How to hand sew a hem

February 28, 2021 By HEATHER & filed under Sewing Blog.

How to hand sew a hem

If you’re an all-day-every-day type of hand sewer — or even if you’re the total opposite — chances are you’ve had to hand sew a hem. There just isn’t a machine option that measures up to doing it by hand, it looks beautiful (seriously, the definition of couture) and, if done right, is almost invisible when seeing the whole look.

But when deciding to go the hand hemming route, it can be tough figuring out a stitch type. That’s where we come in. Below are the pros and cons to five different hand hemming stitches, plus mini tutorials to get you started.

Slip Stitch

Grab a tiny bit of fabric with your needle. Moving to the left about ¼”–½”, grab a tiny bit of the folded hem. Moving to the left again, grab another tiny bit of the fabric. Repeat all the way around the hem.

Catch Stitch

Grab a tiny bit of fabric with your needle. With your needle pointing left, move to the right about ¼”–½”, then grab a tiny bit of folded hem. With your needle still pointing to the left, move to the right again and grab another tiny bit of fabric. Repeat all the way around the hem.

Felling Stitch

Grab a tiny bit of fabric with your needle. Moving to the left about ¼”–½”, grab a tiny bit of the folded hem. Now, instead of moving, grab a tiny bit of fabric right above the stitch. Then, moving to the left again, grab another tiny bit of the folded hem. Repeat all the way around the hem.

Blind Hem

Thread your needle with a single thread and tie a knot at one end. Insert the needle into the hem allowance. Make sure the knot anchors the thread.

Grab a tiny bit of the fold with your needle. Moving to the left about ¼”–½”, grab a tiny bit of the hem allowance. Moving to the left again, grab a tiny bit of the fold. Repeat all the way around the hem.

Blind Catch Stitch

Thread your needle with a single thread and tie a knot at one end. Insert the needle into the hem allowance. Make sure the knot anchors the thread.

Grab a tiny bit of the fold with your needle. With your needle pointed to the left, move to the right about ¼”–½” and grab a tiny bit of the hem allowance. Keep your needle pointed left, move to the right again and grab a tiny bit of the fold. Repeat all the way around the hem.

How to hand sew a hem

When it comes to hemming, sometimes topstitching with your machine just doesn’t cut it. A lot of time, you want a hem to be discreet, and not distract from the garment. That’s what is nice about hand sewn hems – they can be nearly invisible from the outside. So, today I am going to cover three basic options for hand sewn hems.

note – I’m using a contrasting thread so you can see the stitching better. But, of course, you would be using a matching thread to your fabric. So it will blend in and be even more invisible!

one more note – I’m a lefty, so I tend to start most of my stitches from the left side. If you are right handed, you most likely start from the opposite side. Same concept, just different direction.

Ok. Let’s get started!

How to hand sew a hem

First up is the whipstitch. This stitch is one of the more basic and faster hem stitches. It produces slanted stitches on the inside, and near invisible, tiny stitches on the outside. Here’s how…

How to hand sew a hem

1. Start by hiding your thread knot, and bringing your needle up through the underside of the fold.

2. Cross over diagonally, and catch just a few threads of the fabric above the fold with your needle. The less fabric you pick up, the more invisible it will be from the outside. If you can, try to pick up only one thread. Then swivel the needle and come back up through the fold.

3. Continue steps 1-3: Picking up single threads and coming back up through the fold diagonally.

4. Keep your stitches evenly spaced and lined up. And keep your pick up stitches small.

How to hand sew a hem

Next is the catch stitch. This stitch creates a row of overlapping diagonal stitches on the wrong side (almost like a chevron), and then tiny stitches on the right side. It’s sturdy, and creates a more visibly pleasing look on the inside of your garment, if that is what you are looking for. Here’s how to do it….

How to hand sew a hem

1. With this stitch, start from the opposite end that you would normally start. I’m a lefty, and start my other stitches on the left, so for this one I will start on the right. If you are a righty, start on the left. Hide your thread knot by coming up from the underside of the fold with your needle.

2. At a diagonal, pick up a very small amount of fabric (one or two threads) just above the fold. Your needle should be pointed at your starting point when you do this.

3. Cross back over, and pick up a a small amount of fabric on the fold (only picking up threads of the fold, not all the way through). Again with your needle pointing at your starting point.

4. Continue at this pace, spacing your stitches evenly. This will create that crisscross/chevron effect. Make sure you only pick up one or two threads each time, so the less you see from the right side.

How to hand sew a hem

Lastly- the slipstitch. This is my go-to stitch, and my most often used because it is the most invisible. Invisible from both sides, that is. Not only is it good for hems, but it also comes in handy for many other cases – like attaching patch pockets, attaching facing to zipper tapes, attaching linings, etc. Here’s how to do it…..

How to hand sew a hem

1. Like the others, hide your thread knot by coming up through the underside of the fold. This time, make sure your needle comes out right on the edge of the fold. Right where it folds over.

2. Right above where you just came through, pick up a tiny amount of fabric above the fold (only one or two threads).

3. Move directly back down, right next to where you last came out of the fold, and insert the needle back into the fold, pulling it through about 1/4” through the fold. Almost like you are going through a tube.

4. If this sounds confusing, this photo shows the thread left loose after completing steps 1-3.

5. Continue steps 1-3 at an evenly spaced pace. Again, this is what it looks like with the threads loose so you can see….

6. And this is what it looks like when it is pulled tight. See? Nearly invisible!

Holly

Holly writes part time for the Megan Nielsen blog– sewing like crazy, creating tutorials and sewalongs. She has been sewing since she was a little girl, and has her degree in apparel design. Now she’s a stay at home mama, and spends all her free nap times at her sewing machine.

