I bought a pair of cheap $9.95 Chinese Dockers knock-offs to make
into shorts for working on my car. I put them outseams-up on my
gridded cutting mat carefully, bottoms parallel to the grid, made a
nice straight cut, and when I took them to my work-table to hem, found
that my "straight" cut was not straight when viewed from the front,
but had become chevron-shaped!
I Googled this, and can't find an explanation or cure! Since it's
easier to show with photos, I took some, and put them up here along
with some detailed text:
Would you mind taking a look, and tell me if this has ever happenedto you, and if so, how you cure it.
As I said on that web page, I think it's a geometry problem.
Serge, I've been considering cutting down an old pair of jeans to make
shorts and thought that I would measure down from the bottom of the
waist band and making marks about every 3 inches or so and then
connecting the marks to make a line. I would then cut on the line
through a single layer of fabric. I'm not sure but I think that your
problem may be cause by the fact that pants are not the same in the
front and back. that's to account for room needed to fit the anatomy,
male or female. I do hope someone else jumps in hear and corrects me or
affirms my thoughts.
I don't have an explanation, but that is curious, isn't it!
That has never happened to me as I never cut pants straight across, as
the front is often a tad shorter than the back. Once I've decided on
how much shorter they need to be, say 3 inches, I take a ruler and
mark 3 inches up from the existing hem all the way around. Then I use
sissors to make the cut, following the 3 inch mark. This mimics the
'lay' of the original hem.
On 7/16/08 5:46 PM, in article email@example.com,
I've always measured from the hem up, because the way DM taught me.
She was the authority on sewing as far as I was concerned when she was
You can't cut like that. Pants of any style are tapered. You must
measure up from the bottom edge, and cut evenly around. You also
can't use a wide (normal) hem when you cut off; you can use no more
than 5/8 inch hem, turn it under 5/16 inch and stitch, then another
5/16 and sew again. They shouldn't pucker if you do it that way.
On Wed, 16 Jul 2008 23:19:27 GMT, Emily Bengston
But I learned the hard way: when shortening cheap pants, *first*
verify that the legs as purchased are the same length!
And, just as with yard goods, wash them before you decide how much to
It is a geometry problem. The pantslegs are tapered like:
\ / so when you cut straight across with either the
seams or the creases at the side the result is a ^ or V
shape where you cut. Check it out with paper.
To correct this, lay the pants leg flat with the creases
outermost, place one side of a right angle rule at the
crease-edges (allowing for the depth of the desired hem)
*front and then back* and use the bottom of the angle rule
to mark about 2" toward the side seams, BUT don't cut yet.
Now place a straight edge across and join the ends of the
previous marks, creating a slightly curved hem (well
actually three straight lines, but the result is almost a
curve). This can also be done with a French Curve rule, but
if you don't have one just eyeball the entire line and when
you cut leave a little excess so you can modify the curve.
You may also have to open the seams a little to accommodate
the (smaller) bottom hem edge to the (larger) pants leg
where the hem will be sewn. I usually measure the depth of
the hem, then sew a new seam in the hem allowance, swinging
the stitches out as far as possible to provide enough fabric
to allow for two different sizes.
You're absolutely correct; I KNEW it had to do with the geometry of a
pant's leg. And I tried for hours to figure it out, but couldn't! I
love ya, Bev!!! (BTW, I did get a decent hemline, but it was really
thru LOTS of eyeballing and pinning)
After posting my question here, I asked a buddy who is a college math
professor to look at the photos, and I just now received his email
which you'll enjoy, I'm sure:
++++++ Begin Math Prof's response ++++
You're on target with the "cone" thing. If you want to
do an experiment, get one of those conical paper
drinking cups and flatten it. The shape you get will
not look like a triangle, but a pie slice. The length
measured from the vertex to any point on the edge
has to be the same, so the shape must be a sector
of a circle. If you cut the rounded edge off so that
your flattened shape now looks like a triangle, you'll
have shortened the center radius by some amount, but
not the radii at either side. If you unflatten it, you'll
see your chevron effect.
So if you want a straight pant leg, next time go out to
your driveway and lay the pants down as you did before.
Get a large straightedge and a piece of chalk,
and extend the lines along the
outside edges of the pants until they intersect. The
intersection will be the center of the circle. Then get
out your giant compass and draw an arc across your
pants at the desired place. Cut across the arc and then
try to get the transmission fluid out of your new shorts.
