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how to take up trousers

A note before I begin: British trousers = American pants. I may use the terms interchangably in this tutorial after living in Canada for the past 4 years :)

As I am all of 5′ 2″ tall, it’s very rare that I find trousers that aren’t too long, and yet the petite ranges are typically just slightly too short for me. So, as I have to shorten my pants every time I buy a pair, I thought you might like to see how I do it.

The ‘regular’ way of taking up trousers involves ‘invisible’ stitching (i.e. only catching a couple of threads of the outside fabric). This is tricky, time-consuming, and if you’re not very careful, you can still see the stitches on the outside.

My method leaves a visible hem on the outside, but I don’t see anything wrong with one neat line of stitching, and for everyday or casual trousers, it can even leave a nicer finish than the hidden method. Maybe you won’t want to use this method for your best interview suit, but I use it for everything else!

You will need:

  • sewing machine
  • thread that matches the colour of your trousers
  • seam gauge (if you don’t have one, a measuring tape or ruler will do)
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing needle
  • marking pen/pencil
  • iron

Method:

  1. Try on your trousers so you can see how long they need to be. Note: remember to wear shoes while you do this, or your trousers will look too short when you wear them with shoes!
     
  2. Fold up the trousers to the length you want them to be (it helps if you have a mirror so you can see where they will fall when you are standing up straight). Adjust until you’re happy that they don’t scrape the floor but aren’t going to be too short either. Remember different heel heights will affect the apparent length, so keep that in mind.
     
  3. Pin the turn-up to the back of each trouser leg (just one pin) to stop the turn-up from falling down when you take off the trousers. This is just to give you the required length, so don’t worry about being neat. Have a final length check after pinning. Looks good? Okay, now you can get changed into something more comfortable (and don’t prick yourself on those pins!).
    taking up trousers
    Pinned to length at the back
     
  4. Measure the length of the turn-up on each leg. They should be the same, but if they aren’t, pick a measurement midway between the two.
    taking up trousers
    Comparing the turn-up lengths

    If they are very different, you should probably try the pants on again and check which one is right! Make a note of your measurement (for these trousers, mine is 9cm).

  5. Remove the pins and turn the trousers inside out.
     
  6. Fold up the bottom of each leg, to the length you measured above, and pin in place.
    taking up trousers
    Pinned 9cm turn-up
     
  7. Iron the fold so it is pressed into a crease.
     
  8. Mark 1 inch above the fold, all the way around both legs, then remove the pins.
    taking up trousers
    1 inch marked in white pencil
     
  9. Be brave – this is the scary part! Cut the turn-up around the lines you have just drawn, but be careful not to cut through both layers of fabric – just the turned up part – otherwise you’ll end up with capris!
    taking up trousers
    Starting to cut
    taking up trousers
    Partially cut
    taking up trousers
    After cutting

    Handy hint: you can even use the cut-offs to make hairbands.

  10. With your remaining 1-inch turn-up, begin to fold the raw edge inside, so you end up with a 1/2 inch turn-up with no raw edges visible. Pin in place as you go.
    taking up trousers
    Starting to fold in the raw edge and pin

    Continue folding and pinning all around the bottoms of both legs. You can iron this fold in place before sewing (I like to; it makes the sewing part easier) or just sew it at this point.

  11. Set up your sewing machine with a thread colour that matches the main colour in your fabric, for both the top and bobbin threads. Set it to a medium length straight stitch.
    taking up trousers
    Winding a matching bobbin
     
  12. Using the 1cm guide on your sewing machine (or whichever guide is just less than 1/2 an inch) sew around the bottom of each leg.
    taking up trousers
    Ready to start sewing
    When you get back to the start, sew over your first couple of stitches and then finish off.
     
  13. Pull the loose threads to the wrong side of the fabric. You can knot them together for added security, if desired, then thread them through a sewing needle. Push the needle into the turned up fabric, and out a couple of inches further along.
    taking up trousers
    Hiding the thread ends
    Pull the thread ends to make fabric scrunch up slightly, then snip off the threads flush with the fabric, so they disappear inside the fabric when you pull it flat.
    taking up trousers
    Snipping the ends
     
  14. Turn the trousers right side out and admire your handiwork!
    taking up trousers
    The finished seam as it appears on the outside of the trouser legs – crisp and neat.
    taking up trousers
    Perfect!

36 Comments »

  1. Mindy said

    Thank you so much for this! This is certainly a tutorial that I will use!

  2. Felicia said

    I’m sitting here at 5′ 1″. Your tutorial was fabulous! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Rina said

    Thanks for the tut! the pics are very helpful. All this time I didn’t know you were supposed to place the pins that way, but of course it makes perfect sense. One question: do you leave the pins in while you run the hem through the sewing machine?

  4. June said

    Rina, pull out each pin just before your needle runs over it. That way the hem fabric stays in place but you don’t risk breaking the sewing machine needle if it hits the pin. (This is the voice of experience and many broken needles speaking here – just don’t risk it!)

  5. Ben C said

    Cheers for the Tut, was a great help for my first time. Only problem I had was setting the bottom bobbin (as I haven’t used a sewing machine since I was in year 8, which is a good few years ago). Thankfully, I had my mum around to help me out. Cheers mum, and thanks June!

  6. [...] Hosen kürzen [...]