Almost all garments need to be hemmed – with needle and thread.

Hemming is how you finish the lower edge of a garment after you’ve decided on the length you want it.

Hemming is securing the fabric in place while also covering the raw edge and preventing it from unraveling.

In this video, some basic – most commonly used ways – to hem a garment by hand are demonstrated and explained because topstitching by machine isn’t always the best way.

The Close-Ups and Details

How to hand sew a hem

The Hemming Stitch

The hemming stitch can be worked with a single layer of fabric – like seam binding or when the edge to be hemmed is serged or a folded edge. The stitch is the same going through either one layer (seam binding) or two (folded hem allowance)

Go down into the garment and pick up a couple of threads of the garment fabric.

How to hand sew a hem

Bring the needle up and diagonally through the edge.

Stitches are spaced evenly about ⅛ to a ¼ inch apart.

How to hand sew a hem

The Slip Stitch

If you are hemming a hem allowance which has been folded under itself you can use the slip stitch to hem.

Go down into the garment and pick up a couple of threads of the garment fabric.

How to hand sew a hem

At the point where the needle comes up from the garment, it goes into the fold of the hem allowance.

Slide the needle through the folded edge about 1/4″. Where the needle exits the fold, pick up a couple threads of the garment.

The thread never travels exposed. It’s either in the fold, or it’s grabbing a couple threads.

Stitches are spaced evenly about ⅛ to a ¼ inch apart.

You Got This

Any Questions about the hemming or the slip stitch? Please let me know.

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2 Comments on Sewing by Hand – Basic Hemming Stitches

Excellent demonstration and explanation of slip stitch which I am about to use on the hem of a baby blanket. Thanks!

Thanks! I use the slip stitch a lot. It’s a good one to know.

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Do you have pants that need hemming but don’t have a sewing machine to do it? Use this guide to help you hem any type of pants without using a sewing machine.

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Шаг 1 How to Hem Pants by Hand-Sewing

Wear the pants and fold the hem up until you get your desired length.

Шаг 2

Remove the pants, making sure that the folded hem remains fixed.

Lay the pants down on a table and measure the length from the original hem to the folded edge.

Make sure to take note of all of your measurements.

Шаг 3

Turn the pants inside out, and unfold the folded edge.

Starting from the original hem, measure out the length of what will be your new hem.

The length you will need for this step would be the length you measured out from the previous step.

Using your fabric marker, draw a line marking where your new hem would be.

Шаг 4

Starting from the line you just created, measure out 1 inch and mark with a line.

Шаг 5

Using the 1 inch line as your guide, cut off the extra fabric.

Шаг 6

Fold the raw edge up to the new hem line.

Fold it again along the new hem line, so that the raw edge is now inside the fold.

Шаг 7

Place a sewing pin parallel to the fold to make sure that the fold stays in place.

Fold and pin all the way around to create your new hem.

Шаг 8

Have your needle threaded and ready to go.

Sew the fold close to create a new hem; try to keep your stitches small and even.

White thread was used instead of black to make the stitches more evident in the pictures.

Шаг 9

Once you’re done stitching, tie off the thread by creating a knot towards the end of the string.

Cut off the excess string above the knot.

Remove all of the sewing pins.

Repeat steps 3 to 8 for the other pant leg using the same measurements, and then you’re officially done!

To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order.

To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order.

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Thank you for this guide! The only thing I am uncertain about is how determine a good length for the pants. I read in another guide that it would be good to measure with shoes on. So that the pant leg grazes the shoe. Can you recommend the same?

I’ve been doing a lot of posts on hemming, so I thought it about time I covered hand stitching a hem. I am sure there are some sewists out there who prefer to hem by hand, despite the extra time needed. Read on to find out how to hand sew a Blind Catch Stitch.

1. Start by overlocking and pressing your hem. A row of basting stitches next to the fold will help to hold everything in place. If you prefer not to have exposed overlocking fold the raw edge of your hem over again.

How to hand sew a hem

A hot hemmer is not essential, but it does make the job easier.

How to hand sew a hem

2. Fold back the top of the overlocking. Your stitches will go underneath the overlocking. You are going to work from left to right.

3. Secure the thread in the hem where the overlocking is. Then take a small stitch approximately 6mm to the left from the main garment.

How to hand sew a hem

4. Then take another stitch (approx. 6mm) into the hem again. Continue repeating this until you have finished hemming.

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

5. Fold the overlocking back to cover your stitches and press.

How to hand sew a hem

I like to mark a guide on my finger nail to help me keep my stitches even.

How to hand sew a hem

One of the simplest things you can do to look more professional and polished is to hem your dress pants or jeans when they’re too long. It’s easy to spot when pants are too long. They’re either dragging on the floor, or the break (the fabric that pools on top of the foot on the pant front) is too big.

The good news is that hemming pants is not hard and it can save you money. The average cost to hem a pair of dress pants averages about $15. If you are like me and have short legs or you have fast-growing kids, you are spending a lot of money on pant hems.

Hemming pants is so easy that leg length should never stand between you and an awesome pair of pants you snag on sale. If you know how to hem pants, then you’ve got the advantage every time you go shopping. In this guide, we break down how to hem pants and everything you need to do it with or without a sewing machine.

How to hem pants in a few steps:

  1. Measure your inseam to find the right length.
  2. Remove the original hem.
  3. Measure the amount of excess fabric and trim it.
  4. Fold the new hem.
  5. Sew new hem by hand or with a sewing machine.

