Video: How to hem trousers, like a Savile Row tailor

Wednesday, October 21st 2020
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Fixing the hem on trousers is a fairly easy - and satisfying - thing to do at home.

It also enables you, should you want to, to alter the length of trousers (though it's much easier without cuffs).

In this video I talk to Ben Clarke, cutter at Richard James, about how a Savile Row tailor is taught to hem trousers. He provides lots of helpful tips, and demonstrates no fewer than three different methods.

Each of the techniques is a little easier, but shows a little more thread on the inside of a trouser, than the last.

This is the latest in a series of videos we have been doing on craft you can do at home. The previous one - on how to sew a button - can be seen here.

 

 

For those that want a brief summary of what we cover - or a recap for those that have watched the video already - here are the main points:

  • Hemming trousers is probably the easiest repair you can do at home, and one of the most satisfying
  • It's simple thing to do, happens to everyone, and you shouldn’t really need to take it to an alterations tailor
  • First, iron the trousers to the length you want
  • Then baste the fold in place, or pin it
  • Knot the thread and then root it on the trouser seam, by sewing in place a couple of times
  • The thread matters less than with buttons, for example - any sewing cotton is good, in a similar colour
  • There are three ways to do the hemming stitch, which get progressively easier to do, but also show more thread on the inside of the trouser
  • Sew through the turn-up, then take a tiny bit of the main trouser leg - a thread or two
  • For hardest technique, use the back of the turn-up; for second-hardest, go through it from back to front; for easiest, stay on the front
  • Take your time. If you take too much cloth, just take the needle back through and do it again
  • It's all practice, that’s why looks easy when a tailor does it
  • Sometimes tempting to pull too hard, to make it more secure, but this makes the cloth too tight, and pucker on the outside
  • On some cloths, you will always see some puckering on the outside, for example with light materials
  • Can reduce this by using looser stitches, but then it's also less secure
  • You can also put a heel strip around the bottom of the leg, but that's best done by an alterations tailor
  • Those strips were more needed in the past, when trousers were wider and longer, and rested more on the heel of shoe, rubbing on it
  • Never do a strip all the way round - it makes the bottom tighter, and not hang as well

If you would like to see some other practical videos we have created on Permanent Style, they include:

Thank you to Ben Clarke of Richard James, and to the Campaign for Wool for all their support through these series of videos.

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
45 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robin

Very nice , Simon. This will save me ££££’s .

I think we need more of Ben .
He comes across very well and more videos with him on further alterations , even ones that can’t be done by an amateur , would prove useful in giving an understanding of what is involved.

A real bug-bear of mine is coming back with altered trousers that are too long because I , rather than the tailor, placed it at the wrong point on my waist.

Quick question …..should the hem be done at an angle , longer at back then front , or the same length all the way round ?

Robin

A video on jacket sleeve length .
How to get it exactly right so that a cm or so of shirt shows .
It’s one that aways proves so near and yet so far when I use alteration tailors .
(too short and it looks awful … a tad too long and you spent money and need got what you wanted…. literals millimetres in it I find )

Its quite involved so it would let us ‘armchair tailors’ understand exactly what we pay for .

Robin

As silly as it sounds it would be good to see exactly how for example sleeves should be pinned .
Given 1/8 of an inch can make a noticeable difference getting it exactly right can be difficult .

Also seeing what’s involved gives a huge appreciation of the craft .

Finn W.

I would also love to see how a sleeve is lengthened or shortened. I find it rather difficult to do so because there is a lot of folding involved, an extra piece of lining has to be added and so on. Repositionining of the buttons is also required. Maybe it would be a lot for just one video.

Adam

Geez, I could have used this video 20 years ago when I was trying to hem my Catholic school uniform pants.

Olusegun A Olutola

Excellent insightful education, advice and information.
Many thanks.

Felix

Interesting and well-produced video, but do you really think any of the movers and shakers buying 3k+ bespoke suits will bother to spend an evening hemming their own trousers? As you say, its a really easy thing to do, so it’s also super cheap. Even as a student I wouldn’t have bothered to do it myself when any random alterations tailor can do it for 15€. Just a little unsure for what target audience you’re actually doing this.

Matt

Just an anecdote from me. I’m moving away from a big city soon, so videos like this explaining how to repair, press, and otherwise care for expensive tailoring are useful. Good Jeeves-style dry cleaners won’t be available, and even alterations tailors might be in short supply. I also just enjoy caring for my suits.

Regarding ideas for more videos, maybe something on spot cleaning / sponge cleaning suits?

Peter O

Dear Simon,

Your lucid reply to that doubter introduces both aspects of the individual condciousness has value in itself i. e. to understand whatever does make a difference and location – many places just don’t have seamstresses and tailors one can trust and dry cleaners in certain places are very expensive and only steam for full dry cleaning price, and in such places steamers are also very expensive and shower steam is too moist.

quiet castle

First time commenter – Felix, there is a value to this video! Not all those who refer to this site are of the kind of wealth where 15 euro means nothing!

Come on, surely there are some folks out there who will find more pleasure and education in watching this sort of high production how to video than a shaky, blurry amature one.

