Hemming Pants

“Measure twice, cut once.”

Seven pair of pants to hem

Seven pair of pants to hem

She should have taken her own advice. This post comes with a caveat: Do as she says, not as she does. Some of you may be clever enough to figure it out as the pictures follow. Some may race to the middle to find out what she did wrong. Here’s the story:

Social Security payments are looming large (enough) before her, so she has gone on hiatus from doing sewing for clients in general so that she can install and tend her summer garden and complete the readying of the #GarageThatWantsToBeAWhereWomenCreateStudio for creative sewing for selling on Etsy and to be able to give sewing lessons.

But there are a few faithful clients that she feels a little obligation to. Ones who have brought her much business through her more struggling times. This job was for one of those such clients. She’s easing out a little more slowly for them; but after doing this one, she was made ever more conscious of just why she does want to back out. It’s tedious, repetitious, boring and backbreaking work. But…someone’s got to do it. Well here she will teach YOU how to do your own, if’n you’d like to save $10-15 p/pair.

So, this client brought her 7 pair of pants. “Can you do these so that the little ankle slit remains after hemming?” And, “Can you do this one with a hand stitch so it will look like it does now?”

“Yes, I can,” she said with a smile.

“Ugh!” she thought to herself.

Client requested that split on side be retained

Client requested that the slit on the side be retained

Inseam is the seam between legs from the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg

“Inseam” is the seam between legs from the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg

Measure existing inseam

Measure existing inseam

Using a cloth tape measure, the first thing is to measure the inseam.

You must know what you want the inseam to end up as also; so you either need to measure the client, pin a pair on them, or use a pair they like that are already hemmed the length they desire. She prefers the last one as it takes the least time and effort and not as much “personal” involvement as measuring from their crotch to wherever they want them to end on top of their shoes.

The inseam of an existing pair of pants is the seam that runs down the inside leg from the crotch seam to the finished length of the leg. Never use the outside seam length which goes from waste to hem.

Mark all of the measurements on a piece of paper as you go along.

Measure the existing length of the slit from hem to where it is reinforced at the end. Measure the length of the hem from the stitching to the bottom edge. This is where you will later restitch the hem in place. Measure the underside as well as it allows for a little extension for catching the stitch. (see first image). This one the stitching was at 7/8″ but the overall hem was 1″. The overall is the measurement you will use in calculating how much material you need to reconstruct the hem before cutting. Measure twice, cut once. She can’t tell you how valuable that advice is. She should have taken her own.

Mark measurements down as you go along.

Mark measurements down as you go along.

So you can see by these measurements that the existing length is 28″. The desired is 26″ which leaves 2 total inches with which to work. This is where the mistake played in as this is how much is available on the outside. She forgot to factor in that there is all of that fabric that is in the structure of the hem before opening it out.

It is not always necessary to open all the stitching as often the legs of a clients pants are long enough that the existing hem can be cut off completely and still leave the length needed for turning the hem.

That is always desired as it takes a lot of time to pluck out stitching if it isn’t a chain stitch and even if it is a chain stitch, finding the right thread to pull is sometimes a challenge.

In this case, she had to pluck, and pluck, and pluck. Tedious, boring, repetitious and backbreaking work. Look how little those stitches were.

She starts the undoing by getting the seam ripper under some of the threads on the surface and once a space is opened, it’s easier to pluck them from between the layers. If you just rip through the seam, you have a bunch of threads to pluck out by hand on both sides, so it’s easier in the long run to try to pull the thread out in long  lengths. If the thread gets too long to pull out from the next stitches, cut it off and start again.

The next thing is to measure where you want to cut the excess fabric off from. This is where she failed.

5/8" marked with pencil; chalk didn't show enough

5/8″ marked with pencil; chalk didn’t show enough. Blue chalk may have but wasn’t handy.

She had indicated that she needed to cut off 5/8″. What she failed to remember, or even think of for that matter, was that that was based on the fabric on the face of the pants before letting out the hem allowances.

In this case, “measure twice, cut once” failed as what needed to be remembered was it should have been being measured to cut from the hem crease/finished length of pant leg before opening stitches, not including the fabric folded into the hem. You should never,  NEVER, measure from the bottom of the undone fabric. Very, VERY often that edge is completely irregular. She’ll show you an image of that later.

For some reason, her mind just went blank on this one. She was so intent on getting that split done, all else evaded her consciousness. Truth is, she was thinking how much she would rather be out in the garden or doing creative sewing. Time to retire from client work. Money has never been a motivator for her. Time has. Freedom to do what she loves has.

