Sew In Brighton Blog

How do I shorten my jeans?

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How to Shorten Your Jeans


In this tutorial we will show you how to shorten your jeans by cutting off the extra length and re-turning up the bottom edge to create a new hem.

You will need

  • A sewing machine with a zig-zag function
  • An overlocker machine (optional)
  • Thread in the same colour as your jeans were originally hemmed 
  • An empty bobbin
  • An iron and board
  • Chalk pencil 
  • A ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pins


Step 1

Pin up your jeans to the length you want by tucking the excess fabric that you want to get rid of up inside the legs.
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Step 2

Place pins along the folded edge you’ve just created at the bottom of your jeans.

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Step 3

Take out the original pins from step 1. Draw a line in chalk or white pencil on the outside of your jeans 2cm down from the pins you put in in step 2. Then remove all pins.

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Step 4

Cut along the white line.

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Step 5

To stop your newly cut edge fraying, you will need to ‘finish’ it by overlocking the edge with an overlocker or zig-zagging it with a sewing machine. 

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Step 6

Draw a chalk line 4cm up from you newly finished edge all the way around the inside of both legs.

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Step 7

Iron up your finished edge to meet the chalk line, therefore creating a 2cm hem turning. Pop some pins in accross the fold, pin heads sticking downwards to hold the fold in place (see step 10 for photo).

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Step 8

Set your sewing machine to straight stitch (usually ‘A’) and put the stitch length dial to stretch stitch if you have a stretch stitch option on your machine. The stretch stitch goes forwards and back on itself as it sews, therefore creating a thicker looking line of stitching, similar to the original jean stitching that you cut off. If you don’t have a stretch stitch, just do a normal stitch with a length of 2.8.

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Step 9

Remove the extension table (see image).

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Step 10

Turn jeans inside out and feed the hemmed edge of one of the legs onto the sewing machine, ready to sew.

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Step 11

Position the hem so that when you lower the needle, the needle goes in just to the right of the zig-zagging/overlocking stitch. Place a piece of masking tape on the base of the machine along the folded hem edge, you will use this as a guide as you sew, to keep your stitching the same distance from the folded edge all the way round. (See our tutorial for seam allowance here).

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Step 12

Stitch round keeping the folded edge next to the edge of the masking tape, taking pins out just before you get to them.

If the machine gets stuck when you go to sew over a thick side seam of your jeans, stop sewing and push the fabric under the presser foot with your finger. You can also tug the fabric very gently from behind the presser foot to make it move on through.

Overlap the beginning and end of your stitched line by approximately five stitches, this will stop it unravelling and you can now cut off the excess thread and remove the jeans from the machine. Hem your other jean leg as above.

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Step 13

With an iron on steam, gently press the seam from the inside of the garment to flatten out the seam.

Turn your jeans the right way through and they are finished!   

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HemA hem is "the edge of a piece of cloth that has been turned under and sewn".

Overlocker"A piece of equipment widely used in the textile industry which sews, neatens and cuts seams in one operation".

Seam"The line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together in a garment or other article"