I know, it’s been awhile.  A few looooooong projects plus life just takes its toll sometimes, you know?  I actually put down my beautiful iron for a spell and did some home improvement work, like painting some walls and decorating.  About time, since we’re approaching our one year anniversary in this house.  Time flies!

So bet you forgot I promised to post this about a bajillion years ago, right? Since summer arrived and I’ve been skirt and shorts clad for a spell, I haven’t had any dress pants to demonstrate how I hand hem. But as it’s also wedding season, Gumball has a spiffy new outfit to wear that needed hemming! So if the photos appear a bit, well, bitsy, it’s because they actually are. Size 12 month to be exact. 😉



A good hand sewing needle. I like to use John James straw needles in a size 11, but any good sharp needle in a length you like to handle will do.

That’s it. Seriously. Hand hemming is the best.

To start, try on the pants again with the shoes you’ll be wearing. Pick an average heel height. For men, take note if you’re wearing dress shoes with a heel larger than your normal sneakers. Fold and pin up until you get the desired length. For ladies, this is usually at least 1/2″ off the ground to avoid rubbing on the ground, but can be as high as you desire depending on how much break you want. For men, this is usually around where the pant hits the bottom of the shoe and the heel begins. It can be higher all around if this is too much break in the front, or you may need to angle the hem in a narrower leg.

Gumball displaying a medium break, where just a bit of the pant breaks in the front.

Take them off and measure what you’ve pinned. It may be a bit more in the front than the back, and that’s okay. Up to 1/2″ will angle fine, after that you’d have to slit the fabric and the finished hem will look more engineered than you’d like. Just average out whatever you’ve pinned up in the fronts and backs and take note.

Pull out the old stitching. You’re in luck if it’s a chain; keep pulling the stitch apart from the loop end until you can pull and unravel the whole thing in one swoop. If you have more than 3″ of pant to hem, you may want to cut it off either with a pinking shears or serge the finished edge.

Example of a chain stitched hem.

Fold up to the inside and press, lining up the old creases.  If the pant is narrower and gathers up a bit, you’ll need to open the side seams to allow the hem to lay flat. Use a seam ripper and start at the edge of the fabric, slitting the stitching open (not cutting any fabric) halfway down the hem allowance and more if needed. When the fabric no longer pulls you’ll know you’ve opened enough. Pin in place, placing your pins about 1/2″ down from the fabric edge and parallel.

Before and after: opening the side seams.

I prefer to do a variation on a running stitch to hem pants by hand. This allows the fabric to slide along the thread back and forth and has give when you move. All the thread is also hidden between the outer fabric and the hem allowance. If you use an overcast or cross stitch, the fabric will be nailed in place and will pull at the stitches when you walk. Those stitches also have long floats of thread exposed, which can catch on your shoe as you put your foot through.  The best diagram of this running- hemming stitch (b) and also a catch stitch variation (c) comes from Adele Margolis’s book The Complete Book of Tailoring.

hemming stitches


Fold the fabric edge down with your finger so you’re in between the layers. Knot your thread and start at a side seam. Take a bite out of the seam allowance. Alternating between the outer fabric and the hem allowance, take a stitch only a thread or two on the needle, about 1/4″ apart. You can load a few stitches on your needle at a time if you hold the fold down and are sewing perfectly level. Take a peek at the outside and make sure your stitches aren’t so large that they show, and that you like the spacing.

If you’ve had to slit your side seams, you can slip stitch these in place when you get there. Not a must but nice if you had to clip closer down towards the hem.

When you get back around to the beginning, knot off and done! Unfold the tiny bit of seam allowance and turn right side out. Press in place, using the original creases. Steam helps the stitches mold into the fabric and the seam allowance to form new creases.

Doesn’t Gumball look dapper? He had such a great time at this wedding, I’m so excited to see him boogie down at the next one coming up.

Dancing machines.

When you hem your pants correctly, no worries about stepping and tripping and wearing them down too quickly. A definite must for a polished look. It only takes me about 30 minutes to do a pair, so pick your favorite show on Netflix and thread up! You’ll be done before you know it. Your pants will thank you.

Love from Wisco,