I believe one of the most forgotten about fit issue is hem length on garments. Let’s face it, your garments finished hem length is not sexy. It is usually pushed way down on the priority list after crotch curve and bust adjustments. Which is sucking up all of our time and brain power. Hem length is an easy fit adjustment to identify and tackle.
Golden Thimble Nugget Tip: Tackle the easy fit stuff first, which includes all the lengths of the pattern starting with the hems! (Length and your bone structure does not change. As opposed to around your body which measures the squishy stuff.)
H em Challenge
If you don’t think you need to fit your hem length, I challenge you too look at your finished garments more closely. Start by looking at the front of the pattern envelope. Study the front and see where the hem length is on the model. If you are 5’10” your hem should match up pretty closely to the pattern envelope model. If not, you will need to make leg length adjustments. Plenty of times I have tried to make a pair of capri length pants and they have ended up to be ankle depth!
Change your pattern mindset
Patterns are drafted to fit their “average” person. They need one set of measurements to accomplish their goal of producing patterns for the masses. Patterns are wonderful! They give us shortcuts and templates for design, however they do not fit ANYONE . This is ok! We sew to get a custom fit! Which means, we need to make some adjustments to the pattern to fit our bodies perfectly.
What not to do
When I started sewing, my method for figuring out my finished hem length from the pattern piece is cringe worthy. I will share.
First, I would place the pant or skirt pattern piece up against my body at the waist. I would then walk the pattern down my leg, as I bent over to find the bottom.
The biggest problem with this is, your body moves away from the pattern piece. Your pattern piece is unintentional moving further down on your leg. Producing a false finished hem length measurement.
I would over compensate on how much I really needed to shorten the pattern. My skirts I wanted to be above the knee, they became micro mini skirts. I would then overcompensate on the hem depth and instead being 1 1/4″ hem depth, would be more like 1/2″ hem to get the right length for me. There is an easier way to figure this out which is 100% more accurate!
Measure Method Using a Superboard/Grid Mat
1. Find your waist and measure to the floor. (This part requires a partner)
- Tie a piece of elastic around your waist. (Bend to the side, this hinge point is your natural waist)
- Elastic should be level all the way around your body.
- Stand on a solid surface. Do not stand on carpet, carpet a little give and your measurement will be inaccurate.
- Stand up straight and hold the end of the tape measure at your waist level by your side seam.
- (Partner needed here) The other end of the tape measure will touch the floor. The tape measure should be taught. Have your partner read the measurement at the floor.
2. Use a grid cutting mat and place your pattern piece on it.
- 0 on the mat is the floor (y axis)
- Place your pattern piece at the waist level, which is the number you found in step one.
- Your pattern should have waist level mark, which does not include seam allowance.
- Your sideseam should be touching the grid along the (x axis)
3. Fold up the hem on your pattern piece
4. Measure the distance from the floor(0) to your hem
5. Stand on solid flooring and use a hard ruler. Place the 0 on the floor and measure up from the floor (step 4 measurement)
6. This is your garments finished hem length on your body!
Now you can figure out any adjustments needed to your pattern piece!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me anytime, I am here to help with all the sewing details.
When I come across something too good not to share, I love to send these tips and tricks to my sewing friends. To be notified of “golden nugget thimble” goodness, click here to send me your info. (Don’t worry I only share the good stuff!!)
Published: Jun 20, 2016 · Modified: Jan 30, 2020 by Christina Dennis · This post may contain affiliate links · This blog generates income via ads · 9 Comments
I LOVE wearing maxi dresses in the summer. They’re so comfy and breezy. they’re a summer wardrobe staple around here! My only problem is that I’m pretty short – 5’3 ½” – so every maxi dress or skirt I buy is way too long. Hemming skirts has become a necessity for me, and today I want to show you how to hem a dress or skirt with NO sewing required. It’s such a handy skill to have in your DIY arsenal – especially if you’re a shorty pants like me!
I found this dress from my friend’s online Silver Icing shop right here. Isn’t it pretty?! It’s just much too long on me!
To quickly hem any maxi dress or skirt, put it on with the shoes that you’ll wear with it. With this dress, I know I’ll only wear flat sandals.
Next, bend over and fold up the hem of the dress to where you want the hem to sit. Then, mark the fold with stick pins. I put one pin on each side of the dress.
JUMP TO THE PRINTABLE INSTRUCTIONS
Take the dress off and lay it on a cutting surface. Measure from the original dress hem to the pins, and then subtract 1 ½” from that measurement. 1″ of that is for the hem, and the ½” is to add a teeny bit of extra length just in case your measurement was a bit off. Measure and cut off that amount from the bottom of your dress. My pins measured 6″ from the original hem, so I cut 4 ½” off the dress.
Put the dress on an ironing board and fold the entire raw edge of the new hem under ½” and press with a hot iron. Fold it over another ½” and press again.
Next, grab some hem tape (I use Heat N’ Bond) and insert it into the hem as shown above. Press the hem again to activate the hem tape. On a light fabric, you usually only have to hold the iron over the hem + hem tape for about 10 seconds. Continue on in this way all around the hem, ensuring that the hem tape is adhering the the fabric as you go.
Finally, flip the skirt or dress to its right side and iron the hem again for good measure. All done! Now wasn’t that easy?!
Follow this step by step guide to sewing a hem on a skirt or dress.
Hey y’all, today we’re going to talk about how to hem a skirt. Have you ever watched Project Runway and seen Nina and the others criticize a crooked hemline? Hems are the quickest way to take your garment from handmade to homemade, and not in a good way. But you’re not doomed to an uneven hem, even if you’re a beginner sewist. In this tutorial I’m going to share why uneven hems happen and tips and tricks to avoid them.
Steps to Hem a Dress or Skirt
Time needed: 30 minutes.
How to Sew a Hem on a Skirt or Dress
Depending on your skirt silhouette and fabric used, you might need to even out the bottom before hemming your skirt. Read below for more details and tips on how to do that.
Fold up the raw edge
All hems start with turning the bottom edge to the wrong side, usually turning the fabric twice to enclose the raw edge. You can also pin, clip or press the hem to hold it in place until it’s stitched.
You can use a straight stitch, a blind hem stitch, or even hand sew the hem. The right choice depends on your fabric and pattern. Unless you want contrast stitching, be sure to use thread that matches your fabric in both the needle and the bobbin.
Even if you pressed the hem after you folded it to the inside, another press of the folded edge after stitching will help it look professional.
What causes an uneven hem?
With only 4 steps in the process to sew skirt hems, the concept is pretty straightforward. An even hem starts with precise cutting and sewing, and I’m going to assume you did those steps. So how come even when you’re super careful, you can end up with a bottom edge that looks like the one below?
Well, the skirt hanging above is a circle skirt. And the illustration below shows what happens with the grain in a circle skirt. The black arrows at 12 and 6 o’clock show the straight grain, which runs parallel to the selvedges. The blue arrows at 9 and 3 o’clock show the cross grain, perpendicular to the selvages. And the red arrows show the bias grain, which is at a 45 degree angle from both the straight and cross grains. Those areas are the ones you can see hanging lower in the image above.
Why is grainline important? Well, the grainlines drape and stretch at different rates. Think about how bias tape can stretch slightly, even though it’s typically made of woven fabric. Add gravity and you can see how the hem that was even when laying flat becomes uneven when hanging. Which is also why it’s a good idea to let a skirt with any parts on the bias grain hang overnight before hemming.
This happens to a greater or lesser extent based on the drape of the fabric, the weight, the weave, and the silhouette of the skirt. All other things being equal, a line skirts will have less of an issue, circle skirts will have a bigger issue. And pencil skirts generally don’t have this issue at all.
So how do you deal with the unevenness? Well, first, if you are using a fabric with a lot of drape to make a very full skirt, allow extra fabric at the hem. You can always cut it shorter, but you can’t add fabric at the hem easily.
Next, I lay the skirt flat and do a quick hack of the parts that are very obviously longer, as shown below. You can use a measuring tape or a ruler and measure from the waistline to help you in this step.
At this point, it’s important to try on the skirt. This goes for any shape skirt – try it on before hemming to make sure the front and back are even. Make sure the skirt is sitting evenly all around the waist, then check the bottom. Skirts that are cut straight can might hang higher in the back because of a full rear end. They might hang higher in the front due to a full stomach. Side seams might be higher if you have a pronounced curve between your waist and hips. Everyone’s lower body shape is unique, so it’s important to actually have the skirt on if you want a level hem. So try your skirt on, let it flow over your lower half, and then mark the hem.
Marking the Hem
This is one of those times that it helps to have another person or even a dress form so that you can mark the hem. You can try sewing pins to pin the hem on yourself, but that can get tricky. Another person who can use a hem gauge is better. But when you’re working alone without a form, here’s another trick. It works better with a washable marker than with a chalk pen because less pressure is needed to get a mark.
