How to Shorten Pants on a Domestic Machine and get Professional Results ( Clothing Alterations) | Angela M | Skillshare

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How to Shorten Pants on a Domestic Machine and get Professional Results ( Clothing Alterations)

teacher avatar Angela M, Business Owner, Seamstress, Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (16m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools

    • 3. Wax Chalk

    • 4. The Fitting

    • 5. Layout, Cutting and Marking

    • 6. Sewing Machine Settings and Presser Foot

    • 7. Stitching the Hem

    • 8. The Finished Hem

    • 9. Class Project

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About This Class

In this class I am going to show our method of shortening pants so that you can get the same professional results on a domestic machine.  There’s no pinning of the hem or measuring and marking on the inside of the pant.

The pants worn in this class are a Standard Straight Leg Chino.

IF your pants are narrower or a skinny leg style, you will need to make the length a bit shorter so that there won’t be a lot of bunching in the front.

IF your pants have a wider leg and you are wearing heels with them, make sure to have the shoes on when fitting as you’ll need the make the length longer.

It is a good idea to practice and complete the Class Project before doing the actual hem on your pant.

This way you can perfect your stitching and avoid having to do any unpicking on the pants.

By using this technique, you’ll save lots of time and you’re sure to have a perfect pant hem!

Very important if you want to take your sewing to the next level and start a business.

Please share and review if you found this class helpful.

Thanks for joining my class and see you in my next one!

Meet Your Teacher

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Angela M

Business Owner, Seamstress, Designer


Hello, I'm Angela.

I’m a professional seamstress and business owner with over 35 yrs professional sewing experience.

I work with everything from simple casual wear to designer bridal and leather wear.

I specialise in clothing alterations helping clients get that “perfect” fit.


Over the years, I’ve developed easy to follow techniques to ensure consistent quality results. 

So if you ever thought about turning your passion for sewing into a business, my classes will help you with your sewing skills, speed, workmanship and efficiencies


Hope you enjoy my class and Happy Sewing!