Here’s what you need to hem pants:

  • Sewing tools: This 6-piece Fiskars Sewing Essentials Set has everything you need, including sewing scissors, a ruler, measuring tape, seam ripper, thread snips, and a sewing gauge.
  • Sewing machine:Brother Project Runway Sewing Machine
  • Iron and ironing board (optional):Sunbeam Compact Non-Stick Soleplate Travel Iron
  • Matching thread and hand sewing needles:SINGER 01125 Assorted Hand Needles
  • Pins:Rimobul Flat 1.9-inch Flower Head Pins

How to measure the inseam

The proper length for your pants will depend on the shoes you plan to wear with them. The shoes will change the amount of space available on the front of the foot for a hem to hang freely. Put on the shoes you plan to wear the most with the particular pair of pants are hemming. To measure your inseam, measure the length from the crotch seam to the bottom of your shoe — this is your inseam.

Remove the original hem

  • Remove the stitching from hemline that is already there with a seam ripper.
  • Unfold the hem completely so that it hangs loose.
  • Iron it flat to remove the creases.

Measure

  • Turn the pants inside out and lay the pants flat on a surface.
  • Measure the same length of your inseam, starting from the crotch of the pants.
  • Mark the proper inseam length on the pants plus one inch of seam allowance.

Use a rotary cutter and ruler (or scissors) to cut off the excess fabric.

Measure Hem

  • Set your sewing gauge to ½ inch.
  • Fold up the edge of the pant leg to ½ inch.
  • Use to the sewing gauge to make sure the fold is ½ inch on both sides of the fold.
  • Press in place with the iron.

Fold the hem

  • Fold the edge of the pant leg up ½ inch again.
  • Double check the width of the fold with the sewing gauge.
  • Once fold is evenly ½ inch wide, pin the hem in place.
  • Repeat on the other pant leg.

Sew the hem with a sewing machine

  • Load your bobbin and top spool with the same color of thread.
  • Set your machine to medium straight stitch.
  • Stitch a ¼ inch seam allowance from the top of the hem.
  • Go all the way around. Remove the pins as you go.
  • When you get to the beginning, lock stitch in place, then remove from the machine and cut the excess thread.
  • Repeat with the other pant leg.
  • Finish by turning the pants right side out and press the hem.

Sew the hem by hand

If you don’t have a sewing machine, no worries. Hand sewing a hem is simple and won’t take up too much time. Just a needle and thread will give you the same perfectly hemmed pair of pants.

Need help with hemming jeans? We are here to help! Wearing jeans that feel too long or short is never comfortable, and can render a much-loved item unwearable.

Hemming jeans by hand takes little time, knowledge of sewing, and can be done with basic tools at home. If you need equipment, just pop our Mending Starter Kit into your cart.

How to hand sew a hemSHOP NOW

You will need: measuring tape, scissors, pins, fabric marker, safety pin, thread (usually orange), heavy duty needle.

1. Whilst wearing your jeans, make a mark with a fabric marker or use a safety pin to fold up one leg to the correct length and then pin.

2. After you’ve carefully taken the jeans off (avoiding any pins) – measure the pinned amount with your tape measure and use your fabric marker to mark all around the leg of the jeans, making sure it is the same amount around both legs.

How to hand sew a hem

3. Turn the jeans inside out.

How to hand sew a hem

4. Be sure to leave enough excess fabric to fold in twice – each of the folds needs to be around 1-1.5cm in thickness.

How to hand sew a hem

5. Depending on how much you are shortening by, you may find that you have some excess fabric, which will need trimming.

6. Turn the excess fabric up on the inside the leg, folding on the marked lines and pin the fold into place.

How to hand sew a hem

7. Thread your needle with a closely matching colour to the original thread on your jean – traditionally a golden dark orange. Make a knot at the end of the thread to prevent it from being pulled straight through the fabric.

How to hand sew a hem

8. Begin stitching about 0.4cm from the top edge of the folded fabric.

9. For a durable backstitch, push the needle into the layer of fabric at the point where you want to start; we recommend starting at the seam to make sure it blends as best as possible.

10. Bring the needle back through both layers of fabric just in front of the previous stitch for the strongest backstitch. This is very similar to a machine stitch.

11. Push the needle back into the fabric at the point between where the needle came in and out of the fabric to create the first stitch.

12. Bring the needle up through the fabric the same distance you came forward in creating the first stitch. These stitches can be as tight or spaced as you want.

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

13. Repeat this process of one step forward, one step back, until you’ve made it the entire way around the leg. Remember to carefully remove the pins as you go.

14. It is important to do a double stitch where the stitching begins and ends to secure the line of stitching.

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Four hand stitches you need to know

How to hand sew a hem

Looking back over our sewing patterns so far, we’ve noticed that we seem to have a bit of a thing for hand stitching. A lot of a thing, in fact. Turns out, we’ve recommended finishing hems, waistbands and linings by hand in all three of our patterns – which comes as a surprise as we had no idea what perfectionists we really were! Ain’t nothing like a flawless finish, so we’re going to take you through four of our favourite and most useful hand stitches.

*WARNING – this is a super nerdy post, filled with loadsa close up step-by-step images of sewing samples and long winded explanations. To be digested in small doses. *

First things first – there are two main ways to thread your hand sewing needle and both are good for different techniques:

Single thread: thread your needle but knot only one end so that the other is free to come unthreaded – this is especially useful for embroidery techniques where you might need to quickly and easily unpick a few stitches.

Double thread: thread your needle and knot both ends together – the doubled up thread will make for a more secure stitch, but is impossible to unpick without cutting the thread and starting over!

How to hand sew a hem

Running Stitch – what’s it good for?

Good for gathering or ruching fabric to make gathered skirts, basting seams and stay stitching a curved edge to prevent it from stretching. A running stitch looks exactly the same on both sides of the fabric.

