Thursday, 19 August 2010

H for Hem

H is for Hem

Sooner or later, no matter if you’re constructing a ball gown from scratch, running up some curtains, shortening a skirt or pair of trousers, or doing some running repairs, at some point you will need to tackle a hem or two. This is one area where it really is worth spending some time to get it right - the ultimate irony is that if it is done well no-one will notice it, except you.

Prepare and measure

Top Tip: Put on the right bra and shoes

A garment will hang differently with a body in it (instead of being on a hanger) so measure and mark the hem while the garment is being worn with the underwear and shoes you will be wearing it with.

You’ll need a helper to do this but this link shows how you can mark a hem using a table if help isn’t at hand!

How do you know which hem to use? For each different fabric and situation there is a hemming solution

Stealth hems

Image taken from
We’ve become very used to seeing hems done with top stitching but what if you’re after that clean finished crisp look without a visible line of stitches that hints of a luxuriously expensive finish? There are loads of options for “blind” or “invisible” hems.

• Blind hem stitch by machine – great for skirts, dresses and curtains.

Top Tip: My mum swears by invisible nylon thread to make the stitches extra secret when she is hemming curtains, but for clothing hems I prefer to match the thread to the fabric, more comfy and less stiff.

• Herringbone hems by hand – I don’t think you can beat a nice herringbone stitch done by hand for hems (well that is what my Mum told me and she is ALWAYS right!). If you didn’t have the good fortune to be shown it by my Mum, herringbone stitch and other excellent hand stitches for hems are excellently explained here

Top Tip: If you want to REALLY camouflage the stitches when you’re sewing by hand: go vertically instead of horizontally when you take the stitch through the main body of the skirt – your stitch will blend in with the vertical warp threads in the fabric. It stops the weight of the hem pulling down on the hem stitches and making little hollows where the stitches go across several of the warp threads.

Top Tip: If you’re making your own skirt or dress and want full out luxury and no stitches on the outside at all then underlining is the way to go. When you sew the hem by hand, just catch the stitches in the underlining layer.

Rolled Hems

Rolled hems are the answer for really fine, sheer or slippery fabric e.g. lingerie

Image from

• By machine with a rolled hem foot – YouTube is not quite as lovely as your dear old Gran but it is also great for sewing tips
• By machine – straight stitch
• By machine – zig zag

• for sheer fabric that is driving you wild

Circular, flared or tapered hems

• For circular skirts the key is to make the hem as narrow as possible, or to use bias tape which will curve around the edge, but the very first thing to do is to let the skirt hang for as long as possible – at least overnight – to give the fabric chance to relax.

• When the garment is flared or tapered you will either have too much or too little fabric for a simple turn and stitch type hem. Here is how to deal with these hems without losing any hair in the process

• Bias trim is great for curved or tapered hems

These are two books to help with hems, they’re good for all sorts of tips and techniques and seldom get as far as the bookshelf because they are just too useful to put away.

• The Reader’s Digest “New Complete Guide to Sewing” has a particularly fine section on hems.

• “The Dressmaker's Technique Bible” by Lorna Knight

Let’s hear it for the humble hem!

This post was provided by Tracy Cushing, sewing enthusiast.


handmadehappiness said...

i have the bible at the mo fantastic but its from the library!!!! also i own the readers digest!!! they are a good read have you read.....sewing shortcut's from a-z by elizabeth j. musheno an oldie but a goodie!!! xx

The Sewing Directory said...

I've got the Lorna Knight A-Z of sewing and that has some really useful tips. My mum swears by the Reader's Digest one.

haven't read the Sewing Shortcuts one, will keep an eye out for it.

Does anyone else have any good sewing bibles they'd like to recommend?

Blogging tips