May 7

Conquering the Dreaded “Jean Hem”

Jean Hem

Wait! Don’t run away! I’m serious! Yes, you can CONQUER the dreaded jean hem! No more broken needles and endless frustration! Read on!

A little over -dramatic? Not for those who have been left in tears, or just about, after having broken needle after needle trying to hem jeans. Needles are NOT cheap! For many people, few repairs in the sewing room inspire as much dread as dealing with jeans, especially hems and zippers. In this tutorial, I’m going to show the trick to getting over the “hump” in the hem, without breaking needles, or losing your sanity. ūüôā

First, if you understand why the issues are happening, you can avoid them. It’s simple. The needles are breaking because the presser foot doesn’t stay level when going over the thicker side seam. Keep the foot level, and you won’t be breaking needles.

No, you do not need a heavy industrial sewing machine to accomplish this…in fact, I still use this trick with the heaviest industrial machine I own, as that thicker hem still causes issues no matter the machine.The trick is a small tool you can make ¬†that I’m going to call The Equalizer – because that’s what it does – it equalizes the height of the fabric on the flat parts of the hem with the thicker side seams.

Differences in Main Hem and Side Seams of Jean Hems
Differences in Main Hem and Side Seams of Jean Hems

 

There is a brand name tool that can be purchased at sewing supply stores called a “Hump Jumper“, but you can easily make the variant I use with¬†¬†heavy box cardboard, or heavy plastic 1/8” or so in thickness.

Hump Jumper
Brand Name – “Hump Jumper”

This picture shows the Equalizer my husband made for me years ago out of heavy plastic, along with another store bought tool though not specifically designed for equalizing seams but that would do the job as well. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be fancy, or the edges perfect. It will do the job. The hole on the left of the Equalizer is to hang it on my peg board.

Hand-made Equalizer and Equivalent Tool
Hand-made Equalizer and Store-bought Tool

 

Making Your Own “Equalizer”:

Cut the piece of cardboard or plastic ¬†roughly 1-1/4″ ¬†wide by 5″ long, then cut a slit down the middle about 3/16″ wide by 2-1/2″ long, as shown below.

 

Carboard cutout
The Equalizer – Carboard or Heavy Plastic Cutout

 

On to the hemming!

Materials:

  • Jeans to hem
  • Size 16/100 Denim, Sharp or Standard sewing machine needle
  • Thread (preferably in a color that matches existing top-stitching)
  • The Equalizer

Instructions:

1. Start stitching just after the side seam of the inside leg seam, stopping in the needle down position within a length of the presser foot of the outside side seam (up to, but not on or over the side seam).

Start stitching just after inner side seam.
Start stitching just after inner side seam.
Stitch up to, but not over, outer side seam.
Stitch up to, but not over, side seam.

2. With the needle in the down position, lift the presser foot inserting the Equalizer from the back of  the presser foot, under the presser foot with the slit opening facing forward so that the needle nestles in the slit. Place the Equalizer right up to, but not on or over, the thicker side seam.

Equalizer under presser foot before side seam.
Equalizer under presser foot before side seam.

3. Lower the presser foot and stitch across, but not over the hump, until the presser foot rests firmly on the hump.

Presser foot sitting level on side seam hump.
Presser foot sitting level on side seam hump.

4. With the needle in the down position, remove the Equalizer and move it to the front of the presser foot with the slit now facing the back, and lined up so that the presser foot will move onto the Equalizer with the needle stitching in the slit.

Equalizer in front of the side seam about to sew off hump onto thinner area.
Equalizer in front of the side seam about to sew off hump onto thinner area.

5. Continue sewing until the presser foot has completely gone over the hump. With the needle in the down position, lift the presser foot and remove the Equalizer.

Completely of the hump.
Completely off the hump.

 

6.  Continue sewing until within a length of the presser foot to the inside side seam (up to, but not on or over the side seam).

Sew up to, but not over, inside side seam.
Sew up to, but not over, inside side seam.

7. Complete steps 2-5 again, making sure the last stitches run into the beginning hem stitches.

Equalizer under foot before last side seam.
Equalizer under foot before last side seam.
Repeat steps 2-5, finishing by sewing into initial stitches.
Repeat steps 2-5, finishing by sewing into initial stitches.

 

You’re done!

Finished hem!
Finished hem!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, and I do intend to make a video tutorial as well, so keep checking back!

Please let me know if anything is unclear, or if there are other tutorials you’d like to see. I’d also love to hear any stories of how you’ve CONQUERED the jean hem, or any other comments you have to offer. ūüôā

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Posted May 7, 2014 by Angela Trenholm in category "Clothing Care & Repair", "Tutorials

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