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ways to hem napkins with precision?

kathryn | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

Does anyone have a tried & true method of edge-hemming napkins? I am making dozens of large square napkins as presents, and am wondering if there is a tool or process that can help me double fold the edges in 1/2 inch folds (to total 1″). Right now I press it at 1″, and then fold that edge under again and press, but the linen looks wobbly at the edge. Since I am making them rather large at 22″, the lines are not consistently straight unless I mark the fabric every few inches, which is very time consuming.  I have a sewing gauge that I have used for clothing hemming, but I would love to know if anyone has a quicker yet accurate alternative process. How are they so straight in store-bought versions?? Thanks very much for any ideas! -Kate


  1. stitcher | | #1

    When iiam pressing such an hem, I often mark a piece of light weight card stock and lay that under the fold and press the fabric to my mark. This works something like one of those flat aluminium hem guages made by dritz. Its free and specific to my project then I pitch it

  2. Oceana | | #2

    I look forward to your replies as I have a similar issue.  I'm making linen table runners and unless the grain is absolutely straight it is hard to get a good fold.  The fabric also behaves differently along the straight v the length, again getting the grain straight is critical.

    1. kathryn | | #11

      after trying many methods over the past few weeks, the best result for hemming napkins was just as my mom (who taught me to sew) and another reply mentioned below: to sew a straight stitch border around the entire edge, and then press to that edge. i was hesitant to do that extra work, thinking it would take so much longer, but in the end it made it so efficient that it was certainly worth it. i sewed a basting stitch around all 4 sides just using the machine plate guides as markers (about 1"), and then was able to iron there as the first fold, and refold the raw edge under again (1/2"). i mitered the corners by pressing them at the same time, and then was able to sew a finish final stich around the entire 4-edge box at one time, and they looked really lovely, and pretty perfect.

      i did not want the informal edge of just a serged hem, and i also tried a roll-hem foot which was VERY frustrating. essencially i think the roll-hem foot works best as mentioned in the discussion, for a skirt hem or otherwise continuous edge; not for turning corners. also, the roll hem seemed ideal for lightweight cottons, and not for the medium weight linen that i was using.

      thanks, everyone, for your feedback!


      1. Josefly | | #12

        Thanks for letting us know what worked best in the end. Your description of the method is easy to visualize and remember, and I plan to use it on some napkins myself.

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    Have you tried a hemming foot? They come in different widths and give very consistent and fast results. A hemming foot has a curved metal flange on the front/top into which you feed a single fold hem. The flange folds the raw edge under just before the needle hits it so that you only need to press one fold beforehand (although often I use it without any pre-pressing at all).

    1. lynnmcd | | #5

      I've been thinking about getting the hem foot for my machine, but have questions about it. If you're hemming nhapkins, how do you go around corners? If you're hemming a skirt, what do you do when you get to where you started? Do you have to finish a bit manually so it doesn't try to roll up the section that's already been hemmed?


      1. Teaf5 | | #7

        On napkins, I leave the needle in the corner, then ease the new edge into the flange as I turn it and continue stitching along the new side. The continuous thread pulls up the corner a bit so that it isn't messy. When I come to the end of the fourth row, I just keep going, right off the edge, and the first rolled hem ends up rolled inside the final one.On a skirt, I try to make the join in an area that won't be very noticeable, like just behind the side seam. I stitch all the way around, and as I approach the end, just veer off a little. This leaves a tiny V on the wrong side of the hem, but doesn't show on the right side.Whenever either of these methods leaves a little raw edge, I either trim it off (the stitching prevents fraying anyway) or tack it with a few hand stitches. No matter what, I would certainly be hoping that whoever is using the napkins will be far more interested in the food and dinner conversation than in inspecting my handiwork!

        1. lynnmcd | | #8

          Thanks - I can't wait to try it!

      2. suesew | | #9

        When you get to wheree you started on a skirt hem, you sew up just as close to where you started as you can, put the needle down, raise thepresser foot and pull the fabric to the right a little until the folded fabric pops out of the foot. Because the fabric is rolled and folded in front of and behind the foot, the fabric usually stays tucked right in its roll and you can simply stitch that last inch in place without changing feet. If the fabric doesn't stay rolled it is easy to ease it into place and then stitch it down.

  4. user-109453 | | #4

    The method I use for hemming straight edges might be useful.  I sew a straight seam at the fold lines, then press.  The stitching stabilizes the edge just enough for a crisp boundary.


  5. Kiley | | #6

    I just do a rolled hem on my serge and they are done in minutes.

  6. svaughn | | #10

    When I sew napkins I will either do a rolled hem with my serger, or if hemming with a sewing machine I will do a mitered corner.  Here is a link on how to do one.


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