  • Working from right to left (or left to right for lefties), insert your needle into the fabric and bring it back out again (fig.1)
  • Now weave your needle in and out of the fabric, keeping the stitches as even and straight as possible (figs.2,3&4)

How to hand sew a hem

Back Stitch – what’s it good for?

Mending clothes by hand – the back stitch creates a strong seam and can reach awkward, fiddly places that a sewing machine can’t. From the right side, the back stitch looks like a straight machine stitch, but the stitches overlap on the wrong side.

  • Working from right to left, insert your needle into the fabric and come back out again, pulling the thread through (fig.1)
  • Re-insert your needle half a centimetre or so to the right of where your needle just came out, and come back out half a centimetre to the left of your first stitch (fig.2)
  • Continue like this, inserting your needle at the end of your last stitch to the right, and coming out one stitch ahead to your left (figs.3&4)

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

Blind Slipstitch – what’s it good for?

This is our most favourite. A pretty much completely invisible stitch that is perfect for pretty much anything – from basic hemming to finishing the inside of a waistband, à la Charlotte Skirt, finishing raw edges of a bodice lining as in the Elisalex Dress and finishing the sleeveless armhole of the Victoria Blazer.

  • Press your fabric and pin the fold into place ready to be blind stitched
  • Insert your needle through the folded edge (fig.1) and pull the thread through
  • Pick up a couple of threads from the fabric directly underneath the point where your needle just came out (fig.2) and pull the thread though (fig.3)
  • Reinsert the needle into the pressed edge of the fabric directly above the point at which your needle just came out (fig.4). Using the pressed fold as a guide, slide the needle an centimetre or so along inside the fold and then come out again (fig.5)
  • Keep repeating figs. 2 – 5 along the entire length and securely knot off your stitching at the end

How to hand sew a hem

Blind Catchstitch – what’s it good for?

Especially good for hemming, in particular hems that require flexibility or easing in.

  • Press the hem in by 1/4″, and then press in again by 1/2″, or however much or little in order to achieve your desired length
  • Working from left to right, insert your needle inside the fold (fig.1)
  • Make a little stitch in the fabric just below the fold (fig.2)
  • Next make a stitch in the main body of the fabric, moving diagonally down to the right of your first stitch (fig.3) and pull the thread through, keeping it secure but not too tight (fig.4)
  • Moving diagonally up to the right, make another little stitch in the fabric just below the fold (fig.5) followed by another little stitch from the main body of the fabric (fig.6), and so on

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

Finishing off your hand stitches

Just as we back stitch on a sewing machine, securing the end of a line of stitching to prevent it from coming undone, so we have to securely knot the thread when stitching by hand as well.

  • On the wrong side of your fabric, and with your needle still threaded, insert the needle close to where the thread is coming out, catching just a tiny thread of the fabric as you go (fig.1)
  • Pull the needle and thread through, stopping when you have a little loop to insert your needle through (fig.2)
  • Bring the needle and thread through the loop, keeping the forming knot close to the fabric (fig.3)
  • Tighten the knot and snip the thread a few millimetres from the knot (fig.4)

How to hand sew a hem

Phewzers!! You can be sure we’ll be back next time with something a hell of a lot more frivolous than this! Good time to get the old glue gun out methinks.

Begin by cutting off the pants two inches longer than the desired length. I usually have my kids put the pants on, and snip a small hole at the place I want to cut. Then once the pants are off, I use that as my guide and cut them in a straight line.

I have a easy tip for making sure each leg of the shorts are the same length.

How to hand sew a hem

Fold the shorts up about an inch.

Fold up one more time and pin in place.

How to Blind Hem Stitch by Hand

Now it’s time to hem the cuff in place. I use a blind hem stitch to do this. I use this same stitch when I hem dress pants that are too long – I turn the pants inside out first and then fold the cuff, press in place and stitch.

This stitch is pretty easy, but hard to explain so I created a short video to show you how.

How to hand sew a hem

Michele says:

I’m going to be super-mega-honest for a second here: I really, really dislike sewing by hand. My great-grandmother taught me to sew when I was 5, so I spent a large portion of my childhood sewing stuffed animals and costumes for fun and mending clothes for the family for function. Whenever a sewing machine was mentioned, I would scoff. Hand sewing, though time consuming, was both frugal and enjoyable. For years, I was content with my slow but effective stitches. Then everything changed during my teenage years when I became obsessed with ankle length gored skirts.

I didn’t bother looking at stores for a skirt that met my persnickety qualifications (ankle-length, not-too-thick-not-too-thin, not too frumpy, under $20) and set out to the fabric store to get the materials I needed to make one. By hand. It could probably go without saying that after one panel my dedication to hand stitchery went out the window. I must have complained enough because a couple of months later, I got a sewing machine for my 16 th birthday (Yes, I was totally one of the cool kids). Once I taught myself how to use the darned thing, I avoided hand sewing at all costs. To this day, you have to bribe me to reattach a button, and I would rather haul the machine out of my closet to mend a small tear than bother with sewing by hand—which is why I winced when a reader asked how to hem trousers by hand. Oy.

I was tempted to ignore the request (sorry!), but then I remembered that I haven’t shared one of my favorite hand stitches: the blind (or invisible) hem stitch. You’ve probably seen this stitch on suits—or maybe you haven’t. With practice, this stitch really lives up to its name and can make your hems look professionally tailored. There’s just one hitch: though it works wonderfully for dress trousers and skirts, evening/wedding gowns, sport coats, and curtains, it looks downright goofy when you try to use it on jeans or other casual trousers.

Don’t worry, though, I’ll cover the other hem in another post. For now, though, let’s hem those more formal clothes by hand!