Mirko

Hi Simon,

Could you ask Ben some more info about where to find the thimble he has got?

Thank you

Al

Love this “how to do” videos. I decided some time ago to learn at least the basic things. I can know hem, shorten, slim down and cuff my trousers as well as to shorten sleeves of my jackets. There is something beautiful in to make such things with your own hands.

Lewis

Hi Simon,

With my ever changing physique depending on sporting pursuits, I’d love to look at waist alterations. I know that it’s a lot more inolved of course.

Thanks.

Fred

This video was great – thanks. I currently do not live anywhere near a good alterations tailor so this is an important skill for me. I find basic sewing like this a fantastic way to spend time. It is similar to polishing shoes and can be very therapeutic. I do not have lots of money to spend on clothes, so maintaining the items I have is a really important part of my passion for clothing.

I would love to watch more videos like this. I would be especially curious to see how to do turn-up cuffs properly. Most of my trousers have turn ups so it would be both interesting and useful to learn how the pros do it.

Lindsay Eric McKee

Another superb post.
Maybe something on sewing a shirt button and the correct thread, materials and technique….. In a future post perhaps.
Many thanks
Lindsay

Anonymous

Not a shirt button, but I’m sure the technique is much the same. https://www.permanentstyle.com/2020/08/how-to-sew-a-button-like-a-savile-row-tailor.html

Noel

I agree with those readers that say that taking care of your clothes (including basic repair like hemming) can be pleasurable and therapeutical. It’s not just about saving money.

Håvard

Thank you for making this why and how-to guide. Cheers!

Mike

I guess I’m the Lone Ranger on this but I like your “style” articles much more. Pictures, lot’s of pictures!

Peter O

Dear Simon,

There you have proof of benefit of devotibg your energy to PS – excellent intuition!

What about coat sleeve alteration? I bought two Crombies whose sleeves require alteration to match my very short SHIRT sleeve length 31.5?

What is your current conviction of most aesthically pleasing coat sleeve length?

Best wishes always

Anonymous

A bit off topic but what watch is he wearing? Looks like some kind of fitness watch, which is an interesting contrast for someone so well dressed (however, he looks quite fit in his polo).

Katherine Maylin

Whilst I welcome the excellent contribution that P.S. makes to the tailoring trade, I can’t help feeling sad at watching this video.
At a time when Tailors have very little or no work, many of us would be glad to have the small job of turning up a trouser hem rather than watching the instructions for our customers to do it themselves.
The pandemic has affected all industries, including the tailoring trade. It is sad to see many of us who have spent all their working lives making beautiful clothes put our needles away.
So if your trousers have come undone or need turning up, spare a thought for your tailor; enable them to earn a living, or better still order a new three piece suit!

Joseph

I too would love to have a video on pressing a jacket and a dinner jacket. I often find when traveling that even steaming does not give me the look I want from clothes that have been in my luggage.

Peter Hall

Love this. Is it possible to have one on darning holes in knitwear or how to safely pull through those little threads which everyday wear causes.
Ben was very clear and easy to understand.

Thanks to you both

Maged

Thanks, Simon, Ben for this interesting video. Despite having no intention to do this myself, just understanding how it’s done (always wondered how hems on formal trousers didn’t have visible threads and required doing it by hand), it also helps explain why some problems occur (puckering because the stitch was done too tight, or one’s foot getting caught because it is a weak/spaced stitch). It helps better discern the alteration tailor’s skills/quality of work and to be able to have an informed discussion about the results.

Emily

This is such a great idea for a video. However, you may not realize that some people will watch it on their phones! Zooming in more and using a lighter material would help us see what is going on. Check out this video on rolled hems as an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Dt_5vnOJ_E&t=2s

Emily

P.S. I mean lighter-colored material.

zo

agreed, its incredibly satisfying. 2 years ago I bought myself an £80 sewing machine from john lewis because i realised i was paying £15-20 per trouser hem (and waiting for a week each time) for what is essentially the easiest and quickest of jobs. since then ive picked up basic alterations like tapering trousers, waist in and out, hemming with cuffs, darts on shirts, even blazer sleeves (at the cuff) and punching in working buttons on cuffs. i’ve even started doing some hidden makeshift adjustments that some tailors do, for example fixing gaping pockets, gaping pleats, crotch reinforcements etc. Saved £££ and learnt what makes my clothes beautiful and functional.

Boncesca

Great video Simon, and would like to echo the comments regarding Ben – excellent teacher and comes accross as very down to earth.

Would be great to get a few more close ups of his work during the video.

Additionally, does he have suggestions for good quality sewing gear? Even looking at thread, there is so much choice out there, some advice for a beginner like myself would be much appreciated!

Felix S.

Thank you, Simon and Ben! I truly appreciate these videos. There is something empowering about being able to mend things myself—and learning how to do it properly.

Out of curiosity, what type of thread does Ben recommend for hemming wool and cotton trousers?

Felix S.

Thank you, Simon. My apologies as I didn’t ask the question quite clearly. My question was what type of thread should be used for hemming?

For the button video, Ben mentioned a poly/cotton thread–so I was curious whether he has a preference of the type of thread for hemming trousers.