Using the trick above will mark the hem at the same level from your waistband all the way around. It accounts for your body curves while you’re doing in, since it is a measurement from floor level while wearing the skirt and not a measurement from the waistband while the skirt is laying flat. Once you have it all marked out, then you can lay it flat and evenly cut the hem.
Tips for Stitching the Hem
This post has already gotten quite long on how to get your hemline level. So for specific hem stitching techniques, check out this post. That post has explanations and examples of double folded hems, blind hem stitches, rolled hems, twin needle hems, decorative hems, and bias tape hem techniques. It also talks about the pros and cons of each type of hem and when you would use it.
Aurora Sisneros teaches you how to hem a skirt as well as provides helpful tips and techniques on hemming a skirt. Learn how to ensure your skirt is the same length in the front and in the back. Also, find out the importance of having a friend available to assist you in the process of hemming your skirt.
16 Responses to “How to Hem a Skirt”
Great video Aurora! You are fantastic on camera!
I would like to know where I can buy the floor hemmer? I live in VA. and have not been able to find it.
Where can I purchase the floor hemming tool that was shown on the video. I live in Houston, Texas.
Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-
If you are unable to find one at your local craft or fabric store, you should be able to find them online through retailers like Amazon or Nancy’s Notions.
With a tiered skirt, I prefer to adjust the skirt from the waist line and keep the seams of the tiers parallel to the floor. It is a bit more work if the skirt is already made. If you are making the skirt from a pattern the adjustment can be made in the pattern or on your muslin. It provides a much nicer look.
I just watched how to hem a skirt and your demonstrator did this from the bottom edge of the skirt making it very obvious that the skirt was hemmed. Why not shorten each flounce the required amount so that it never looked as though it was hemmed. That is the professional way to do this hem and the way I would do for it any client.
Hi Maria. If the skirt was too long and you were hemming it as a way to shorten it-you are correct that it would be better to shorten each section so there isn’t one that is significantly smaller than the rest. For this tutorial, we were intending to demonstrate how to hem a skirt that was just sewn, and the last thing to do would be to hem it. The instructor was also demonstrating how to use a tool such as a hem marker.
Good video. Were can the hemming tool used in video be purchased?
Hi We have these on our website, very handy!
is that a dress form that she’s using? How would this work for those of us that don’t have a dress form (this video apparently assumes). Thanks.
This technique works on all skirt designs except the one on which you used it. With a tiered gathered skirt such as this one if there is a difference in length between the back and the front your bottom ruffle would be uneven. If there is a yoke on the skirt the adjustment should be at the bottom of the yoke or at the waist before elastic casing is made or a waistband is applied. The unevenness between back and front would then go unnoticed (In my many years of teaching I have found the techniques I suggest work for the majority of students)
I searched the internet for the hemming tool and could only come up with a “Vintage” tool by Dritz for $60. Are these still made and, if so, where can I find one?
Thank you for contacting us. If you google Stand alone measuring stick for sewing hems, you will find that they range in price from about $35.00 all the way upwards of a $100.00 or more.
If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-208-7187, or chat with us on our site.
We greatly appreciate your business!
National Sewing Circle Video Membership
Ticket 36240 WHAT IS THE TOOL YOU ARE USING TO HEM YOUR SKIRT?
The name of the tool is Vintage Orco Pin-It Skirt Marker Sewing Hem Measuring Tool.
Please let us know if you have any further questions
National Sewing Circle Video Membership
Wow! That’s even husband-proof! (I had my husband help me cut a formal dress for hemming once. He did a super job, but it was scary!)
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This is it, the hem is all we have left in our skirt series! Hemming a pencil skirt is just like hemming anything else. You measure, press, and then stitch it down. Ready? Let’s finish this up and move on to our next wardrobe staple!
The first thing you want to do is to finish the raw edge of the fabric. You have several options that I cover in this post on How To Finish Raw Edges on Sewing Seams. They include trimming the edges with pinking shears, Serging around the edge with your serger or a zig-zag stitch or overcast stitch around the edge. If you leave the edge of the fabric unfinished you will notice the fabric will fray over time with each washing and drying. Finishing your edges takes just a bit of time and really does give your garment a more professionally finished look.
Measuring and Pressing Under the Hem
If you’ve read my blog or watched a few of my videos you can probably guess I’m going to say “grab your EZY hem”. That’s because it really is one of the handiest tools. For the pencil skirt, we are going to press the hem under ½” and then press that fold under ½”. You can use pins or hem tape to secure the hem prior to sewing.
If you don’t have an EZY hem use your seam gauge to ensure you have an even hem.
The hem can be finished by hand if you desire. A blind hem would be the best choice if stitching by hand. I am not a fan of hand sewing but I know many people prefer it for hems.
Machine sewing is my by far my preferred method for just about any stitch. Most sewing machines now come with a variety of built-in stitches and specialty feet to make sewing just about anything easier.
Folded Edge Hem
This is probably the simplest type of hem and the one used for more casual garments or where it won’t matter if the stitching line shows. Most of the garments I make are casual so I don’t mind that if someone got very close and examined my hem they would be able to see the stitching on the hemline.
- As described above fold the hem over ½”, press and then fold over again ½”. The fabric should be folded over from the right side to the wrong side.
- Set your machine for either a straight stitch or if desired a decorative stitch. Stitch as close to the top fold as you can. Some presser feet have guides to make this easier. If you don’t have one you can use the outer edge of your all-purpose foot.
- Make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end.
- Trim the threads and give the hem a quick press.
With a double-fold or folded edge hem, the bobbin stitches show on the outside of the skirt. You will want to choose the bobbin thread accordingly.
If you have questions about any of the steps let me know in the comments section or over in the private Facebook group.
As we end this series I want to give a big thanks to all the ladies that have been following along and giving me feedback! I appreciate it so much. Also, to those that are testing the pencil skirt pattern we are getting ready to release! Thant’s right, for those that have no desire to draft a skirt next week our Pencil Skirt pattern, will available to purchase. Best of all you’ll have a set of videos to walk you through step-by-step as you sew. I’ve had a group of ladies, in varies sizes testing this pattern to help ensure a great fit.
HOW TO SHORTEN AND HEM A MAXI SKIRT
You know how most of the maxi skirts come super super long? Well, if you are short like me, they do. haha Usually dragging on the floor, and I have no option but to hem them or roll them up at the waist. I’m sure there are several out there with this similar problem! Here’s a quick tutorial on how to get your skirt the length you want it and how to hem it. Very very simple, even for beginner seamstresses!
This particular skirt was on clearance for a grand $5. Whoo hoo. Good find. And like most, was well past my ankles and onto the floor. Since we are heading into some hot muggy weather for the next several months here in east TN, I wanted to make this skirt a little shorter than most of my others. It turned out a few inches below my knee, just where I had hoped!
First you will need to figure out how much you need to cut off. This can be done a couple of ways. Try standing in front of a full length mirror and holding a yard stick or measuring device to the floor. If your skirt is onto the floor, this doesn’t work so well. You can place a pin where you want the skirt to end and measure from the bottom up after you have taken it off and laid it out flat.
I simply got another skirt that I wanted this one to turn out like, and measured the length of that skirt.
You will need to factor in one inch for the hem, so decrease the inches you want to cut off by 1.
Like… I wanted this skirt 11 1/2 inches shorter than it was, so I knew I needed to cut off 10 1/2 in, leaving me 1 in for my hem.
To cut off the lower portion on the skirt, slide it onto your ironing board, measure up from the bottom and draw a line with a sewing marker.
This is my most favorite sewing tool ever. It is basically a fine point chalk pen. I have the yellow chalk. The fine point makes your markings very visible and easy to follow when sewing or cutting. Clover sells packages of refill chalk too, which is super convenient! Check them out here.
Once you mark your cutting line, grab your sewing scissors and cut away!
Now, turn the skirt inside out, slide it onto the ironing board, and fold up one inch from the bottom. Lightly press and pin through both layers of the skirt.
Choose a matching color of thread and get your sewing machine threaded. We are going to do 2 lines of stitching, so it looks like a professional finished hem. Our first line of stitching will be 7/8″ from the folded edge. Be careful not to stretch your knit fabric too much while sewing. Just let it feed itself through the machine.
Finish off the thread and line your skirt up for the second line of stitching. This time, I lined up the left side of the foot with the stitching line I just made.
This makes the lines of stitching 1/4″ apart. Be sure to finish of your thread. And you now have a skirt the length you need it! See how easy.
Add to List
Tulle skirts are having their fashion moment. Tutu-like garments are shown styled for both casual and dressy occasions and, in every case, are fun to wear. Making your own isn’t difficult. However, a tulle skirt typically has several layers of gathered fabric, and this can pose a problem when it comes to cutting an even, neat hem. I’ve made and hemmed lots of tulle skirts and want to share a few tips for sewing, pressing, and hemming them.