As you see above, she used a pencil. This line will be cut off and if any of the pencil markings remain, they will be inside the folded edge of the hem. Don’t use something that may iron through or wash out that will create a problem. In this case, it was all cut off. She cuts on the outside of the line.

Notice too that there is a plastic kitchen cutting pad under the fabric. The ironing board batting makes it hard to impress a straight line. Put something more rigid under the fabric, even a piece of cardboard or the back of a tablet, or use a table for marking. The height of the ironing board is easier on her back.

5/8" cut off

5/8″ cut off

It should have been cut off 5/8″ above the hem crease. All of the steps are correct except for this miscalculation. Next to press and pin it to stitch.

3/8" turned under first and pressed

3/8″ turned under first and pressed

Press under the required turn under for the raw edge not to be visible. This varies. About 3/8″ is minimum.

Pin the required hem length to the inside of the pant leg all around. In this case, the hem is stitched first and then the slit seam allowance is doubled onto itself and stitched over the hem. Now it’s ready for stitching the hem in place. It was folded 1″ and will be stitched 7/8″.

Four colors of thread seemed close so were laid on the pant leg for closer inspection. In the image, the lavender tinted one looks like it would blend better, but in fact, the pinker one did. A bobbin had to be wound as one to match was not in the case.

Ready to stitch the hem in place all around both legs

Ready to stitch the hem in place all around both legs

This little inexpensive (enough) machine does all of the basics well. She has two of them in her sewing class. The three girls brought their mother’s same machine so that they each have one to work independently.

Here the bottom edge of the pant leg is placed at the 7/8 mark of the plate and stitched.

Mark the slit length where it will be reinforced so as not to unravel

Mark the slit length where it will be reinforced so as not to unravel using original measurements of slit before deconstruction.

The slit was opened out to accommodate turning the hem up. Now that seam needs to be restitched to where the slit will begin and reinforced so it won’t unravel.

To finish the slit the fabric of the seam allowance only is doubled in on itself and stitched close to the edge, about 1/4″, across the seam at the starting point of the opening and then back down the other side.

Now that you know how to hem a pair of pants with a slit in them, wouldn’t you rather pay someone the $10 – $15? She charges $10. This job took almost 2 hours. People can’t seem to fathom why it has to take that long. Of course, they don’t usually want to try it themselves to find out. Seldom do a pair of pants take more than 1 hour. Usually less. Often 1/2 hour.

Ms. SpoolTeacher has been lucky to have clients that value her service. She is often given tips, so it all works out to be “enough”; though she would rather charge going rates, she refrains because her community is economically challenged some.

Seven pair of pants shortened

Seven pair of pants shortened

She finished the pink pair first as she knew it required more effort and she is past procrastinating things. It was very discouraging to realize she had done it wrong, but she went on another day to finish the others. She worked in her studio from about 11am till about 5pm with a break to get more water and to feed the dogs.

Three pair needed hand stitching so it wouldn’t show on the outside. The other 4 were machine stitched.

You can see in the first image just how uneven the fabric can be at the bottom edge after opening the stitching. The next 6 pair were done correctly as she measured three times and then measured again.

The one thing that could have saved her would have been if she had remeasured the inseam after cutting and pinning, BEFORE stitching it all in place. Should a, could a, would a!! You’d think she would know by now.

Seriously time to retire from client work and be free to garden, sew creatively and play with the #Kiddies (two doggies, two kitties).

MickeyMouser watching me in the garden, prancing in their bedroom ‘Cataquarium’ window.

First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy

First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy

You can find First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy on Facebook, here.

She hopes this helps. Please feel free to comment any questions you may have.

Thanks for stopping by.

By the way, the customer agreed to try on the pants, just in case a miracle would occur and they may be okay, before Ms. SpoolTeacher undoes all that work to redo it.


It’s Hard To Believe…

…that this is an improvement to how her house has looked. But it is way improved! (She won’t show you how it looked at its most chaotic).

Lots yet to do

Little Red-Haired Girl is always by her side

She could be ashamed, but she’s not. She’s in the process of making new seat cushion covers and a drape to cover the rest of this raggedy old sofa. She picked it up for free for her sister three years ago and it has ended up back with her. It’s just too comfortable not to find a way to use. Just about everything she has is previously owned.

The carpet that came with the house when she purchased it was one of those off-the-roll-oatmeal-colored popcorn Berbers that quickly packed down and looked worn and awful. She can’t stand carpet for all of the dirt it harbors so yanked it all out early on. Her friend up the street lined his driveway with it for working on his cars. She’s been living with terribly ugly red concrete slabs with black glue from stick-on tiles; but it gets so, so cold in winter and the cold permeates so thoroughly throughout that she just buys cheap area rugs so she can bear to walk around. When they get too ugly and worn, she uses them as weed barriers for solutions while she is planning and implementing the food forest dream all around “The Compound”.

