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T-Shirt hems

Evie | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi everybody. I hope somebody has a suggestion for me. Each spring I make some new t-shirts for my self. That is the only way to get the colors I like. My problem is  the hems. The knit fabric wants to ripple and or stretch as I sew it. I don’t own a serger so that is not an option. I sew slowly and adjust the fabric often but am still not satisfied with the result. Spring is coming (eventually!) and I would like to get started. Best wishes to all of you                           Evie


  1. Marionc032 | | #1

    I was about to post the same question. I do have a serger but it doesn't have a cover stitch--I really wish I had sprung for the extra dollars to get that option!

    I was wondering if there is some kind of stabilizer that might be used while doing the actual stitching to keep the knit from stretching, but that could be torn or washed away after the hem is complete.

    Does anyone do this or have any recommendations for the best kind of stabilizer for this?


  2. cafms | | #2

    I make a lot of T-shirts for myself and my daughter also.  I like to use a 4.0, stretch, twin needle to sew in the hems.  I fold up the desired hem depth,  give it a light press and pin a few places.  Then with the right side facing up, I stitch the hem using my finger to feel the slight ridge made by the cut edge of the hem.  Be sure that the ridge is traveling between the needles under the presser foot.  The bobbin thread will make a zig-zag that covers the raw edge.  You may need to loosen the tension some so that it doesn't cause the bobbin thread to pull too tight and form a tunnel or ridge on the top side.  Sew carefully so the line is straight as crooked places will show.  Don't let the fabric catch on the edge of the machine or table and sort of crowd the fabric towards the presser foot.  I have found that a press with steam will usually take out any ripple if it hasn't been stretched a lot.  It may take a bit of practice to be able to feel the cut edge of the hem through the top fabric but I like the way this looks and feel it is very much like RTW hems.

    I also use the twin needle around the neck ribbing, stitching with one needle in the ditch and the other in the shirt to cover the trimmed seam allowance of the ribbing and hold it down.  Also on neck edges where the seam allowance is just turned under and top stitched.  This stitch will stretch with the fabric.



  3. Julie B | | #3

    I like to use fusible bias tape along the hem -- press on carefully without stretching then turn up and stitch. This stabilizes the hem nicely. Or you can use a fusible web like Steam-a-Seam and fuse the hem in place first.

    1. bilston_ | | #4

      yes i've always had this problem too and i know double needles work really well but i have a fairly cheap sewing machine that just WON'T sew double needles.. i found moving the thread tension and presser foot tension to fairly loose usually does the trick.
      see attached. this was my first sucess

      1. Evie | | #5

        Well as the kids would say"Duh". I never tried adjusting the presser foot pressure. Of course having that balance with the thread tension would  give a much better result. I will try the tape and the twin needles too.  Nice work on the shirt--very sharp. Thanks so much. Best wishes to all.         Evie                       

        1. Teaf5 | | #15

          Remember that pressure foot tension and thread tension are two very different things; you may have to play around with both to get the perfect combination, but the lightening up pressure foot tension will have the most impact on your stretching problem.I shorten all my commercial tshirts with a very old, very simple machine, turning up about a half inch and then topstitching two rows of stitching about a quarter inch apart. I don't have an edege stitching foot, double needle capability, or a serger, but the hems lie flat and look professionally finished if I use a piece of masking tape on the machine throat plate to mark the distance from the edge for my topstitching.

          1. Brenn | | #16

            I have to ask.  If you use a straight stitch on stretch fabric what stops the stitches breaking?  I've seen instructons that say to do this on some strtchy things things.  I followed those instructions once (topstitching on a leotard) and the stitches broke all over the place as soon as I wore it.  I thin I'm missing something.

