Hemming Jeans: A Sewing Machine Guide

how to hem jeans with sewing machine

Hemming Jeans: A Sewing Machine Guide

Hemming jeans is an essential skill for anyone looking to tailor their denim to the perfect length. Whether you’ve found the perfect pair of jeans that are just too long or you’re looking to refresh an old favorite by adjusting the length, learning to hem jeans with a sewing machine can save you time and money. This guide will walk you through the process, from preparation to selecting the right sewing machine for the job.

Hemming jeans is a common alteration task that can be tackled at home with a basic sewing machine. WeAllSew provides an easy step-by-step guide to hemming jeans the simple way, highlighting key tips such as handling thick seams without breaking needles, accessible here. For those looking for a visual aid, YouTube offers several tutorials on how to hem jeans using a domestic sewing machine, one of which is demonstrated here by a professional tailor. Additionally, another useful tutorial that explains how to keep the original hem while shortening your jeans can be found here, ideal for maintaining the store-bought look.

Preparing Your Jeans for Hemming

Before you start the hemming process, it’s crucial to prepare your jeans to ensure a smooth and accurate alteration.

  • Measuring the Length Accurately: The first step in hemming jeans is to determine the desired length. Wear your jeans and mark the length where you want the hem to fall, using chalk or a fabric marker. Remember to wear the shoes you intend to wear with the jeans to get the right length.
  • Marking the Cut Line: Once you’ve determined the new length, mark a straight line around the leg. This line will be your guide for cutting or folding, depending on the hemming method you choose. It’s essential to measure twice and cut once to avoid any mistakes.
  • Choosing the Right Type of Jeans Needle and Thread: For a successful hemming project, selecting the appropriate jeans needle and heavy-duty thread is crucial. A jeans needle, designed to penetrate thick fabrics without breaking, and a heavy-duty thread that matches the color and weight of your jeans’ existing thread will ensure your hem looks professional and lasts long. For more on selecting sewing supplies, visit DIY Sewing Guide, which offers a wealth of information on DIY jeans hemming.

Selecting the Right Sewing Machine

Not all sewing machines are created equal, especially when it comes to handling thick fabrics like denim. Here’s what to look for in a sewing machine for hemming jeans:

  • Features to Look for in a Sewing Machine for Hemming Jeans: A sewing machine that can handle denim needs to have a strong motor, adjustable foot pressure, and the ability to use a jeans needle. Features like a free arm for sewing around pant legs and adjustable stitch length and width can also make the hemming process easier.
  • Recommended Sewing Machines for Heavy-Duty Fabric: Some sewing machines are better suited for hemming jeans than others. Look for models that are specifically designed for heavy-duty sewing or that have excellent reviews from users who frequently sew denim. For recommendations on the best models, check out the Sewing Machine Review Site, which provides detailed reviews on recommended sewing machines for heavy-duty fabric.

Hemming jeans at home with a sewing machine is a straightforward process that can significantly extend the life of your denim and ensure a perfect fit. By preparing your jeans properly, choosing the right tools, and selecting a sewing machine that can handle the job, you’ll be well on your way to becoming proficient in this valuable skill. Remember, practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be hemming jeans like a pro. For those looking to further improve their sewing skills, consider enrolling in an online sewing course at Online Sewing Course, where you can learn more advanced techniques and tips for working with denim and other fabrics.

The Hemming Process

Hemming jeans with a sewing machine is a valuable skill that can save you time and money, allowing you to customize the length of your jeans for a perfect fit. This section will guide you through the step-by-step process of hemming jeans, from setting up your sewing machine to the finishing touches.

Setting Up Your Sewing Machine

Before you start sewing, it’s crucial to set up your sewing machine correctly to handle denim, a heavy-duty fabric.

  • Selecting the Right Needle and Thread: The key to a successful hemming project starts with installing a jeans needle on your sewing machine. These needles are specifically designed to penetrate thick fabrics without bending or breaking. Pair this needle with a heavy-duty thread that closely matches the color of your jeans. This combination will help you avoid common issues such as needle breakage and thread snapping, which are frequent when working with denim.
  • Adjusting the Sewing Machine Settings: To accommodate the thickness of denim, adjust your sewing machine to a longer stitch length, typically between 3 and 4. This adjustment helps create strong, durable stitches that can withstand the wear and tear jeans often go through. Before you begin sewing your jeans, it’s good practice to test these settings on a scrap piece of denim. This test run will help you ensure that the stitches are even, and the thread tension is correctly adjusted, preventing any surprises when you start working on the actual hem.

Cutting the Jeans to Length

If your jeans require shortening, cutting them to the correct length is the next step.

  • Measuring and Marking the Cut Line: Accurately measuring the length you want your jeans to be is crucial for a successful hemming project. Put on the jeans and decide where you want the new hem to fall, considering the shoes you’ll likely wear with them. Use chalk or a fabric marker to mark this length around both legs, ensuring the line is even and straight. It’s important to add extra fabric for the hem allowance—about 1 to 1.5 inches is standard. This extra fabric allows you to create a clean, finished edge without shortening the jeans too much.
  • Cutting the Fabric: With your jeans accurately marked, it’s time to cut them to length. Using a pair of sharp fabric scissors, carefully cut along the marked line. Ensure your cuts are straight and even to avoid a lopsided hem. If you’re hesitant about cutting too much off, err on the side of caution and cut less. You can always trim more fabric off later, but you can’t add it back once it’s been cut.

