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.



Monday Is Washday

Monday is washdayCan you imagine having to go to this extreme to get your clothes clean?

The neighbor through the fields had a wringer washer while Ms. SpoolTeacher’s mother had a washer that had a spin cycle. It was much more fun to watch the wringer washer work.

These days, the Tiny House Movement is bringing them back into fashion; the tubs with the plunger and a wringer.

Ms. SpoolTeacher does have a washer with a spin cycle. It is old, old, old. It’s a Kenmore. Her mother bought it used, and when it broke down, she and Ms. ST shared the expense of repairing it since Ms. ST did her laundry there often while helping her mother with other things. Ms. SpoolTeacher inherited it when her mother passed. She has used it now for the19 years she has had it. She can still hear her mother say, “Did you wipe the lid down?” She never does anymore, but was faithful to do so for her mother. The washer clunks now, but Ms. SpoolTeacher intends to use it until it dies and then try to revive it once again. Otherwise she may have to try the plunger. hanging clothes on the line

She does hang her clothes on a line though, unless it is something black for which the sun and wind won’t remove the lint enough and it is a dress-up something black. Otherwise, it all goes to the line and the crispiness and crinkles she is now fond of as well as the wonderful fresh smell. If it is about to rain, all the better as it will rinse them one more time with soft rainwater and get more of the detergent and crinkles out. She doesn’t iron much either. How to hang clothes on a clothesline “Don’t leave clothes pegs on the line – That’s sloppy.” Ms. SpoolTeacher is “sloppy”.

The good old White sewing machineMs. SpoolTeacher has had her sewing machine since she was 16. It was a Christmas present she insisted her mother buy her when she saw her mother getting one for her older sister who was getting ready to leave home and who really didn’t like sewing, never sewed, all the while Ms. ST was filled to capacity with a desire to sew, sew, sew.

Her mother thought every girl should have a sewing machine for survival. Well, she’s here to tell you it has served her survival well. She likes mechanical machines, not computerized. One with moving parts that can be repaired.

Cams for different stitchesThis day, good old faithful White sewing machine was working on repairs for a gentleman who brings Ms. ST all his worn out tattered things for second life, (sometimes third or even forth lives).

She had done this repair before, but has perfected it…adding patches to the knees of old jeans.

Gentleman had brought two pairs this day and one to use for the patches. two legs of different pairs, each needing a patch

The leg with the hole will get a patch. The other will wait for a hole.

She set about cutting patches from the old pair. That pair had had patches put on sometime earlier so she cut one of those patches out to use as a pattern.

Previous patch used as a patternUsing the back of the legs of the worn out jeans, she made the new patch a little longer than the old patch.

opening the inside seam She opens the seam that isn’t “flat felled” because otherwise the leg is inaccessible by the machine. The patch is placed over the worn section placing the long side so that it will overlap the seam that will be restitched later. This way, a whole side of the patch will be taken in with the seam and not be vulnerable to fraying.

She then sets up her machine with the stretch stitch cam and sets the stitch length to it’s longest length and stitch width to it’s widest (as required for the stretch stitch).

Lucy supervising  Lucy supervises.

using a cutting board to pin the patch  She pins the patch on using a “kitchen cutting pad” (it’s hard to pin on the soft pad of the ironing board and keep it from attaching to the other side of the leg) and uses the stretch stitch to secure the three exposed sides of the patch and a regular straight stitch for the part that will be in the seam.

gray thread matches bestIt’s hard to see the stretch stitch that is used on the three exposed sides as the gray thread matches the jeans color pretty will. As it turned out, none of the blue colors in her collection came as close to being “invisible” as did the gray. Oh, and, very important..she uses a heavy duty needle, a “jeans needle” if she has one.

while sewing the machine frozeJust as she was humming along, the needle froze in a down position. The only way to release it was to take the bobbin out. While doing so, she cleaned all the parts before putting them back. It helped a lot. It ran much more smoothly thereafter.

now to re-stitch the broken seam  Now to re-stitch the broken seam. Turn pants wrong side out, match edges and spool them back together.The patch sandwiched between to layers of pants  Here you can see the patch sandwiched between the two layers of pants and to be secured within the seam.

