How to take up your hem for a better fit

Updated: Apr 19

Learn how to take up that pair of pants that are way too long for you or revamp that skirt by changing the length with this super easy tutorial.

Re-wearing your clothes is key to minimising your fashion footprint, but you’re never going to love wearing something if it doesn’t fit you well. Everyone’s had that moment where they love a piece but it’s just a bit too long, so it goes to the back of the wardrobe for the moment you miraculously grow five inches…

Whether you’re shopping new or second-hand, it’s really important to feel comfortable and confident in your clothes so getting a good fit is key. You can always take your clothes to a local seamstress or tailor for a professional finish, but I totally understand that not everyone has the budget for this, which is where this tutorial comes in – a totally easy technique to guide you through shortening a piece of clothing.

I used a pair of jeans that were way too long for me – short girl problems! - to film this guide, but this technique can be used on any other pair of trousers and even skirts and dresses!

You can watch the video that accompanies this tutorial here.


For this project you'll need:

Sewing supplies for taking up a hem

• The garment you want to alter

• Ruler

• Tape measure

• Scissors

• Pins

• Thread matching the colour of your garment (or go contrast if you’re feeling daring!)

• Pins

• Marker

• I use a sewing machine in this tutorial, but you can definitely follow the same technique with a hand sewing needle and thread!


1. In preparation, pop the garment on and pin/mark where you would like the hem turned up to (get someone else to help you if you’re struggling).

2. Next, you want to lay your garment flat and measure from the pin/mark you just placed to the edge of your hem. Once you have this measurement, you want to subtract 1.5cm. This 1.5cm will be the hem which you turn up and sew in the next step.

In my case, the measurement was 12cm from hem to pin, so I subtracted 1.5cm to get 10.5cm.

3. This new measurement is what we want to mark on the garment, so using your tape measure or ruler, mark up from the hem. Use a small dot or dash and follow the hem all the way around, marking as you go.

4. Once you’ve gone all the way around, you want to draw a straight line essentially connecting these dots, so you have an even and straight line to cut. When you’ve got your straight line, cut along it with your scissors.

If you’re doing trousers, you will need to repeat the previous steps on the other leg – use the same measurements so that you get an even finish.


Sewing on a heavy duty sewing machine

When setting up your machine for this next step, you’ll need a zig zag stitch with a width of 5 and a stitch length of 1 (you can use an overlocker for this step if you have one available).

5. First, you’re going to finish the raw edge to prevent it from fraying, so line up your edge so that the zig zag stitch goes off your fabric at one side. Sew all the way around your hem with the zig zag stich

6. Once you’ve finished your raw edge, it’s time to turn up the hem. Start by measuring 1.5cm up from the edge you’ve just finished and mark along, just as we did in step 3 & 4.

7. Next, fold along the new line and pin in place, making sure to pin wrong side to wrong side on the inside of your garment.

I like to just sew with my pins in place, but feel free to tack the hem up here if that’s more comfortable for you.

8. For this next step, you’ll need a straight stitch with a length of about 2.5. To sew, line up the folded edge of your hem with 1cm line marked on your machine and stitch all the way around.

If you decide to sew with pins in, take it slow and steady, removing the pins before you stitch instead of sewing over them.

In this tutorial, I am doing a single turned hem as it’s super simple and works well on bulky fabric like denim. You can easily do a double turned hem by folding the hem in 0.5cm, tacking and then folding up 1cm before stitching.

9. Once you've sewn this first line, you're going to stitch another line below it, to secure. To sew, line the folded edge up with the 0.5cm guideline on your machine and stitch all the way around.

If you’re doing a lighter fabric like linen or cotton, I would recommend doing a single stitch line so that your hem isn’t too heavy.

If you are taking up a pair of trousers, you’ll need to repeat the sewing process on the other leg too.

10. Trim off all your loose threads and you’re done – a revamped garment that fits you well is now yours to cherish and wear with pride.

I’ve done this tutorial with a sewing machine, but if you wanted to do it by hand, simply use a blanket stitch in place of the zig-zag finish and use a back stitch or tight running stitch in place of the straight stitch.

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and I would love to see what you do so please get in touch with your finished upcycle!