Denim - Page 2

Denim-related post. Learn things, see things.

Pure Blue Japan jeans with shortened inseam shows what is jeans hemming
Hemmed Syoaia Pure Blue Japan jeans

What is Jeans Hemming Explained

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Summary

Jeans hemming is the process of shortening the leg or inseam length of a pair of jeans by removing some of the fabric from the bottom.

These photographs demonstrate the before and after effects of hemming alterations made by Williamsburg Garment Company to shorten the inseam of jeans to demonstrate “what jeans hemming is.” The top photograph features a pair of Pure Blue Japan jeans. It displays the altered inseam and leg openings as well as the portions of the hem that was removed.

The below image displays a pair of raw denim jeans with their original hem and full inseam length. A chalk line on the jeans marks the hemming cut line, which also includes a 1/2-inch double fold (1-inch).

A pair of raw denim LeRoy Strauss jeans are shown at their original length, and a chalk line marks the hemming cut line.
A pair of raw denim jeans with yellow chainstitch inside the hem are marked with a chalk line which represents the cut line.

The majority of jeans are sewn with chain-stitched hemming. The average hem measures roughly 1/2 inch tall. A tailor or seamstress double folds the raw edge after cutting to the hem (leg opening). Since each fold measures approximately 1/2 inch, the inseam length must be increased by 1 inch to reach the desired length.

To see what we mean by double folding, and the process of hemming in action. Watch our video “Chain Stitch Hemming in 87 Seconds.”

Chain Stitch Hemming in 87 Seconds

Photo shows hemmed selvedge raw denim jeans with yellow chain stitching and cut-off fabric parts after alterations.
Hemmed (shortened) jeans with yellow chain stitching are shown after being altered and having the original hem removed.
Chainstitch denim hemming alterations on Gap 1969 jeans
Chainstitch denim hemming on Gap 1969 jeans with alterations service by Williamsburg Garment Company.

Tips for Professionally Hemming Your Denim: The Simple, Affordable Way

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So you splurged on that vintage-looking pair of Gap 1969 jeans. They are everything you were looking for, but about 4-to-5-inches too long. Now what? You don’t want to wear them rolled with a huge cuff – or even have them stacking over your shoes. You want to make them one of your go-to jeans, so you need them to fit right. Here’s how you can make that happen: With fast professional chainstitch denim hemming service that’s available from any city or town in the USA! We make our alterations services simple and both affordable and easy to execute. Read on to learn how we can help you achieve the perfect fit:

What is a Chainstitch Hem?

A chainstitch hem is a technique used in most jeans. It’s a fairly common and durable stitch that is found on most jeans. As seen on the above pair of Gap 1969 jeans, you’ll want to ensure when shortening your inseam, the jeans have the same style of sewing as the original store-bought jeans. That’s with chain stitching and thick, heavy threads. Both are not options not usually found at local tailors, cleaners, and even department stores or a brand’s in-store alterations services. Read more on chainstitch hemming on our blog.

How to order Hemming from us

We receive and ship altered jeans, pants, and shirts from all over the USA. Sometimes, those seeking the very best denim services will ship us garments from other countries. We offer low-cost 2-way shipping options, so you can ship 1 or multiple items in an order for the same low price. With 2-way shipping, we email you a shipping within a few hours of placing your order, or the next morning when ordering after business hours.

Additional Rush Alterations Options to Consider

We offer RUSH and STANDARD SERVICE. The fastest is Same-Day while you wait. The next fastest is 1-Day Service. Our regular service takes about 5-to-7 days. Pricing for all services is listed on the ordering page.

The Catch-22 of Denim Hemming

Unfortunately, there are DIY techniques and non-professional denim tailors who offer what’s called an Original Hem alteration. They say you can retain the original pre-washed edge on the leg opening, but they don’t tell how bad your jeans will look on the inside or how you will lose the flexibility of the hem.

Inside sewing details of original hem alteration
Example of one of the Original Hem alterations sewing techniques

Final Words

Original hems are a bad idea. Don’t let anyone talk you into this style of alteration. We get lots of jeans sent to us with requests to undo this alteration and re-hem the jeans correctly with chain stitching.

The pre-washed edge on the leg opening, as seen on the section cut from Gap 1969 jeans comes back in time with washing and wearing. If you want to speed up the process, you can rough up the hem with sandpaper, a sharp blade, or an electric grinder for the shredded look. For fast fading, wet and wrinkle the hem, then rub in a small amount of bleach on the high points, and dip the hem in cold water to halt the fading. Machine wash the jeans after.

Outside view of selvedge jeans tapered from the inseam
Selvedge jeans tapered from the inseam

Tapering both flat-felled & overlock constructed jeans from the inseam explained

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It seems needless to say, selvedge jeans should always be tapered from the inseam. However, some people still take jeans to local tailors or dry cleaners, who are not equipped with proper denim sewing machines and expect them to properly taper their jeans.

