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.