Conquering the Dreaded “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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
On to the hemming!
- 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
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).
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.
3. Lower the presser foot and stitch across, but not over the hump, until the presser foot rests firmly on the 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.
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.
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).
7. Complete steps 2-5 again, making sure the last stitches run into the beginning hem stitches.
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. 🙂