What You’ll Need:
  • an iron
  • a fine needle
  • something that needs hemming
  • matching thread

Notes: My husband and I are long of leg, so I couldn’t find anything that needed hemming. Instead, I’m going to demonstrate the blind hem stitch on a piece of fabric in steps 1 and 2. Then, in steps 3, 4, and 5, I’ll explain how to use the stitch to hem whatever needs hemming. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or need further explanation!

Step 1: Iron a crease one-half inch away from the edge of your fabric.

How to hand sew a hem

Fold the ironed crease over itself so that the selvage/selvedge (raw edge) is completely encased in the fabric. Iron the second crease into place.

How to hand sew a hem

If you did it right, you should have a little tube of fabric, like so:

How to hand sew a hem

Step 2: Thread your needle and knot your thread as you learned in steps 4, 5, and 6 of the first sewing post, How to Repair an Unraveled Seam.

Poke your needle through the wrong side of the fabric, about 1/8” away from the ironed crease.

How to hand sew a hem

Make a tiny stitch, reinserting the needle as close to the thread as possible.

How to hand sew a hem

Your first finished “invisible” stitch will look like this:

How to hand sew a hem

When your needle is back on the wrong side of the fabric, make a medium length stitch.

How to hand sew a hem

This stitch is just a modified straight stitch with long stitches on wrong side of the fabric…

How to hand sew a hem

…and short stitches on the right side of the fabric.

How to hand sew a hem

So, continue with your project making tiny stitches on the right side of the fabric, medium stitches on the wrong side. In the end, it’ll look something like this (except less visible since I’m sure you’ll be using matching thread):

How to hand sew a hem

Step 3: If you don’t know your inseam length, use a yard stick or tape measure to measure a pair of well-fitting trousers from crotch to ankle. I don’t recommend measuring your own inseam any other way. (Even though I’m showing a pair of jeans, remember that this hem is not recommended for jeans.)

How to hand sew a hem

Add an inch seam allowance to your measurement, then write the number down to avoid forgetting. For example: If your inseam is 32”, your inseam for hemming trousers is 32 inches + 1 inch or 33 inches.

Step 4: Cut the factory hem off of your trousers, then measure the inseam of the trousers from the ankle to the crotch. Subtract your inseam + 1 from that measurement. For example: If my too long trousers have a 36 inch inseam that decreases to 35.5 inches after removing the hem, I would subtract 33 inches from 35.5 inches and come up with 2.5 inches of length that need to be removed.

Use a ruler and a piece of chalk to mark the extra length on each trouser leg. As always, measure a second time before you cut off the excess fabric.

Step 5: Turn your trousers inside out (the ones you’re hemming, mind you). Follow steps 1 and 2 (above) to roll the hem and blind stitch all the way around both trouser legs. Do not reinforce this stitch by doubling back at the end or you’ll end up with a not-so-invisible hem! Once you finish, you’ll have a fray-proof and professional-quality hem that will last a lifetime.

Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor. You can read her near daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

It always inevitably happens to one of my favorite skirts. The hem of the skirt comes apart in a small section which I continue to ignore until it unravels so badly that I’m left with a “fashion don’t.” Don’t ask me why I wait so long. Maybe I imagine the hem will heal itself.

I rarely take clothes to the dry cleaners to get fixed. I mean, $10–$20 for hemming here and there adds up! To fix my skirt situation, I simply need to hand-sew a blind hem, sometimes also referred to as an invisible hem. (Yes, you can do this on your sewing machine but sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying and soothing than doing a quick fix by hand, no?) I learned this hand-sewing technique from my mom, who was constantly hemming my Catholic school uniform from too much play or to extend the length of my jumper as I grew taller. Now you can use this same quick-fix technique for your skirts and dresses!

Materials
Sewing needle
Thread to match skirt or dress
Scissors
Pins

Here’s how to hand-sew a blind hem:
1. Pin down your hem area to keep it secure. You can also use Wonder Tape to secure the hem. (I love it because it saves me from pinning, and it completely dissolves in the first washing of the garment.)
2. Thread your needle with thread that’s the closest match in color to your skirt. For purposes of this tutorial, I’m using red thread so you can see the stitches.
How to hand sew a hem
3. Start your hem from the side seam of your skirt. Place the needle under and up through the top seam of the skirt.
How to hand sew a hem
4. Now, with the tip of the needle, grab only a tiny part of the back fabric (which is the front of the skirt) and pull through the thread.
How to hand sew a hem
5. Go about ½" and grab a small part of the hem and a tiny part of the back fabric.
How to hand sew a hem
6. Pull the needle and thread through slowly so that the stitch is secure. Don’t pull it too tight or else your fabric will pucker.
How to hand sew a hem
7. Repeat this across the skirt until you reach the other side seam. Make a knot and cut any excess thread.
How to hand sew a hem
Now let’s turn over the skirt. You can see the blind hem through all the very tiny red dots on the front. In fact, you can’t even really see most of the red dots. By using a thread color that matches your skirt or dress, your hem will be completely invisible! So here it is, an instant skirt fix that’s fun to do!

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A slip stitch is a really useful stitch to know. I can be used to hand sew hems quickly and easily, but can also be used to hand finish collars, cuffs and waistbands. This slip stitch tutorial will help you to master this versatile stitch. Level up your sewing with some beautiful hand stitching.

Slip Stitch Video

If you’re the type of person who learns better by watching rather than reading, I have made a little video.

Slip Stitch Tutorial

Alternatively, here’s an illustrated guide for those of you who prefer written instructions:

Preparing our hem

To begin our hem we need to be working from the wrong side of the fabric that is the inside of our garment.

How to hand sew a hem

In this example I am doing a double fold one inch hem – turning up the raw edge 1-inch and then folding it up again another inch.

Folding the hem

I recommend doing your first fold the entire length of your garment before moving on to the second fold as this helps to make sure that the hem is even all the way around.