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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Angela. Welcome to my shop and thanks for stopping by my class. If you have basic knowledge of using a sewing machine or you're already an experienced sewer, I'm going to show you how we shorten a pair of pants using a simple hem and how you can do the same using a domestic machine and getting professional results. 2. Tools: To do this alteration, you'll need your pants that are too long. A ruler with grid lines on it. Some wax chalk. I like to use this chalk because it disappears when you iron it. And a pair of sharp scissors. And of course you'll need your sewing machine, matching thread and a few pins. 3. Wax Chalk: As I mentioned earlier, this type of wax chalk is my favorite type of chalk to use when tailoring. Now always tested on some of your fabric to make sure it doesn't leave a greasy mark, but it does disappear on most fabrics when heated, even without steam. On lighter color fabrics it just leaves a bit of a shadow, but on the edge of a hem, I'm not too worried about it. On darker fabrics and on denim, You can hardly even notice it once it's ironed. I don't recommend using this wax chalk on any type of silk or satin fabric. 4. The Fitting: Here my client has the pants on that needs shortening. Now some people would look at this and think that they're okay because the hem isn't actually touching the ground. But in reality, if I pull the ends of the pant leg down, there's probably about a good two inches of fabric that's longer than the bottom of the shoe. The only reason it isn't touching the ground is that the pant isn't wide enough to go around the thickness of the shoe. Now for a standard pair of pants, I find the best way to do fitting is with shoes off and just with socks on or bare feet. Start by pushing up all the excess fabric up into the pant leg. And then you want to pull the fabric down so that the fold is going to end up just touching the floor. This is going to be the finished length of the pant leg. Now pin just above the hem with a pin going across and another pin going up and down through both layers. By pinning it this way, there's less chance of the pins being kicked out when the client takes off the pants. From this side view, you can see that the back hem is just touching the ground and the front will have just a small break when it sits on the shoe, put a pin in the front. But again, it's really the back length that's most important. When the hem is just touching the floor with socks on, it'll sit at the top of the heel of any shoe that the client wears. Also check if your client has one hip higher or lower than the other as you may need to pin the other leg as well. 5. Layout, Cutting and Marking: Now take the back of the pant hem where the two pins are, and grab your wax chalk and put a little mark right on that fold. You can put a mark on the front fold as well, but it's not necessary. Now remove all the pins and smooth out the pant leg. Again, that chalk mark on the back touches the floor and we generally use that length as a rule of thumb. To layout the pants for cutting. We want to fold it in half with the BACKS of the pants together, lining up the sides and making sure it's even at the top of the waist and the crotch facing away from you. Even if the pants are brand new, the legs are not always perfectly even. So don't worry if the legs aren't even at the bottom as long as your waist is lined up at the top. So if you look closely at the hems, they're not out too much, they're pretty even, but I don't bother measuring up from the hem. I rely on that chalk mark to tell me what the proper length is. Now I need to transfer that mark to the front of the pant leg. And what I do is I just slide my fingernail along until it reaches the same point. And then mark it with the chalk. Now place your ruler along that chalk mark, making sure it's square on both sides and draw a straight line. That is our finished hemline. We now need to mark another line. Where we’re going to cut. This original him has about a half inch wide jean hem on it, which means it's been folded over half an inch twice and then stitched. I like to make my hems just slightly wider than that. So there's a bit more fabric at the bottom. The ruler that I'm using is a 2-inch wide quilting ruler. It has inches on one side and centimeters on the other. The grid lines are also divided up into eighths of an inch. So if I turn my ruler this way, I know I've got one inch from the edge down that center line, then I've got one 1 ⅛ “ 1 ¼ “, 1 ⅜ “ and 1.5 “ and so on So place your ruler down and draw a line 1⅜ “ below that first chalk line This is your new cut line. Now if you don't have a quilting ruler, just draw that first chalk line, measured down 1⅜ “ along that line And then join up your marks to make that second chalk line. Whenever you're hemming pants, make sure there's two lines, one for the finish and one for the cut line. This way you're sure that you've added the hem allowance and you don't have to make any marks on the inside or use any pins. Now we just need to cut along that bottom cut line. I normally use an electric cutting knife or large tailor shears, but today I'm using my new gold scissors that my sister-in-law gave me. The next thing we need to do is mark a finish line on all sides. To do this, place your ruler down along that chalk line and just shift it over a tiny little bit to the left. Flip your first pant leg over tight along the edge of the ruler. You can see there's the finish line again. And then with a really sharp chalk, mark along that edge, your line is now transferred To both those sides. Flip that top leg out of the way and do the same thing for the second leg. I'm just going to mark that line again so you can see . Shift your ruler slightly to the left. Flip your pant leg over and mark again along the edge. Now you've got the finished line on all the sides. That little chalk mark there is the original front mark that we made where we had pinned it. You can pretty much ignore that because again, it's the back length that is the most important. 