How to hem pants with a sewing machine or by hand

Learn how to hem pants by hand or using a sewing machine with Sarah Jackman Read's step by step guide.

How to hem pants

Learning to alter your own clothes is a very useful skill to learn and can save you a lot of money. It also means you can alter second-hand clothes to suit your shape and height which is great for the planet too.

If you struggle finding pants that are the right length for you then learning to alter the length and hem pants is an ideal basic skill to start with. It can be done with a sewing machine or by hand and will mean that your pants will always be the perfect fit.

In this guide, we’re going to explain both methods and demonstrate how to hem pants step by step. You’ll prepare to hem your pants in the same way for both methods, but we’ve added separate steps at the end of this guide to explain how to hem pants with a sewing machine or by hand.

Read on to learn how to hem pants by hand and how to hem pants with a sewing machine…

Are you new to sewing? We’ve put together some useful guides to help you master basic sewing skills and techniques. Explore the best sewing machines for beginners, sewing kits for beginners, sewing for beginners guides and learn how to use a sewing machine.


You Will Need

  • Sewing machine, (if you're not sewing by hand)
  • Needle
  • Matching thread
  • seam ripper
  • Pins
  • An iron and ironing board
  • Measuring Tape

Total time:

Step 1

Start by preparing the existing hem. Unpicking the existing hem on pants isn’t always necessary but if the fabric of the pants is quite thick then it’s advisable to do so. Use a seam ripper to carefully undo the stitches on the existing hem then press flat with an iron.

How to hem pants step 1

Step 2

Next, decide on the finished length that you want to achieve. Try on your pants and also put on the shoes that you’re likely to wear with them. It’s important to remember that if your shoe has a heel then the pants need to be longer to accommodate this.

How to hem pants step 2


Step 3

Now you need to pin the hem to the finished length. Look in the mirror or get somebody to help you pin the hem of your pants to the desired length. Use the back of your foot as a guide and if bending down to pin yourself then keep standing back up and checking the length in the mirror.

How to hem pants step 3

Step 4

Remove your pants then turn them inside out. For these pants I have allowed for a 2.5cm finished hem but you can make this bigger or smaller if you wish. Use a tape measure to measure from the bottom edge up 3.5cm (2.5cm hem plus 1.5 to turn, more on that later!) then trim off any excess. Press the bottom edges flat then remove the pins.

How to hem pants step 5

Step 5

Now we’re going to make a double-fold hem. Flatten the fold around the edges of the pants then turn 1.5cm up, pin, then press. Remove the pins then fold the hem back up with the raw edge inside. This creates a double-fold hem so the fabric doesn’t fray. Pin the hem in place, with the pins standing vertically from the bottom edge, then you’re ready to start sewing.

How to hem pants step 4


In the next section, we’re going to show you how to hem pants by hand and how to hem pants with a sewing machine, so you can skip to the step for the method that you’ve chosen to use.

How to hem pants with a sewing machine

Step 1

Now you’ve prepared your pants, we’ll show you how to hem pants with a sewing machine.

Use a standard straight stitch to sew around the hems of your pants on a sewing machine. You may want to sew on a bit of scrap fabric first (which you trimmed off the pants) to check the tension is correct before sewing. Stitch slowly to keep the hem straight and remove the pins just before the sewing needle touches it to avoid any damage to the needle. I’ve used contrasting thread so it can be seen in the photograph.

How to hem pants step 6

How to hem pants by hand

Step 1

If you don’t have access to a sewing machine don’t panic! We’re going to show you how to hem pants by hand and it’s really easy to do.

To hand-sew your hems, thread your needle and tie a knot in the other end. Place the needle inside the hem then bring it through the top edge of the folded hem to hide the knot.

How to hem pants step 7

Step 2

Create a blind hem by making a tiny stitch on the outside of the pants then pushing the needle back in the hem and making a long stitch inside. This ensures that very little thread is seen from the front. I’ve used a contrasting thread so they can be seen clearly in the photograph but a matching thread would be hardly visible.

How to hem pants step 8

You’ve finished! You now know how to hem pants by hand and how to hem pants with a sewing machine. This is an incredibly useful skill and one that you’ll use time and time again.

Fancy treating yourself to a new sewing machine? Browse our roundup of the best sewing machines, and find a suitable match!