By Nicole Vasbinder
Many times a pattern will simply tell you to hem a garment and not go into much detail. Or maybe they only give you one option and you would like to try something new. There are lots of different ways to finish hems on skirts, pants, dresses, necklines, and sleeves, and Im going to explain my favorite methods that I use daily. Some are really simple and some are a bit more complicated.
Double Turn Back and Topstitched
This is probably the most common hem you see. It simply involves turning the raw edge under twice and then stitching it.
Step 1: Divide the total hem allowance in half. In this case, I have a 1" total hem so I pressed up the hem 1/2" to the wrong side. I find it super helpful to use a seam gauge and to pin the fabric to the ironing board. Make sure to use glass-head pins (not plastic!), and you can iron right over the pins.
Step 2: Turn the hem up another 1/2" and press again.
Step 3: Working from the wrong side, line up the fold against the left edge of the presser foot and adjust your needle to the left position. Topstitch in place.
If you would like the stitch line closer to the fold, try lining up the fold in the center groove of your presser foot, and then adjust the needle to the right position and topstitch. Note that not all machines have a needle right position.
Serged and Topstitched
This hem is really common on ready-to-wear clothing, as its fast and easy. Its not quite as finished looking as the double turn back, but I like to use it on pajamas and casual things.
Step 1: Serge the raw edge of your hem, making sure not to trim off any fabric.
Step 2: Press the hem to the wrong side the full amount of your hem allowance. Again, use the seam gauge to make sure its accurate.
Step 3: Line up the right edge of the serge stitch under the center of your presser foot and topstitch.
Twin Needle (Faux Coverstitch)
A real coverstitch is done on a coverstitch machine, and you see coverstitch hems on knits and lots of athletic wear. But most seamsters dont have this pricey machine. Not to worry! You can do a faux coverstitch on a regular sewing machine. Because there is only one bobbin, the bobbin thread will zigzag back and forth between the 2 needle threads and the seam can stretch.
Magnetic seam guide
Step 1: Twin needles come in different needle sizes and different widths. Note that any machine that can do a zigzag can do this stitch, but make sure that the needles will fit through the hole in your presser foot. You still keep your machine set to a regular straight stitch.
Step 2: Insert the twin needle into the machine and then thread 2 threads through the machine. One little trick is rather than buying a second spool of thread, just wind a second bobbin and use the bobbin as your second thread. Make sure that the threads dont tangle as you thread them!
Step 3: Serge the raw edge and then press the hem under to the wrong side. Then working from the right side, line up the fabric so that the twin needle will stitch right over the serged edge. Using a magnetic seam guide will give you something to line up against and will help keep your stitch nice and straight.
For this hem you use single-fold bias tape. This provides a great finish to curved edges, since bias tape will bend around curves. This is also a great way to hem something if you accidentally cut off too much or forgot to leave hem allowance, since you will only lose about 3/4" of fabric to the hem.
Step 1: Lightly press the right fold open but be careful not to press too much or youll lose the crease.
Step 2: Place the bias tape face down against the right side of the fabric, lining up the raw edges together. Stitch in the crease.
Step 3: Press the seam flat.
Step 4: Press the tape over to the wrong side, and have a tiny bit of the right side of the fabric roll over too.
Step 5: Edgestitch the tape in place.
For this hem you use double-fold bias tape. This is also a great finish for curved edges, since bias tape will bend around curves. It looks especially great in contrasting colors, and looks really nice on necklines and sleeves. Double-fold tape has one fold that is bigger, and the bigger fold goes on the back.
Step 1: Lightly press the smaller fold open, but be careful not press too much or youll lose the crease. Place the bias tape face down against the right side of the fabric, lining up the raw edges together. Stitch in the crease.
Step 2: Fold the bias tape over to the wrong side to encase the raw edge, and press in place.
Step 3: Working from the right side, stitch in the ditch where the fabric and tape come together. You should barely see any stitches from the right side and will see stitches on the back.
This hem is a classy touch on nice pants, skirts, and dress where you dont want to see visible stitches on the right side. You see it a lot on suit pants and skirts.
Blind hem foot
Step 1: Put the blind hem foot on your machine.
Step 2: Press up your hem to the wrong side 1". Now fold your hem back to the wrong side so that 1/4" of the raw edge extends out.
Step 4: Adjust your machine to the blind hem stitch. On my machine, its stitch E, and the little zigzags will finish the raw edge.
Step 5: Put the blind hem foot on your machine. Using the hand wheel, walk your machine until the needle swings to far left zigzag. You want the needle to just barely catch the fold. Using the hand screw, adjust the bar on the foot so that it comes right up against the fold. This will keep the stitch nice and even.
Step 5: The big zigzag will catch just a thread of the fold, and the little zigzags will finish the raw edge and prevent fraying.
Step 6: Unfold the hem and press it flat. From the right side you should barely be able to see a tiny stitch every 1/2" or so. If you see a big stitch, then you stitched too much onto the fold. The blind hem can be tricky, so take your time and practice!
Hope you enjoyed some of my favorite hems!
About the Author:
Nicole Vasbinder has designed the accessory line Queen Puff Puff since 2003, and sells her retro-flavored handbags and accessories throughout the United States and beyond. Nicole also owns StitchCraft, a hip sewing and craft studio in Petaluma, Calif., and co-produces the popular Petaluma Downtown Craft Mart. As a sideline, she recently started making and selling journals made from recycled record albums under the label Vinyl Frontier.