how to: hem jeans

Today, I’m sitting at my desk in my studio with sunlight flooding into the room while Christmas music plays and puppies sleep at my feet. Ty is on the phone in his office, making the most of the last business day before a long holiday weekend. We have a pantry full of ingredients for a yummy Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, and we’re excitedly making plans for our families to come to Texas for Christmas. I have fabric on my table, working sewing machines, and plans to bring it all to life in the coming days. We are happy, healthy, and thankful for a great many blessings. I hope you, too, have many things to be thankful for this year.

Before I sign off for a long weekend, I bring you a (hopefully) helpful how-to post. Before I launched my business a few years ago I did a lot of projects to make money. I made curtains and pillows for people, designed custom clothing, and did more alterations and hems that I could possibly recount. Skirts, pants, men’s trousers, you name it. I also hemmed jeans, which is a skill that still comes in handy. I’m 5’7 so I don’t normally run into jeans that are too long for me, but it does happen occasionally. In fact, this post is evidence that it happened very recently!

Hemming a pair of jeans is one of the easiest alterations to do, so no need to be intimidated by it. Now, I will say that if you have more than about 2″ to hem things may get a bit tricky, especially if the jeans are flared. But, if you have a significant amount to hem in a skinny jeans or straight leg jean, no worries. It can be done! This post will show you how to hem jeans and keep the original hem.

I’ve recently rediscovered Levi’s denim, and I’m totally obsessed with the brand again. The fit is incredible, and they’re so darn comfortable and flattering. The jeans in the following photos are Levi’s High Rise Flare Jeans, which make you want to cry tears of joy when you put them on. It’s a great blend of cotton/poly/elastane which means they’re comfy as can be, but they also hug you in the right places. There is no gap in the back, for example, as is usually the case on me what with my body shape. Anyway, I got these jeans a couple weeks ago (on sale too!), and I loved them the moment I put them on. They were, however, a bit long.

Look how sad I was about it. I’m stepping on the jeans they’re so long, I’m slouching, my shirt’s untucked. A mess. Don’t be a mess, hem your jeans!

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

First things first, wash the jeans to get the initial shrink out of the way. Then think about the shoes you’re most likely to wear with the jeans.

So, step number one is to put the jeans on with the shoes you’re planning to wear.


Next, you want to turn up the hem the desired length. How long you want to hem the jeans is all about personal preference. I like my jeans on the longer side. Notice in the picture below where my pin is, in the front (you can see the yellow ball on my boot). That is where I want the very bottom of the hem.

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

Leaving the pins in that spot where you want the bottom of the hem, take the jeans off and pinch the amount to be hemmed between the pin and the top of the original hem. (Notice that I pinned through the right side of the jeans after I took them off.)

Now, the only tricky part about hemming jeans like this is accounting for the original hem. It adds about 1/2″ to the bottom of the hem, so we have to be mindful of that when we finalize the amount to hem. Because keeping the original hem will add to the amount we’re taking up, you want to add that to the amount you want to hem. Put a better way: I needed to hem these jeans 1″, so I really needed to hem them about 1.5″ because the original hem will add that 1/2″ back to the length. The easy part about this is that the amount you need to hem is folded in half above the original hem, so once you know how much to hem total, divide that amount it half and fold it above the original hem, as I have done here:

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

In the picture below, you can see that I have the jeans pinned where they need to be hemmed, and I am pinching the amount of the fold, which is half of the total amount to be hemmed. This exactly where we will press the jeans.

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

Put the jeans on your ironing board and press the fold. I use a sleeve board for this. It’s easier.

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

Next, sew the hem in place. Notice that I am sewing as close to the top of the original hem as possible, but I am not sewing through it.

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

Now comes the last and easiest step. The jeans go back on the board and the amount we just hemmed gets pressed up into the leg of the jean. Then, topsitch next to the top of the original hem to keep in place.

You can always use gold thread here. I’ve done this before and liked it very much.


When your jeans are hemmed, they will look like this:


How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman Designs

As always, let me know if you have any questions. Happy Thanksgiving, and I’ll be back next week!

How To Hem Jeans via Emily Hallman


  1. Karon | 20th Mar 17

    Great job…thanks for sharing!

  2. Samantha Cooper | 30th Nov 16

    Great job!!! Excellent work!! Wish I were that good.

  3. allie J. | 23rd Nov 16

    You are too cute in your boots and flares! Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. Dawn Shull | 23rd Nov 16

    Thanks for the posts – I enjoy them very much. Do you ever trip on the hem you’ve turned up on the inside of the jeans?

    • Emily | 23rd Nov 16

      Hi, Dawn! Great question. I don’t trip it, no, but sometimes it does need to be pressed a little bit to keep it up inside the leg of the jean. Another trick is to tack it down at the side seams. Usually the hem is itself is small enough that it doesn’t catch on your foot when you put on the jeans. My husband ordered some jeans a while back that were sold in waist sizes only, and the inseam was 36″ for every size. That meant I had to hem them about 3″. That hem was bigger than most, so I tacked it down and it stays in place just fine. Hope that helps! 🙂

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