6. Sewing Machine Settings and Presser Foot: I'll be using my Singer 4411 domestic machine to demonstrate this hem. The width of the stitch is set at 0. The needle position is set in the CENTRE I'm going to leave it here because not everybody will have a machine that has this adjustment. My tension dial is set at number 4. I've got my stitch dial set at number 3 for slightly longer stitch length. The pattern selector dial is set for a STRAIGHT stitch. And finally, I'm just going to swap the general-purpose foot for this clear foot. I just find it so much easier to sew with. So if you don't have a clear foot, It’s definitely worth purchasing one. 7. Stitching the Hem: So if we take a look at our pant him, this is the outseam and this is the inseam on the inside of the leg. This is where we want to start and finish our stitching. It just looks neater if you don't see all the back stitching on the outseam of the leg. Now open up your hem a bit, And because we've got that chalk line on the outside, we can fold that pant hem right on the line and then just finger press it a little bit. By doing that, we create a little crease and we can now fold the raw edge so that it meets up on the inside with that crease. Now when we fold it a second time, we're back on that chalk line and we know that we've folded the hem allowance exactly half and half. We also want to make sure that you're lining up your seam. You don't want to fold it too far forward or not far enough. If this happens, you'll end up with a twisted hem. Now with the presser foot up, you want to hold onto that hem with the seams lined up and then slide it underneath the presser foot and then lower it. So the top fold of your hem should line up with the inside of the presser foot. For the bottom edge of the hem, you can use the lines on the plate as a guide. Or what's even better is to use one of these little magnetic guides. The magnet in this guide is quite strong and it'll stay in position. They're quite hard to move, as you can see. And I like to put my guide slightly in front of the foot. Now you've got that inner edge and this guide to help you stitch a nice straight hem. Now, just fold your hem a little bit more before you start stitching. Again, making sure it's folded exactly half and half. Lower your needle down into the fabric before you start stitching. Go forward a few stitches and now reverse a couple of stitches and continue stitching forward. Just keep checking that your hem is folded half in half. If you run your finger along the edge, you shouldn't be able to feel any empty space at the bottom. Continue stitching, keeping an eye on that upper edge is running along the inside of the foot. You do this hem enough times and you won't even need to crease your fabric first. Now we've come to the other side seam, which is an open seam So you have to make sure that that side seam is opened all the way through that hem. Make sure to match that seam line and continue stitching the hem. As you're coming to the end of your stitching, you want to make sure that you're going to sew right over the stitches that you started with. When you get to that seam again, it can be a bit bulky. So lift your presser foot, make sure your needle is down in the fabric and just give it a little bit of a tug from the back. Stitch over that seam, overlap a couple of stitches and then reverse a couple of stitches and forward again. Now needle up, lift your presser foot and pull your hem out. While there's still some tension from the machine, cut your threads on the right side of the hem. And then on the inside, give the threads a little bit of a tug and that'll pull the ends through. And it won't show on the right side. You'll also save thread by cutting this way. So now we're finished sewing the hem and you can see that the finished hem is right on that chalk line. Give it a bit of steam, and the chalk will disappear. 8. The Finished Hem : So our hem is nice and straight. The stitching is parallel to the edge and all the chalk is gone from the bottom of the hem. The inside of the hem is looking nice and neat as well without having to pin anything down before stitching. So this is a good guide to use for regular pants. Having it just touch the floor and it will end up at the top of the heel with shoes on. 9. Class Project: For your class project, you'll be practicing this style of hem in different sizes. Cut three pieces of fabric, four inches wide by ten inches long. It doesn't really matter how long it is, as long as you have a good length to practice with. On the first piece of fabric, mark a line an inch and a half from the left edge and inch on the second piece and half an inch on the third piece and then flip them all over. We'll be turning half in half again and stitching down along the fold like we did on the pants. With the first piece marked an inch and a half. We'll stitch it just like I showed you with the pant hem, But this time instead of putting that folded edge right beside the inner edge of the foot, move it over a little bit so that the needle is a little bit closer to the fold of the fabric. You'll have a little bit of space between the fold and the inner foot. This is a great way to practice controlling your fabric using a standard foot. This will give you a 3/4” stitched hem. Do exactly the same thing with the fabric marked with the 1” line and you'll get a 1/2” stitched hem. Now if you take a closer look at this presser foot, this part of the foot sits down on this long row of teeth, but it doesn't sit over this shorter row of teeth there which we're going to need for the smaller hem. Switch over to a 1/4” foot. Now this part of the foot will sit directly on top of that small row of teeth of the feed dogs and guide your fabric in nicely. And the left edge of that small opening is going to act as a beautiful guide for the fold of your fabric. This time fold 1/4”twice, and stitch with your fold along that inner edge. And that'll give you a beautiful ¼” hem with nice even stitching close to the folded edge. Please share your finished samples. Thanks for joining this class. See you at my next one.