How Long Does It Take To Hem Pants?
As a professional seamstress, I have hemmed hundreds of pants. Jeans, suit pants, and everything in between has come through my shop. Some of these hems can be done in 15-30 minutes. Others take an hour or more.
There is no definite time standard for “hems.” But I can give you a general idea of what to expect from different types of hems so that you can allow yourself plenty of time to complete the project. As with any sewing project, my best advice is always–Don’t get in a hurry! Take your time and do it right the first time, because correcting a wrong measurement on a hem may simply not be possible.
Here are some tips about different types of hems that can help you with an educated guess about how much time to allow, depending on your skills and experience.
If you are making an original garment from cotton denim, always wash and dry the fabric before you begin to cut out your garment. Or if the jeans are brand new, I’d advise washing and drying them before you measure for a hem. Failure to do so can result in jeans that become much shorter than you intended with a washing or two.
The washing and drying process will take time. If you need to wear the jeans now, there are several ways to take them up that can be easily removed later when you have time to hem the pants properly. You can fold the pants up to where you want them, then stitch a seam right up to the original hem so that it doesn’t show when you turn them back down.
Tack the extra fabric up at the side seams. Unless it’s a considerable amount of material, it should be invisible inside the pant leg as a temporary fix. I have seen YouTube videos using this method to hem jeans permanently, but I’ve had many customers who would not be happy with the technique, so I don’t use it personally. But for home use, it’s okay. It may also be a way to hem jeans for a fast-growing child temporarily.
Once you’re sure your jeans will not shrink with future washings, a regular, matching jean hem will take about 20 minutes for an experienced sewer. Allow yourself an hour if you’re a new sewer.
After trying on and measuring how much shorter the jeans need to be, turn jeans wrong-side out. Subtract an inch from the measurement for hem allowance. Measure and cut off the remaining amount: i.e., if you’re removing 3 inches from the length, cut off 2 inches.
Fold up ½ inch, then again ½ inch, and pin the hem in place. You may need to trim the side seams a bit to remove excess bulk. Use a denim needle and matching thread to sew about ⅛ inch from the top of the hem fold all the way around. Turn right-side out and press.
Related: How To Use a Thimble For Hand Sewing
A Straight Hem
A straight hem is one that is machine sewn with a straight stitch. Depending on the look you’re going for, the stitch line may be anywhere from ½ to 2 inches above the bottom of the pants. These hems are generally quick to accomplish. Allow yourself an hour, though the project should only take half that.
Turn the garment wrong-side out and fold up the desired hem width. Always allow some fabric for tuning under unless you’re surging the edge. Press well. Turn under about a half-inch of the raw edge. Pin in place. Stitch about ⅛ inch from the folded-under edge. Press again if necessary.
This is one of the simplest and quickest hems. It is suitable for casual or children’s pants. It is not appropriate for formalwear or suit pants.
An Invisible Machine Hem
Dressier pants will require an invisible hem. This can be accomplished either by machine or by hand. Machine hems are quicker but still take a bit of time because the fabric must be folded a specific way before sewing. Instructions can be found in your machine’s handbook or online.
One of the best tips I can give you when using an invisible machine hem is to make good use of your iron. Pressing the fabric will help ensure your hem is straight and accurate. It will make it easier to gauge the distance between the folded fabric and the sewing machine needle.
You will want to catch as little fabric as possible from the front of the fabric so that your hem is truly invisible. That said, you will also want to match the thread color as closely as possible to the color of the fabric. If this seems impossible, you can consider using a clear nylon thread. I’ve had to use it on hard-to-match garments, but it’s not always easy to work with, so I always avoid it if possible.
Hand-sewn Invisible Hem
A hand-sewn hem is the most time-consuming but is sometimes the only option for the desired result. Never cringe at hand sewing. It is a necessary part of the sewing process and can sometimes be a way to work miracles.
Miracles aside, learning an invisible hem stitch is not difficult and will prove useful for much more than hems. Measure carefully, then press and pin the hem in place. Allow yourself plenty of time to hem as precisely as possible, keeping your stitches even and taking up as little front fabric as possible for the hem to be stable yet invisible. This could take as long as a couple of hours, depending on the pant leg’s size.
Extra Tips for Hemming
No matter what you’re hemming, here are some tips to ensure the projects goes smoothly, and the results will meet your expectations:
- Match colors. Match the thread or fabric color as closely as possible. Using the correct thread will mean a professional result. When rehemming a pre-made garment, the goal is that no one knows any alterations were ever made.
- Use the correct needle. Whether machine or hand sewing, choose the right sewing needle for the job. This will make hand sewing easier. It will also prevent the thread of your machine from becoming jammed or creating other machine issues.
- Double-check all measurements. Always recheck your measurements, especially before cutting off any excess fabric. Once it’s gone, it can’t easily be put back.
- Use your iron and pins. If you hope to save time by “eye-balling” the hem as you sew, the result could be an uneven or even unsightly hemline. At the very least, press the fabric so that you can see the bottom fold. However, some types of fabric will not hold a pressed edge. In that case, you definitely need to pin the hem so that it doesn’t slip or roll as you sew.