I'm sitting at work and my pant cuff started unraveling. Luckily I have a needle and thread in my purse, and I would like to repair this while I'm on a conference call with little else to do.

Since these are work pants, I don't want to see the hem after the repair is done. What sort of stitch am I trying to do, and is it something I can do by hand (at least sturdily enough to get through the day)?

  • Many cuffs are double-layered for exactly this reason: so that you can sew into the back layer, and the front layer will have no visible stitching.
    – Åna
    May 25, 2016 at 15:20
  • @Åna It might not be a "cuff" -- it folds under (to the inside). Am I using the wrong term? :)
    – Erica
    May 25, 2016 at 15:21
  • An invisible seam, right?
    – Stephie
    May 25, 2016 at 15:33
  • Correct, so it isn't visible from the front (outside) that something is stitched to the inside. I don't care much what it looks like on the back.
    – Erica
    May 25, 2016 at 15:33
  • And is it a single or double fold?
    – Stephie
    May 25, 2016 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


Yes, what you need is called a blind stitch to create a blind hem… and it can definitely be sewn by hand.

Of course, hemming pants while you are wearing them is a bit more difficult, and it will never look quite as finished without an iron. But in an emergency, this will work great and the stitches will remain virtually unseen.

Start by folding your cuff under to the correct length (wrong-side to wrong-side) and crease the fold as best you can with your fingers. Now grab the entire cuff (two layers of fabric) and fold the hem back to the right side so it leaves just a little bit of overhang (~1/4" or so).

Now sew along your hemline through the three layers so the stitches will catch only a very small piece on each side of the fold. Run the stitches around the entire circumference of the cuff.

When you turn the hem right-side out, you will have a virtually invisible seam.

For an emergency quick tack, you probably wont need so many stitches. The tighter stitches assure you won't catch a toe and rip the stitches out when you put the pants on, but in the situation you are describing, one stitch every inch or so (or even every few inches) should be enough to get you through the day.

  • Do you really use the zig-zag fold for hand-stitching? For machine-stitching, you need to do that because you need something for the machine to sew that isn't going to show, but for hand-stitching, it seems an unnecessary complication.
    – Martha
    May 25, 2016 at 18:14
  • I agree with @Martha - for a double fold, I'd use the technique where you fix the yarn inside the fold, come up, grab a few threads above the hem, go down, run the needle right inside the fold, come up and grab a few threads again....
    – Stephie
    May 25, 2016 at 18:17
  • 3
    @Martha Only because the author is currently wearing the pants. When you have the garment laid out on sewing table, it is easy enough to reach up into the pant leg and sew the stitch directly. But not knowing how big the cuff is or how tight the garment, I thought this provided a more flexible/doable option. May 25, 2016 at 18:18
  • 3
    I can in theory head to the restroom for 10 minutes and sew them, but I appreciate not having to take the pants off at all while repairing :)
    – Erica
    May 25, 2016 at 18:38
  • 1
    @Erica I would like to repair this while I'm on a conference call... ← that, plus I'm assuming your conference call is not to take place pantsless in the restroom. May 25, 2016 at 19:49

The basic idea is always to have ideally all visible stitches at the back of the fabric. Common denominator is that in all single-layer parts of the seam only a few threads of the fabric are picked up or a short length of fabric is visible.

For a single fold, the hem stich (German term "Hexenstich", will research the English term) that stitches against the general sewing direction works best, especially for a fast fix.

enter image description here (Source)

Right-handed instruction (reverse for left-handed users):

  • Fix your thread on the left side of the un-unraveled seam (fold pointing towards you).
  • Make a small stitch from right to left (="backwards") 1/4 to 1/2 inch diagonally to the right over the starting point.
  • Place the next backwards stitch diagonally down in the seam fabric.
  • Repeat.
  • Pull the thread tight, but not so tight that the fabric puckers or creates waves.
  • Every few stitches, secure the thread with a backstitch or two in the seam fabric.
  • Finish as usual at the end of the unravelled piece, taking care to do the stitching only on the folded part of the fabric to remain invisible.

With a reasonably matching thread, you should get an invisible seam in quite short time.

  • The diagram has equal-sized stitches in the fabric (the part that shows) and the hem (the folded-under part). To achieve invisibility, you'll need much tinier stitches in the fabric - try to pick up just one thread, if possible. You can make the stitches in the hem as big and ugly as you want.
    – Martha
    May 25, 2016 at 18:12

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