How to Shorten Your Jeans and Keep the Original Hem

Being 5’4″ tall means I usually need to hem my pants and jeans. I’ve been sewing for years, so hemming regular pants is easy. Jeans? Not so much. The first time I had a pair of jeans professionally shortened, she left the original hem intact which looked amazing. Of course, after I’d washed and dried my spiffy new jeans several times they shrank so they were much too short. I never paid for that again.

I finally decided to learn how to do this myself because they really do look better with the original hem. I googled around and here are what seemed like the simplest directions.

Try on jeans to decide the length you want. I needed to shorten mine by 2″using tape measure to shorten jeans

Now adjust fold to 1/2 the distance you need it shortened by. Do not include the original hem when measuring. I turned mine up 1″, not including the original hem.measuring thelength to shorten jeans

Press flat.pressing a hem in jeans

Sew around as closely as possible to the original hem, without catching it.sewing down new hem on jeans

Flip to the inside and iron flat.
stiching seam on shortened jeans

Stitch down the seamline, the entire length of what you have turned up, on both sides of the leg.topstiching on newly hemmed jeans

Topstitch just above the original hem to keep it from rolling up.inside of hemmed jeans with original hemPress flat. It’s really simple and the effect is terrific. Some instructions tell you to cut off excess fabric but I didn’t bother because there was so little of it.shortened jeans with the original hem

I may have made this look difficult but it’s amazingly simple!

If you liked this post, please consider posting it to your Pinterest for future reference.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!




  1. This is dead easy, I do this and don’t even bother using a sewing machine, you only need a few stiches to keep the excess material up, once ironed you can’t really see it’s been done, also a few snips and the jeans are back to their unaltered state which is handy if you want revert to outside turnups, or sell them on.

    1. Can you please explain what “Topstitch just above the original hem to keep it from rolling up” means? I understand the part about measuring and sewing as close to the original hem as possible but I have no idea what the second to last one means. I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to sewing. Thank you!

  2. I’ve seen this trick before, but you explained it in a way I understand. Thank you. I will try this with my husband’s pants. It’s so annoying when pants are just an inch or half an inch too long. Jean alterations are expensive.

  3. I have the opposite problem. I need jeans with a 34” inseam for flat shoes. I wish the hems on jeans were deep enough to let out. It is hard to find jeans in tall lengths, and ankle pants remind me of the high water pants I had to wear in high school before long inseams were offered at all. In college I often bought my jeans in the men’s department. In my ideal world, women’s pants would come by waist/inseam sizes like men’s do.

    1. Some do come in inseam lengths. Others offer tall lengths, and state the inseam length.

      Try Old Navy,

  4. Jennifer I really enjoy your posts. You cover every thing that we women encounter. Thank you for all of your interesting posts. I enjoy them each morning.

  5. I don’t have a sewing machine and don’t always want to go for alterations but I found a brand of jeans that always seem to work for me. I’m only 5’1 so I think these are supposed to be ankle length but fit just right. Articles of Society.

  6. I am now 4’ 11”,😪, petites are even too long at times! Thanks for this tip. I saved it to Pinterest and will use it!

  7. I am only 5’1” and I don’t own a sewing machine. However, Chico’s girlfriend ankle jeans just happen to be the right length for me, so I don’t buy anyone else’s jeans

  8. Petites usually work for me or I roll then into a cuff. I personally think manufactures are making pants and legging for women that are very tall or have really long legs.

  9. If you have a zipper foot for your sewing machine, use it for this technique. It allows yo to get very close to the edge of the original hem a bot more easily.

      1. That’s my problem with petites. I’m 5’4″ too, The length can be fine but rise too short. Thanks. To be honest I just cut off and wear sometimes. They get fringey after washing so for around the house that works.

  10. This looks great, Jennifer! I happen to have several pairs of jeans and pants that need to be shortened. I have tried this with pajamas but never with jeans. Now I know what I will be doing next week! Thanks!

  11. Great tutorial. I only buy Petites since I’m 5′ and if they are too long I make cuffs. This is a great way to shorten, I’m saving and trying this!

  12. Don’t forget to wash & dry your jeans before hemming. They always shrink some.
    This method is genius! I rarely need to hem pants as I’m 5’8″ but occasionally I get a too long pair or I want them ankle length.

  13. I am 5’5″ and usually have to shorten my jeans too. Love this tutorial on using the original hem! I will keep it for future use.

    Two things that I always do for jeans that need shortening:
    1. I wash and dry the new jeans at least twice before hemming.
    2. I always use a heavyweight needle on my sewing machine.

  14. I’ve done this before, but cut off the original hem and reattached it. Since this way can be adjusted later, I’ll use it. I’ve also used the “reattach the hem method” on a few dresses I bought since there was a stripe at the bottom that needed to be saved. I’m 5’0″ so I had to learn to hem, too. Thanks for posting.

  15. This is brilliant. But since we are on the subject of hemming pants – could you please have a discussion about pants length?

  16. This is a great tip! Thank you so much for the photos too – they help explain the process so clearly. I will be doing this in the very near future.

  17. Thanks so much Jennifer. I always pay $15 to $20 to have mine hemmed. Can’t wait to try this & your instructions make it look possible…even for me, who sews very little!

  18. This is excellent information – thank you so much fir the tutorial! I am 5’2″ so shortening pants is always necessary but I didn’t know how yo do this – am not a sewer but will try this for sure!

  19. That’s kind of genius. I’ve never had the nerve to try shortening my jeans myself, but maybe I’ll try on an old pair before I donate them. 🙂

    I always have to shorten EF knit pants (a wardrobe standard) and I have them shortened professionally, as I don’t trust myself to surge them and have them look perfect.

    Happy Weekend!

    1. I’ve got a serger too but would never risk hemming my EF pants either. The beauty of this technique is its removable, so long as you don’t cut the excess off. You could stitch them up with a very large basting stitch and pull it out if it doesn’t look right. I was shocked at how easy this was and good it looked.

    1. @Kel: They make machine needles for specific use on denim. (Also leather and knits plus the standard types for other fabrics ranging from medium weight to sheer.)

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