How to hand sew a hem

Turn the bottom edge of the garment up by one inch and crease the fold in place.

With the second fold, pin in the hem in place, makin g sure to leave enough space to iron between the pins.

Pressing the hem

Next, carefully press the hem in place av oiding the pins. This creates a sharp, crisp edge which will make the hem much easier to sew.

Thread the needle

There is nothing more frustrating when hand sewing than your thread mysteriously knotting of its own accord. This is because of the direction that the thread was spun in.

To avoid knots make sure to thread your needle before you cut your thread. That way you will be working with the natural twist of the thread not against it.

Starting off

I like to start my sewing without a knot by doing three small back stitches on top of each other.

For this hem I am working my back stitches at the top edge of the folded fabric of the hem. Make sure to only catch the fabric of the hem not the main part of your garment.

Working the slip stitch

To begin working the slip stitch, take a very small stitch from the main fabric of the garment only a few millimeters wide and a few millimeters from the starting point.

The next stitch is worked along the crease of the top edge of the hem. Insert the needle a few millimeters on from the previous stitch and bring it up about 2 cm along the crease of the hem.

Then pull the thread tight to make sure the hem is held securely in place.

Repeat this process, fist taking a small stitch from the main fabric of the garment and then making a bigger stitch along the crease of the hem fold.

Both stitches at once

Alternatively this stitch can be worked in one motion by first catching the fabric of the main garment and then inserting the needle straight away into the crease of the hem fold.

This can take some practice to master so you may want to begin by working the stitch in two halves. You will want to work towards working the stitch in one motion as you get the hang of it as it makes the stitch much faster.

As you can see here you maneuver the needle into the hem crease whilst the fabric of the garment is still on the needle.

Finishing off

Once the hem is complete we need to finish off our thread in exactly the same way that we started off by working three small back stitches on top of each other only through the folded fabric of the hem not the main garment.

Once the back stitches are in place cut the thread and the hem is complete!

The Finished Slip Stitch Hem

The great thing about this stitch, apart from the fact it is quick and easy to master, is that it is almost invisible from every angle creating a really neat finish to our hem.

Hand sewing a hem gives a really professional finish which is perfect for your special hand made garments.

I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you’d rather hem your clothes with your sewing machine why not check out my Blind Hem Stitch Tutorial?

Stay tuned for more tutorials of this kind coming up on the blog and if you’re interested in more sewing videos make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

A tidy hem makes any purchase feel custom and high quality without you dropping all of your money on a designer garment. Plus, by hemming your ill-fitting clothing instead of donating or tossing it, you can help keep more clothes out of landfills.

Even though hemming can be an affordable alteration, it can still be time consuming or otherwise inaccessible. Learning to do this all yourself saves you money while also empowering you to take responsibility for your purchases.

Hemming or mending your own clothes links you more closely to each garment and keeps the disposable economy at bay. Clothing is personal; let’s keep it that way.

Tools Needed

Needle – You don’t need anything fancy, though you’ll want a larger/thicker needle for sturdier fabrics and a smaller needle for more delicate materials. If the needle is too large, it will leave visible holes in your garment!

Thread – Make sure your thread is sewing thread, not embroidery thread or anything funky. Now is not the time to experiment. It’s also vital to find a thread that blends into your garment (unless you are going for a contrasting look).

Straight Pins – These are a game changer if you’ve been trying to sew without them! Try them.

Ruler – This is self-explanatory and you don’t need a special ruler, although a gridded ruler is helpful in many cases.

Fabric scissors – I know it may seem silly to beginner sewers to invest in a new and more expensive pair of scissors just for fabric, but trust me, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Iron – Again, it’s not absolutely necessary, but really will make a difference.

Chalk or Wax – This also isn’t vital to the project, though it’s incredibly useful. Having sewing chalk, sewing wax, or a fabric marker makes the process of amateur sewing significantly less overwhelming.

Before we officially dive in, I have two disclaimers:

There will always be slight variations to this method depending on the garment and fabric.

I do not advise attempting to hem bulky fabric (like denim) by hand because it won’t turn out well.

The Perfect Hem, Step By Step


1. Decide on the Hem

Deciding where your garment should be hemmed is entirely up to you, although there are some recommendations for various types of clothing. According to Sew Guide, it’s best to pin your desired pants hem at four points: the center front, center back, inseam, and side seam.

If you are hemming a garment with less structured fabric (think silk or polyester), you’ll want to pin it more than four times. Try to pin your hem with the pins working through the fabric horizontally, not vertically.

An important thing to remember is the benefit of double or triple checking your pinned hem so that this new look won’t be crooked (unless you are going for an asymmetrical look). Enlisting a friend or family member to help you determine the hem is a great idea if you can swing it!

2. Prepare for Cutting

To prepare the hem for cutting, make sure the garment is turned inside out, then iron the folded hem. Remove the pins as you go; the crease from the iron should hold the desired hem in place. If the fabric refuses to hold the fold, use a basting stitch to keep it in place. You can find an easy tutorial on how to hand baste here.

Once your desired hem is secure, decide how wide you’d like this new hem to be. This is also up to you, though sewing veterans advise matching the new hem with the original hem width as much as possible. Other tips are to keep pant hems around 1 ¼” – 1 ½” and dress or skirt hems around 1 ½” – 2”.

Mark this hem with a fabric pen, wax, or chalk, measuring from the fold line. Some garments will require a double fold method in order to maintain a clean hem. Find a simple tutorial for it here.

3. Cut the Fabric

Use your marked hem width as a guide for cutting away the excess fabric. A great visual for this can be found here. Make sure you are absolutely satisfied with your hem width before doing any cutting because there are no do-overs once you’ve cut the fabric.