Good for another go 'roundRight side out…easy peasy, a repaired old pair of jeans. Good for another go ’round.

The moral of the story? Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

She thinks it’s time to become a consumer-less society  Consume less. Years ago, when Ms. SpoolTeacher was miserable at work, wondering how she could get through another day of doldrums and thinking about hanging clothes on a line with a sense of leisure…it dawned on her that if she didn’t have so many needs, she wouldn’t have to work as much. This started when her company (then, Home Depot) in it’s attempts to reduce costs, started offering its “associates” the opportunity to use sick days to take time off (when the company needed it instead of when you needed it). They even got to a point where they offered associates to go home without pay if they so chose. Ms. ST jumped at every chance. She was so, so, so, so miserable. Before long, she was making ends meet with $6,000 less a year. She kept pushing the envelope until she was able to take her 401K earnings and quit altogether. She was lucky she did it just before the crash and the “economy” extracted more wealth from it’s citizens to keep up their ponzi schemes.

Ms. SpoolTeacher is a firm believer that a bird in the hand is way more valuable than two in the bush; i.e., take the money and run for your life. Make up your own life on the fly. Don’t worry, be happy. Why “work” for things that really don’t make you happy.

And a sewing machine is essential for survival. At least it has been for her.

Growing food is like printing moneyGrowing food is like printing money. Cherry tomatoes were $3.99 for a small box this week at Safeway. Free, free, free from Ms. SpoolTeacher’s First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy and all she has to do is step outside and troll the front yard for “ripies”.

“Go on, take the money and run.”

The Good Life

Lately, Ms. SpoolTeacher watched “The Egg and I”:

Screen legends Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray star as newlyweds whose love is put to the test on their wedding day in the classic comedy The Egg and I. Just after she has said “I do,” Betty (Claudette Colbert) learns that her new husband, Bob (Fred MacMurray), has left his white-collar job with plans to raise chickens on a rustic farm located miles away from civilization. Betty tries to make the best of her situation in their ramshackle house but never-ending repairs, a malevolent wood-burning stove, rain, ornery livestock and a seductive neighbor (Louise Allbritton) do not make it easy! There is never a dull moment in this heart-warming comedy that also introduced the beloved characters of Ma and Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Killbride).

The Egg and I, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurrayShe just loves movies like this. 1940’s simplicity.

Claudette Colbert was in her 40’s for this film but played a newlywed. You would never guess her age.

Ma and Pa Kettle were introduced in this movie. Who can resist Ma and Pa.

Ms. SpoolTeacher has farming in her genes. Her grandfather had an apple orchard and provided for his family with livestock and gardens.

She never met him and by the time she met her Grandmother, she was running a rooming house for Canadian students who were studying surveying. So the farming thing was only known to her through all the stories she heard her Aunt and Mother report of their youth; but it was “in her blood”.

Ms. SpoolTeacher has a page on Facebook where she posts all things interesting to her concerning gardening, farming and the such. She calls it First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy.

All of her life she has gravitated to all things having to do with digging in the dirt, designing and of course, fabric.

She’s determined to be food (at least semi-) self sufficient. Mostly because it is so hard to find fresh organic produce consistently in her little town and also because it is much more economical to grow your own.

Speaking of economy, she lost several of her paying gigs to do with housekeeping and has yet to replace them. She has been getting more and more sewing though. Perhaps because she is home more and people can expect to find her there.

She much prefers to sew than to housekeep. Of course, she’d much more  prefer to be home 24/7 with all her time devoted to gardening and sewing things to put in her Etsy Shop, Spare Shelf. She’s a year or so away from being able to imagine that. It’s getting close though.

In the mean time, she fits in gardening wherever she can. On her priority list has been to build a Hugelkultur bed. It is basically a mound that is developed by placing organic matter, dry and green over decomposing logs, sticks, twigs and then covering them with dirt.

