Basic Sewing Concept:  Raising Hem of Tapered Pants

Shortening ready-to-wear pants at the hem sounds easy, but one needs to know some things. It’s good to know your stuff.

First, I must bring your attention to Mary A. Roehr’s book, published in 1987.  Look beyond the hand drawing and the self-published look of the book and it is a treasure trove!  I know, there are many, many slick alteration books and video content on the subject, but Mary was one of the earliest authors who focused on altering ready made clothing for home sewers.  I learned a lot from her.


If your ready to wear pants are cut straight down from the knee or the hip, you can cut away the excess length (keeping enough fabric for the desired hem allowance inside), fold it up, press, stitch and you are on your way.

What if the pants are tapered? Well, just cutting off the desired length will yield this conundrum as in the image below.  The circumference of your newly cut edge will be smaller than the pant leg circumference where you need to stitch down the new hem.  Stretching it to sew the hem will result in awful, ugly puckers.  Keep calm and read on.

Uh oh….

Okay, so you’ve cut away the extra fabric for the hem (keeping the hem allowance); now turn up the hem to where you want it.  Open up the side seams a little bit above the hem fold at the bottom until the two circumferences match up. Fold up and press the hem; then fold raw edges of the tiny V shape and tack them down to the pant seam allowances only – so that these stitches do not show on the right side.  Finish the sewing the hem to puckerless beauty. The image below from the book referenced above, should explain it.


If you can’t stand to see that open V – well, no one will know it’s there but you’ll know.  There’s a solution for that; remember the extra fabric we cut off to shorten the hem? Just cut out a triangular piece to fit under the V and discreetly sew it down to the V edges (not to the pant leg). Turn up the hem as usual. Be aware that this might result in a bit of bulk inside the hem.  An alternative is to use a scrap of thin lining fabric in a matching color to “fill in” the V.

pant hem alteration graphic
Inside of a pant hem alteration

A final word to my fellow home seamstresses:  do not hate alterations. There are tons of sewing tricks and methods I learned from taking apart good RTW clothing.  I love to alter things; alteration is a cousin to refashioning and upcycling


17 thoughts on “Basic Sewing Concept:  Raising Hem of Tapered Pants

  1. I hate alterations!! May I send to you all my alterations?! Pretty please. Though like you said, I am doing more alterations. A tiny tweak will make me wear the garment so much more. But I still hate alterations!


  2. I think we bought Mary Rohr’s book together “back in the day”!! I still have it and use it when needed…great reference book! The other thing you can do is take in the pant leg a bit by angling the seam inward – removes the excess width and keeps the lower edge in tack. Your client will never see the alteration and they will think you have magical sewing powers!


  3. I have this book, and it is full of good information. I must say, I didn’t do me much good, as it doesn’t have the magic information of how to make things longer without resorting to adding ruffles or other attempts to camouflage what’s been added, when there’s nothing left in seams or hems any more. 🙂 But I don’t regret the purchase!


    1. Thanks for your comment, Gail. Lengthening a hem discreetly is a missed topic in alterations. What are your thoughts on adding a separate facing to a lengthened hem with coordinating fabric (since there’s no more matching fabric)? For getting rid of a crease, I’ve heard that rubbing with vinegar helps.


    1. Thanks for the follow and the comment, Pamela! A search on Amazon was unsuccessful. You may want to try Etsy, EBay or used book stores. I bought my copies decades ago directly form the author — I think when I attended her class.


    2. Hi Pamela – I found Mary Rohr’s book (the original, ancient book, Samina & I purchased back in the late ’80’s/early /90’s when we were both young(er) and totally absorbed in all things, sewing, altering, creating anything and everything with fabric! ….here’s the link:

      Good luck – it’s a great book to have on your shelf!

      Liked by 1 person

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