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How-to

Sew a Narrow Hem by Machine

Nov 10, 2014
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Learn how to sew this beautifully hand-stitched rolled hem, demonstrated by Pamela Leggett in Threads #176.

In Threads #176 (Dec. 2014/ Jan. 2015), Pamela Leggett shared expert techniques for sewing rolled hems by hand, with a rolled-hem foot, and using a serger. Here, she explains her favorite method for sewing narrow hems by machine. This technique works on all types of fabrics, even sheer chiffon and silk, without causing diagonal ripples. It’s great for curved and bias hems and doesn’t require a special presser foot.

1. To begin, mark the hemline. Draw a line where you’d like the hem to end. Do not cut just yet. Instead, fold the hem to the wrong side 1/4 inch lower than the marked line. Press along the fold.

Fold the hem edge

2. Sew the edge. Stitch 1/8 inch from the pressed edge. For best results, move your sewing machine needle to the far right and align the fabric’s fold with the foot’s right side edge. All the fabric will now sit on the feed dogs, making it easier to stitch close to the edge.

Stitch 1/8 inch from the edge

3. Trim the excess fabric. Carefully trim the hem allowance as close to the stitching line as possible. It might help to use appliqué scissors or small, sharp scissors to do so.

Trim close to the stitching

4. Turn and stitch the hem. Fold the hem width to a scant 1/4 inch and sew along the hem’s top edge simultaneously. It helps to fold the hem in 2-inch to 3-inch increments to eliminate the need for pinning. The closer you sew to the top edge, the less the hem will curl.

Fold and sew along the top edge

5. Finish the edge. Do not worry if the hem looks wavy at this point. Simply lay the garment on an ironing board and arrange the hem waves evenly without smoothing them out. Steam the hem with an iron, and flatten the edge with your fingers or a wooden clapper while the fabric is hot and moist. Let the hem cool and dry completely. Repeat if necessary.

Smooth the edge

Note: If you like how the wavy edge looks, don’t steam it back into shape. Press the edges, pulling small sections under the iron.

Do you have a favorite hemming technique? Are you willing to give Pamela’s narrow edge finish a try? Please share your thoughts below!

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  1. User avater Grandma2six November 12th

    This is a good technique for light weight fabrics, but for sheers, I prefer a narrower hand rolled hem so that it's almost invisible.

  2. user-1093758 November 12th

    I like to use a narrow hem attachment on my sewing machine. I have an old machine but I hope this attachment is still available for modern machines. With a little practice the attachment makes a beautiful narrow hem and there is no need to sew the hemline twice.

  3. fog1 November 11th

    I've used this technique on sheer fabric and it really does work.

  4. User avater Ziggybug November 11th

    I prefer a hand rolled hem on sheer fabrics. My machine go to technique is a very narrow French seam. I find the one illustrated to be just too bulky.

  5. User avater Catrscr November 11th

    Excellent article. I am eager to use this on some of the sheerer fabrics. Kudos.

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