Monday, February 21, 2011

Sewing Basics # 9 - Altering Trouser Hems

It's been pretty manic around here this last week. The big news is that J has got a job! It means we should hopefully start having a normal family life for the first time since the Little Tornado was born. It's actually a bigger deal than I can ever express here. Relief and excitement all rolled into one. But that's another post altogether!
Last night found me hemming J's new suit trousers. I'd never done this before and was a little trepidatious about cutting into something he'd just bought new from a shop, so I took my time, and overall it's a pretty good result. So I thought I'd share my processes here:

1. I began by looking at how the existing hem was constructed.  These trousers had a simple overlocked raw edge and heel tape. You know the kind. It reinforces the hem where it rubs against the shoe and stops the fabric wearing thin in this area.. (Anyone know the correct term? I'm just guessing!) Essentially I wanted to copy this construction, just further up the leg.
2. I got J to put the trousers on inside out (I got a funny look at this stage. He soooo doesn't get it!) and wearing the shoes he would be wearing. I then pinned the hems up so the trousers were the desired length, lining up the side seams, and ensuring the new hem skimmed the sole of his shoe at the back. Basically, a few milimetres above the base of his shoe so the hem wouldn't be dragging on the ground. I made a note of how much length I had taken up. (3.5 inches)

1. I measured up 3.5 inches from the fold mark where the hem had been. The blue marker on my seam gauge is where the new hemline needs to be.
2. I then measured how much seam allowance the original hem had by measuring up from the overlocked edge to the original hem fold, and noted this measurement too. (Approx 2.5inches)
1. I marked a line 3.5" from the original hem fold to indicate the new hemline. Then I marked another line 2.5" from this line to indicate the new cutting line...
2. ...and cut...!

I then "overlocked" the raw edges and pressed the 2.5" seam allowance up all the way round, creating a fold line in the new hem. Then with the trousers RS out, I pinned and then basted the heel tape in place. Just below the hem fold, on the RS. The second picture shows:
1. The hem fold    
2. The heel tape basted in place.   
3. The "overlocked"edge of the hem allowance
I machine stitched along both edges of the heel tape, all the way around each trouser leg, using a straight stitch.
1. This shows the trouser legs right way out, with heel tape in place and hem ready to be turned in.
2. The finished article, with the hems turned in and hand stitched in place. (Hopefully with barely visible stitches on the right side!)

Probably the only thing I'd do differently is to buy an overlocker!! The overlock stitch on my regular machine is fine, but I'm starting to find myself craving a more  professional finish....


  1. Great tutorial - I shall have to use it sometime. I have really short legs, so I always find shoes with a mega heal so I don't have to pay to hem my pants. But there are just some days when I think it would be nice to wear a flat shoe and not have my pants drag 3 inches on the ground :)

  2. I love that your tutorials are always so relevant and practical! Unfortunately, with my husband being 6'2" and all legs, I don't know if I'll get to try this one. They used to call him "Stork the Dork" when he was a kid :)I'll just have to apply your directions in the letting out....

  3. Yes, an overlock is great to have, that will come. Nice job on the hem, I like that you stitched both sides of the tape, did you whip-stitch the hem or do kinda a blind hem stitch? I still don't do a lot of hand stitching, but would like to do more of that sort of thing.

  4. Hey V Girl! (Sounds like a super hero name!!)
    I used this stitch here:

    I used the quicker version, but if I'm doing a turned under hem I do the traditional one. The idea is not to pull the stitches too tight which in turn allows a little natural movement in the hem so it doesn't get put under too much tension and come undone.

    It's settled, I need a cute pincushion and a matching pin container. Preferably to also match my marking chalk!

  6. Lol, you're quite right! I honestly didn't realise I'd become so co-ordinated, ha ha!
    Pincushion - made by me
    Pin tin - vintage - came in a batch of sewing stuff from Freecycle
    Chalk- "acquired" from college 18 months ago. Still not got round to buying my own. Ooops!

  7. AJA - Sounds like our men our total opposites. I've stopped wearing heels since I met J. They just make me too tall by comparison!(Wouldn't want to be accused of looking down on him now, would I;)

  8. Annabelle - I know exactly what you mean. There are trousers for flat shoes and trousers for heels, but few exist that will will suit both equally!(Except capri. Love capri)!! ;)


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