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HOW TO LENGTHEN YOUR JEANS - DENIM HOW-TO SERIES #1

Posted by Wenday Vandermeer at

Hey DIY'ers! I've decided to start a 'how-to' series of blog posts, teaching you how to alter your jeans so you can not only feel great about what you're wearing, but also lengthen the life of your favourite clothing items.

I like to call myself The Jean Queen, as denim is one of my favourite textiles to work with, and I have over 20 years experience sewing, dying and destructing this versatile fabric.

To start off the series, I am going to be showing you step-by-step how to lengthen a pair of jeans. This is an ongoing issue for me, as I am 6ft tall and it is extremely difficult (and expensive) to buy denim off the rack that is long enough for me to wear with high heels.

I will be lengthening a pair of black flared jeans that I bought at H&M, and although I have been wearing them at the current length (all of my friends insisted they were long enough), I just don't think they look appropriate. In my opinion, when wearing bootcut or flared denim with heels, I think the hem of the pants should just barley dust the floor.

So, let's jump right in!

Step 1: To prevent any shrinkage, I prefer to wash and dry the jeans and the fabric that I'll be using to lengthen them. I like to put all my jeans in the dryer, because it helps to fade and soften the denim over time.

Step 2: Gather your supplies. You will need fabric scissors, pins, a measuring tape, a ruler, chalk or soap (or something semi-permanent to draw on the denim), and a sewing machine. I will also be working with a serger, which is optional, as the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine will also work, and also a pair of thread clippers, also optional.

Step 2: Pick the fabric you will be using to lengthen your jeans. For blue jeans, I would suggest going to a thrift store and finding a pair of jeans in the same colour that you can cut apart and use. I will be using a pair of black Levi's jeans that I have already cut into, as the black denim is the same shade as the jeans I want to lengthen.

Step 3: Try on your jeans in front of a mirror, and estimate how much longer you would like them to be. Add approximately 2.5 inches to this measurement to make sure you are leaving enough extra fabric to give the jeans a nice finished hem. Write this number down. I will be doing a nice wide hem on mine, just in case I need to lengthen them even more in the future for a taller pair of heels.

Step 4: Turn the jeans inside-out, and lay the hem on top of your chosen fabric. Using the ruler, line up the straight-edge with the edge of the seams of the jeans, like in the picture below. Use your chalk or soap to draw a line down passed the hem of the jeans. For flared or bootcut jeans, you will want the angle of the flare to remain the same.

Step 5: Using the measuring tape, measure passed the hem of the jeans, and mark the measurement that you just wrote down. My measurement was 4.5 inches.

Step 6: Trace the hemline of the jeans onto the fabric, to ensure you are duplicating the curve of the current hem. From this line, make a mark on the denim 4.5 inches down or (or whatever YOUR measurement was), every couple inches or so, to create what will be the new hemline of the pants.

Step 7: Connect the marks you've just made to draw out the piece. Add your seam allowance to the side seams and the upper seam. I generally work with a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

Step 8: Cut out this piece, fold it in half, and make sure all sides are even, trim if needed. Using the scissors cut a TINY clip at the top of the fold, to mark the centre of the piece. Make sure to only cut in to about half the width of the seam allowance. See photo in Step 14 to see the cut.

Step 9: Lay this piece on top of your fabric, right-sides-together, trace it and cut it out. Repeat this again so you have a total of 4 pieces, or 2 pairs which are right-sides-together.

Step 10: Using the serger or the wide zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine, sew around all of the edges of each piece to prevent the fabric from fraying during wear or in the washing machine.

Step 11: The edges of your finished pieces should look clean and straight.

Step 12: If the hem of your jeans is raw and frayed, gently trim off the frayed edge to make a nice clean edge to sew with. If your jeans already have a hem on them, cut it off as close to the hem as you can. Mark the centres of the front and back of the jeans so you can line it up to the pieces.

Step 13: Serge or zig-zag this edge as well so it looks clean.

Step 14: Take two of your pieces, and lay them on top of each other, right-sides-together, and sew down each side seam, backstitching at the start and end of your stitch line. Repeat for the other 2 pieces.

Step 15: With your jeans turned inside-out, and your pieces turned right-side-out, place the piece inside the leg of the jeans, lining up the bottom of the jeans with the top of the piece, matching up the centre marks that you made, as well as the side seams. Sometimes the back of the jeans will be wider then the front, so you might have to adjust how the pieces line up to the jeans. Since mine were black, the seams were not very noticeable so I didn't mind if one of the side seams didn't exactly line up. Pin the pieces together and repeat this for the other leg.

Step 16: Using your sewing machine, sew a straight line along the edges, using your desired amount of seam allowance. Do this for both legs. Then pull the pieces down and out of the leg of the jeans, and topstitch the seam so that the seam allowance is pressed down towards the new hem. This just creates a nice clean line, and allows the new piece to hang correctly from the pair of jeans.

Step 17: You should now have something that look like this.

Step 18: Try on the jeans in front of a mirror again, and see how long they are. Make sure to be wearing the heels that you intend to wear with them.

Step 19: Fold up the bottom of the pieces to your desire length and pin in place.

Step 20: Carefully take off the jeans without letting any of the pins fall out. Adjust the pins as needed, to create a nice clean fold along the bottom of the jeans, without any puckers or pleats.

Step 21: Starting with one leg, sew the hem right along your serge or zig-zagged edge. Or, if you like a cleaner look, fold the serged edge under once, so all raw edges are hidden, and sew along the fold line, all the way around.

Step 22: Once you have one leg sewn, fold the jeans in had lengthwise, matching up the waistband and pockets. Make sure that the hem on the second leg is pinned up to the exact same length as the first leg. You definitely don't want one leg to end up longer than the other! Repeat Step 21 on the second leg.

Step 23: Clip all threads, try on your new lengthened jeans, look in the mirror and admire your fine handy work! Good job!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Stay tuned on the blog for more denim how-to's, or sign up to my newsletter to receive updates right to your inbox.

Until next time!

Wenday xo


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