4. Prepare for Sewing

To keep the raw edge of the newly cut fabric from fraying, fold it in ¼” and iron it in place. A helpful visual for this can be found here.

5. Sew the Hem

Cut a piece of thread about 18–20” long, slip it through the eye of the needle, and knot only one of the ends. Sew the ¼” fold you just completed by using a slip stitch. This method will ensure there are barely any markings found on the outside of your garment.

Helpful tutorials of a slip stitch can be found here. Once you’ve stitched around the entire rim of the clothing item, secure your work by dipping the needle into the first layer of fabric a few times to make a knot. Find a few variations of end-of-sewing knot tying here.

6. Enjoy Your Hard Work!

Congratulations on completing your first hemming project! We hope you’ll continue tailoring your own clothes to save money and benefit the environment.

How to hand sew a hem

Claire B. Shaeffer, a couture-sewing expert, demonstrates key stitches used for hemming couture garments. These five hemming stitches, all done by hand, are useful for any sewer.

Prepare the garment

Press the hem allowance up along the hemline, and trim the allowance evenly to the desired width. Hand-overcast the edge, and baste the allowance in place. Add a line of basting about 1/4 inch below the overcast edge. Thread a short hand-sewing needle with waxed thread. Knot the end and anchor it either in the hem allowance or at a seam allowance.

Blind stitch

The blind stitch, also called the blind hemming stitch and the tailor’s hem, is the most commonly used stitch for finishing a hem. This stitch is worked from right to left, and forms small Vs. It is important to keep the stitches loose, so they don’t show through to the right side as small indentations. When pressing the finished hem from the wrong side, gently fold back the hem allowance edge and press under it, to avoid leaving an impression on the garment’s right side.

Blind catchstitch

This is the same as catchstitch, only it is placed between the hem allowance and the garment. Fold the hem allowance edge down slightly and apply the stitch between the hem allowance’s wrong side and the garment’s wrong side. The finished stitch looks like a series of Xs, which are concealed between the allowance and the garment. This method of hemming is stronger and more elastic than the regular blind stitch, and is good for heavier fabrics.

Figure-eight stitch

This stitch is rarely used but helpful. It includes more substantial stitching in the hem allowance and then a small stitch into the garment, forming a small figure-eight stitch. Place the stitches up to 1 inch…

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Hemming can be done in a lot of ways, by machine or by hand.

If a garment needs an invisible hem like in woven fabrics, I prefer to hem by hand and to prevent any ridges from the outside I fold the hem edge back about 3/8 inch (1 cm) and work from the right to the left using a fine needle size 11 or 12 depending on the fabric weight. In this example I used Guterman thread and a needle size 11.

The sample pants is just one leg so it is small and can rest in my lap.

The stitches are sewn about 1/4 inch (6 mm) apart and with loose stitches.

I used a yellow thread for better view to show.

The hem allowance I use is a bit more than 1 1/2 inch ( 4 cm) , the hem allowance is marked with chalk and fold down and steam pressed.

For this example I used the same sample which I showed you for the post Fine Men’s Tailoring: pants hemming

How to hand sew a hemHow to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hemHow to hand sew a hem

For unlined garments I sew an extra stitch every 3th or 4th stitch,

How to hand sew a hemHow to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

When you want to press the hem again do it from the inside and press only the hem fold edge. Do not touch the hem edge with your iron to prevent a show true from the right side .

Sometimes it is easier if I keep my garment away from me on the table instead of in my lap so it looks like this.

For hemming this lightweight satin I used a size 12 needle and extra fine thread

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

Wrong side view: Right side view:

How to hand sew a hemHow to hand sew a hem

For a hem in garments where the lining hem is attached to the fabric hem, I use a 2 inch (5 cm) deep hem allowance and use the same hem stitch only this time I fold the hem edge back half way so 1 inch (2,5 cm) and use longer stitches about 3/8 inch (1cm) , there is no need to sew an extra stitch because the hem is secured by the lining hem.

The machine stitch line at the bottom is the attached lining .

How to hand sew a hem

Stretchy materials like knit or woven fabrics are extremely comfortable and super versatile, serving you year-round whether you want something nice and breathable or something warm and cozy.

That said, stretchy fabrics can be a pain to sew because you have to know how to properly work with them in order to avoid bunching up your stitches or messing up the material’s elasticity.

How do you hem stretchy fabric by hand? When hemming stretch fabrics by hand it’s important to always place your stitches along the direction of the stretch of the fabric. Use an elastic polyester thread and a stretch stitch to do this.

When you sew with a sewing machine, there are a few standard stitches that you can employ to work with the fabric’s stretchiness. If you don’t have a sewing machine or just want to do a quick hemming job, here are some steps you can follow to sew stretchy fabrics by hand.

Characteristics of Stretch Fabric

There are a few types of stretchy fabric, but the first thing you should pay attention to is the direction of the stretch.

Thinner materials like knit or woven fabrics often have a four-way stretch, meaning that the fabric stretches both horizontally and vertically, like the four directions of a compass.

Some thicker materials, like denim, can also have some stretch, but in this case, the stretch is two-way, meaning the fabric only stretches vertically (for denim, anyway).

When hemming stretchy fabrics, either by hand or with a sewing machine, knowing the direction of the stretch will help you figure out how to position your stitches. You should always place your stitches in the same direction as the stretch’s direction.

If the material stretches horizontally, placing your stitches horizontally will allow the fabric to maintain its elasticity as it wraps around your body, so it would still take its proper shape after hemming.

Hand-sewing stretchy fabric is a bit trickier than sewing with a sewing machine since you will have to use a stretchy polyester thread and a stretch stitch to work with the material. Otherwise, you will risk making the hem look bunched up and awkward.

