How to Take Up a Hem

Clothes rarely fit perfectly when we buy them, especially if we have acquired them from a charity shop, vintage fair or clothes swap. Taking up a hem on a pair of trousers is a fairly simple task and you don’t need a sewing machine. The secret is to measure, try-on, measure, try-on. Repeat several times before cutting the hem.

A basic sewing repair kit is needed, including a tape measure, iron and ironing board

Watch our ‘how to’ video on taking up hems


We have filmed a separate video on how to hand sew the hem in place, click on the button below to be redirected to this blog post.

This same alteration technique can be used to shorten the hem of a skirt, dress, shorts or even sleeves. When measuring a skirt, use the waistband as the point of reference to measure down to the hem. Measure approximately 6 places around the skirt.

With a dress, find the waist point, usually there is a seam at the waist. Use this as a reference point in the same way as a skirt. For sleeves the measuring reference point is the armhole seam.

Taking up jeans uses the same method for the measuring part. We do recommend using a sewing machine as denim fabric is thick to sew by hand. Read our blog on how to take up the hem on jeans.

Top Tip: Save any pieces of fabric left over from cutting the hem. They are useful for patching clothes.

Looking for some specific advice? Book an appointment at our online repair cafe. Each appointment is 30 minutes to help you get started on your alteration or clothes repair.

How to Repair a Hem

The stitching on hems coming undone is one of the most common clothes fixes at Fast Fashion Therapy. It is simple mend to complete with a needle, thread and sharp scissors. In this video we explain how to repair a hem with a hem stitch, or herringbone stitch. We use trousers as an example but the same method can be used on skirts, dresses and sleeve hems.

Most hems can be fixed without a sewing machine. Our video next week will run through how to shorten a hem on a pair of trousers.

Haven’t got a sewing kit and need some ideas? Find out how to build your own sewing kit to mend clothes on our blog post.