Tapering jeans with double-needle chain stitched flat-felled seams

Butterflied open jeans on table show how to taper selvedge denim jeans from inseam
Photo of selvedge denim jeans with the flat-felled inseam opened and prepped for tapering from. the inseam.

This photo shows an example of tapering from the inseam in-process. These jeans were sewn with a double-needle chain stitched flat-felled (lap seam), so it has to be taken apart at the inseam. With the selvedge outseam shown at the center, the inseam is then trimmed to slim the leg down. Slimming is done from the hem, up to just above the knee, and eases out at the thigh.

A tailor without a feed-off-the-arm chain stitch sewing machine will never properly taper a pair of jeans with lap seam construction. Instead, they may use makeshift single needle sewing from the hem to the knee area. Leaving the area around the crotch and thigh with the original sewing, connecting the new sewing into the original.

Sewing a flat-felled seam on selvedge jeans with a Union Special 35800 feed-off-the-arm sewing machine
Union Special feed-off-the-arm sewing machine

For more detail on how we taper jeans constructed with a lap seam, watch our popular Youtube video.

How to taper jeans professionally

How to taper jeans with a single-needle overlocked inseam

Not all jeans have two needle chain stitch lap seam construction. Some have a single-needle topstitched inseam with overlock construction. We tapered the below Levi’s jeans, slimming the legs down and the excess fabric cut from them can be seen underneath.

Single-needle top stitched inseam Levi's selvedge jeans tapered from the inseam
Levi’s selvedge jeans tapered from the inseam.

Most tailors can handle overlocked jeans much easier than lap seams. Overlock sergers are machines commonly used by tailors. However, similar to how traditional tailors may handle lap seam sewing, they will likely remove the original topstitching to just above where the tapering will end. Then use the serger to sew the new leg shape. Finally, to reach high on the leg, so new topstitching can join with the original, the outseams are opened and subsequently closed after topstitching the inseam.

Process for tapering jeans with overlocked inseams as also seen in our TikTok video:

  1. Cut the inseam to the requested inseam length, plus 3/4″ to 1″ (depending on the hem height)
  2. Remove the single stitch on the inseam
  3. Press the inseam flat & draft the taper lines on each leg
  4. Trim & sew the new leg shape with a serger sewing machine
  5. Press the inseam to remove slack
  6. Sew a new single-needle chain stitch on the top of the inseam
  7. Chain stitch the hem 
@williamsburggar

This is how we taper jeans with a single-needle top stitched inseam. #selvedgedenim #samuraijeans #denimtailor

♬ original sound – Williamsburg Garment Co.

Depending on the details of the tapering, we first remove the entire original topstitching in order to sew a new unbroken/unjoined line. It doesn’t matter if the taper is to the knee, above the knee, or high into the thigh.

We taper jeans high into the thighs only when we get requests to make the thigh smaller. We always advise, that very little can be done at the thigh. Explaining, that the width of the thigh is in connection to the pattern’s shape. The seat, rise, and curve in the crotch (which affects movement) are all connected. Decreasing the thigh means the curve must be shortened and straightened, which will restrict movement. Taking from the curve also lowers the rise.

In other words, the best we suggest is easing the taper from the knee, high into the thigh, clipping a bit of the curve, thus reducing the thigh to a maximum close to 1/2 inch. We don’t feel comfortable taking much more.

Looking closely, the original overlock stitching can be seen in white thread and the new sewing in tan color. These jeans were tapered high, so we went completely around the crotch.

Overlocked hem of selvedge jeans with decreased leg opening
Inside details explain how to taper overlock selvedge jeans from inseam

As demonstrated in the TikTok video below, one of the biggest things that separate our work from tailors and denim specialists is our use of the Union Special feed-of-the-arm chain stitch machine. On single-needle overlock constructed jeans, it allows us to completely topstitch the inseam from hem to hem without opening the outseams.

@williamsburggar

Williamsburg Garment Company quickly explains how to professionally taper jeans. Setting us apart from common and amateur tailors, we take the pants apart, redraft the shape, then sew them back together following the original factory’s construction. #denimhead #selvedgedenim #denimtailor #taperingjeans

♬ original sound – Williamsburg Garment Co.

The Union Special is advantageous with selvedge jeans because you don’t want to disturb the outseams. Tailors who have to rely on tapering at the outseams will destroy the beauty of the selvedge jeans. The photo below is an example of what can happen when you give your jeans to a local tailor who doesn’t specialize in or understand denim. Luckily, he later did some research, found us and we saved his jeans.

