When smaller and mid-sized denim brands manufacture jeans, they try to cover a wide range of customers by producing the jeans as long as 34 to 36 inches. For those who have to shorten jeans or pants offered by most better producers, we would like to share this example how to hem a pair of jeans and achieve the original optimal fit through the leg shape.
- A - The leg opening is also known as the hem. The inseam of this jean originally measured 34-inches long.
- B - Hemming is shortening the inseam length. This jean has been hemmed to measure 28-inches in length. The leg opening appears slightly smaller at this point in the photo, however, with added tapering, the hem has been trimmed to the original size. It is only because the width of a tapered pant gets larger the higher up. The raised leg opening looks smaller at this point as compared with the original width.
- C - This is the original knee position of the uncut 34-inseam leg (12 ½” below the crotch). The knee is where the leg circumference begins enlargement into the thigh. Without raising the knee position on shortened jeans, the area around the knee will be bigger than originally designed.
- D - By tapering, we trimmed the denim slightly to match the original measurements at the lower leg and raised the knee placement, so the leg keeps its original contoured shape. The new knee is located 10 ½” below the crotch. Without raising the knee, you can see how much extra fabric would remain if hemming alone.
Unless you are up for laying out good money for a pair of bespoke custom-made jeans, which should come with the production of the customer’s own custom made pattern. It is likely a brand which offers multiple inseam options will simply make its standard size and cut the length down before shipping, without consideration of moving the knee position. Like most brands, if you order hemming without additional tapering, we would do the same.
Let’s say a brand offers pants or jean sizes 30x28, 30x29, 30x30 and 30x31. That’s four different inseams within a single waist size. To have the proper knee location on each and every size would require four different sets of patterns. One pattern per each waist size, per each inseam length. It is unlikely a brand would do so unless they are a mass producer. Now that you have an understanding of why it is so difficult to find pants off-the-shelf in a multitude of inseam sizes, and the behind-the-curtain factors associated with those who may, let’s get to the workaround.
Our suggestion is merely hemming jeans and adding tapering. For this is a simple alteration where we take apart the legs, make the adjustments, then put them back together. If constructed with a lap or flat-felled seam with double stitch lines, we only need to take apart the inseam. If they are constructed with a serger and single needle stitch line at the inseam, we take apart both inseam and out-seams.
Before explaining how to hem jeans with added tapering, we will first explain the two types of construction found in most jeans, which is especially important when it comes to tapering but doesn’t matter at all for hemming.
- E - Denim and work clothing most often are produced with a flat-felled seam. It has a double needle chain stitch (sometimes 3-needles in work pants) at the inseam for strength and durability. It would be surprising if your local cleaners or tailor had the machine required to sew this seam. Without the need of an open outseam, it sews the top stitch and closes the seam in a single pass.
- F – Pictured in both images are selvedge outseams. The vast amount of denim sold will not come with selvedge denim. Top-end denim brands will offer selvedge in their line-ups. Some only offer selvedge, although it does not factor in the quality of the fabric. The outseam can also be constructed with an overlocked edge and pressed open as the selvedge appears. Low-end denim producers routinely close the outseams with a serger seam for speed. If a pant is not constructed with a flat-felled seam, the outseam has to be taken apart up to hips or pocket bags, in order to sew the top stitch after tapering alterations.
- G – The hem or leg opening on denim jeans are commonly sewn with a chain-stitch machine in better denim. Low-end makers will frequently use standard single needle. Home sewers and fine tailors often run into difficulty closing the hem at the inseam using machines not tough enough for denim.
- H - Although there are better brands that will make heavy denim jeans with a serger inseam and single needle top stitch, this construction is most often used on women’s and skinny jeans for comfort and flexibility. Lower priced jeans also prefer the serger seam for ease and speed. When tapering a garment with this construction, the outseam must be opened in order to lay down the topstitching after serging.
FYI, the heavy lifting in the leg shape of a pattern is drafted at the inseam. For selvedge jeans, which have a straight outseam from the hem-to-hip curve, there are no if-and-or-but’s — tapering must be done at the inseam. From the outseam would be unforgivable.
In spite of the fact outseam alterations and regular stitched hems are simply amateur, there are commercially produced YouTube videos where one of the world’s biggest and most popular denim brands gets it wrong. Perhaps because its faster, more convenient or they don’t have the right equipment or skilled operators in their stores for factory quality alterations. Good advice before letting anyone begin work on your jeans – ask how they intend to do it?