Stop stepping on your jeans: hem with original seam

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When you pay nearly $200 for jeans these days part of what you’re paying for is the wash, which makes them looked slightly relaxed, disheveled, lived in.  Funny how we pay more for new things when they look like old things.  Also funny that you can pay $200 for jeans but they still come in just one length, because if you’re rich enough to pay $200 for jeans then you must have long model-like legs, right?  So the designers leave it up to us shorties to pay more money to hem our expensive jeans, except when we do the alteration place cuts them from the  bottom and we lose all that expensive lived-in wash.  So our jeans end up looking like this (on the left).  When instead we want them to look like this (on the right).  See the difference?

Keeping the original seam is not as complicated as it sounds.  In fact, it’s actually easier than hemming them the other way.

Here’s a step-by-step:

1. Wash and dry your jeans first (they shrink) unless you are the type of person that exclusively dry cleans (you did just pay $200 for jeans after all).

2. Measure the amount you need to shorten. (Have your subject stand up, then fold them under to figure out where you want them to hit.  I usually try to get jeans as close to the floor as possible without stepping on them).  Place a pin to mark the spot.  Unfold them and measure how much you need to shorten from the bottom of the seam to your pin.  These are Big N’s jeans, and needed to be shortened 2 inches.


3. Divide how much you need to shorten (2 inches) by half (1 inch).  Fold the jeans up like a cuff.  Measure from the fold in the cuff to the bottom of the original seam using your half measurement (1 inch in this case).  You can see in the picture below that I measured 1 inch from the bottom of the fold to the red marker on my ruler.  Because the original seam is going to remain in place, you don’t count it in your measurement.  That’s why you measure just to the bottom of the original seam.  Pin all the way around and check your measurements in various places to make sure you’re even.  Repeat on the other leg.


4. With your sewing machine, “stitch in the ditch” just below the fold of the original seam.  Do this slowly and carefully.  You want to get as close as possible to the original seam without sewing on top of the original seam.  Backstitch where you stop and start.  Repeat on the other leg.


5. This is what you’ll have after you sew (as seen from the inside and the outside).  On the inside is a flap of fabric.  On the outside is the original seam and the shortened part is folded over so it meets the top of the original seam.


6. Turn the flap up (so it’s folded inside your jeans) and iron in place with a steaming hot iron so the original seam is now on the bottom and the sewed flap is tucked inside the jeans above the original seam.


7. Try them on with the shoes you normally wear with your jeans to make sure the hem hits in the right place (before you cut anything and are stuck with it).  You can still pull out the stitches if you need to redo it.  After you cut there’s no turning back.

8. Turn the pants inside out.  Cut the flap with sharp scissors, leaving about 1/4″ of the flap in place.


9.  My machine comes with a special foot that does an overlock stitch.  If yours can do an overlock stitch, use it and with the jeans turned inside out, stitch all the way around the cut part of the flap to prevent fraying.  (Stitch just the edges of the flap.  The original seam should be tucked away so you don’t stitch through it too).  Repeat with the other leg.  If your machine doesn’t have this stitch, you can simply use a zig-zag stitch all the way around.  If you’re really lazy, you can simply cut with pinking shears and forego this step all together, but I can’t guarantee they won’t fray on you.


10. This is what you have after you do the overlock stitch on the cut edge.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, nobody will see this part.


11. Iron the jeans again.


12. Finished.  Admire your handiwork.  Can you see the difference?  Up close you may notice the fold above the original seam, but you won’t when you wear them.  Promise.


Wouldn’t you know it? After I played the role of the good wifey and hemmed Big N’s jeans, I was hanging them up and noticed that these particular expensive jeans do come in various inseam lengths.  I took exactly 2 inches off his jeans.  Had he bought the appropriate size I wouldn’t have had to go through the trouble.  When confronted with this information, however, Big N swore it not to be the case.  He proclaimed that had he bought the correct inseam size they would have been “high water” jeans due to shrinkage.  I’m not convinced.  At least we got a nifty tutorial out of it.  Happy sewing.

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