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How to hem jeans


Lady measuring hem of jeans with ruler and marking with fabric chalk

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Jeans are versatile allrounders that form part of a lot of people’s wardrobes. They may not be the best summer fabric but remain popular all year round. Finding a pair of vintage jeans, or a pair on sale can feel like a great find, but then they’re too long! If you bought a new pair of jeans that are a few inches too long, you may feel dismayed. But it’s actually pretty easy to shorten jeans! We show you what options are available and how to shorten jeans correctly.

Like new: shorten your jeans with the original hemline

For this first option, you'll need a sewing machine. If you don't have one, ask friends, family, acquaintances, or neighbours to lend you theirs for a few hours - after all, sharing is caring. In many cities there are also sewing cafés or open workshops where sewing machines are available to rent by the hour. Take a look online and see if this is a possibility in your community.

Here’s how!

  1. How many inches need to be shortened? To find the right leg length, put on your jeans wearing shoes and mark the desired length with a pin or fabric chalk. It is even better if someone else does the marking for you, so that you can stand completely upright. Then take them off again.
  2. Measure the length of the space that is too long. Let’s say your jeans are 3 inches too long. Now fold the hem to the outside. Go exactly half of the measured fabric, i.e. 1.5 inches. Note: Start below the seam of the original hem and measure to the edge. Also make sure that the side seams are exactly on top of each other and fix them with pins. 
  3. Grab the sewing machine. Thread it with a thread that matches the trousers and use a thick jeans needle, so it doesn't break. Now sew close to the original hem once around the entire trouser leg.
  4. Cut off the part of the jeans that is too long below the new seam. For a precise look, you can then sew all the way around again. 
  5. Fold the remaining original hem back to the outside and go over this new hem again with an iron. Your jeans are no longer too long!

Shorten jeans: small cut with great effect

The next method we’ll show you is how to hem jeans in a different way. It is similar to the previous tutorial in its first steps. After you have taken off your jeans, cut the trousers legs about ½ an inch below the marked desired length. Then fold the remaining piece from the outside to the inside and secure the whole thing with a pin. Turn the jeans inside out and sew once around the trouser leg so that the folded piece is fixed. Now the jeans have your desired length with a new hem!

How to make jeans shorter without a sewing machine

You can also shorten your jeans without a sewing machine – you won’t get the same effect, but it might be more suited to what you want anyway.

Shorten jeans and sew by hand

Here’s how to shorten jeans by hand. Take the same steps as above, but after you have folded the remaining hem, with about ½ an inch remaining, inward, go over the edge with the iron. Then turn the trousers inside out and sew the side seams together by hand with a few stitches so that it holds better.

Frayed hems

Frayed jeans are pretty trendy at the moment and add a casual touch to any outfit. For the frayed look, shorten the jeans to the desired length. Then fray the hem with the help of tweezers or nail scissors by pulling out the individual threads. Work your way up until the fringe starts at the desired height. For particularly dense fringes, you can also rub the hem further with sandpaper, a wide nail file, or foot file.


Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. This is also the less permanent method – perfect for growing kids! Just fold the jeans a couple times and iron the turn-up so you get a proper ‘finish’.

Want more DIY tips and ideas? Get inspired by our other articles such as how to DIY a makeup organiser, how to store hats and how to store scarves.