Folding and Pinning the Hem

Creating a neat and even hem is essential for a professional-looking finish.

  • Folding the Hem: Begin by folding the bottom of the jeans up to your previously determined length, ensuring that the fold is even all around the leg. This uniformity is key to a symmetrical hem. To solidify the fold and make sewing easier, iron the fold to create a crisp edge. The heat from the iron will help the fabric hold its shape as you sew, reducing the likelihood of slippage or unevenness.
  • Pinning the Hem in Place: With the fold ironed in place, secure the hem using straight pins. Insert the pins perpendicular to the edge of the fabric; this orientation not only holds the fabric securely but also allows for easy removal as you sew. Ensure the pins are spaced closely enough to prevent the fabric from shifting, but not so close that they interfere with the sewing process.

Sewing the Hem: Techniques and Tips

Sewing the hem is the most critical step in the hemming process. Here are some techniques and tips to ensure a smooth sewing experience.

  • Sewing the Hem: Position your sewing machine to start close to the edge of the fold, ensuring your stitches will be placed accurately. As you sew, carefully remove the pins to avoid damaging your sewing machine’s needle. Begin and end your seam with a backstitch to lock the thread in place, preventing unraveling. If your sewing machine features a free arm, utilize it to more easily navigate around the pant leg, ensuring even stitching.
  • Managing Bulky Seams: The side seams of jeans are notably thicker than the rest of the fabric, presenting a challenge when sewing. Approach these seams slowly, and consider using a bulky seam aid to maintain a level presser foot. This approach helps to prevent skipped stitches and needle breakage, common issues when sewing over thick fabric layers.
  • Topstitching for a Professional Finish: Adding a topstitch parallel to the hemline not only secures the hem further but also offers an opportunity for aesthetic enhancement. Choose a contrasting thread for a decorative look or a matching thread for a traditional appearance. This additional stitch line can significantly elevate the overall look of your hemmed jeans.

Finishing Touches: Ironing and Topstitching

The final touches can significantly enhance the appearance of your hemmed jeans.

  • Ironing the Hem: After sewing, press the hem with an iron to eliminate any puckering and to define the edge sharply. The use of steam can be particularly effective in smoothing out stubborn wrinkles and ensuring the hem lays flat against the leg of the jeans.
  • Topstitching (Optional): For those seeking an extra touch of refinement, adding a topstitch along the hem can provide both functional and decorative benefits. This additional stitching reinforces the hem, ensuring durability, while also offering a chance to personalize the jeans with unique stitch patterns available on your sewing machine.

By following these steps, you can hem your jeans with a sewing machine efficiently and effectively, achieving a tailored look that enhances the fit and style of your denim. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to refine your technique with each pair of jeans you hem.

FAQs Section

Can I hem jeans without cutting them?

Yes, you can hem jeans without cutting them by using a method called the original hem technique. This involves folding the existing hem up to the desired length and sewing it in place, preserving the original look of the jeans. This method is particularly useful for those who might want to revert the jeans to their original length later or are looking for a quick hemming solution.

How do I choose the right thread for hemming jeans?

Selecting the right thread is crucial for a durable and visually appealing hem. For hemming jeans, use a heavy-duty thread that matches the color and weight of the original thread used in your jeans. Polyester or a polyester-cotton blend is often recommended for its strength and durability. If you want the stitching to be visible, choose a contrasting color that complements the denim.

Can I hem jeans with a regular sewing machine?

Yes, you can hem jeans with a regular sewing machine, provided you use the correct needle and settings. Install a jeans needle, also known as a denim needle, which is designed to penetrate thick fabrics without breaking. Adjust your sewing machine to a longer stitch length to accommodate the heavy fabric, and proceed slowly, especially over seams, to avoid needle breakage.

How do I prevent the sewing machine from skipping stitches on thick fabric?

To prevent your sewing machine from skipping stitches on thick fabric like denim, ensure you’re using a jeans needle and heavy-duty thread. Additionally, adjust the presser foot pressure if your machine allows it, to accommodate the thickness of the fabric. Sewing slowly over thick seams and using a bulky seam aid can also help maintain consistent stitch quality.

What is the best way to handle bulky seams?

Handling bulky seams when hemming jeans can be challenging. To manage this, use a bulky seam aid or a hump jumper, which helps to keep the presser foot level as you sew over thick seams. Sew slowly and ensure your needle is in the down position when you start sewing over a bulky seam. This technique helps prevent skipped stitches and needle breakage.


Hemming jeans with a sewing machine is a practical skill that can extend the life of your denim and ensure a perfect fit. By following the comprehensive guide provided, from preparing your jeans for hemming to the finishing touches, you’ll be able to achieve professional-looking results at home. Remember, the key to perfect hemming is practice, patience, and attention to detail. Whether you’re a seasoned sewer or new to the craft, mastering the art of hemming jeans will add a valuable skill to your DIY repertoire, allowing you to customize your denim for a tailor-made look.