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How-to

Shortcut to a Faced Hem

There’s no need for a separate pattern
Threads #215, Fall 2021
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A few years ago, I found myself making an outfit for the New York City Ballet’s fall gala—in the final 24 hours before the event. I was sure I could knock out my look overnight. My ensemble would include a red leather bustier (from my stock of superhero couture), paired with a floor-length brocade skirt. All went according to plan, until it was time to finish the full skirt’s sweeping hem.

On the day of the gala, I leveled the hem and considered how to finish it quickly. From a box of supplies I’d been saving, 5 yards of horsehair braid peeked out at me. Suddenly, I decided it wasn’t a gala if I wasn’t wearing horsehair. After stitching the full length of the horsehair to the hemline, I realized I’d attached the braid upside down. It was now impossible to ease the horsehair’s gathering edge into the hem allowance’s curved upper edge. There was nothing to do except cut the horsehair off and start over.

The author twirls with delight in a maxi dress with a beautifully faced hem. Pattern: Simplicity 9041, modified. Fabric: polyester bengaline, Chic Fabrics, New York.
The author twirls with delight in a maxi dress with a beautifully faced hem. Pattern: Simplicity 9041, modified. Fabric: polyester bengaline, Chic Fabrics, New York.

As I sliced 3 inches of hem away, something clicked: What if I could use those lost inches, by turning them upside down? With mere hours left before the gala, I went for it. And to my utter glee, I found that by inverting the detached hem and applying it back to the hemline as a facing, I had a generous, flat hem. The cut-off piece’s circumference and curve were almost the same as the skirt’s, with no need for gathering at the upper edge. With this facing in place, I didn’t miss the horsehair—or the red carpet. I strolled out of the apartment decked out in my handmade finery, ready to grace the gala in style.


Shortcut to a Faced Hem Spread ImageMarcy Harriell, @marcyharriell, is a Threads digital ambassador as well as a star of Broadway, television, and film. She can be found on YouTube with her husband, as the Handmade Harriells.

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  1. user-3251948 | | #1

    This is basically a step onward from what we used to call a false hem. If your skirt was too short or you didn't have enough fabric for a proper hem, the thing to do was to sew some bias binding, right sides together, to the hem and then turn it in and hand sew (which was always the way hems were stitched - no machine stitching which would show).

    1. User avater
      marcyharriell | | #2

      Yes! Before I stumbled onto this, I was using wide bias binding (I’d even go wild and cut at a 60 degree angle to save fabric). I ended up hand stitching the hem on the dress in this article, but, oof. Either I’ve got to cut skirts with less sweep or find some fancier machine stitches…

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