Fabric and design
Tulle is a thin, net fabric, typically synthetic but also available in silk. It can be a solid color or have a sparkly finish applied to it. Net or netting is a stiffer fabric with more body and is usually used to make petticoats. When purchasing tulle or net, be sure there are no big wrinkles (usually near the end of the bolt) as these can be difficult to remove. Tulle looks darker with several layers; keep this in mind when selecting tulle fabric.
A tulle skirt can be designed from several rectangular layers of tulle cut to the same dimensions. This is a “princess” shaped skirt with a lot of fullness at the waist. Alternatively, the skirt can be cut in an “A” shape, with some of the fullness removed from waist to hip. Sometimes the tulle layers are different in volume, with a fuller top layer over slightly less full underlayers.
You can easily design your own skirt, but if you prefer to use a pattern, try Simplicity 1427 by Andrea Schewe (don’t miss Andrea’s video tutorial on arm mobility.)
Tulle is a semitransparent fabric. I prefer to sew it with thread that’s a bit lighter in color. Because the top and bobbin threads interlock, the finished seam can look like a dark line. You can use clear thread for an invisible seamline, but clear thread can be challenging to work with. I recommend against serging, as a serged seam is very conspicuous. It is best to make a few seam samples before sewing your skirt, to see what you find pleasing. Remember that your skirt is made of several layers. A sewn seam may look conspicuous in one layer, yet blend into the skirt when all the layers are together. Backstitch to secure the seam at both ends.
I recommend pressing seam allowances open. A press cloth is a must. You run the risk of melting the tulle if the iron is too hot. I often use a piece of tissue paper as a press cloth. A square of silk organza works well, too. It is a bit transparent and makes it easier to see what you’re pressing.
Hemming a tulle skirt
This final step in making a tulle skirt is where you might find yourself a little overwhelmed. Controlling several layers of springy, gathered, sheer fabric takes patience, but is doable. If all the layers have the same hem circumference, you’ll pin and cut them together, following these instructions. If the layers have different hem circumferences, you’ll need to mark and cut them individually.
1. Prepare the layers. Begin by steaming the skirt, or pressing with a press cloth, so all the layers are smooth and unwrinkled.
2. Secure the layers. Hand-baste or pin the layers together from the waist to the bottom edge, placing a line of pins or stitching about 12 inches apart. Hand-basting is the most time-consuming method, but also the most secure.
Pinning is faster, but requires some care in handling.
Straight sewing pins don’t stay very well in tulle, so I cut small rectangles of felt, and pin through them. They give the pins something to grab onto, and make the pins more visible.
Another option is to use long pins with large, flat heads. They stay in the fabric better than standard dressmaker pins, but you must handle the pinned skirt carefully to avoid dislodging them or injuring yourself.
3. Mark the hem. Put the garment on the wearer, and be sure she stands with her hands at her sides and looking straight ahead. Mark the hem slightly longer than you think you want the final garment. Tulle tends to spring up and shorten, and tulle skirts look better if they are longer. You can always trim off a little bit later, but you can’t put it back on.Try school chalk or wax tailor’s chalk to mark the hem, as it leaves a distinct mark that is removed easily. You may be able to use a wax crayon; if so, mark 1/2 inch below the desired hemline, so you can cut away the crayon mark. Test any marking method on a scrap to be sure you can remove any marks that end up in the wrong place.Some fabrics simply won’t take a mark from chalk or crayon. If you’re having trouble making a clear mark, pin all the way around the skirt, 1/2 inch above the desired hemline. Then cut 1/2 inch below the pins.
4. Cut the hem. The cleanest and most even edges are made with a rotary cutter or serger blade. Once you have basted or pinned all the layers together, you make just one cut. Install a fresh rotary blade, lay the skirt on a cutting mat, and cut along the marked hemline with a smooth motion.How do you use a serger to cut? Simply unthread the serger and then run the skirt through, letting the serger’s knife cut just above the chalk or crayon marks.If you must use scissors, do so with the skirt on the wearer or on a dress form. First, cut with a pair of shears, in smooth, even strokes. There will be some small, jagged bits of tulle where you stopped and started. Simply even up the jagged bits with a small pair of scissors.
5. Resew the seam ends. In cutting the hem, you will have trimmed off the backstitching that secured the bottom of the seams. By hand or machine, restitch the bottom few inches of the seams, backstitching when you reach the hem edge. If you don’t backstitch or reinforce the seams at the hemline they will come undone quickly.
Photos: James Keller
Are you planning to follow the tulle skirt trend? If so, how will you style your skirt? If not, why not?
This article was co-authored by David Pew. David Pew is a Professional Tailor and the Owner of Sew Generously based in Seattle, Washington. With over a decade of experience, David specializes in bespoke tailoring and alterations. He uses his experiences, skills, and eye for detail to produce the highest quality of products.
This article has been viewed 152,278 times.
Unless you have an unlimited clothing budget that allows you to discard clothing as soon as it needs mending, at some point you may need to repair or hem an article of clothing. Hemming gives fabric a finished, clean edge and helps clothes last longer by preventing unraveling. There are several ways to sew a hem depending on what you want the finished look to appear like, but the double-fold hem and blind stitch hem are most common. Although neither is difficult, they both take a bit of practice to master.
Professional Tailor Expert Interview. 5 January 2021.
Keep the stitches loose on the hem. If they’re tight, they’ll make the bottom of the pants look puckered.  X Expert Source
December 16, 2020 By Linda Reynolds & filed under Sewing Blog.
If you’re going to sew your own clothes — or even alter store-bought ones — you have to know how to hem. The good news is it’s a super easy skill to pick up, as the bottom edge is simply turned up and stitched into place. (Things get more complicated when dealing with extras like lining, a kick pleat or a cuff.) The method below can be used whether you’re hemming a dress, a pair of pants, a skirt, a sleeve — anything you put your mind to!
How to Hem a Garment
What You Need
1. Determine the Placement
The hardest part of hemming is figuring out where you want the hem to be. So try on the garment and pin the hem to where you think you want it to be. Make any adjustments necessary, moving the hem up and down, until you settle on a placement you love.
Pro Tip: An easy way to hem a garment for yourself is to replicate the hem length of a similar garment you have in your closet. Simply measure it and use as a guide for your new creation.
2. Pin It Up
Pin the excess fabric up to the underside, around the circumference of the garment. Try on the garment again and make sure the hem is pinned evenly all around.
With the pins still in place, press the hemline so the crease holds even once the pins are removed. If you’re working with a fabric that doesn’t hold a crease well, hand baste the hem in place about ½” from the folded hemline edge. Remove all pins.
Good to Know: A hem can be any width you want, but for guidance, pant hems should be around 1¼–1½” and dress or skirt hems around 1½–2″.
Measure and mark your hem with a fabric pen or chalk. Use that mark as your guide to cut away excess fabric.
5. Finish the Raw Edges
You want to secure a hem that’s invisible from the right side of the garment. There are essentially three ways to finish a plain hem, and the type of fabric you’re using will determine the appropriate approach.
For standard types of fabric, like cotton, serging the edge is the easiest approach and will produce a clean finish. The serged stitching will prevent the raw edges from fraying and provides a medium for the final hand stitching.
For light- to medium-weight fabrics, use a turned edge: fold under the top raw edge of the hem by ¼” and press in place. Stitch the folded edge down 1/16″ to ⅛” from the fold (more details on stitching the hem are below).
Pro Tip: For the turned edge method, test on a piece of scrap fabric first to make sure the added bulk of the double layer of fabric doesn’t bleed through to the right side when pressed.
For heavier fabrics, fabrics that fray excessively or are too bulky to handle a turned edge, use hem tape. This keeps the fraying in check, conceals an otherwise unattractive edge and prevents a bulky hem edge from bleeding through to the right side of the garment. Finish by stitching the tape to your hem.
How to Slip Stitch a Hem
The secret to a well-executed hem? A slip stitch. If done properly, it’s hardly visible from the right side and produces a secure hem. You can also use a zigzag stitch, as pictured above.
1. Prep Your Thread
Position the garment so the hem is turned up and facing you. (You’re going to sew from right to left.) Thread a needle with roughly a 20″ length of thread. Knot one end of a single thread.
Pro Tip: To strengthen and prevent the thread from knotting up, run it through some beeswax and iron before knotting.
Insert the needle into the hem’s top edge, starting from the underside and going up through the top of the hem edge. Notice the needle placement is roughly ⅛” or less from the hem edge.
3. Make the First Stitch
Take a tiny stitch directly above where you inserted the thread, at the garment base. Only pick up a small amount of fabric. (We’re talking one or two threads.) The resulting stitch should be quite small and perfectly vertical.
4. Keep Stitching
Angle the needle to enter the hem approximately ½” from the first stitch. Bring the needle up at the 6 o’clock position and repeat the process described in steps 2 and 3.
Continue this process across the hem, making sure only a thread or two is captured each time and the spacing between each stitch is consistent. On the right side of the garment, only small, evenly-spaced pick stitches should be visible. If applying on lofty or dense fabrics, the stitches will likely be invisible.