However, my wife says there is another problem. Even
if you do get a non-chevron cut, pants ride differently
on each person, so you may get a bottom edge on your
shorts higher or lower in the back. She says the only
way to get it right is to put the pants on the person
who's going to wear them, and use a yardstick, measuring
from the floor to mark a dotted chalkline around the leg.
++++end his relply++++
OK, so his solution is a bit pendantic (after all he is a prof!), but
you are spot on, Beverly!! And so are your instructions!
Now, since I don't have someone with the eye or patience to mark my
pants with a yardstick, I like your solution (below) and next time I
do something like this, I'll use it. Thanks for your response!!!!
> To correct this, lay the pants leg flat with the creases
> outermost, place one side of a right angle rule at the
> crease-edges (allowing for the depth of the desired hem)
> *front and then back* and use the bottom of the angle rule
> to mark about 2" toward the side seams, BUT don't cut yet.
> Now place a straight edge across and join the ends of the
> previous marks, creating a slightly curved hem (well
> actually three straight lines, but the result is almost a
> curve). This can also be done with a French Curve rule, but
> if you don't have one just eyeball the entire line and when
> you cut leave a little excess so you can modify the curve.
> You may also have to open the seams a little to accommodate
> the (smaller) bottom hem edge to the (larger) pants leg
> where the hem will be sewn. I usually measure the depth of
> the hem, then sew a new seam in the hem allowance, swinging
> the stitches out as far as possible to provide enough fabric
> to allow for two different sizes.
That's more-or-less what I finally did as a work-around, but it took
a lot of time and fooling because I took a lot off, and I did not have
a real "method". They are still not quite right, but I don't care that
much since these will be "knock-around" shorts.
Take a look at Beverly's response (below) and my response (below
that) for the explaination and for Bev's solution, which is spot-on
This is HILARIOUS to read but it won`t do what you request !!!!
Best way if you can have a Helper who will measure it ON you while
you wear it ,,
If you can`t , you might consider finding that Antique gadget ladies
used [ My mother used to have one] it had a little colored talcum
container , One adjusted it to wanted height from the floor and
turned around , while pushing a cord that made the colored talcum mark
the skirt`s hem .
there are some books that give you advice on `sewing with out a
pattern` ,,, which have a Formula , that used your body`s measurements
+ x or + y , to get good results ,,,
Sewing Mags have merasurements tables that are relative to one`s
height , which ALas doesn`t always fit all of us ,,, Best way is doinf
some TEST sewing with some cheap cloth or with old clothes or old bed
linen ,, and this way Have the FEEL of our own measurements , and what
will fit us best !!!!
Ahem! (It's Beverly) ;-)
ROTFLOL!!! Gotta love a professor with a sense of humor!
I'm so glad it helped. I alter lots of (long) pants for my
DDs, and after marking the back length exactly where each
one wants it with the exact same shoes she intends to wear,
I mark the hems using the method I described. Except their
pants are all now flared at the hem, so the arc is drawn
down instead of up. But still, basically the same method.
Incidentally, one DD has a substantial difference between
the lengths of her legs, so I always mark the pants *on
her*. I refuse to tackle an alteration job based on "Here,
Mom, these fit ok, just make them the same as these".
You might want to experiment with marking the backs slightly
longer then the fronts. In my experience, pants hike up a
little in the back, especially after sitting, and are loath
to return to the proper position. :-}
I'm sure it's been invented multiple times... but yes, I think I did come
up with it independently when I lived by myself and needed to hem some things.
Had string and cornstarch and a couple of thumbtacks....
One portion of the chalk hem-marker goes *inside* the
garment being marked, and the hinged chalk-dispensing part
is outside. You pull the chalk-dispensing (hereinafter
called CD) part to make contact with the garment *and* the
inside-the-garment post and squeeze a bulb to puff chalk
onto the garment. I'm just not sure how well the "inside"
part would move around your leg *inside* a pants leg, and I
know from my own experience that aiming the CD gizmo gets
more and more difficult as the whole apparatus moves around
behind you (or you move in a tight circle around it). In
addition, you have the problem of guiding it around your
shoes. As I said, I have used one, but only for skirts, so
perhaps I'm over-thinking this.
Beverly, liking Kay's method more all the time....
I suspect we all have "inventions" or unique techniques for
doing things which we have developed using trial-and-error,
which have been independently "invented' by others also. I
think it's called "Re-inventing the Wheel". Or "Necessity is
the Mother of Invention". ;-)