The goal is to create a mosaic tile floor and sew rag rugs that can be washed.

She helped her friend move from one storage to another yesterday and while picking up his rental at U-haul discovered that the furniture pads they sell there for $7.95ea, about 6×7, are the same felt that is used for laying commercial grade carpets; perhaps a little thinner, which is a good thing. She hopes to buy several to stitch scraps to for rugs.

Free sofa she picked up for her sister that ended up back with her. It's too comfortable not to use.

Ms. SpoolTeacher has a little house. There are seven-ish rooms in about 1025 square feet, not including TheGarageThatWantsToBeAWhereWomenCreateStudio/ (TGTWTBAWWCS) space that was converted by a previous owner to accommodate a relative. The main house has two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, living room (including a little entry) and an extension added somewhere along the way that is divided into a laundry room (off the kitchen) and a mud room (she calls it, off the living room).

The house has lots of issues. It’s like a giant sieve; leaks everywhere, bad windows, poor insulation, ceiling cracks, etc. Too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The heat pump is ineffective so she never uses it. It was built in 1945 and the “improvements” that were done to ready it for sale just before she purchased it were mostly cosmetic and deceptive. She saw through most of it, but was willing to take on the challenges anyway. It fit her budget.

Trying to continue on her adventure of providing her own “right livelihood”, she is suffering in place until improvements can be made.

The lead image is after a session of complete and utter chaos that she could no longer tolerate.

Throughout her career as an Interior Designer, she has accumulated hoards of fabrics and sample swatches that she intends to use to create one-of-a-kind items to list in her online Etsy shop.

Because TGTWTBAWWCS is so, so cold during winter, she tried to make the living room work as a sewing center for doing client alterations and creative sewing, but it just got to be more than her nerves could bear.

So, out to The Studio went most of the chaos…

Almost all of her sewing resources and implements are out in The Studio now, waiting to be fully organized. She has long been working to reduce the contents there and has made some really good strides toward getting it to where she wants it to be; giving stuff away, offering some of the remaining contents from her now closed Lollipops & Polka Dots Variety Shop to a young friend to sell in her own Etsy shop … donating to local charities, staging collectibles in the carport for posting in the shop as well, etc., etc. …

The Carport Project

The Carport Project

Spring being as near as it is has diverted her attention a little as it is already getting a little late to be starting seedlings, but one step at a time. Her house being the sieve that it is, she needed to build the warming tray using incandescent rope lights she had seen a link to online. That had to be put on the front burner. Next will be to create something from all of the containers she doesn’t throw away to hold the seeds for sprouting .

Seed warming tray with incandescent rope lights

She has a serious spring “bug” and would so much rather be out there with her hands in dirt.

A post about Bealtaine Cottage resurfaced again on Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Facebook Page lately and she made the mistake of following the link which served to stir up restless inspiration in her to get with her own dreams of creating a “food forest” on her little property.

At this point, food growing is not feeding all of her needs. Doing sewing and alterations for clients is random and unpredictable. Her career working for others in the design business was given up long ago, mostly so that she could pursue creating her own right livelihood; “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow“. Her soul could no longer bear the part she was playing in the non-sustainable consumption dilemma Corporatocracy insists is the only way to build an economy. Not that she wouldn’t revisit that option if she could sell products that meet certain criteria; but so many of the businesses she utilized once upon a time have changed their structures to more of a DIY model and employ low wage workers to act as counter clerks filling in the blanks of a computer generated ordering system. Of course, the quality of knowledge and service is sorely lacking, and the merchandise is of questionable integrity to her, but people are motivated by the imagined discounts they get this way. Many of the businesses have simply gone away or downsized. And, of course, she has gotten older. Design is one field that age isn’t necessarily seen as a deficit, but competition is fierce for the spots that are still remaining. The main reason is that the market has dwindled. Many people just don’t have the expendable income that they once did. As a matter of fact though, she did recently post a Craigslist ad for her service of using what people already have to create a new look.

So, it’s kind of a Catch 22. She moved out to a little Podunk town to live the life she imagined but it is too far from a big enough city to create an income the old-fashioned way, with a slave wage labor J.O.B.B. (four letter word). Soul bankrupting enterprises.