2 Responses to “This Is the Basic Hemming Technique Every Sewist Needs to Know”
sometimes you have to go back and review the basics – this is a great way to do that!
Hey, y’all! First things first, you’ll have to pardon my radio silence this week. Ty and I went to Oklahoma last weekend, so my usual weekend catch-up/photography/blog writing days were spent on the road. I’ve got a quick post for you today, and then lots and lots of fun things coming up next week and into October. I’ve finished a number of fall projects, so I’m really excited to show you what I’ve been working on.
Last week, I showed you how to level a hem on a circle skirt (or a skirt in a delicate fabric). To kind of bring everything full circle (ha!), I thought it would be a good idea to show you how to hem this type of skirt. Every once in a while I’ll get asked about this, and it’s one of the easiest things to do. For this project you’ll need your skirt that has been leveled, an iron, a hem gauge, and thread.
If you’re sewing a full or circle skirt, there’s no need for a deep hem. I happen to love the look of a deep hem on a lot of things, but it’s unnecessary on a circle skirt. If you want to spend the extra time and effort on a hem facing, go for it. It would be fantastic if you’re working on an evening gown or a couture piece, but for our purposes, you don’t need more than 3/4″ for the hem. Remember that the sweep of a full skirt can be quite significant, so you don’t want to make things more difficult for yourself if you don’t have to.
This hem is completed in three easy steps: turn up 3/8″, turn up 3/8″ again, and stitch. Some people turn up 1/4″ or an 1/8″ and then 3/8″ or more. None of these methods are wrong, I just happen to like mine better. Plus, I’ve been doing it for so long and hemmed hundreds of these types of skirts, so I could probably do it with my eyes closed at this point. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I digress.
Step 1: With the wrong side of your garment facing up on your ironing board, turn up and press 3/8″, all the way around.
Step 2: Press up again 3/8″, all the way around. Pin in place if you need to, but with solid pressing, you shouldn’t need to do this, especially if you’re going right to your machine after you’ve pressed the hem.
From start to finish–leveling the hem and actually hemming the garment–this takes me less than an hour. The end result is a clean, professional hem.
Isn’t it funny how quickly people can dismiss sewing as “easy” or “old fashioned”? I used to get really, really bothered when someone would say they didn’t know sewing was “a thing” anymore or assume that because I knew how to sew that I also spent my spare time in a dark basement somewhere churning butter or washing clothes on a washboard. Because that goes together? At any rate, I don’t care anymore. Sewing is a serious skill, and there’s a lot more that goes into it than people realize.
Back in the day, before all the sewing hours and experience had really added up, I was a little intimidated by hemming things. How do I do it? Is it done by hand? How much does one hem something, anyway? Turns out, just like everything else, there’s tons of different ways to do things and different projects call for different hems.
Have you ever noticed a dress or a skirt in a store with a funny looking hem? Uneven or longer in some spots? I have, and I even bought one once because it was linen and floral and pretty and I had to have it. I also knew it was an easy fix.
Sometimes, full skirts and certain fabrics (chiffon, charmeuse, linen, rayon, and others) will “fall” on the bias and require a leveling off before you can hem it. You can make changes to your pattern to account for this, but I think it’s better to cut it as you normally would and just level it off after you’ve sewn it. No need for the headache of figuring out the pattern for that. (I try to avoid headaches whenever possible.)
If you’re working with one of those tricky fabrics that may need to be leveled, or if you have a full skirt, this post is for you. Don’t be intimidated–it’s really easy! There’s a little tool that basically does all the work for you.
My hem marker is vintage, and quite short (so I park it on an upside down trash can to raise it up). JoAnn and others sells a modern version of this tool , but instead of using pins like mine it uses chalk to mark where the hem should be cut. Still does the same job. In addition to a hem marker you will need the following for this project: pins, measuring tape, and fabric scissors.
The dress I’m hemming in this post is one that I almost didn’t want to finish once Labor Day rolled around and I started having all the feels for fall, but it was already cut out and I have all the stars in my eyes for that gorgeous print. Plus, it’s Texas so it’s not like the fall weather has made it’s way down here just yet, so I can squeeze in a few more days of summery clothes.
I cut this dress to finish to midi length, but after trying it on I decided that I wanted it a little shorter, knee length. Because the dress sits at my natural waist, I could just measure from there to my desired length and mark it with a pin. Also, this is a full circle, which makes it even easier to mark and hem by myself, which is to say that if something is off by hair it won’t be noticeable. Oftentimes, this little project is a two person job, with a model wearing the garment while a tailor carefully marks the hem.
Notice that I’ve pinned at 25.75″, which will give me a 25″ length after it’s been hemmed. Now, I use my hem marker and adjust it to the spot of my pin, and then I pin all the way around the skirt in the same spot.
Following your pins or chalk marks, carefully trim the excess.
Ta-da! Leveled and ready to be hemmed. In case you’re wondering, this pattern is Vogue 9197 with a self drafted circle skirt. I’ll be dedicating a post to the dress next week, so stay tuned for the finished project. Let me know if you have any questions, and have a great weekend!
Whether you want to sew yourself a circular skirt, a round tablecloth, or a Christmas tree skirt, a circular piece of fabric can create a bigger challenge than its rectangular counterparts when it comes to hemming. Lucky for you, we’ve got a few tips up our sleeve to take the guesswork out of sewing a circular hem!
How to Sew a Circular Hem
Sew a basting seam ¼ inch in from the raw edge of the entire piece of fabric. This will help you stabilize your hem and make it easier to keep the hem even as you go around. Keep your thread tight for this – if it slightly gathers your fabric, that’s actually going to help you out in the next steps.
If your basting seam doesn’t gather your fabric, pull on the threads a little bit to gather it by hand. The point in doing this is that the circumference of the fabric is actually a little bit bigger on the raw edge than it will be in the position of your final hem, so you want to gather the fabric slightly on the raw edges to make it match the circumference of the hemmed position.
Fold the fabric under (toward the wrong side) all along this basting stitch line, and press it in place.
Fold the fabric on itself again, pressing and pinning in place. This fold should measure the final size of your desired hem.
Now that you know how to keep your circular hem pucker free what will you make? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is a new Christmas tree skirt!
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Hi Heather. Can you explain what a “thread gauge” is please.
A thread gauge is a device used to measure the width or size of thread. You can find more information about them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thread_pitch_gauge
Hope that helps!
Thanks for rolled hem info. It really helped me.
I’m always having issues with round hem, this will definitely help. I’m going to save it
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
- Total Time: 1 hr – 2 hrs, 30 mins
- Skill Level: Beginner
Unless you’re going for a high-low look, there’s no reason to have a wavy or uneven hem on your skirt or dress. Use this step-by-step tutorial to ensure that your skirt or dress looks professionally tailored—or shorten a hem to the length that you prefer for an updated look on an old favorite.
Whether you’re making your own clothes, shortening a hemline, or simply altering a skirt or dress for a better fit, the hem can make all the difference. It’s not as simple as cutting the fabric straight across the bottom, but when you start with the right measurements, you’re sure to have success.
What You’ll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Sewing gauge
- Tailor’s chalk or washable marking pen
- Fabric shears
- Skirt or dress
- Ribbon or Lace (enough to match the hem circumference)
- Matching Thread
Plan the Hem
Start with a skirt (or dress) that has an unfinished hem. If you’re sewing your own clothing piece, be sure to leave at least an extra inch or two of fabric. To alter a finished skirt or dress, unpick the hem or cut it off. Again, it’s best to have extra fabric to work with, especially if you have more curves.
Try the skirt on and make sure it sits on your body as you will wear it. Notice the areas that are uneven.
Decide where you want the finished hem to land.
It’s helpful to have a friend assist with the measuring process, but a dress form that matches your measurements also works great. Plus, dress forms often have an attachment that makes this process much easier.
Measure and Mark the Hem
Rather than measuring the fabric from the waist down, use a yardstick to measure from the floor up. This ensures that the hem is visually even all around.
Mark where you want the finished hem using pins, tailor’s chalk, or a water-soluble marking pen.
If you’re wearing the skirt, it’s important to have someone else do this for you so you aren’t bending and therefore changing how the hem hangs. If you don’t have a friend to help, Melissa of Melly Sews suggests taping the marking pen to a wall at the height you want, then letting it mark the fabric as you turn.
Mark the Cutting Line
Remove the skirt. Use a sewing gauge set to one inch to mark the cutting line below the measured and marked hemline. Use tailor’s chalk or a water-soluble pen to mark a continuous line around the skirt.
Cut along the line to remove the excess fabric.
Attach Ribbon to the Raw Edge
Choose a ribbon or lace that matches the weight of the fabric so that the hem hangs nicely, but don’t feel that it needs to match the color. Adding a pop of color or pattern contrast can be a fun detail to a hemline!
Pin the ribbon to the right side of the hem, centering the raw edge on the ribbon.
Sew the ribbon to the fabric, stitching 1/8-inch from the edge of the ribbon.
