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How to Hem Leggings

Leggings can become a bit stretched over time due to friction, laundry, and body changes. Even with minimal sewing experience, you can hem leggings and give them the perfect fit and polished look again. With a few basic tools and step-by-step instructions, you can learn how to hem leggings in minutes. 

How to Hem Leggings

Hemming leggings involves folding the edge of the fabric under, once or twice, and sewing it to form a new and polished hem. To secure the new hem, you can do a coverstitch with the help of a coverstitch machine, perform a zigzag stitch using a sewing machine, or hand sew a straight stitch.   

General Guidelines Before Hemming Leggings

Before you hem leggings, here are some guidelines to take:

Close up of a woman with leggings in need of hemming
  • Prewash cotton or rayon leggings to allow for shrinkage
  • Use a dry iron and release a small puff of steam on the edge of the leggings to relax the fibers. In this way, you can flatten the hem and make it easier to stitch.   
  • Consider using a larger needle to stitch two layers of the fabric properly.

Hemming Leggings Using a Coverstitch Machine 

A coverstitch machine is a sewing tool that contains one to three needles with a looper. The needles and looper threads form a chain that tolerates stretching, making this machine perfect for hemming leggings.  

This sewing tool aims to create a parallel row of stitches on the front and a chain stitch on the back of the fabric to achieve a professional-looking hem. Go through the following steps to hem leggings using a coverstitch machine:

  1. Measure the New Hem: Wear the leggings inside out. Fold the edge to the necessary length. Secure the folded hem using sewing pins. 
  2. Fold the Seam Allowance: Clip the seam allowance in opposing directions for less bulk. If the hem extends out, increase the differential feed setting. 
  3. Do a Reverse Coverstitching: To hem leggings, stitch from the fabric’s reverse side to form decorative stitching on the right side of the leggings. 
  4. Raise Your Presser Foot: Put the leggings underneath and line it up with the appropriate seam allowance guide. Lift the presser foot and raise the needles to the highest position to start sewing. 
  5. Snip the Threads and Finish Sewing: Pull the fabric towards the back of the coverstitch machine. In effect, you can pull the needle threads to the bottom side of the leggings. Snip the looper thread then tie a knot in all strands.
Sewing machine being used to hem leggings

Hemming Leggings Using a Sewing Machine 

Although not optimized as a cover stitch machine, the right settings on a sewing machine can hem leggings just as good.

  1. Decide on the Length: Turn the leggings inside out and wear them. Determine how long you want to hem the leggings. After trying them on, lay the leggings flat on a surface and straighten the hem. 
  2. Set the Thread Length and Width: Depending on how you want the fabric to stretch, select a medium zigzag stitch using a bit longer stitch length than the default setting. Set two to three inches for the stitch width. 
  3. Pin the Extra Fabric: Pull the extra fabric toward each leg’s external seam and pin the excess fabric. 
  4. Sew a Zigzag Stitch: Lower the presser foot and the needle into the leggings. Start sewing at the waist and work downward to the ankle. Push the reverse button and sew an inch backward, and then sew forward again. 
  5. Finish Sewing the Hem: Once you reach the ankle, turn around and sew back up to the top along the existing seam line.
  6. Try the Leggings Again: Remove the pins from the fabric and wear the leggings. If they fit snugly even when you sit, remove the leggings and snip the excess material beyond the new seam line. Leave enough fabric beyond the stitching. 

Hemming Leggings By Hand Sewing 

Hand sewing is another great way to hem leggings, especially if there’s no available coverstitch or sewing machine.

Materials used for hand sewing
  1. Identify the Necessary Length: Use a seam ripper to remove the original hem. Wear the leggings inside out, and fold the hem up to your desired length. Use sewing pins to secure the folded edge. 
  2. Record Measurements: Remove the leggings and lay them on a flat surface. Use a tape measure to measure the length from the current edge to the folded hem. 
  3. Mark the New Edge: Turn the leggings inside out then unfurl the edge. From the initial hem, measure the length and put a mark on the new hem. 
  4. Start Stitching: Begin stitching on the inside of the leg, right after the inseam. Sew small straight stitches to form a new edge while keeping the fold closed. Knot the thread after stitching. 
  5. Stitch the Other Leg: Repeat the stitching process on the other leg. Create a knot towards the string’s end to tie off the thread.
  6. Cut Out the Excess: Snip the extra string above the knot and take off all sewing pins.  

Conclusion

Once you learn how to hem leggings, there’s no need to scramble to the seamstress, letting you save money for more leggings. With practice, you can resize and alter the edges of your leggings to make them more suitable for your body and needs. 

Between photographing some of the outfits and apparel seen on the site, doing a little modeling herself, and contributing to the writing, Kaitlin focuses on showcasing easy and flattering ways to successfully dress for your unique body type. Along with helping run the site, Kaitlin is a wedding photographer in sunny San Diego.