I am short. All the jeans I buy are too long for me. But I sew. So I thought I could cut off the excess length and rehem the jeans, no problem. I was wrong--they looked awful and hand-sewn. In addition, I often broke a needle or two in the process--even thick needles labeled for leather and denim. I tried all sorts of gadgets invented for the home sewer hemming jeans, including a hard-to-manage plastic plate called "Jump the Bump" (I'm not kidding), but nothing worked.
Over time, I realized my inability to get a professional hem was because I do not have (a) an industrial sewing machine capable of sewing through several layers of denim, or (b) a professional sandblasting machine which gives the original hem that lovely worn look.
Then one day a college roommate, who was also short, plunked down a hundred or two for a pair of designer jeans and changed my life. Like most high-priced items, the schmancy store was willing to alter them (re: shorten them) for her for free. They still had that professional look. I couldn't figure out how the store tailor had achieved it as I doubted he had a sandblasting machine back in his little corner. So I asked to look at them. Up close. She obliged. And what I discovered on closer inspection was...
They were cheating!
And since then, I've been cheating, too. I've also converted several other people to the cheater's method. I once derailed an entire baby shower by mentioning this technique in a side conversation to someone who was bemoaning her inability to find jeans short enough and others overheard me and asked me to explain it and, well, derailment ensued.
So, since I bought a new pair of jeans yesterday, I finally decided to document it in pictures. I did not invent this method. I think you'll find others on the internet touting the same thing. But here's my take on it...
Step 1: BEFORE
Put on your new jeans. Look at the elephant legs their excess length creates. Shed a few tears over not being 6 feet tall. Mourn the NBA career you will never have.
Step 2: Cuff jeans to desired length.
Make sure the bottom of the cuff grazes right where you want it to. Also make sure you are wearing the type of shoes you plan to wear with your new jeans. Here, I am wearing flats as I plan to wear mostly flats and sneakers with these jeans. Notice how I still have it skirt the ground a little bit--don't get greedy and go too high. This is especially true of bootcut jeans*, like these ones, or straight-leg jeans--if they are above the ground, they will look like high-waters. If you wear skinny or cropped jeans, you can take them to the ankle if that's how you like it.
Step 3. Measure the cuff.
For this measurement, you want to go from the bottom edge of the cuff to the end of the original hem. In other words, you want to INCLUDE THE HEM in this measurement (it will be different for the next one; don't mix these two up). Here, mine worked out to be 2 inches from cuff to hem. This is the amount that I want to shorten the jean.
Step 4. Take that last measurement and divide it in half.
My measurement was 2 inches; therefore, half of that is 1 inch.
Step 5. Reduce cuff to reflect new measurement and pin.
Here, I reduced the cuff until it was only 1 inch from the edge of the cuff to the hem. This time, DO NOT INCLUDE THE ORIGINAL HEM in your measurement. Pin along the inner edge of the hem as shown below.
If you have a bootcut or cropped jean, the original hem might not be the same width as the part of the leg to which you are sewing it. Fortunately, most of these cuts of jeans also include some stretch--just pull on the shorter part as you go to make it work.
Step 7. Turn the cuff into the leg.
... and here is how it looks on the inside....
Step 9. Press seam.