Friday, May 10, 2013

The Basics: Hems (pants)

One of the things that i am asked (and sometimes paid) to do is hem pants. Most often it is boys, helpless and clueless, who have dress pants that either 1. didn't come with a hem (which is sometimes the case if you buy them as part of a suit) or 2. are too long/short. Hemming is absolutely, without a doubt, the easiest thing i am asked to do. I charge between $10-$20 to hem pants (depending on if i do cuffs, if i like you, if i'm already busy and stressed..) and that is the easiest money i could make. Any place that does hemming would charge you more than that so... by doing this tutorial i would like to empower people (but hopefully not lose some of my income). ok, so... let me start by saying, there are multiple ways to hem a basic pair of pants. Depending on a number of factors, i can help you decide which way is best for you. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Do i own/have access to a serger? 2. Do i want these pants to have/ or do they currently have a cuff? 3. Do i own/have access to a sewing machine? Now, if you answered yes to #2... you might have to hang tight. that's a post for another time. before i ask you about the other questions, i need you to TRY ON THE PANTS, or have the owner of the pants try them on. WITH SHOES. Think about what shoes you would be wearing with them. If they are too short, you should take them hem down (and make sure there is enough to be let down. dress pants usually have quite a large hem to be let down). With dress pants they need to have what we call a "break". when you stand, your pants should not be a solid column of straight fabric. they should look like this:

This image is perfect evidence of that. See the bottom? How there is a "break" in the line down the front of each leg? That is how pants should fit. Now, i know, these pants have a cuff...that doesn't matter in the case of length fit. The pants in the back will not really have a break. They should hit right about at the top of where the sole starts. You dont want them to drag, but if they are too short they will look stupid. So, estimating, probably about a half an inch to an inch off the ground. again, if you get the break right in the front, and hem straight all the way around, they should hit at the right place in the back.
Ok. whew. So, now you have your pants pinned to the right place. Take them off (yes.. yes. dont try to hem pants while wearing them. i've tried. it's a dumb thing to do.) Now back to my original questions. Do you have a serger? If yes, then if you had to cut off some of the length, make sure to leave probably 2 inches to hem up. You dont want a small hem in dress pants, or they will lay funny. If you had to cut some off, make sure you cut equal amounts off each leg (unless the person has incredibly different length legs), and serge the raw edges of the fabric. If you said no to the first question, you will have an extra step. You will need to have hem tape (It is NOT sticky. I dont condone any adhesives in sewing. It's basically just really thin ribbon. The package will say "hem facing tape" or something like that. Make sure it does not say anything about "iron on" or "adhesive" yuck!) and preferably pinking shears (the ones that cut a zig-zag). First use the pinking shears to "pink" the raw edges. this isn't quite as good as a serger, but it dramatically reduces the fraying of the fabric. If you dont have pinking shears, its ok... just skip that step. next you will sew the hem tape to the raw edge of the fabric.

You are just stitching it on, not making a seam. So you are not doing "right sides together" as is traditionally used for everything else in sewing. Next, fold the fabric up to where you had pinned before. I only have about an inch hem here... and it's ok. I guess it just depends on what you feel like leaving to hem up. If you do the hem nice, no one should be able to really tell if it's a one or two inch hem.

Pin it in place. Don't try to be a hero here, i always pin. Things will turn out better the first time if you pin. I've learned this lesson the hard way. Now, we start stitching. I'm doing a very very basic hemming stitch on this. Some people do different stitches, i dont do a fancy stitch for a basic hem. So, do whatever you want, or how you have learned. But this way is easy, i promise.

You are going to want to make sure your thread is not "doubled up". Only have a knot in one end of the thread, not knotted together. To start, take a small "bite" out of the fabric with the needle, then another small "bite" of the hem tape (or of the serged fabric edge) stay right on the edge of the hem tape. Small bite, small bite. Back and forth.

You may need to click on this picture for it to really be visible. I stitched in blue. It's going to be hard to see my stitching because that's how it should be. You don't want your stitches to be huge and visible, or they will show on the outside. The inside doesn't matter as much as the outside though, so make sure that when you are taking bites of the fabric, you are taking tiny tiny ones. The hem tape stitches wont show on the outside. Occasionally peek onto the "right side" of the pants and make sure your stitches are small and uniform. When you get to the end (or circle back around) take a "bite" and circle your needle through the loop your thread makes. That makes a knot. Make a couple more knots in the same spot. You dont want your beautiful new hem to come undone! Now turn it over and admire your work!

See the little blue specks? Maybe this was a poor fabric choice... but you get the idea! Now look at this example where i took way too big of bites. Look at the huge ugly stitches it makes on the outside.

Baxter doesn't like when i sew.

Ok! So i think that's it. To my sewing peeps, let me know if i forgot anything. To my beginner peeps, let me know if i need to clarify anything.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you started a blog! I would love a guide on the different types of machine stitches and when to use them also when to adjust tension. pretty please! I'm pretty sure I'm using mine incorrectly.