Awesome Jean Shortening Technique




About: I'm a visual artist and fashion designer. I make pretty things. I post pictures of what I make on my website:

This instructable is to show you how to shorten your jeans without changing the look of the jeans. I have short legs and it is very difficult to find jeans short enough to fit and this is how I modify them.

This instructable assumes that you understand basic sewing concepts.

Sewing tools required:
-scissors (good sewing scissors that can cut denim),
-a straight edge ruler
-marking tool (tailors chalk, or sewing marker - a regular pencil/pen can work too)
-seam ripper
-sewing machine with heavy duty needle (size 16, 18 or a denim needle)


Step 1: Determine Desired Length

The first thing to do is determine how long you want your pants to be. Put the jeans on and wear the shoes you will likely wear with the pants so you don't make them too long or short.

I have turned the extra fabric to the inside. I placed a pin at the outside and inside seams of each leg to mark the length I want. Be sure you do this to both pant legs.

Take the jeans off. At this point you need to determine the line you will cut to shorten the jeans. Lay the pants out flat. Compare the insides of each leg. If your pins aren't exactly aligned, place a new pin half way between the original pin on both pant legs to find the average desired length.

Compare the outside leg seams in the same way, adjusting the pins to find the average.

Step 2: Mark and Cut

Lay the pants out flat. The two pins should be approximately parallel to the original bottom edge. If they aren't, adjust them so they are. If you are unsure about which side to lower or raise, you can always try them on again before deciding.

I used a thin line of tailors chalk to mark between the pins. I placed a straight edge up to the pins and drew a line between them on the front and the back of the pant leg. This will be the line you cut.

Remove the pins.

Now it is time to cut! You want to cut one thickness at a time so I started by making a little cut on the line to make a hole to put the bottom blade of my scissors through. Cut on the line to remove the bottom part of the pant leg.

Step 3: Prepare the Old Hem to Be Re-used

This step is to take the old hem apart to sew it back onto your pants at the shortened length so it doesn't look like they were shortened.

On jeans that have had special finishes applied (like 98% of the jeans available) there is typically a dark line just above the original hem. Use your chalk (or whatever marking tool you have) to draw a line 1/2 inch above that dark line. That dark line will help to hide the seam where you join the old hem to the pants.

Cut this line in the same way you did in the last step.

Now you need to pull out the old stitching of the hem. I've included two different seam ripping techniques.

First way - pick the stitches from the top. Use the tip of the seam ripper to go under each of the stitches to pull them out.

Second way - On the wrong side (inside), pull the seam apart. Use the seam ripper to help separate the threads.

Seam rip the entire hem.

Step 4: Reattach the Hem

Now that you have shortened the pant leg and prepared the hem it is time to sew it all back together!

I've laid the pant leg and hem out so you can see how the pieces need to be aligned to sew together. You want to sew right sides together matching the inseam and the outseam. Pin the pieces into place.

What thread should you use? You can get denim thread at most fabric stores. I usually use an all-purpose thread in a color that matches the thread I took out. It's your choice.

At your sewing machine (with a heavy duty needle - 16, 18, or denim needle), you want to sew the two pieces together at a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Note: When you sew over the inseam or the outseam you are sewing through a lot of layers of denim. If your machine struggles to get over that much fabric, it helps to take place some folded up scrap fabric behind the needle under the presser foot. The scrap fabric levels out the presser foot so it can handle the thickness of the fabric better.

Now you need to iron it. For the best finish you want to press the seam open first to lock the stitches in place. Then, press both layers of fabric down so the cut edges will be hidden under the hem.

Step 5: Sew the Hem

At the inseam and outseam, it can be helpful to trim a little bit of bulk away - but don't trim to close to the stitching line.

At this point, fold the hem to the inside so it looks like it did way back at the beginning before you took a seam ripper to it. Make sure you tuck the cut edges of your seam inside the hem so they don't show when you look at the inside of the pant leg.

At your sewing machine, top stitch through all the layers to secure the hem in place. Follow the original sewing line with your line of stitching.

That's it! Now your pants are short enough you don't walk on them!



    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest

    25 Discussions


    4 years ago

    There are much easier ways to do this. Fold the pants up half the length you want to shorten minus the hem, Sew just above the hem in blue thread and then cut off the remainder. Simple and looks like professional.


    4 years ago on Step 3

    Really Nice instructions but Why would one want to go to all this trouble just to have a hem look like it wasn't hemmed? So people look that carefully at a pant leg?


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Thank You! I'm too short for average, too tall for petite... this is perfect! Now, if I can just find enough time around kids, school, art, :) Heck, I'm worth it.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     yes great technique,
    i don't think its necessary to rip the old hem at the finishing too,
    if you rip them you have to find the same yarn used for the outer sewing in the jean,and sometimes this is not easy.
    i think maybe its better if you rip the secret sewing in the side of the leg of the jean a few inches kai you do the same in the cutted finishing and then sew them together.Then you just sew the hidden side again with any colour of yarn you have,cause is hidden and won't make a difference.
    This way(if you rip the side),it will fit perfectly,because elseway if you fold the cutted finishing over the jean,it won't fit 100% right
    This happens cause it's usually exactly the same width,and when you fold two round clothes with the exaclty same width,the inner part wrinkles/folds a little.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    presser foot question: in the 5th step, image #3 (I think) You show a close-up view of the final sewing phase. Your presser foot looks unique. Is this a stepped foot or something like that? BTW: folding up the seam allowance into the existing hem is brilliant! Thanx!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I keep the Blind Hem foot on my machine for all my sewing. It is just personal preference - the shape of the foot seems to work best for most of the fabric I sew. And, thanks! :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I have read about this in other sewing books, but it never made sense before - The pictures really help me to understand and your step by step is great! thanks for a great Instructable.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    In step 3, you advise ripping out the old hem. And then in the last step, you sew it up again. I can't figure out why. Why not leave the old hem intact? (That's how I do it)

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I tuck the raw edges inside the hem and re-sew it for a clean seam finish. I just added one more picture to the last step to show the inside of the pant leg so you can see how looks with this technique. This way you don't have extra bulk at the bottom edge with an extra seam finish.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, now this is my kind of stuff! Great instructable. I'm not necessarily a short-legged person, but I've been doing basically the same thing for years to modify second-hand pants. Good work! What kind of machine is that you have?

    1 reply
    Brock Samson

    10 years ago on Introduction

    wow! this is such a great idea. never would've thought of doing that to make them not looked "shortened". great job!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    reusing the original hem is brilliant! It does not look "hemmed".