If you are hemming a circle skirt, use bias tape or ribbon so it follows the curve while keeping the hem flat.
Press and Pin up the Hem
Fold and press the hem up to the wrong side of the skirt so the fold matches the finished length you want. Use the sewing gauge again to ensure that the hem is even all the way around as you pin it in place.
This is a good time to try the skirt on again to double-check the length.
Hand Sew the Hem
Thread a hand-sewing needle with matching thread and sew the top of the ribbon to the front fabric of the skirt with blind stitch. Take tiny stitches so they don’t show much on the hem.
Press the hem once more from a crisp finish.
There are other methods for sewing the hem of a garment, just like sewing pants or even a tablecloth, including double folding the fabric and either sewing on a machine or stitching with catch stitch.
Machine sewing is much faster, but results in much more visible stitches. It’s worth taking the time to hand-sew your skirt or dress hem because it makes the finishing both special and more professional.
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Have you ever put together a garment – whether it’s a dress, a skirt, pants, or a blouse – only to notice afterwards that the hem seems to be drooping in certain areas?
It’s not necessarily the fault of the pattern. There are a few reasons you might experience this, but it’s an easy one to fix if you just follow a few simple steps every time you hem.
Why hems droop
There are two main reasons you’ll get an uneven hem:
1. The grainline.
Unless you’re making a skirt out of a rectangle, chances are that your hem falls on different grainlines. The center front might be cut on the lengthwise grain, but the side seam is on the bias (that is, a diagonal grain).
As you might know, fabric tends to stretch along the bias. As the skirt hangs, this seam stretches a bit and starts getting longer and longer.
Full skirts tend to exhibit this issue more than straight skirts, because the angle of the bias seam is more severe.
2. The body
Another reason you might see an uneven hem simply has to do with the curves of the body.
The fabric must form around the curves before reaching the hem. If, for example, the person wearing the garment has a bit of a booty, more fabric is required to cover that curve. Otherwise, you wind up with a hem that rides up in back.
How to level a hem
You should level your hem every time you make a garment, before actually doing any hemming. Here’s how.
1) Hang the garment
Hang the garment up for at least 24 hours.
This gives your fabric a chance to relax and stretch. The bias grain will stretch out overnight and you’ll have a better sense of what the fabric will look like when it’s worn.
This step is much more important if you are sewing a full hem. As I explained earlier, full hems will have more area cut on the bias while straight, narrow hems will be cut closer to the straight grain and are less prone to stretching.
2) Put the garment on
If you have a dress form that you use, put the garment on that. If not, put the garment on yourself and try to get a friend to help out.
Be sure to wear the type of shoes you plan to wear with it, so you have a better sense of the appearance of the hemline. If you are using a dress form, adjust it to the height you are with these shoes.
If you’d like, you can put the dress form on something high, like a table, to avoid crawling around on the floor.
3) Mark the length
Mark your desired length with a pin. I like to do this along a side seam, but you can also do it at the center front or anywhere else that makes sense.
If you have a skirt length that you know is flattering on you, use it! Measure that length from the natural waist and mark it on the skirt. You could get this measurement from a similar garment you have that you already like the look of. Or, put on the garment and adjust the hem to your preference.
Add hem allowance. This is the amount your hem will be turned under.
4) Meausure from the floor
Measure the distance from the floor to your pin.
I like to use a yardstick (or metre stick for those of you in civilized cultures) to measure this distance. You can also use a tape measure, but a yardstick makes it easier to measure at 90 degrees to the floor.
Measure this same distance all the way around the hem and mark, either with pins or chalk.
Now you are ready to trim off any excess fabric. Use the pins as a guideline to cut around the hem.
You are now ready to finish that raw edge and move on to the next step of hemming. Congratulations on that straight hem!
Tell me: How and when did you learn the importance of leveling out your hems?
Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.
Several of you have been wondering how to hem tulle.
This post will explain how to hem either a dress or skirt made of tulle.
Usually, I will get a dress from a customer that has the tulle only on the bottom of the dress.
This time, I received an entire dress of tulle!
It might seem very intimidating to hem a dress made of this material, but it’s actually quite easy!
First, I pinned up the lining of the dress:
In order to pin the lining, I had her stand on my coffee table!
Then, I pinned up the excess fabric so that the lining was one inch off of the ground (or coffee table, in this case…which represented the ground).
The dress itself was 6″ too long.
The bride informed me that she wanted the hem of the dress to be 5″ longer than the ground!
I had never had a request like that before! I have seen dresses like that, but I’d never been asked to do it myself.
But here’s the thing, no matter how long the dress needs to be, just pin it up to that point using a seam gauge.
Once you have the length where the bride wants it, measure the distance from the waist line seam to the bottom edge of the dress and record that measurement. (If you don’t have a waist line seam going horizontally, tie a string around the bride’s waist and make sure it is horizontal to the floor. Then, use the string as your seam line and measure down from there.)
Measure at several points including the center front, center back, and both side seams and record those measurements.
You may also want to record the measurements in a few more places if the skirt is full, that way you’ve got more points around the hemline and that will help you be more accurate with the final hem.
You are now ready to do the alteration.
First, I make a rolled hem on the lining fabric. I like to get the lining done first.
And then I put the tulle skirt on the ironing board.
I feed the skirt so only the one layer is on the ironing board at a time. (I am using a dark skirt at this point because the tulle was too difficult to see against the ironing board and wall. Just follow the instructions here for your tulle dress.)
I pull it on so that the lining is out of the way and just the skirt remains.
Next. I measure from the waist line seam…
to the bottom edge, at the center front…
Let’s say the hem edge measures 35″.
At the 35″ point, I will start cutting toward the left side seam, in this case.
Before you start cutting, you might want to put a pin at the measurement at the center front, side seams, and center back as well as any other measurements you took.
You Do NOT want to take an average of all the measurements and go with that. That will mean that the dress is too long in some areas and too short in others. If all the points measure the same length, then do go ahead and put a pin at the same measurement all the way around the dress.
You want to be sure to pull the skirt taut (but not too tight) before you measure.
Once you have pins at each point, you can start cutting.
Tulle is very easy to cut, just make sure you go slowly and keep the dress pulled as you cut around the skirt.
And that’s all there is to it! There is no sewing involved. Isn’t that GREAT.
As I mentioned before, this bride wanted her hem longer than the floor.
I think the extra length gives a soft, feminine feel that matches the look of the dress.
It’s just what she wanted.
Update: If your dress or skirt has more than one layer of tulle, there are a few things to consider. If the circumference of the layers are equal, then you can cut them as one layer. If the circumference of each layer is different, I would cut them one at a time. You can cut 2 or 3 layers at the same time, but I wouldn’t cut more than that. If you have 6 layers, like one of the readers says below in the comments, I would put 2 or 3 layers together and cut those and then repeat until the entire skirt or dress is done. If one layer is narrower than the next, and you cut them together, they won’t hang correctly.
I also have a post entitled How To Alter a Dress with Tulle or Netting that I think you’ll find also very helpful.
I hope these posts give you more confidence to tackle a dress or skirt made from tulle!
To leave a comment on this post, or ask a question, please scroll to the bottom of the page and leave it in the reply box. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Hemming a Circle Skirt
I love the look of a circle skirt and my daughter loves how they twirl but it can be difficult to get a perfectly flat and beautiful hem.
Today, I am going to show you an easy way to hem your circle skirt using bias tape. Since bias tape is cut on the bias it easily stretches around your curves, leaving you a beautifully hemmed skirt. I love how it also adds a fun contrast on the inside of the skirt.
Circle Skirt Pattern: Tilly
For this tutorial, I used store bought bias tape because that’s what I had on hand. You can also easily make your own coordinating bias tape. Last week we posted a tutorial on how to make bias tape. You can find it HERE.
Trim your seam allowance to equal half the width of the bias tape. Because the seam allowance for Tilly is ½”, I trimmed ¼” off of the bottom of the skirt.
Unfold your bias tape. With right sides together, clip one edge of the bias tape to the edge of the skirt.
When you get all the way around to the beginning of your bias tape, fold over one end by ½”. Trim the other end of the bias tape just long enough to overlap the folded edge by 1”.
Sew around your skirt in the fold of the bias tape.
Turn your skirt over, wrong side up and fold the bias tape up towards the inside. Topstitch around the bottom of your skirt 1/8” away from the bias tape edge.
Give your hem a final press and now you’re done!!
I promised you an easy tutorial and a great looking finish. I hope you remember this the next time you need to hem a Tilly or any other circle skirt.
I designed a skirt a few years ago, a skirt some of you may remember. It was long and sequined and ladylike and magnificent. I always sold the samples in a big sample sale, but I’ve always wanted one. Last month, I decided that with two tulle skirts in my closet and plenty of new dresses finished and ready to wear it was time to make this skirt for myself. I can’t wait to show you the finished product soon, but what connects my new sparkly skirt and this post is the fact that I put a hem facing in it. Hem facings are one of my favorite things, and I realized that I do them quite frequently, and for various reasons.
