Question: I just bought a brand new pair of jeans for my daughter that in the “olden days” I would have tossed into the trash long ago. They are raggedy, holey and faded, but I guess that’s the style. My question is: how can they be hemmed and still keep that raggedy edge?
Answer: I understand where you are coming from. We used to have to wear our jeans for years, constantly washing and rewashing to get that distressed look that you can just buy new now. Jeans are definitely more comfortable with the fabric softened and stretched, but I wonder how long they last?
Anyway, to answer your question: Yes, the jeans can be hemmed with the raggedy edge and colored thread intact but with restrictions.
What you do is, seam the jeans just above the thread line. There are several ways of doing this but I’ll tell you my favorite way.
First, measure how much length we are taking off. Let’s say, for our example, you need them 2 inches shorter. Turn the jean inside out and measure from the top of the hem half the amount that we are hemming — in other words, 1 inch. Chalk a line around the entire leg. Fold the leg at that line and pin at the side seams and inseams, making sure they match up.
Use a zipper foot to stitch as close to the top of the hem as possible through both layers (because we actually want to get as close to the thread line as possible). Serge and press the seam up (towards the body of the pant). Using my blind hemmer, I hem the edge of the new seam, “jumping” over the side and inseams. If it’s dark denim, sometimes I topstitch the seam instead, if the thread won’t show. If you don’t have a blind hemmer, you can hand stitch the seam flat.
Another trick before you serge the seam is to remove the bulk of the flat-feld seam by trimming the inside edge as close to the hem seam as possible so that when you serge, you only stitch over the top layer. Most machines don’t like the bulk of denim, so trim where you have to.
One of the advantages of this kind of hem is that it lends some weight to the hem that helps keep it from turning upwards after the wash. You know what I mean, when the hem curls up and no amount of pressing makes it lie flat? This will help this problem.
Now for the restrictions. This is an easy hem to do on a straight leg. On a boot cut (or “bell bottom,” as we used to call them), the leg narrows toward the knee. So when you fold the leg, you end up with a wide hem trying to fit into a narrow leg. You can stretch it a bit but I wouldn’t stretch it more than half an inch or so or you will get a ripply hem that won’t look good after washing. As a general rule of thumb, you can only do this kind of hem if you are hemming 2” or less on the boot cut.
The result is a hem that looks exactly like the original!
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.