  7. [...] Hosen kürzen [...]

  8. [...] Hosen kürzen [...]

  9. Nicky said

    June,

    You are the answer to my prayers, my hubby is a shortie and has saved up 7 pairs of trousers for me to take up!

    I’ve never done it before and it can’t be too hard, but unsure of where to start I got searching on the internet.

    I found your tutorial and am now feeling confident to have a go this afternoon.

    Many thanks,

    Nicky in North Norfolk (UK)

  10. Gillian - Norfolk UK said

    Thanks for the tutorial. Really helpful and pics good too. Have just taken up some trousers and they look great!

  11. sammi said

    Thaaaaank you!! Very easy and clear instructions. I manage to fix up my trousers at long last! Thank you for sharing.

  12. Jill said

    Excellent! Thank you soooo much : )
    Best instructions I’ve come across!!

  13. [...] How to take up trousers @ PlanetJune [...]

  14. judy said

    I’ve just read through your tutorial and thought it was great, very comprehensive, and funny as well. I particularly liked the comment about capri pants as this is exactly the sort of thing that could happen! Well done for taking the time to share this. Thankyou.

  15. Cele said

    I’ve just used your tutorial for two pairs of trousers I had been posptponing to…
    Thanks a lot, it was really helpful and the results were stunning!

    Cheers,
    Cele

  16. [...] Hosen kürzen [...]

  17. Thanks for this! I just took up my first pair of trousers. Made a bit of a hash of it here and there (my mini sewing machine was too small to travel over the folded seams, so I cut the seam out of the way, re-folded and re-sewed…) but I got the job done and they don’t look bad for my first attempt!

  18. Katie, Dunstable said

    Thank-you so much for posting this June.
    My husband is so impressed that I was able to take up his uniform trousers. It’s a rare ‘wifey’ thing that I have managed to achieve thanks to you. Very well written and pictured.

  19. Katie, Dunstable said

    ps. and this stunning use of my sewing machine that has been in the loft 3 years means that he not going to force me to sell it on Ebay!!

  20. katie_cardigan said

    Great tutorial, June. My pants are the perfect length now! Cheers, Katie

  21. Clara81 said

    Great tutorial June! Now my son won’t be tripping over his trousers on his first day in Reception class!

  22. Helen said

    I’m so pleased I found your site. I’ve just managed to used my brand new sewing machine (never owned or used one before) to take up the hems on my son’s denim jeans. Only problem I had was the bulkyness around the seams so I just stitched as close as I could to them. I’m very proud of myself. Thanks.

  23. Dickie said

    Thank you so much, the pictures are a big help, I have the same issue when buying trousers. I now feel brave enough to give it a go.

  24. Tim Cinel said

    Thanks for the great instructions :) I just took up some hand-me-down jeans from my dad using this as my guide. Unfortunately, I forgot to fold over the raw edged though :\ We’ll see if it breaks.

  25. Liz Rose said

    Thank you, I have just taken up my husbands jeans, after years of putting off taking up trousers because thinking it was too hard, they look fab! your instructions were perfect!

  26. [...] Eine Schritt für Schritt Anleitung (mit Nähmaschine) gibt es hier. [...]

  27. Rosie Holloway said

    Thank you so much – just bought a sewing machine to take up my son’s school trousers and your instructions worked like a dream. No more sewing by hand!!! So confident now, at 5′ 13/4″, I feel like I can buy any pair of trousers now and alter them to fit me. No more shopping in the petite aisle for me!!

  28. Suzanne said

    Hi june

    Thank you very much for doing this tutorial, I have nearly completed my first pair of turned up trousers, before i have always put it off, but your tutorial was very easy to follow!.

    I have trouble myself with trousers I’m 4ft 11 and even found the petite too long it is really annoying!. I live in the U.K.

    Well done for teaching a complete novice!!!

  29. [...] easy to take up pants neatly, although I can never remember how to do it. Luckily, I wrote a really good tutorial for it in 2007 – it saves me from having to figure the method out each time! How embarrassing [...]

  30. Georgina said

    terrific I thoroughly enjoyed turning up my husband’s trousers instead of nearly breaking into tears

  31. Claudia said

    Nice looking seam good work thumbs up

  32. John Collins said

    Thank you, this was really helpful. I am new to needlework and am looking forward to more of your excellent tuition videos!

  33. Monica said

    YAY! I must give this a try! I’ve hemmed my pants before (I’m 5’1″tall, I feel your frustration with long pants :D) But I’m going to try this tutorial to see if they will stay in place! Thanks so much for this tutorial June! Even a few years after you made it, it’s still helpful!!!

  34. Kathryn said

    Very good tutorial! Well done

    I think a simple way of not accidentally cutting yourself too short Capri pants is to Turn the pants inside out carefully as to not remove your chalk marks , flatten out the fabric so there is only one layer, so it is not possible to cut both layers. Then cut fabric on the chalk line.

    Thanks for the confidence to take up my own pants.

  35. Dixie said

    To make it even easier, try on the pants inside out. When you pin for the hem, you won’t have to fiddle with turning them and re pinning.

  36. Brilliant, step by step guide, thanks so much for sharing!

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Please note that I can only answer questions related to PlanetJune patterns and tutorials (see details), and I can only respond to questions or comments written in English. Thank you :) - June

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    June Gilbank
    Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!
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