Saturday, 16 May 2015
A sneaky way to shorten jeans
I always really dislike shortening jeans. It's one of those things that I'll put off for months and is eventually undertaken wearing sunglasses, as I feel so traumatised by the thought that when the needle inevitably snaps going over the massive hem-hump on the inner leg seam of jeans, it will fly off and spear my eye.
At the point of going over the hem-hump, my experience is that the stitches can falter and become irregular and ugly to look at. And then there's the issue of stitching on jeans being of so many shades of mustardy-brown, that a new reel of top-stitching thread* needs to be colour-matched and bought for each pair of jeans. The whole thing just feels slightly exhausting. But I've had a cunning tutorial saved that solves both of these problems and, yesterday, I finally tried it out. It's every bit as ingenious as I hoped it would be.
The tutorial shares a method that allows you to use the original hem of the jeans, meaning you don't need to buy any mustard top-stitching thread and you don't need to worry about what your stitches look like as you traverse over the hem-hump, as that will only be visible on the inside.
In the photo above, the top leg is completely unshortened and the bottom leg is the finished, shortened leg. The only thing you lose is the slight distressing of the denim above the stitching line. Visually, it's very slightly different to a conventional hem, in that, with a double-thickness of fabric in the hem, you'd expect it to be fractionally bigger than the rest of the leg of the jean, but with this method, it ends up fractionally smaller and the hem goes in very slightly at the side seams. Because this is viewed as a close-up above, the effect of this is very much exaggerated, but in reality, once you're wearing the jeans, it's barely perceptible at all, especially after an absolute pasting with an iron.
However, when I looked at these photos, I found the slight 'step' at each side intensely irritating, so I give it a another pasting with the iron, this time turning the jeans so that they were flattened out mid-leg with the side-seams more accessible and then pressing the seam upwards toward the leg, to flatten it better. This helped considerably. However, I do think this method of jean shortening is better suited to straight-leg jeans (see my husband's later in the post) than skinny jeans. Here's what the inside looks like:
You could make this look a lot nicer by using an overlocker to finish the hem, but I didn't feel enthused enough to get my overlocker out for the task...also I had visions of my overlocker really not handling the hem-hump very well and with its double-needle, you can imagine the visions I was having of what needle-snapping time would look like (my breakages seem to occur using a 100/16 needle, a jeans needle or any other kind of heavy-duty needle).
The above jeans are my own, but ones in the next photo are my husband's. Being 6ft2", it seems almost unimaginable that jean-shortening could even exist as 'a thing' for such a person; normally it's all about trying to find jeans long enough. But then I discovered that Boden make jeans for regular and giant men. While most shops seem to offer a leg length up to 34", Boden come in at just under 36". But the way that the jeans sit on my husband makes this a really long 36" when worn (and some of their trousers can be bought unhemmed with an inside leg of 39"!). It's a whole new world for the long-of-leg.
This photo shows the shortened jeans. I don't think that it's all that obvious where the join is and it's so good to have the thread and stitching style perfectly matching the top-stitching on the leg, that it seems worth the compromise.
The tutorial is fantastic. The only thing that I found unclear is when it tells you to stitch next to the original hem and shows a photo of the needle going in just next to the fabric edge of the hem. I tried this and the seam line looked really obvious, so I tried again, stitching right next to the original stitching line instead on the actual fabric of the hem, and that worked much better for me.
Can you sense the gratefulness pouring out of this photo that my jeans weren't any skinnier at the ankle! It's a perfect leg/arm fit!
However, even having found this great tutorial, I find that I'm still left thinking: why don't I just do what a non-sewing person would do and take them to the tailor and have them shortened for £10 on an industrial machine. The cost of the snapped needles, thread, extended procrastination when the jeans can't be worn (in my husband's case, it was a 3-month wait), time spent worrying over eye injuries, time spent doing the actual sewing, time spent taking the machine apart to fish out the other half of the snapped needle, surely amounts to more than £10. Sometimes being self-sufficient in this way can feel more of a hindrance than a help.
But either way, over the last few months I've had so much work to do that I haven't turned my machine on very often and in the evenings I've felt so tired that I've barely done any hand-sewing either. Having a relaxed afternoon of measuring, cutting and hearing the whirr of my machine again was a delicious thing; as was actually finishing something. It's made me turn my thoughts toward some summer dressmaking.
Wishing you a lovely weekend,
* If you aren't familiar with top-stitching thread and want to shorten your jeans in the conventional way, you can read about my bearded, heavy-breathing, and macintosh-wearing delight on discovering this thread back in 2010.
Posted by Florence (Flossie Teacakes)