Badly tailored selvedge jeans tapered from outseam
This is what can happen when you don’t know the difference between a tailor and a denim specialist.
Close-up of sewing details on an Original Hem alteration

What is an Original Hem alteration?

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An original hem also called a European hem, or euro hem is an alteration method where the goal is to shorten jeans and pants without losing the original manufactured hem. This alteration technique is a perceived value on garments with pre-washed or aged hem edges to those who do not want to lose the look.

Photo explains what is an original hem alteration on jeans
An Original Hem alteration on a pair of Gustin selvedge jeans notes the construction details of one of the many techniques. Each method has a visible seamline from re-attaching the hem.

This method of hemming is preferred among sewers with home and common-duty industrial machines. It allows them to dodge sewing through multiple layers of denim fabric required in traditional jeans hemming. Besides preserving tatter hem edges, some techniques preserve the manufacturer’s stitching above the hem, which is too thick for home machines, and usually not stocked at most dressmakers and tailoring shops.

Another method of Original Hem alteration has a clean inside construction but is stiff and uncomfortable around the ankles

The alteration method above has a clean inside construction but its construction style causes the hem to be stiff and ring-shaped. The customer who sent this pair in removal and re-hemming complained it was annoying to wear.

Denim enthusiasts and those generally knowledgable about jeans avoid original hem alterations. It is an alteration procedure typically advocated by DIY diehards and non-denim experts because it is generally easier for their equipment to handle. The tailor’s selling point of the process is the preservation of the store-bought hem. Void in the conversation is the annoying inside bulk around the ankles, goofy seamline, or stiff ring-like shape of the cleaner sewn version of the alteration – and the fact that the aged look of the hem will naturally come back through frequent washing and/or wear.

Denim jeans and like-constructed pants are predominantly sewn with chain stitching at the hem and heavy threads that can withstand harsh washing, not typical in other garments. However, even denim lovers more knowledgeable than the average mom about jeans and workwear can get talked into an original hem alteration. Either that or don’t ask the right questions in choosing a hemming service. Have a look at a few examples of jeans and pants sent to us in need of rescuing.

Iron Heart fans should be warned, that the photo below could be extremely upsetting.

The photo shows a pair of Iron Heart jeans as a prime example of bad tailoring. The jeans were tapered from the outseams, destroying the selvedge, and then shortened with an original hem alteration.

This is a prime example of bad tailoring. These rather expensive and high-quality jeans were tapered from the outseams, destroying the selvedge. Not to go far enough, the tailor topped them top off with an original hem alteration. Here there is no reason to save an aged-looking hem edge. The obvious reason for using this hemming technique is the lack of equipment able to sew through the heavy denim typically found in Iron Hearts jeans.

Hem of Loose J58 vintage Levi's Engineered Jeans with sloped cuffs
Hem of Loose J58 vintage Levi's Engineered Jeans with sloped cuffs.

How to shorten Levi’s Engineered Jeans explained

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We recently added an option for special request alterations that fall outside of our regular services. For example, shortening the inseam on these vintage Levi’s Engineered Jeans is far more time-consuming than chain stitch hemming. After all, you would not want to lose the sloped hem shape that uniquely identifies these by cutting them straight like regular jeans. This calls for more than our trouser or chain stitch hemming services.

Photo shows how to shorten Levi's Engineered Jeans while keeping the original hem shape
Vintage Levi’s Engineered Jeans with sloped cuffs made in Japan

For this style, we first record the size and shape of the original hem by creating a pattern to recut the newly positioned leg opening. After, we remove the inside panel at the hem stitch by stitch to keep it intact.

Alterations process of hemming Levi's Engineered Jeans
Leg opening of Levi’s Engineered Jeans sloped cuff hem in the process of having the inseam shortened.

These jeans have a twisted leg, so measuring the inseam can be tricky. On jeans with a leg twist, you can’t just follow the inseam line down with the measuring tape. Instead, you must follow the shape of the leg down without turning under the seam. Following the inseam line on a twisted leg will ultimately mean that leg will be slightly shorter.

Finally, after the jeans are cut-down, the original inside hem panels are sewn back into the leg opening. Finished, the jeans keep the look of the original factory sewing and stitching while being customized to a concise length.

Cover image for how to taper jeans video on TikTok
TikTok video "How we taper jeans from the inseam"

How to taper jeans Video on TikTok

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We are just getting started on TikTok creating cool, fun, and informative new videos. Take a look at this one which quickly takes you through the process of how to taper jeans to narrow the leg width on a pair of Samurai selvedge denim constructed with overlock sewing and a single-needle inseam.

Follow us on TikTok and Instagram @williamsburggar so you don’t miss new upcoming videos.

@williamsburggar

This is how we taper jeans with a single-needle top stitched inseam. #selvedgedenim #samuraijeans #denimtailor

♬ original sound – Williamsburg Garment Co.
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