Exploring Hems - Part 1
When our children grow, when styles change, when our body shapes change, and when purchased garments need to be altered, we are forced to pay for alterations or to pick up a needle and thread to hem a garment. Here you will find instructions and directions for the many ways to achieve a professional hem line on any garment. This week we are going to talk about hemming pants and slacks.
First things first! You will need to decide on the finished length you will want the garment.
Hem lengths vary wildly! Rules of thumb seem to have gone out the window. This leaves the decision up to you. If you are altering a garment, remove the original hem. Try on the pants or slacks with the type of shoe you would normally wear with them. If you normal wear a foundation garment, such as a girdle, wear it to hem the pants. Not wearing it will change the way the pants fit and hang.
Using straight pins or tailors chalk, mark where you want the finished length. Try to keep your markings straight and an even distance from the floor. As convenient as it may seem for the person doing the hemming, do not have the model stand on a chair or uneven surface. This will cause an uneven marking. (Note: If there is a lot of extra length it is best to fold the excess to the outside until the final fitting.)
Remove the pants and lay them out flat. There should be a fairly straight line of markings for you to follow. Many times you will discover that the line is higher in the front and lower in the back. This is due to the way the garment hangs on a person. The trick is to make the taper as smooth as possible, avoiding a peak or valley in the hem line.
Straighten your marked line and lightly press the hem up on the marked line. Lightly pin the excess fabric up in the pants. Do not use a lot of pins as this may change the way the pants hang. Try on the pants again to be sure you have the desired length and a straight hem line.(Note: I firmly believe in checking twice before cutting. You can re do pressing but you can't reattach the fabric if you cut too much.)
Now things are going to get a bit more complicated. The fabric and the style of the pants are going to dictate how much fabric you are going to leave on the garment.
A top stitched hem: If you are hemming a pair of jeans and want to reproduce the top stitched hem, look at the original about of fabric that was turned up. Double that amount as you will be turning it over twice to enclose the raw edges. Mark that amount on the inside hem, up from your pressed line. Move your pins so that they are inside the hem that will remain on the garment. Trim off the excess fabric. Now give your desired hem line a good pressing. Create a sharp crease.
This same method is used for many sports type garments. The amount of hem is usually between a half and three quarters of an inch. Therefore you leave one to one and a half inches of fabric inside the pants from your desired finished length.
Turn the raw edge under to meet your pressed line. Press the hem into place. Top stitch the hem.
On jeans or flat felled seams you will discover many sewing machines do not want to go through this heavy area. There are many gadgets on the market to solve this problem. (See the Jean-A-Ma-Jig at Clotilde under Machine Accessories.)
Dress Slacks and Suit Pants:These hems require you to leave more fabric to achieve a smooth finished hem. Lightweight fabric may require you to add seam tape to eliminate the bulk that would be created by turning the fabric over under itself.
If the amount of fabric allows you, leave one and a half to two inches of fabric inside the garment from the pressed hem line. You will now need to decide on a seam finish for the raw edge of the fabric. Serge the edge, zig zag the edge, add seam binding to the edge or turn under the edge if it will not create too much bulk. More On Seam Finishes
Press the hem line. If you are not familiar with sewing, using a long running hand stitch, baste the hem in to place. Many sewing machines have a blind stitch available. Refer to your sewing machine manual for how to use it.
To hand stitch the hem, thread a fine hand sewing needle with thread that matches the slacks. Take care to only catch a few threads from the outside of the garment as you stitch. Keep your stitches evenly spaced and an even distance from the pressed hem line. Do not pull the stitches too tight. This caused a pucker and will not allow the pants to lay smoothly.
In many garments the leg tapers and the hem will be vertically wider then the area of pants that you are trying to sew it on to. You will need to ease in the hem line. There are a couple ways to resolve this. Never make vertical tucks in the hem. This creates too much bulk.
How to ease:
The easiest way to ease in the fabric will require you to use a sewing machine. On the turned edge or the inside edge of your seam finish, make a row of basting stitches, leaving a tail of thread. Gently tug the tail, to pull in the fabric, until it fits the pants leg. Spread the easing over the entire hem so that no gathers or tucks exist.