How to Hem Clothing by Hand

It's easy to shorten clothing that's too long and still be able to let it out later on. This is great not only for children's clothing, but for keeping up with length trends; definitely a money saving skill!


  1. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 1
    Fit the article first. It is essential to have the person try on the article of clothing for a fitting to allow you to pin it to the correct length.
  2. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 2
    Place ball or flat-headed stick-pins around the hem. Place them about 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart all the way around the material. Turn it inward as you put in the pins.
  3. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 3
    Remove the article of clothing. Take the item off carefully to avoid scraping pins on your model.
  4. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 4
    Thread a needle with thread. Make sure that the thread matches the color of the material as closely as possible.
  5. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 5
    Double and knot the thread. This provides the strength needed for a hem; the hem takes a lot of punishment from daily wear. (To double the thread, put it through the needle and bring both ends together, tie them in a knot.)
  6. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 6
    Turn the article of clothing inside out. If the clothing is extremely long, measure and cut some of the excess material off, but leave about 2 inches (5 cm). Finish the raw edge of the fabric so that it does not fray. If you want to let the material out later, simply fold it over a few times, making an edge about two or three inches thick.
  7. Image titled Hem Clothing by Hand Step 7
    Sew around the pinned material. Take up as little fabric as possible with the needle on each stitch. Try to place stitches about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) apart. You can sew by hand or with a sewing machine, depending on which way suits you most.


  • The thicker the material, the thicker the needle you should use - both hand and machine. The thinner the material, the thinner the needle you should use.
  • Wear a thimble, it's easy to prick yourself with a needle or the pins.
  • If you're shortening something of your own, have someone else place the pins for you if at all possible. Otherwise, you may get a crooked line because you cannot see what you are pinning.
  • Iron the hem to give it a more finished look.
  • Use good, sharp scissors if you're cutting fabric. They will follow the fabric grain more easily and will leave a clean cut.
  • Ask at a notions or craft store about tools to help thread needles if you have difficulties doing this.
  • Always sew in good light.


  • Don't try to hem extremely delicate fabrics such as silk or muslin yourself. Heavy-duty pattern-making muslin is fine, however.

Article Info

Categories: Sewing Clothes