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How to hem jeans, 7 easy steps keeping the original hem!

Today I am going to share with you my easy method to shorten your jeans and maintain a professional look.  Over the years, I learned how to hem jeans by keeping the original hem

The process of hemming jeans can be tricky due to the bulky layers of fabric, not all sewing machines are capable of sewing through the layers of fabric even with denim thread, hammering the fabric to flatten it as much as possible and a walking foot. We are going to save ourselves some stress and keep the original hem edge.

I am going to show you a super useful method for shortening pants as we all come in different heights – my family is very mixed. My daughter regularly needs a pair of pants shortening whereas I’m always on the hunt for long length jeans! Unusually for me I have a pair of new jeans which are too long, they came as seconds and cost me the same price as a coffee.

Hem length

Before you start shortening your jeans you may wish to consider the style of jeans in relation to the desired length. For example, skinny and tapered jeans usually sit above the shoe opening where as boot leg and wider leg jeans typically sit around the shoe opening.

Another great way to consider the finished length is to use a pair of your own jeans with the perfect length as a guide.

Materials for hemming jeans

  • Pair of Scissors
  • Pins
  • Measuring Tape 
  • Fabric pen or taylors chalk
  • ​Denim Needle
  • Sewing Machine
  • ​Zipper Foot
  • Iron
  • Regular sewing thread

How to hem jeans while keeping the original hem

Step 1 Let’s start by calculating the desired length of your finished jeans. Try on your jeans, with the pair of shoes you will be wearing the jeans with. Fold the hem to the desired length and hold it in place with safety pins so you don’t stab yourself taking your jeans off!

Step 2 Measure the height of the folded fabric. This is the amount we wish to remove. Measure the height of the hem – mine if 3/4″ but it is often 1/2″.

Now for some basic maths.

Height to be shortened by (fold height) divided in two plus hem height.

So for myself this is: 3 1/2″ (fold height) / 2 = 1.75 then add hem height of 3/4″ = 2 1/2″ (finished measurement)

Adjust the fold line to this height so the hem of your jeans is your finished measurement (2 1/2″ for myself) from the folded edge.

Step 3 Straight machine stitch closely to the original hem, all around the top of the original hem. This is easier to do by removing the plate of the sewing machine and placing the leg over the free arm of the machine, as well as using a zipper foot. I use an all purpose sewing thread in a toning colour.

Step 4 Trim the excess fabric with a sharp pair of scissors.

Step 5 Let’s prevent the raw edge from fraying by stitching around this raw edge with either a zig-zag stitch or an overlocker. 

Step 6 A good press, pressing the seam allowance up the leg – after all, it wouldn’t be sewing if we didn’t use an iron!

Step 7 The last step is to top stitch close to the edge of the original hem, capturing the seam allowance. This is a great little trick to prevent the hem from flipping over, especially when washed.

Step 8 Repeat for the second leg.

Frequently asked questions – how to hem jeans

What trouser cut does this original hem method work for?

This method of how to hem jeans is great for straight leg jeans and skinny jeans, it is not suitable for flared jeans. If you have flared jeans then you will need to hem the jeans the traditional way and use a denim top stitch thread as close as possible matching the orange thread in your jeans.

I have tapered jeans, how do I make the original hem fit?

Use your sewing machine to reduce the width of the leg at the new hem position by sewing a new seam line down one of the side seams. To make it a gradual transition, I suggest starting the straight stitching along the inner leg several inches above the new hem. 

My sewing machine is struggling to sew through denim, help?

Not all sewing machines like denim. A denim needle, long stitches, and denim thread all help. Check out my you tube video on How to sew denim, hints and tips for further tips.

Do you have a pile of jeans which you no longer wear? Perhaps because they are not the right size or have gone out of fashion then I have a LOT of recycled denim projects for you to explore.

However, if your favorite jeans need a repair to become serviceable I can help:-

  1. How to replace the zipper and keep the original top stitching
  2. How to repair the inner thigh of jeans by hand

How to hem jeans

how to hem jeans
Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Difficulty easy


  • Thread


  • Sewing machine
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Zipper foot


  • Fold up your jeans to the required length.
  • Measure the fold length, measure the height of the original hem.
  • Divide the fold height in half, then add the height of the original hem - adjust the fold so the new fold height equals your new measurement.
  • Machine stitch close to the original hem.
  • Cut of the excess fabric from the fold
  • Zigzag or serger the raw edge to prevent fraying.
  • Press the seam allowance up the trouser leg.
  • To finish top stitch with a toning thread, catching the seam allowance down.

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Monday 8th of May 2023

Hi, Vicky:

I have had success sewing a new hem on jeans, using a Bernina jeans foot and jeans needle. The combination of specialized foot and needle can sew through the hem seams. Here's the foot-



Monday 8th of May 2023

Thanks for sharing. My daughter paid $$$ to have a pair of jeans shortened so she shared the methodology with me. Very similar to yours. I liked that the original hem is still there, and unless someone looks, they will never see the seam to take up the extra length.

Vicky Myers

Monday 8th of May 2023

I have to admit alterations are not something I do for anyone else. Often they take far longer than people realise, although shortening jeans is very quick!

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