Welcome to our article on how to hem shorts.

If you do not have a sewing machine or are not comfortable using your mom’s, I suggest you take your shorts to your local dry cleaners instead. On top of cleaning clothing garments, they often offer minor alterations like this.

If your in a pinch and can’t get your shorts altered in time, you can always try shrinking your shorts. But beware, the outcome may not be worth it for the long-term use of your shorts.

Table of Contents

How to Hem Shorts

Before you make your first cut, you will want to wash your shorts. And since you have your sewing machine out, check out other pieces of clothing in your wardrobe that might need hemming.

Supplies & Tools

  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Chalk pencil, pen or regular pencil
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • Seam gauge or measuring tape
  • Use a separate pair of shorts as a guide (if you have one)
  • Sewing machine (Can be sewn by hand if you are familiar with the hemstitch)

How to hem shorts with a sewing machine

  1. Compare to another pair of shorts. If you have a pair of shorts that fits you perfectly, use that pair as a model for the shorts in question. Lay out the shorts you’re planning to hem, and then lay your ideal shorts directly on top of them. This will show you the excess of the short you need to remove.
  2. Use a piece of chalk to mark the location you want to be hemmed. Make sure the shorts are unfolded, and you create a clear mark on each leg. Measuring from the previously-made line, measure and mark three lines at 1/2-inch intervals. There should now be four white chalk lines going down to the edge of the shorts.
  3. Once you’ve decided on the length, fold your shorts to the desired hem. Iron the crease of the desired fold. Take a piece of chalk or a pencil and mark the halfway mark. This is the halfway mark between the edge of the fold and the crease. Unfold the leg and mark the crease if you want. The ironed crease should be bold enough to see.
  4. To perfect a clean line to guide your scissors, use a ruler. Make sure you position the ruler’s edge to the mark.
  5. Get your scissors out. You can also use your regular scissors, but it is easier to use a sharp pair.
  6. Cut the line closest to the bottom first. Creating multiple lines isn’t necessary, but it helps with your accuracy.
  7. Pins are the perfect tool for cutting adjustments to your clothing. Stretch the width of each leg out and use pins to hold them. This will create tension in the shorts’ legs, making them easier to cut.
  8. Cut till the middle line. Cut the following lines above your initial cut until you reach the line under the top line. Focus on one leg at a time. Don’t cut the top line or crease. This line marks where your pants will be hemmed.
  9. Use your scissors to cut any loose threads that got left behind. You might need to repeat this step near the end or after you wash the shorts.
  10. Fold the shorts inside out. You should be able to see the shorts inseam. This will make it easier to sew the hem. You can also fold the legs inside out without doing this to the entire shorts.
  11. Fold up the hem from the edge up to the top line. Ensure your top line or crease is on the edge of the fold. This edge will be the hem. Make sure the size looks good before you finalize the job.
  12. Take your shorts to the ironing board. Wait till the iron is fully heated. Then iron the fold down. This will create a professional fold and ensure that you don’t have any uneven lines.
  13. Take your shorts to the sewing machine. Set your machine for straight stitching or a small or medium straight thread for a simple hem.
  14. Make sure you position your short leg so the machine only stitches the hem and not the leg’s opening together. Sew about 1/8 inch from the top of the hem. Continue sewing in a straight line around the circumference of the leg.
  15. Follow the same steps on the other leg. Don’t forget to iron the seam on the opposite leg and compare the length with the finished leg. This is your last chance to fix any irregularities in the length.
  16. Backstitch at the end and clip the threads to finish your hem.

How to hem shorts: quick tips

  • Typically, hems will be about 1/2 an inch wide, so use 1 1/2″ of fabric below the new hem to make a clean edge.
  • Make sure the lines are even on both legs.
  • Wash your shorts before starting.


Shorts will be easy to hem if you are comfortable using a sewing machine. If you haven’t used a machine before, it will be much harder to do properly.

To shorten the length of shorts, you need to hem the shorts’ legs. You can cut your shorts (jean shorts can work), but you will end up fraying the legs and having it look messy.

To shorten your shorts legs without cutting or sewing (hemming), you can cuff your shorts’ leg. To do this, roll the short leg up an inch or two with one to two rolls.