Hem facings are just another way to finish a hem. They are simple and easy to do, and they give the garment a very professional and clean finish. Think of hem facings just like you would any other facing–it’s simply a copy of the hem in a width of your choosing. Let’s go through some examples, starting with a garment with a shaped hem. You can sew a narrow hem on a shaped hem, but depending on your fabric they can roll or stretch and look a little blah. For a shaped hem like this, a hem facing is a nice detail that looks neat, and it’s also easier to sew.
This is a dress I made over the summer, and the fabric is a washed linen I got in Amsterdam last March. Linen makes a wonderful hem facing because it’s so easy to work with and because it presses so well. This hem facing is about 3″ wide, and I included 1/4″ to turn under and stitch in place. If you look closely you can see the row of stitching on the right side of the garment.
This is what my pattern pieces looked like. All I did was trace the bottom of the hem about 3″.
Whereas hem facings on a shaped hem are best because it helps keep the hem nice and neat, I often sew hem facings for looks. On this red dress, I sewed a hem facing just because I liked it. The skirt is midi length so the hem facing is wider, about 6″, and I double stitched the seam allowance under. This is a detail you can see on the right side of the garment, and I really like it. Because this skirt is so full, it took a little longer to attach the facing and finish it. The bigger the sweep of the hem, the more fabric it will take, so if you’re incorporating a hem facing into a garment like that, be mindful that it requires additional material.
One more example of sewing a hem facing just because I liked it is this linen copycat dress I made a few months ago. The hem of the dress is ever so slightly curved so I knew a facing would be an easy detail to incorporate. Plus, look how neat!
Probably the most appropriate time for a hem facing is when you’re using special fabrics–lace or mesh sequins or eyelet–that have an underlining. For example, if you want to put a contrasting color underneath lace or if you want the added stability of an additional layer under a mesh sequins (which is what I did for my sequin skirt), then a hem facing is the best way to finish your garment.
This dress is my own design from a few years ago, and I made it with a royal blue nylon lace overlay with a heavier cotton underlining for added stability and volume. I attached a hem facing so the lace is uninterrupted by the stitching lines of a hem. Side note: if an underlining isn’t necessary and the lace or sequins or eyelet or what have you is your only self fabric, then a regular hem is fine.
As you can see, this hem isn’t attached to the underlining yet. This dress has been living in the closet with a few other forgotten projects for some time now. There’s only hand sewing left to do–I’ll finish it eventually! 🙂
Another example of a special fabric that looks best with a hem facing is anything embellished. This is another one of my own designs from a couple years ago that is embellished with rhinestones and glass beads. Hand sewing all of it took quite a bit of time, and I knew that after that kind of investment that I didn’t want to ruin the aesthetics of the skirt with an ugly visible hem, so I attached a hem facing. (I actually sewed the hem facing before attaching the beads and rhinestones because I didn’t want to do too much else to the skirt after I had done the beadwork.)
I wore this one recently. Ignore the wrinkles.
And there you have it! I know hem facings are probably pretty obvious, but I hope this was helpful. I’m still working my around explaining all these things I’ve been doing for years now, so if I’ve left something out or if you have any questions, let me know. I’m so happy it’s Friday! I’ll be working on projects all weekend, and I can’t wait.
Finishing the raw edge of your hem not only makes it look cleaner and more professional, it also adds durability and helps give your hem a longer life. Here are six different methods you can use to make your hems strong and tidy.
Serge along the raw edge of the hem, aligning the cut edge with your serger blade. Try to shave off a few threads as you serge, as this will create a much neater and clean-looking edge than not trimming anything off.
Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press, and then stitch as desired.
ZigZag or Mock Overlock
Use a zigzag or mock overlock stitch to sew along the raw edge of your hem. A good zigzag option for a single layer of fabric is the three step zigzag. Instead of sewing one stitch with each zig and zag, it sews three little ones. This helps prevent the zigzag from making a ridge in the fabric.
If you find that your machine is mangling the edge of your fabric, sew ¼” in from the edge and trim the excess when you’re done. Just remember to then deduct ¼” from your hem allowance when you fold and press your hem.
Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press, and then stitch as desired.
This is a good choice when you want a very neat and clean looking finish.
Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press.
Now tuck ½” of the raw edge down into the hem. An easy way to do this is to measure ½” less than your hem allowance with a seam gauge or ruler as you pin.
Press and stitch as desired.
Using bias binding is useful for hems with a slight curve. It’s also a good choice when you’re using bulky fabric and want to avoid the thickness of multiple folds. Use premade single fold bias tape, or make your own out of a fun print.
Press up hem allowance. Open one side of bias tape and align raw edge of bias tape with raw edge of hem allowance, right sides together. Leaving a loose tail of tape at the beginning, backstitch and stitch tape to hem edge along crease in tape.
When you get all the way around, backstitch and a few inches from where your stitching started.
Bring the bias tape tails together and pin them where they should meet, flush with the fabric.
With bias tape completely unfolded, sew together at pin.
Trim tails, press open and attach loose section of bias tape to hem between backstitches.
Fold hem allowance up and stitch around free edge of bias tape to secure.
If you’d like to avoid losing length of the garment to the hem – or if you’re trying to squeeze something out of less fabric – skip the initial pressing of a hem allowance and stitch the bias binding to the raw edge of the fabric as described. Fold it to the inside to create a facing and stitch free edge as desired.
Hem tape is a quick but professional looking hemming option. It’s a good choice when you have bulky fabric and want avoid the thickness of multiple folds. It also provides a smooth, comfortable edge for more textured or irritating fabrics. It comes in a ton of colors, so you can match your fabric or go with a fun contrasting pop of color.
Press up hem allowance. Overlap hem tape along hem so that the raw edge of the fabric is running down the middle of the hem tape. Edgestitch along tape to secure to fabric.
When you get all the way around your hem, fold under end of hem tape and pivot to stitch down. Fold hem allowance up. Stitch along free edge of hem tape as desired.
Lace Hem Tape
Lace hem tape is a pretty hem finish that is great for lightweight fabrics.
Press up hem allowance. Overlap lace along right side of hem so that the raw edge of the fabric is running down the middle of the lace. Edgestitch along lace to secure to fabric.
Fold hem allowance up. Stitch along free edge of lace as desired.
What’s your favorite way to finish a hem?
Raised on a farm in Ohio, Devon moved to Los Angeles for college and worked in the film industry for several years. She has taught sewing at various shops throughout Southern California and at the Craftcation Conference in Ventura. She now resides and teaches in Nashville. When not obsessively sewing she can be found knitting, baking, and drinking wine with her cat.
Like many things I write about on my blog, trying to tackle a curved hem when I first started dressmaking left me feeling frustrated and defeated. The hem would always pucker, and I’d never be able to avoid tucks and kinks no matter how hard I tried to keep it neat. But I have since figured out where I was going wrong. So when my sister found a lovely A-line skirt that fitted in every possible way, apart from being too long, I didn’t hesitate to offer to turn it up. Here’s what I did.
There are a number of ways to deal with a curved hem, but given that my sister’s skirt was made from a medium-weight fabric, I opted for the gathered method. This means, instead of the usual hemming approach of folding and pressing, an extra step is required whereby the fabric in the hem is slightly gathered to take account of the extra fullness this type of hem presents.
Here are the steps broken down.
First, measure the length you require your finished garment to be, plus 4cm for the hem. My sister needed her skirt shortening to a length of 60cm, so I needed to measure 64cm down from the waist. Turns out it was actually easier to measure up from the existing hem instead as the belt on her skirt made it hard to measure as accurately. In this particular case, that meant measuring up by 6cm.
Mark your required distance all the way around using tailor’s chalk, and join together to make a continuous line.
Cut along your line and neaten the raw edge using your preferred method, for example using an overlocker or a zig-zag stitch. As the fabric of this skirt was a kind of felted-elastic hybrid, it didn’t fray at all. so I opted to keep it simple and used my pinking shears to neaten it all up.
Now measure 4cm from the edge of your skirt and press your hem under all round. You can use a seam gauge for this, or a method I quite like is simply to cut a piece of card to your required hem amount. The card can be tucked under your fabric as you press, making it really simple to keep the fold even all the way around. As this was a curved hem, I needed my card to be fairly small in width.
Step 1: cut a piece of card to the required hem depth
Step 2: Fold your fabric over the card and press – your hem will be an even distance all the way around
If you tried to sew your hem at this stage, you can see how you’d just create lots of tucks and puckers all the way around the hemline – not a professional finish!
The excess fabric is already creating an uneven edge…don’t sew it yet!
So, you instead need to unfold the fabric you have just pressed and sew a basting stitch 1cm from the edge. Do this is two stages, sewing from side seam to side seam, and leave long threads at the start and finish.
