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trouble with narrow hem

surya | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Usually narrow hems are the easiest things under the sun but this one had me pulling a few hairs out. First of all it is a slinky jersey knit. Second, the narrow hem is called for as a way of finishing the armholes on this halter dress, and the curved area just seams impossible to press the hem up. Other than not closing the side seam until I have hemmed the arm hole curve, is there a sane way to handle it? (oh, and yes I used starch to help tame the edges of the jersey knit.) Any help appreciated so I can keep my hair in.


  1. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #1

    Hi sun, it's me again.  What pattern are you using?  I just ask because I've never heard of a halter done in slinky knit that didn't call for elastic around the armhole.  Try it on in front of a mirror, you may need the elastic anyway.    Triple stitch zigzag, turn once and use double needle topstitching.     Val

    1. surya | | #3

      McCalls 5424

      1. User avater
        CostumerVal | | #4

        A halter with a cowl neckline and back loop.  Way Cool!  I didn't know it had that back strap.  That's a good looking dress, and now I can see why it doesn't require elastic at the armscye.

        O.K.  The "straight stitch, roll once, straight stitch, roll again, edge stitch" should work here.  I think.  I've got a serger, so you see, I roll hem, roll twice, and finish with a 1mm zigzag-needle position half left, with a 3 groove pintuck foot.  But that's alot of equipment for a simple hem job.  The "foolproof" method would be straight stitch 1/8th" from the edge, roll once, straight stitch again on top of previous stitching, trim close, roll again and hand whip stitch.  Try doing the machine method on scrap.  I personally can't justify hand stitching with $1k worth of machines sitting there.  Val

  2. proegge | | #2

    Hi Sun-

    When I made a dress in slinky knit, it also had narrow hems.  All I can say is, pins, pins, and more pins!  That's what I ended up doing-I had pins about every half inch.  And I took it pretty slow with the machine, pulling just a bit both front and back to keep it tight. 

    I have yet to decide if I will sew with slinky again!  Hope that helps.


  3. Teaf5 | | #5

    A jersey knit isn't going to fray like a woven, so you probably need only a single fold, not a double fold for the narrow hem.  If you keep this single fold to less than 3/8", the stretch in the jersey should allow you to fold it up and press. 

    Starching may have stopped the stretching action, so at the sharpest part of the curve, you might need to snip the seam allowance to make it lie flat.  Cello tape and pins work well to hold knits in place for stitching.

    For narrow hems, I always use a very, very light presser foot tension and loose thread tensions, and always stitch with the right side of the garment up so that any curling will be to the inside.

    1. surya | | #6

      Oh, that's a good point to try a single fold sometime. It could be less bulky that way too. Yeah, it can be fussy under the presser foot and get smashed out of shape. That is a good tip too about making the pressure on the foot less. Thanks!

  4. tmorris1 | | #7


    I would go with the stitch, turn, trim, stitch method...but if all else fails, and you are not able to tame your fabric, you may wish to go with a bias binding. Sometimes you just have to put the instructions down and wing it lol!!

    Happy sewing...


  5. User avater
    DonMcCunn | | #8

    Two suggestions:

    1. Finish the edge with fold-over elastic. I just discovered this stuff and it is great. You can either use it for a contrasting edge or you can cover the seam and turn the fold-over elastic to the inside and top stitch. Goes around curved seams wonderfully.

    2. The other solution is fusible thread. I use it for all my narrow hems. You put it in the bobbin, sew a line of stay stitching with the good side up, then press along the stay stitching. It fuses the two fabrics so you can trim your seam allowance real close to the stay stitching and roll and top stitch your final hem.

    Don McCunn

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