pant leg.

Make a Small Stitch into Material
Make a Small Stitch into Material

Before pulling the needle all the way through, bring the tip of it through the underneath side of the folded over material so that it is all in one stitch. This is a basic slip stitch.

Bring the Needle Through Folded Material
Bring the Needle Through Folded Material

Continue this slip stitch process around the pant leg spacing every 1/4 on inch or so. If the stitches are too far apart the hem will gap and hang on heels and such. Be sure to keep the material flat and taut as you proceed around the pant leg.

Slip Stitch Spacing
Slip Stitch Spacing

Black material and black thread was not the easiest to photograph for demonstration purposes. I hope you can clearly see the stitching. I prefer to remove the pins from an area as I go after it has been stitched.

Once the hem has been slip stitched all the way around back to the starting point it needs to be finished off with a knot. Again, there are multiple knotting methods, but I’ll demonstrate the method I was taught that works easily for me. Take the needle and bring through the back side of the folded material, but do not pull it through. With the needle still in the material wrap it with the thread 3 times. With your thumb pinch the thread that has been wrapped around down to the material and pull the needle through until the knot is small and tight against the fabric.

Finishing with a Knot
Finishing with a Knot

Turn the pants right-side out. If you look close, you can see the stitching barely visible. It took several photographs before I could even get the stitching to show up at all. If necessary, iron for a nice crisp hem.

Stitching Barely Visible When Pants Turned Right-side Out
Stitching Barely Visible When Pants Turned Right-side Out

Even if you never make anything from scratch by sewing, learning to sew is a very useful skill. It can save you money on paying someone for alterations and repairs and you never know when it might come in handy.

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