I have no idea how it works in other countries, but in Portugal, whenever you buy new pants that are too long for you, the store offers to hem them to your size .For a price. Now, if there is one thing that I hate is to pay for things I can easily do myself. And hemming pants is one of them.
I rarely bother to hem my kids pants to size since I know they will grow into them soon enough, but I'm not growing any more (growing to the sides doesn't count, in this case) and I can't really show up at work with rolled up pants legs, cutoffs or fraying hems. Something tells me my boss would not think it appropriate. My husband is tall enough to have most pants fit him in length, but I'm no so lucky, so I always need to hem any new pair of pants I buy.
A couple of weeks ago, discussing this with a friend, she ended up telling that, although she has basic sewing notions, she never hems her own pants because she's afraid to ruin what she has just bought. Which gave me the idea of creating a small tutorial on how to hem pants. Because as long as you know what you're doing, it's so easy it's almost a crime to pay for someone else to do it for you. And with the method I'm about to show you, you'll have a hem just like the original one in twenty minutes or less.
1. Try on the pants (or have their rightful owner try them on) and decide the appropriate length
Use a pin to mark it (you can mark it just on one leg, the other will just be done using the same measurements).
The pair below actually belongs to my husband (he can't get lucky all the time, right?) and had been waiting to be hemmed since his birthday, last February (yes, you read it right - February; the pants were temporarily lost in the back of my craft closet and I forgot all about them until he started complaining he actually needed to buy new pants). You can see where I've pinned one of the legs to the desired length.
2. Measure how much excess fabric you have
Measure height of the original hem (the distance between the edge of the pants and the hem stitches) and multiply it by two. Add that distance to the length you want the pants to have in the end. All excess fabric is to be cut off.
In my case, I had an excess of 15 centimeters between the original edge of the pants and the final length I wanted them to by. The original hem was 1 centimeter high, so I cut off 13 centimeters (15 cm - 1cm x 2). I'll explain why in point 4 below.
3. Cut off excess fabric
The fastest way to do this is to use a cutting mat and a rotary cutter, though plain old scissors do the trick too.
4. Mark the new hem
This is the most tricky part of the process and the one where you're bound to loose more time if you don't approach it methodically. Here's my two cents of advice on how to do it quickly and efficiently.
Turn the pants inside out, fold over the height of the hem you want and sew a couple of stitches to keep it in place. Use a ruler or measuring tape to keep to the accurate height (and yes, my cutting mat has drawings on it, courtesy of my son a few years ago...).
Fold it over again (that's why you left an excess fabric of twice the height of the hem) and stitch it again. I my case, I wanted a 1 cm hem and I left an excess fabric of 2 cm. So, I folded 1 cm first, and then 1 cm again. This way you'll get the hem in the desired height and hide the fraying edge of the fabric.
These stitches are only a mean to keep the fabric in place until you actually sew the hem, so they don't need to be pretty or evenly spaced. They'll come off in the end. But they are much better than pins and easier to machine sew over (no to mention safer for your fingers).
5. Sew the new hem
Use your sewing machine to sew the new hem. To keep it as close as possible to the original hem use a thread in the same color and space your stitches accordingly (you may want to run a test first to see if they match the original stitches).
I find it easier to sew the pants inside out, but it's really irrelevant as long as you keep a constant distance from the edge.
Pull off those extra auxiliary stitches you added before, and you're done! Now you can hem your own pants and no one will know you did it yourself!
And here is another example, this time sewn with a double needle, which gives it an interesting finishing too:
And seriously? It took me longer to write this post than to sew those hems...so there's no reason to walk around with pants that are too long for you...or to pay for someone to hem them instead.
Have a great week!