Now, re-fold your hem along your pressed line and gather the basting stitch slightly as you pin the hem in place. You may need to wiggle and jiggle a bit as you go along, but basically you are using your basting stitches to enable you to gather up the excess fabric so that a flat hem can be created. Keep gathering and smoothing down until you are happy its all lying flat.
Now you can sew your hem in place using either hand or machine stitching. As this skirt had a machined hem in the first place, I decided not to go all couture on this one and used my machine to speed things up a bit. Just don’t forget to re-adjust your stitch length and tension following the basting you’ve just done.
Give your hem a final press, and there you have it; a beautifully hemmed skirt with a really professional finish.
Teamed up with a pair boots, my sister is looking lovely.
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The easiest way to transform the look of a skirt is as simple as changing the length. This week I’ve tackled another alteration job on my list and refashioned this colourful African style printed skirt, from an impractical ankle length, to a wearable knee length.
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It was such a simple change that it barely qualifies as a ‘refashion’, but the transformation is striking, and it’s now become once of my favourite pieces to wear.
I can’t even remember where I bought this skirt, it must have been from one of my many thrifting adventures. I loved the colours and print, and the fact that the fabric had little holographic foil spots printed all over it. So cheerful.
The skirt was a little bit loose on me at the time, so I put it on the alteration pile to deal with at a later date. That was ages ago and I’m annoyed to admit that I’ve put on some weight since then.
Bad news for most of the clothes I already own (that don’t fit properly any more), but good news for this skirt, which fits like a glove.
The only problem was the length. Just a little too long and frumpy.
Now that I didn’t have to do any major fit alterations, changing the length was an easy job – Time to do some hemming!
Tools required for hemming a skirt
You’ll only need some basic sewing supplies for hemming a skirt. It’s likely you have most of these tools and materials in your sewing kit already.
Depending on the length of the skirt, it may be handy to have a helper to mark the length evenly (especially towards the back). Otherwise, using a hem marker, or mannequin may be an option.
- Tailors Chalk
- Sewing Pins
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Fabric Scissors
- Hand sewing needles
- Matching thread
- Sewing machine (handy but not essential)
- Hem Chalk marker (optional)
- Dressmaker Mannequin (optional)
How to hem a skirt
1. The first and hardest part of hemming a skirt is deciding on the new length. If you have someone to help you pin the hem it’s much easier than doing it yourself.
I wanted the hem to sit just on my knee.
2. Fold up the hem and pin the new length. Remember if you are doing it by yourself, the length of the skirt will change as you bend over so keep checking in the mirror till you are happy the length is even all around.
This is what it looks like from above. It’s not that easy to tell if you have the length right from this angle.
If you plan on hemming lots of skirts, you may want to invest in a handy gadget that marks your skirt with chalk dust evenly all the way round. It’s especially handy for A-line and flared skirts. See link below.
3. Next take off your skirt and mark the new hem line it with tailors chalk to make it easier to see.
4. Because this skirt was super well made and already had an even hem, I double checked the length that I was taking off was consistent all the way around by measuring from the already existing bottom hem.
Don’t make the mistake of measuring from the waist as you need to allow for the curve of your rear. If you don’t allow extra length at the back, you will end up with a hem that sits higher on the back of the skirt (or dress).
See below how much extra length is needed in the back. I’ve lined up the hem and the waist band at the back sits higher.
5. Time to cut off excess fabric. I’ve allowed about 2″ of fabric for hem which gives me a little extra to work with if I need to make slight adjustments.
6. Zig Zag or serge any raw edges to prevent fraying.
7. Press the hem up and pin again. Try your skirt on at this stage to make sure it’s all sitting correctly. See how when the waist line is all lined up the rear hem sits a little lower. That’s to accommodate my curvy backside.
8. Hand sew the hem with a catch stitch. It’s almost invisible from the front side (depending on the colour thread you use) and has a bit of elasticity to allow for movement. I’m not great at hand sewing (I usually give these fiddly jobs to my mum), but it didn’t take long at all.
See the instructions for sewing a Catch Stitch Hem here.
This is what it looks like on the front side. Barely noticeable with all the pattern.
Because the skirt tapered in, I had to release some of the side seam to allow the hem to lay flat. If you have a flared skirt, the folded up part of the hem will have extra fabric, so you may need to gather it slightly to get rid of the fullness.
Except when I went to try it on for the final time the blasted invisible zipper pull broke! Disaster.
But it was Youtube to the rescue and I found this handy video for repairing invisible zippers. I used the zipper pull from another zip I had in my stash to replace it.
Here’s the video for your (and my) future reference
The new look skirt
Now I have a brand new skirt to wear. If looks great with my refashioned denim ruffle shirt.
Here are a few photos where I channeled my inner fashion blogger and awkwardly took shots with my tripod on the street. I’m using my phone as a remote.
They turned out much better than expected. I got a few weird looks from passers by though. Lol.
A step by step tutorial for creating a perfect, even hem
Hemming a maxi skirt can be a bit tricky, because the hem is so far down that it is hard to see if it is level. When you look in a mirror, you will look at it at an angle, and you can’t see the back without distorting the hemline. This tutorial will show you how to get a beautiful, level hem, not matter what hemming method you use!
- Lindsey Mae added How To Hem A Maxi Skirt to The Boho Look 07 Dec 20:00
- amyakai added How To Hem A Maxi Skirt to Skirts 24 Aug 02:46
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- paprikapatterns published her project How To Hem A Maxi Skirt 08 Jan 12:38
You Will Need
Assemble your maxi skirt. Finish everything but the hem and let it hang for 24 hours. This will take care of the vertical stretching of the fabric.
Wear your unhemmed skirt for a day. This will take care of the horizontal stretching your fabric will do. At the end of the day, your waistband will probably sit a little bit lower, also affecting the hem.
Test your hemming options on a scrap piece. I tested the fold over twice method first, as per the instructions that came with this skirt. As you can see, this would not be easy for this fabric. It would not lay flat at all.
Then I tested a rolled hem. It looked wavy at first, but after a good press it lay nice and flat.
Put on the skirt and estimate how much you have to take off. Keep in mind that you lose fabric with hemming. So you should pick a ‘safe’ number to take off.
Hang the skirt on a cloth hanger, and pin all around at the ‘safe’ number. Cut off the fabric below the pins.
Put the skirt on and lay a camera on the floor, directed at your hem. Take a picture with the timer or remote to see if the hem is even. Depending on your curves, you probably need to take off some more length in some places.
Repeat step 7 until the pictures show that your hem is level. Again, keep in mind that you lose some fabric with hemming, depending on the method you have chosen at step 3.
Hello, friends! When I posted my version of Vogue 8615, a few of you mentioned wanting to make this as your first dress project. This is a great choice for a beginner, but the hem is a little tricky since it’s a circular shape. So I thought I’d do a little two-part video series showing you how to make a narrow hem on this kind of skirt. (A narrow hem is the best choice, since you won’t have to deal with easing in the fullness on a wider hem.)
In this first part, you’ll see how I marked the hem on my skirt. This involves putting the dress on a dressform and using a mark on a wall to get a level hem all the way around. (You’ll see what I mean!)
I had wanted this to be a one-part video, but it got a little long. So watch out for the next part soon!
Good idea using the wall to make measuring easier. In my experience I would let the dress hang for more than a day though. I week, at least. And the fabric can actually keep stretching for a long time, so if you have long skirts that stop excatly at floor lenght they should actually be stored lying down.
Such a clever girl you are! Thanks for the wall tip.
Hemming a circle skirt is no ease task. I have some thing that was my mom’s when she was in high school. It’s a yard stick on a stand (it stands vertically) and it has a metal pin gauge that can move up and down the yard stick. You put the yard stick so it is under your dress/skirt and set the gauge for where you want to pin it. You can pin a 1, 2 or 3 inch hem. Then you have some one pin around the hem. (If this makes any sense) If I’m alone I put the garment on my dress form. It works great. I am not sure what this is called, a hem marker maybe, or if they make them any more. It’s great for full skirts. They come out nice and even.
I really appreicate all of your videos. I am a beginner and am learned so many great tips. Your blog is one of my favorites. Thanks.
Another great video! 🙂 I like the tip for marking the wall and using that to keep the hem even. Normally I just use a yardstick to marking it (measuring down from the CF waist to my preferred length, as you do, and then measuring from the floor to that pin mark). But I’ll have to give your wall tip a go next time I’m hemming a full skirt! 🙂
I agree, letting the dress hang for a few days is very important for most fabrics.
Also, when I’ve done circular skirts, I usually draft a facing for the hem. That way I get whatever length hem I want, as well as a little added weight which usually enhances the look of the skirt. Of course, added weight = possibility for more stretching. Therefore, the faced hem is made out of a much lighter, complementary fabric.
Just a couple of things that have worked for me –
Oh, and I love those measuring sticks!
Thank you for the wall tip! I’m so excited to try this method. Those dern circle skirt hems.
