Sewing a nice crisp, neat hem is an essential part of getting a good finish on your handmade clothes.
There are lots of different types of hems and choosing the right one will depend on the fabric you are using, and the style of garment you are making.
In this post I’m going to explain how to sew a double fold hem. It’s a nice simple all rounder technique that will get you started on your dressmaking journey.
Follow along on my latest Youtube video to see this technique demonstrated.
Double fold hem
This technique means folding the bottom edge of your fabric towards the wrong side of the fabric twice. This will hide the raw edge of the fabric and give a smooth finish on the inside.
The instructions for your project will tell you by how much you need to fold and press (with the iron). Sometimes it is a narrow turning, sometimes it is deeper, it all depends on the style of the garment.
It really helps with this method if you have a nice hot iron (as hot as your fabric can stand - you can always so a test section) and steam. Steam helps the fabric to set in position.
You can use a seam gauge like this aluminium one to help you measure and get an even turn.
I often use the grid on my ironing board cover as it’s all centimeters. Just line the edge of the fabric up to a line and fold it back until you get the required turning.
Once you have pressed the hem in place you’ll have to sew it in place using one of the following techniques
Machine top stitched - this is the quickest and easiest way. Simply line the folded edge of the hem up with the edge of the foot on the sewing machine and stitch all the way around.
Machine blind hem - If your sewing machine has the blind hem foot, you'll need to attach that onto your machine and select a blind hem stitch.
Press the hem as instructed in your pattern instructions and then fold the hem allowance towards the front of the fabric. Then line up it up into the foot of the machine as shown in the picture below right.
The machine will stitch, a little bit like a zig zag stitch and when the needle jumps out to the side it will stitch though a small section of the fabric that is on the front/outside of your garment.
Hand sewn blind hem - on more delicate fabrics where you want to really conceal and hide the stitching you can use a hand sewn catch stitch to sew the hem in place.
First secure a single length of thread on the inside fold of the hem. Then working left to right (if you are right handed and vice versa if you are left handed) take a small stitch, catching just a few threads of the front/outside fabric. Then take a longer stitch on the inside fold of the fabric (about 5mm). You'll end up with a cross appearance in the stitching, which just allows for a bit of slack and movement in the hem. On the outside of the garment you'll see very small stitches, which will virtually be invisible when you use a matching thread.
Curved/ shaped hem and narrow hem
On garments where the hem is curved or a pronounced a-line shape, this has to be taken account of when you hem to avoid folds or bunching on the inside of the garment.
You may also need to let the hem ‘drop out’ before the finish it off, especially if the fabric is lighter weight. This means hanging the garment up or a hanger and letting the fabric relax down with gravity. You can then even the hem out by trimming sections that are hanging lower than the rest of the hem. This can be done by eye or by using a hem marker.
It’s common to see the side seams of a garment shapes at the bottom like shown in the picture below. It’s important that when you sew the side seam that you follow this shaping, pivoting at the corners so that when you press the hem back, there isn’t excess fabric there.
If the hem is very long, for example on a circle skirt, doing a very narrow hem is best.
Use the machine to sew a line of stitching 5mm from the raw edge - this will act as a pressing guide. Use this line of stitching to press the hem towards the wrong side of the fabric, making sure the line of stay stitching can be seen (see picture below).
Fold the edge over again by the same amount so that the raw edges are hidden and press in place.
Next, top stitch it down using the machine with the right side of the fabric facing up. This will mean if there are slight inconsistencies in how you have pressed it, the line of stitching will still look even from the front of the garment.