She continues striving for her dreams…

Some of the madness you might have expected to see if you came calling for a fitting at her house…sorting swatches for projects, thinking of a crazy patchwork cover for the sofa (too chaotic for her anymore), or shifting furniture for the millionth time. She’ll be doing most of this now out in TGTWTBAWWCS. She has finally pared down the furnishings to be just what she needs and wants to make the space practical and comfortable for herself and any visitors. The rest yet to do is improving the pieces that are there, mosiac tiling the floor, making area rugs, slip-covers and such. #WhatYouCanDoIfYouKnowHowToSew!


So, she will just keep on keeping on with all of the dreams she has for SpoolTeaching classes, up-cycling clothes in to one-of-a-kind items for Etsy, working on the First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy, improving her compound, and tending to her little family of acquired, rescued, inherited and beloved pets.

Lucy playing in the sheers

Lucy, tangled up in sheers

$17 vintage thrift store find, Woodmark, crewel fabric wingchair

Vintage Woodmark Crewel-Upholstered Wingback found for $17 at Habitat Store (Sold pair listed on ebay for $1,295!)

The Mud Room

Purple-haired Raggedy Ann made by Ms. SpoolTeacher sitting in the Mud Room waiting for (an) Andy

Apricot tree pruned, ready for spring

At least she got the fruit trees pruned and ready for spring. Now to plant the fig.

It’s A Wonderful Life

The Star Client

Star Client

Ms. SpoolTeacher posted an ad for her Peripatetic Design services on Craigslist recently and had no idea what would come of it.

Would you like a new look without purchasing new things? It’s amazing what can be done by rearranging things you already own for a completely new, fresh look. Just need more organization? That too. Is clutter an issue? No need to throw things away (recycle) unless you want to. There is always a way to make a lot of stuff look better. Groupings, consolidation of like items will minimize the impact and can create a museum quality. $45 p/hr plus mileage trip fee to and from your home from Benson, AZ. Skilled, professional, life-long designer/decorator with great color sensibilities and exceptional organizational skills. No implements required, we’ll use what you have.

This she could do 24/7. She loves, loves, loves to deal with the details of “things”.

true freedom

Lone Mountain Collage, San Francisco, CA

Her first real job after returning from a little summer scholarship at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, (right after graduating from high school), was as a “store decorator” at Levitz Furniture. She was only 18, and very intimidated by the others who seemed so confident of their design skills. Her duties were to daily make rounds of all the aisles and replace any items that had been sold out of the vignettes.

The store had a wonderful stock room full of accessories and that was her domain and resource center.

Looking back now she can see how, even then, she enjoyed focusing on the smallest of details. For some reason, it soothed her anxieties.

She could often be found rearranging the contents of a china cabinet to get all of the elements just right. She also loved to clean the stockroom and reorganize it.

When Ms. SpoolTeacher asked Star Client how she found her ad, Star Client explained that one day she was placing accessories and she had her husband hang a collection of stars above her cabinets in the kitchen. After which, she plopped down on her sofa and felt exasperated. She had had enough. She was feeling overwhelmed with all of the “stuff” that she had kept as her most favorite of things that were the result of her downsizing event some time before.

She didn’t want to get rid of a thing, but she had had enough.

Very often, it is just an objective perspective that is needed to reignite the passion to complete the task.

Star Client asked her husband to, “Please get on Craigslist and find a decorator”.

When she rolled across Ms. SpoolTeachers ad, Star Client told Ms. ST that “That was it.” The words of the ad expressed exactly what she wanted.

The email from Star Client to Ms. SpoolTeacher said, “I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better.”

Star Client and Ms. SpoolTeacher had a wonderful time working as a team, going through her treasures and finding their new homes.

If Ms. SpoolTeacher had put an ad for a perfect client, Star Client would have matched the contents to a T.

The minute Ms. ST arrived, Star Client took her on a “tour” and they dug right in. Ms. ST looses herself easily, and they had finished the first room before she thought to take “before” pictures and got so busy in the end taking the ones she did, that she forgot two rooms! Oh well.

Here are the results of their team effort in the main areas. They pretty much touched and moved just about every accessory and numerous furniture items, except of course, the stars!

I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better. I have a lot of stuff that needs to look better.

They only took one little break and back at it again, the pups wandering in and out and around their feet. Mostly they just laid around and snoozed.

Mostly they just laid around and snoozed.

This time when Star Client plopped herself down on her sofa, she said, “Whose house is this? Much better!”

"Whose house is this?"

“Whose house is this?”

The thing about it is, it looked very nice before. And she had lovely things to work with.

Ms. SpoolTeacher says that this is The Star Client you always hope you will get the chance to work with.

What a fun day!