How to Hem Jeans Without a Sewing Machine

Hand-stitched jean hem.

Buying jeans can be challenging as many brands can be quite long no matter how tall you are. Tailoring is usually a necessity. If you don't own a sewing machine that doesn't mean you need to find a seamstress. Hand sewing with a needle and thread can provide a professional-looking hem with minimal sewing skills needed.


This technique requires no cutting of the jean legs and the original hem is left exposed and useable.

  • Jeans to be shortened
  • Measuring tape
  • Existing jeans, optional
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Matching thread
  • Scissors
  • Iron


The stitching photo was done using thick, red thread for better visual clarity. Sewing should be done using standard sewing thread in a color that matches the jean fabric.

  1. With a tape measure, measure the inseam of a favorite pair of jeans that fit just right or measure the inseam of the person who will be wearing the jeans to the desired length. Measure the inseam of new jeans to be shortened.
  2. Subtract the desired length from the new jean's length to determine the amount that needs to be shortened. Divide this number in half. Example: If the amount that needs to be shortened is 2", then the divided number will be 1".
  3. Fold up the cuff of a right-side-out jean leg. Measure from the top, stitched edged of the existing hem to the fold of the cuff. Adjust the fold until it matches the divided measurement of the previous step. Matching the side seams, pin the cuff all the way around the jean leg to hold in place. Note: The existing jean hem is not included in the measurements.
    Measure and pin cuff.
    Measure and pin cuff.
  4. Thread a hand-sewing needle with thread that matches your jean fabric. Backstitch around the leg through both layers and just above the top edge of the existing hem. Knot and finish off where the ends meet.
    Backstitch the cuff.
    Backstitch the cuff.
  5. Slip the folded cuff inside the pant leg and fold the original hem down. Iron the cuff and hem flat.
  6. If needed, tack the folded cuff on the inside of the jean leg to prevent it from dropping down. There is no need to cut away the excess of the cuff.

Hints and Tips for Hemming Jeans

No matter whether you purchase your jeans new or pick them up at the local thrift store, you will want to get your money's worth. Pant leg styles and the wearer's needs should be taken into account. The following are a few things to consider when hemming.

  • Straight-leg jeans are the best for this method, but jeans with a slight flare can also be hemmed effectively. Wide flares should only have a small amount shortened.
  • As children grow, they tend to shoot up quicker than they grow out. Get more life from their jeans by pulling out the stitches and dropping the hem length as needed.
  • If the hem is never going to be let down again, you can cut excess fabric from the cuff. Cut no closer than 1/2" from the new stitched hem line.

Sewing Machine Method

If you like the idea of keeping the original hem but would like the convenience of a sewing machine, by all means, set up your machine. Use a heavy-duty machine needle and a long stitch length. Sew slowly and carefully so as not to sew the jean legs closed.

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How to Hem Jeans Without a Sewing Machine