DIY: How to Let Out a Hem or Cuff

 OK, so I know most petites don’t usually have this problem, so it makes me a bit of a freak of nature when I say that I’m only 5’1 and I find petite pants too short, but I still need the proportions of petite clothing in the hips and rise.  Even if you do not have a similar issue to my own, there might be a situation where you feel like you want to let out a hem on a pair of trousers that you may have accidentally hemmed too short or even just letting out a cuff since they aren’t so flattering on shorter legs. So I thought I would show you how I let out the cuff of my J.Crew Cafe Capri in Pop Art Polka Dot, seen in the last post.

Let me start off by saying, it is a bit of work although not particularly difficult. And this is by no means the “professional” way of doing it, only the way that I’ve interpreted how it might be done by examining at the end result of having a professional tailor let out a hem for me in the past.

I’m going to try to make the steps as simple as possible, but if anything needs more clarification, please let me know and I’ll make some changes to the steps to make it easier to understand!

What you’ll need:

Seam Ripper (or small scissors to let out the old seam)
Seam binding/old material/grosgrain ribbon about 1″ to 1.5″ wide
Thread that matches your pants as closely as possible
Sewing machine
Iron for pressing

The steps:

(1) Let out the existing hem. Here, I had a cuff and used my seam ripper. If you don’t have a seam ripper (I highly recommend that you get one), you can use a pair of small scissors. Be careful to cut the right threads or you may have the entire pant leg coming apart!


(2) Press well (with an iron), so that the lines of the old hem no longer show. The last thing you want to see is the residuals of an old hem job.

(3) Find a piece of old material or seam binding about 1″ to 1.5″ wide that you can sew to the end of the pants.  This will not be seen, so you can use whatever you like. I decided to use this polka dot grosgrain ribbon that I had purchased from Etsy a while back:


(4) Cut two pieces that are a little longer than the total width of the leg opening of the pants (approximately 2cm longer). You are going to sew the ends of the binding together, so after they are sewn, the width of the loop should match the width of the pants exactly.

(5) Take one piece of ribbon/binding and sew the ends together. If there is a “right” side and “wrong” side as above (the “right” side has polka dots, the “wrong” side does not), sew the right sides together so that the seam looks like this:


(6) Do the same with the second piece of ribbon/binding. You should have two loops, one for each pant leg.

(7) Pin the ribbon/binding to the pants so that the right side of the pants AND the ribbon/binding are facing you. They should overlap slightly. Mine overlaps about 1cm. This can be a little tricky. Use as many pins as you need and pin all around the leg opening and line them up as best you can. For the best looking result, try to align the seam of the ribbon/binding with one of the seams on the pant leg.


(8) Sew the ribbon/binding to the pants. If you have a small leg opening, the leg probably won’t fit around the arm of the machine which makes this very tricky. I did it in very small sections. Make sure you don’t accidentally sew the other side of the pant opening or you are going to sew the entire pant leg closed!

(9) Repeat steps (7) and (8) with the other pant leg.

This is the end product after the ribbon was sewn on to the pant leg. If you look closely, you can see I had sewn the ribbon as close to the edge as possible:


(10) Fold the ribbon/binding inside the pant leg so you can no longer see it and adjust to desired length. I wanted as much length as possible, so the edge of the binding is right at the edge of the fold:


(11) Repeat with other leg.

(12) Hem the pants using desired method. I used an invisible hem.

(13) Press well.

Ta da! Here is the final result:


The same technique can be used for skirts, so I intend to use this same method for my J.Crew Double-Serge Cotton No.2 Skirt that I find too short for my liking. I hope this tutorial is helpful to someone! 😀


  1. Fashionchampagne May 14, 2012

    great post thanks for sharing 

  2. nik May 14, 2012

    Hello! I came to your blog, because your profile photo intrigued me. And now I see that not only one photo is cool! So, I’m glad I found you because your blog is awesome! Good job and please keep posting, because you do it great, and I start following and will visit you with pleasure!
    xx nik

  3. Lisa Ng May 15, 2012

    Like I said on twitter, great job, you can’t even tell the hem was let out. You must have long legs for a petite and a shorter torso??? 

  4. petitesteph May 18, 2012

    Thanks for this!  I recently over-shrunk a pair of pants that I thought I was going to have to get rid of — at 5’0 too-short pants is a problem I’ve never had before.   I’m going to let out the hem using your method this weekend!

  5. Cher May 18, 2012

    Great! LMK how it turns out! 😀

  6. Cher May 18, 2012

    Yes, my legs are long for my height (almost a full 31 inches with flats), but my torso is super short! Tucking blouses into my bottoms can create some really strange proportions. Over time I’ve learned to work with it a little better, but pants can be really difficult to find. I’m still “petite” on the bottom in that my hips are very narrow and I have a short rise, but my legs are just too long for the typical petite inseam even if I let the hems out. Frustrating!

  7. Lisa Ng May 21, 2012

    Well, at least THIS solution has worked for you! If it makes you feel better, at least you know your “issue” and can try to find solutions. I’m still trying to find my “issues”!!! You look fab!

Comments are closed.