She has been studying various permaculture gardeners to see how they have done it and to see the successes they have had.

Hugelkultur trench, one dog high

They can either be structured starting with a trench or at ground level. She chose to dig a trench. Actually, she thought that was how they were supposed to be, but after digging the trench, one dog high, (approx. 28W X 18D), she went back to revisit some of the posts and discovered that some start at ground level. Sepp Hozier, famous in the arena, builds them 6 feet high and does recommend digging a trench of about one foot deep. But, it appears it can be equally successful either way. The tall installation adds surface area for planting. The lower ones seem to be better suited for front yard farming where neighbors or the city might intervene. And, unless you have lots of extra dirt somewhere to cover the mounds, the trench gives you the dirt. She really doesn’t have issues as such with neighbor or the city, but thinks she will enjoy the lower profile design.Though she sure likes this one below.


She thought she had a tremendous amount of resources but they got used up quickly. She will do this on her side yard somewhere in the future. It is a much bigger plot and has a slope that would greatly benefit from the contours of this serpentine shape. Now to find more resources. The ones she had were years in accumulating. These are just a sampling of what the years had provided.

hugelkultur resource collage

The premise with Hugelkultur is that, yes, it is lots and lots and lots of hard, hard, hard work at the installation; but they are a permanent bed that sequesters carbon, releases nutrients and stores water. Not to mention that they are a wonderful use of resources that would otherwise go to landfills or up in the atmosphere as smoke. So, they pay for themselves with labor and resources saved down the road.

logs, sticks and twigs in the trench first

Did she say, “A lot of work”? Especially for an old(ish) lady. (60 is the new 40 don’t you know?)

First go in the logs, sticks and twigs.

logs, sticks and twigs in the trench first

Aren’t those sticks pretty?

logs, sticks and twigs in the trench first

Then the composted material, and dry leaves.

Little Red-Haired Girl living on the edge

Little Red-Haired Girl is living on the edge! She just knows there is something in there alive and edible. Grubs she likes.

hugelkultur 040

Summer leaves composted fairly nicely already.

then the composted material and dry leaves

She then watered it in, added some of the excavated trench dirt and watered it some again to level it out. She will continue adding the trench dirt, which should create some kind of mound. There is a slight threat of rain tonight, so she’s waiting for that just in case.

watered in and waiting for possible rain before adding the rest of the dirt

Where did it go! Oh, no!

She has a north facing front yard that the house shadows. Come summer though, it is pretty much full sun most of the day.

In between digging the trench and building the Hugelkultur mound layers, she leveled the landing area at the front gate and installed pavers. She does this by eye and the feel of hand, and right over the dirt, no sand. She likes things a little Wabi-sabi.

front gate landing pavers

While this was all going on, the little Anna Apple tree went into full bloom and had bees swarming.

Apple Tree in full bloom, and full of bees

Shortly thereafter the apricot tree went from bud to bloom. The bees were circling the buds aching for them to open

Apricot tree flower buds

As soon as they did, there were swarms of bees and the prettiest butterflies.

Apricot tree in full bloom and full of bees and butterflies

If you look carefully, there is one visible butterfly in between the wires a little to the left of center, (kind of like Ms. SpoolTeacher’s politics!).

“How do people ever find time to be bored”, she asks.

She’s so happy she got this done just in time to plant for spring. She didn’t think she would.

Her house stays too cold to start plants indoors and she doesn’t have heating mats or such, yet. This bed is supposed to contain more heat to allow for earlier planting. (She wonders if that means seeds as well)

Four sewing jobs accumulated while all this was going on. Now to tackle those.

Ms. SpoolTeacher's Client jobs Ms. SpoolTeacher's Client jobs

Feast or famine.

Ah, The Good Life.

The good life“, a philosophical term for the life that one would like to live, originally associated with Aristotle.

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

Are you living the life you would like to live?