As you may have noticed, I like working with wool. Correction – I LOVE working with wool. It hangs extremely well, is gorgeous to the touch, cuts like a knife going through butter and generally behaves itself. The only very slight drawbacks I’ve found are:
- It scorches, so watch the temperature of your iron. (Or have a fresh pan scourer to hand. Yes, really.)
- It can stretch with handling (and pressing).
- The bulk of the wool can create a bulky hem.
I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about hemming wool, as this is a nice finish that could be applied to other items. It’s particularly useful if you realise that you don’t have a lot of fabric left to hem with ie if you don’t want your skirt or trousers to go much shorter than they already are unhemmed.
1. My tutor forced me to rigorously measure the hang of my skirt to my ideal hem length all the way round from the waistband, marking with chalk. I usually judge this by eye and cross my fingers. How annoying-I-mean-disciplined to get the tape measure out.
2. We then pinned the skirt and put it on a dummy so that we could both look at the hang of the pinned hem and agree that it looked okay. But my body is different to a dummy’s so…
3. I then put the dress on and my tutor checked the hang of the hem on me. Satisfied? Hurrah! Moving on…
4. Find yourself some bias tape. You’ll need the best part of two metres to hem a dress like the V8667. Don’t have enough or need to go and buy more? Here’s how to attach two pieces of bias tape to make one long piece. Lay two ends of bias tape right side together, opened out and at a 45 degree angle:
Sew along the pinned line. Then when you open it out (once sewn) see how it magically…
A small but clever detail!
Right, shall we start hemming?
5. Press your wool to the hem length you desire. Then open the hem back out and start pinning bias tape to the raw edge of the make, right sides together and with the bias tape opened out. Sounds counter-intuitive, but bear with me.
6. Sew the bias tape to your dress along the fold line nearest the raw edge.
7. Turn the hem back over to the wrong side of your make and turn the raw edges of the bias tape under.
8. Then get your beeswax and needle out and start hand stitching the open edge of the bias tape to your main fabric, picking up only a few threads as you go:
Inside hem complete
Done! This method of hemming means you can avoid the bulk of a twice turned wool hem.
If you don’t yet own any beeswax, this is what it looks like:
Ugly little critter, ain’t it?
Once you’ve run your thread through the beeswax, don’t forget to iron your thread! It makes SUCH a difference.
It occurred to me that there’s another way of hemming wool, such as was used in my make of the Simplicity 2512:
This pattern makes a feature of the bias hem (cut from main fabric or contrast fabric), so that there’s no turn over at all – great with wool.
I hope this helps. Wool is such a beautiful fabric to work with, there’s really nothing to be scared of. I wore my V8667 dress yesterday and received many compliments on it. But the best part? Turning the hem over in my quiet moments to smile at that beautiful, hand stitched bias binding. My secret pleasure.
I dream of working with this one day.
Horsehair braid is a type of crinoline netting and is used to provide structure and give body to hems, hats and sleeves. It’s one of my favourite notions and it gives truly amazing results.
Even better – it’s ridiculously easy to apply! I’ve been finishing up a brocade Brumby skirt for Perth Frocktails this weekend with a horsehair braid hem, and thought i’d share a little tutorial for how you can apply this finish yourself.
Anatomy of horsehair braid
This is 2″ (5cm) wide horsehair braid, but it can come in various widths from 1/2″ wide all the way to 6″ wide. Horsehair braid is made from nylon or polyester and as you can see is a netting. It’s quite flexible and the top edge has thread woven through it. This allows you to pull on the loops and shape the braid to better fit your hem. This is really useful for circle skirts like Veronika. Generally the bottom edge is the one you sew directly to the hemline raw edge, and the top edge with the thread woven in is hand sewn later on.
For this tutorial my hem was straight, so i didn’t need to use the thread at all. Easy!
The cut edge of the trim can be quite scratchy and unravel, so it’s best to enclose it in some sort of binding. You could use ribbon or twill tape or bias binding etc. For this skirt i just cut a piece of selvedge from scrap fabric to bind the edge.
Begin by placing your fabric and horsehair braid right sides together, and with the raw edge of the hemline lined up with the bottom edge of the horsehair braid (ie the edge without the thread). Horsehair braid doesn’t actually have a right side or wrong side to begin with, but it is important to make sure that the prettiest side of your seam binding on the cut edge of the braid is against the right side of the fabric, as this is the side you’ll see and that will touch your body.
Pin the horsehair braid around the hem until you reach the bound section. Overlap, and cut your braid.
Sew 1/4″ (0.6cm) from the raw edge all the way around the hemline.
Now turn your horsehair braid to the inside of your skirt. As you do this you will be essentially creating a rolled hem, where your total seam allowance is 1/2″ (1.3cm). Pin your horsehair braid in pace, and be careful that your hemline is neat. If you’re working with a curved hem, such as that in a circle skirt, you will need to pull the thread loops along the top of the horsehair braid to help it conform to the shape of your skirt.
The final step is to handsew in place! You could definitely top stitch, but i think when you’re creating a specialty hem like this, you might as well put the extra effort in and handsew. I favor a catch stitch for this. For a full tutorial on handsewn hem options, check out this post.
And then you’re done! Don’t forget to press or i will hunt you down!
Wear, and check out the volume!
Where to buy horsehair braid
You should be able to find it pretty easily in large chain stores (like Spotlight in Australia and Hancocks or JoAnns in the USA) but here are a few online options i know of:
- Vogue Fabrics
- Pacific Trimming ( i love all the colour options!)
- Ortensia Sewing Supplies
Know of any more good online options? Let me know and i’ll add them to the list!
// LOOKING FOR MORE VERONIKA POSTS? //
Here’s the full list of all of the Veronika posts and tutorials:
Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.
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In my home-based sewing business, I shorten more than 50 full-length prom, wedding, and wedding attendant gowns each year. Over time, I’ve developed a hemming technique that is efficient and yields smooth, even results, even on the challenging fabrics typical of formal dresses.
I use key tools and supplies that make it easier to handle lightweight and slippery fabrics, so the finished hem is uniform and smoothly sewn. I like glass-head pins; Schmetz universal needles or universal nonstick needles, in size 70; Pellon Lite EZ-Steam II fusible tape in 1/4-inch width; and Dritz Sewer’s Aid lubricant. You’ll also need sharp scissors or a rotary cutter and mat, an iron and ironing board, an adjustable dress form, and a sewing machine. With these basic items, you can confidently hem a special-occasion dress.
Mark the hemline
Have the client put on the gown and the shoes she intends to wear with it. Then pin the desired hemline.
1. Pin-mark at the floor level. Ask the client to stand with her arms at her sides. Pin the lining a few inches above the floor to keep it out of the way as you mark the outer layer. Pin a line where the gown’s outer layer touches the floor, around the entire hem circumference. Pin a second line 3⁄4 inch above the first row of pins.
Pin a line at floor level, then 3⁄4 inch above.
2. Pin the hem up along the upper row of pins. Have the client remove the gown.
3. Press up the hem allowance. Press along the upper row of pins. Then place the gown on a dress form and check to make sure the hemline is even and parallel to the floor. Adjust if needed.
Fuse and stitch the hem
Narrow fusible tape helps you fold an even hem and secures the hem allowance for neat stitching.
1. Adhere the tape to the hem allowance. Mark a line on the gown’s wrong side, 1⁄2 inch below the pressed hemline. Lay the 1⁄4-inch-wide fusible tape along this line and press with the iron to fuse it. Trim the excess hem allowance below the tape.
2. Fold the hem allowance. Remove the tape’s backing paper, about 12 inches at a time, and fold the taped edge in so its cut edge is aligned with the hemline crease. Finger-press. Work in short intervals, removing about 12 inches of backing paper at a time. Fold the edge in again along the original hemline crease, creating a double-fold 1⁄4-inch-wide hem.
3. Stitch the hem in place and press. With a straight stitch, sew the hem. If the needle gets sticky from the hem tape’s adhesive, rub a bit of the Sewer’s Aid on the needle, or switch to Schmetz universal nonstick needles.
Complete the lining
This method works well whether there is one layer or more of lining.
1. Mark the lining hemline. Hang the gown on the dress form and unpin the lining. Raise the dress form to a height that allows the lining to hang without touching the floor. Pin a line on the lining along the outer layer’s finished hemline.
2. Press and sew the hem. Remove the gown from the dress form and cut the lining along the pin line. Mark a hemline 1⁄2 inch above the cut edge, and press the hem up along this line. Fold the cut edge to the hemline crease to form a double-folded 1⁄4-inch-wide hem. Press, then stitch in place. Repeat this step for any additional lining layers. If the lining is slippery, you can use fusible tape to secure it for stitching, as you did for the outer fabric layer.
3. Complete the hem. Press the dress and hang it on a dress form. Check that the lining does not hang below the outside layer of the gown. Create thread chains at the side seams and center back to hold the layers of the gown together.
Kathy Healey has a custom-sewing business in Rochester, New York, and is president of her local American Sewing Guild chapter.
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