Hemming Jeans Part II, with Catch Stitch Tutorial

 

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.

 

Jeans hem ends

 

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.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 1

 

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.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 2

 

Make the second stitch in the fold, again taking a small stitch through just one layer.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 3

 

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.

 

Jeans hem backstitch

 

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.

 

Jeans hem new thread

 

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!

Advertisements

All About Backstitch

 

Backstitch Drawing 1

 

Revised and updated with new photos and text (and drawings I found in my sewing class materials), this tutorial is now better than ever! Feel free to grab a fabric scrap and some thread and follow along.

If I had to name the single most useful hand sewing stitch I know, it would probably be the backstitch. I love it for repairs, for sewing in zippers, and for anywhere I need the control and flexibility of hand stitching with a hard-wearing stitch.

When you think of hand sewing, you probably think of running stitches, like the ones below. The needle dips into the fabric and comes up going in the same direction. You can make several running stitches on the needle before pulling the thread through, and the thread slides easily through several running stitches at once.

 

new backstitch 1

 

In a backstitch, the thread loops around itself, which makes the stitch much harder to pull out. To make one, take the needle backwards from the direction you’re stitching in, stab into the fabric, and bring the needle out at the further end of the next stitch. Then go backwards again and take the next stitch.

 

new backstitch 2

 

You can see the overlapping loops on the wrong side (backside) of the stitching. By contrast, the running stitches look the same on both sides.

 

new backstitch 3

 

If you make backstitches touching each other, from the right side (public side) it looks almost exactly like machine stitching, which makes this a great stitch for repairs and touch-ups.

 

new backstitch 4

 

You can also leave more space between small backstitches. This is sometimes called a prickstitch. It’s the stitch I use to sew zippers into just about everything, including my trousers! I love sewing zippers by hand, it gives me great control and precision, and more flexibility about when I attach them. Susan Khalje wrote an article for Threads magazine about hand-picked zippers that’s worth looking up if you’re interested, that’s what got me started doing them this way.

 

new backstitch 5

 

Because each one is almost a knot in itself, backstitches are really sturdy. The zippers I’ve sewn with them have lasted at least as long as the pants!

 

Pickstitch Drawing 1

 

Backstitches are also useful for securing your thread anywhere you don’t want to have a knot. I often use one or two to secure the beginning or end of a seam, and when I’m burying yarn ends in knitting. In the days when most garments were sewn by hand, it was common to use running stitches with a backstitch thrown in every few stitches for extra strength. (I know that from reading The Mary Frances Sewing Book, which is amazing).

Happy stitching!

 

new backstitch 6

 

 

How to Sew on a Button

And make a thread shank, for a better-working button.

 

sewing on a button 10

 

As promised, complete directions!  Anyone can do this.  All you need is some thread and a sharp needle.  Start with a piece of thread about as long your arm, and put it through the needle so you have a double length.

Start by anchoring your thread.  The conventional way to do this is by tying a knot in the end.  But sometimes a big knot on one side is too conspicuous or would catch on things.  Instead try backstitching.  A backstitch is a stitch that makes the thread loop back on itself, it’s very secure.  On the wrong side, slide the thread between the fabric layers and come up near where you want the button to be.  Pull the needle though, leaving a thread tail at the start.  Take a small backstitch.  Put the needle out nearby, then take another backstitch in the opposite direction.  The thread is ready to go!  Pop the needle up to the right side where you want the button.

 

sewing on a button 1Click on any of the photos to enlarge if you’d like.

 

The next part is pretty much self-explanatory, except for one thing.  Use a spacer to make room for a thread shank underneath the button (ignore this part if your button already has a metal shank on the back—just stitch through that).  This makes room for the fabric (where the buttonhole is) to fit underneath the button.  I often use a toothpick which I keep in my sewing stuff.  You may want a bigger or smaller spacer depending on the thickness of the fabric and how curved the button is.  Just sew over the spacer as you go in and out through the holes of the button.

 

sewing on a button 2

 

sewing on a button 4

 

Go through each part of the button a couple of times.  Pull out the spacer and pull up on the button, see how there’s now extra thread underneath?  Bring the needle up from the bottom under the button.

 

sewing on a button 5

 

sewing on a button 6

 

Wind the thread a few times around the thread bars under the needle—but not too tightly.  If you make this whole thing too tight, the sides of the holes in the button can rub and wear through the thread.  Stab the needle straight through the thread shank a couple of times from different directions.

 

sewing on a button 7

 

Secure the thread either just under the button, or on the back side with a couple more backstitches, then trim the thread tails.

 

sewing on a button 8

 

So the next time a button pops off your shirt, you don’t need to send it off to Mom or stuff it in the back of your drawer, you can fix it yourself!  Feel free to post other button questions, too …