          2. Evie | | #17

            Well, I have been practicing. Tried all the methods on vaeious weights of fabric. Looser pressure helps a lot. Twin needles are good and the blind hem is very good. I'm not so sure about using iron on tape on very loose knit. That is still very difficult. It wants to sort of bubble. Guess I need a serger. Maybe some day. Thanks to every body for all the help. What a nice group.                        Evie

          3. ccs49 | | #18

            I do commercial alterations and use an older Pfaff with a built-in walking foot to do my t-shirt hems.  I don't serge .  I press up the edge about 2" and sew the first line of stitching 1" from the edge.  Then sew another line of stitching 1/8" above first row of stitching.  Then (and this is the trick that makes it look professional) carefully trim excess fabric away with a pair of very sharp scissors, cutting as close to the stitching as you can.  I use  my dressmaker shears, but until you've done this a number of times and have the exact feel for it you probably should use applique scissors. 

          4. mem | | #19

            I have a serger and I actually think that hems are better done with the machine .

          5. Evie | | #20

            Thanks for telling me. After trying all the suggestions folks have sent I now have several methods to use, depending on the fabric. My shirts are going to look much better this year.                      Evie

          6. woodruff | | #21

            Brenn, the only time I use a straight stitch on a knit hem is if I'm using a double needle. That puts a zigzag on the underside, so there's stretch, especially if you use wooly nylon in the bobbin.

          7. Teaf5 | | #22

            For topstitching t-shirt knits, I also loosen the thread tension both top and bottom so that it is balanced but not tight. The looser stitches allow for some stretch, but not a lot. For stitching seams that won't show, I use the usual thread tension but use a short, very narrow zigzag stitch . This works even on my 35-year-old machine, whose manual clearly states that it's "not designed to work with the new synthetic fabrics or threads"!

      2. SewNancy | | #6

        How fabulous! They are the sticking point for me in sewing a T shirt. You don't have problems with the bobbin thread pulling out?

        1. suesew | | #7

          Maybe your top tension is too loose. Or try tying the bobbin threads together after you have sewn all the way around.

  4. mem | | #8

    I was doing this yesterday and decided trhat the results were the best yet! I did a blind hem with a Zig Zag blind hemming stitch . It ends up very elastic and so doesnt break when strtched and once you have adjusted the stitch width gives a very good result on the outside . I prepare for the stitching by turning up at least an inch and the tacking about 1/4 inch down from the raw edge and then pressing the edge and then on the second pass turning turning the hem up toward the garment so that you have the raw edge on your right as you look at it and the rest of the garment ont on the Left . The hem stitch then reaches over and stitches into the fold every so often depending on the stitch lenth and zig zags just below the raw edge in between reaching.

    1. Evie | | #9

      Hi Mem. I really have to think about that one. Once I get the fabric in my handsI will understand it. Sounds like a good way to do it. Apparently there are several ways to hem a t-shirt. One other thing is --the hemming method may depend on the weight of the fabric. Some are more hefty than others. I find the  heavier fabric is more likely to ripple. I spent some time trying several  methods. One of them should make a good looking t-shirt.                                        Evie   

      1. mem | | #10

        I was making a T shirt out of woll jersy and wanted it to look dressier that it would with a double needle treatment . Do you know how to blind hem? . Your machine would have a foot to do this and it is  really worth investigating . I have done it alot on cutains and long hems but this is the first time I have used it on a strtch fabric and I was so pleased with the result and i am very Fussy

        1. Evie | | #11


          Thanks ,Mem. I need some uninterupted time at the machine to try all of the methods recommended by the group. I'm so glad I asked. What a great response! I'm fussy also and hate to say I made something when it looks homemade. Take care, Evie  

    2. SewNancy | | #12

      What type of material have you done this on? I have several pieces of rayon lycra waiting for me to make shirts out of and I have put it off because of past stretching problems.

      1. mem | | #13

        I have done this on wool jersy and a wool jersey which has alot of stretch and a viscose stretch and a rugby knit. It changes the look of the garment from a casual sporty to a more dressy look.

        1. SewNancy | | #14

          I have more yardage than I need so I will experiment before I sew. Thanks for the tip.

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