In my last post, we went over how to shorten your jeans, or other pants, keeping the original hem intact. We left off with the jeans the length you want them, and a little fold of fabric on the inside. That fold may have cut and overcast edges, or not, depending on how much you needed to shorten the legs.
First, let’s neaten up the thread ends left from sewing the hem by hiding them, and then trimming. Get out your hand-sewing needle and thimble. (Any time that the fabric I’m sewing is thick or tough, I use a thimble to protect the finger I’m pushing the needle with.) Thread your leftover tails onto the needle, and take a stitch between the layers of the fold. If the ends are short, you may need to put the needle into the fabric, and then thread the tails onto it. Pull the needle through, and clip the tails where they emerge. This keeps your stitches from pulling out later, and also keeps the thread tails from showing.
This next thing I’m going to tell you to do is not exactly industry standard. It’s better! If you’ve ever had your jeans hemmed at the store where you bought them, they probably sewed them in a similar way to what I showed you in the last post. At the store, for some reason, they usually turn the fold of extra fabric up and stitch it in place. I think that looks weird, and like the jeans have obviously been hemmed after the fact, since the bulky fold of fabric is not where you would expect it to be for the hem. It looks much more natural if you fold the extra fabric down, where the original hem is. Try folding it both ways and see what I mean.
So, if we turn the fabric fold down, how to keep it there? You could stitch beside the original hem stitches by machine, either with thread that blends into the jeans fabric, or a contrasting thread you like. However, that’s a lot of layers of denim to sew through, and it’s likely to be difficult for your machine, and cause some skipped stitches and broken thread. There are some times when using a hand stitch really is quicker and easier, and I think this is one of them.
Then hand-sewing stitch I like for this is called a catch stitch. It’s designed to do just what we want here, to keep two layers of fabric in place against each other.
I used a doubled thread, to make the stitches a little more resistant to abrasion. Get a piece of thread no longer than twice the length of your arm. Thread it onto a sturdy hand sewing needle (choose one with a little more metal around the eye if you can, it will be less likely to break in the thick fabric) and knot the two thread ends together.
You want the knot to be on the inside of the fold, so stick the needle in there, and bring it out a little way away, on the outside edge of the fold.
Catch stitch crosses back on itself as you sew it. To do that, you’ll make each new stitch further along in the direction you are sewing (away from you or to your right in the pictures) but bring the needle in and out going the opposite way (towards you or to your left in the pictures). Hopefully this will make sense as you read through the next few steps.
Make the first small stitch in the original hem. Go through only the first layer of denim, to make it easier, and so that the stitches won’t show on the outside.
Make the second stitch in the fold, again taking a small stitch through just one layer.
Continue alternating taking a stitch in the fabric fold and one in the original hem. Make each stitch towards you/to the left, then move a little bit away from you/to the right, and to the opposite side to take the next stitch.
When you get to the seams, you may want to make the stitches smaller and/or closer together, since those areas are thicker and more likely to flip up.
What if you run out of thread? No problem.
When you get near the end of the thread, secure it by taking two small backstitches a little way apart. It’s fine to only go through one layer of fabric, and the stitches can be tiny, as long as they loop back on themselves.
Bring the needle out a little way from the second backstitch, and snip off the thread where it emerges. Get a new length of thread, and tie a knot in it. Stick the needle inside the fold (to hide the knot again), and bring it out where you left off stitching. Keep stitching around the hem until you reach the place where you started.
That’s about it! Backstitch again when you get to the end, to secure the thread. Bury the ends and clip them off.
Enjoy your new hemmed pants!