With a sewing machine, you can employ the zigzag stitch, which is a standard stitch to sew a stretchy material. When hemming stretchy fabric by hand, you can use a catch stitch to achieve the same level of elasticity.

How To Sew Stretch Fabric By Hand – Catch Stitch

When sewing a catch stitch by hand, the stitch will look like very small stitches on the right side of the fabric (virtually invisible) and have a zigzag look on the wrong side of the fabric.

Before you sew, you should pick out a needle and very fine thread that matches the color of your fabric. Knit fabric will heal after you insert the needle, so you don’t have to worry too much about the size of the needle – a standard hand sewing needle would do.

Below are the step by step instructions to help you do a catch stitch by hand:

Note: You will be working from left to right to achieve this catch stitch.

Step 1

Turn your work to the wrong side. Fold up your hem by half an inch to 1 inch, with the wrong side facing together (folded in toward the wrong side, not the right side).

Use sewing pins to pin the hem in place. If you don’t have sewing pins, you can use an iron to create a sharp crease at the hem to make your sewing easier.

Step 2

Insert the needle by bringing it from the inside of the fold to the outside of the fold (wrong side of the project). This way, the leftover thread will be hidden inside the fold when your hem is finished.

Step 3

On the wrong side of the fabric and outside of the fold, insert your needle from right to left, collecting only a tiny bit of fabric so that the stitch is only slightly visible from the right side of the fabric. You now have a diagonal stitch going from left to right.

Step 4

On the folded fabric, insert your needle from right to left, collecting a small bit of fabric. You now have an inverted “V” shape stitch that holds your hem together.

Step 5

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have finished your hem, removing the sewing pins as you go. You can make the “V” close together or as far apart as you’d like. Just make sure that the stitches are even.

When you work, make sure that you don’t pull your stitches too tightly, as it may make the stretchy fabric look bunched up on the right side.

Step 6

Finish the hem by securing the end with a knot and weave the loose end into the fold. You should have a nice and even hem that works with your stretchy fabric!

Hand hemming. It just sounds good, doesn’t it? It takes you back to the days when time was spent stitching with a needle and thread. Quiet, meditative, and artfully skilled.

I’ll be the first to admit that most of my hand woven pieces are hemmed on my sewing machine, due to a lack of time and a love of convenience. But, I do enjoy stitching with a needle and thread at least occasionally, and it does provide a different finish to a machine stitch.

*This post contains some affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase, I receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are more interested in hemming your hand wovens on a sewing machine, this post has got you covered. The initial steps are the same, whether you are hemming by hand or machine.

How to hand sew a hem

How to hand sew a hem

Next you begin to fold down the edge that was previously serged or zigzag stitched and press with the iron.

How to hand sew a hem

Now we make another fold, a little bigger than the last and press that down as well. Place pins along the fold to help hold it in place during the stitching process.

If you need more details on these steps, this post is more step by step.

Now we are ready to stitch. Use a needle (not a tapestry, you need a sharp point for this task) and a length of good quality sewing thread (I always use Gutermann Sew All Thread) and knot the end of the thread. Slightly lift the edge corner of one of your hems. In this space you will begin your thread and lodge your know to make it invisible.

How to hand sew a hem

Take the needle into the fold of the hem, close to the corner and close to the edge of the fold. Pull the thread through.

How to hand sew a hem

Now, take the needle back to the base cloth, horizontal to the fold. Pick up one or two threads, very close to the fold of the hem, but not on it. This is the fabric underneath the hem. Pull through.

Now, take the thread vertically through the fold of the hem once again. Pull through, and return to the base cloth to repeat these steps.

Once you are proficient at this, you may want to eliminate one step of the process by combining the two stitches into one action. It is best if you watch the video to learn to do that, it is much easier to show and tell!

Finish up by knotting the thread and burying it into the cloth, using your needle. Cut off any loose ends. Give your hem/s a quick press and they’re good to go!

So, what is your preference? Hand hemming or machine? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Do you like the towel I’m hemming in the photos? It is one of 4 towels from my Floor Loom Weaving sequel class. It’s almost finished, won’t be long now! Make sure you’re on my email list to receive notification of when it goes live.

A hand-sewn hem is the hallmark of a custom-made curtain panel. It is also the solution to ready-made panels that are too long in a household where there is no sewing machine. A well-sewn hem adds weight to the bottom edge of the curtain and helps keep it hanging straight. Learning this hand-sewing skill takes practice, but even the first efforts, if done with care, will get the job done. Use this cross or catch-stitch hemming technique wherever you need to make a barely visible hem.

Lay the curtain panel flat on the table, the wrong side of the fabric visible, the bottom edge toward you. Turn the hem up the by the allocated hem allowance and press the bottom edge. Pin the hem in place across the width of the panel. Typically, curtain panels have a 4-inch double hem. The panel would be cut 8 inches longer than the finished measurement, and the bottom edge would be turned 4 inches, pressed and turned an additional 4 inches. Double hems help the curtain hang straight due to their weight. If you do not have enough hem allowance for a full double hem, turn the raw edge over 1/2 inch as a minimum.

Thread a needle with a 5-foot length of regular sewing thread. Tie a knot in one end of the thread. The length of the needle is up to you. Some people find a short needle (between 1 and 1 1/2 inches long) easier to handle, and some prefer longer (1 1/2 to 2-inches long) needles. If you are unsure, make some sample hems and test the different lengths until you find one that you are comfortable with, and one that helps you make even stitches.

Start at the left edge of the hem. Take a small stitch, about 1/16 inch long, from the right to the left into the top fold of the hem. Pull the thread all the way through the stitch; the stitching uses a single thread. With your left thumb, hold the excess thread down against the hem. The needle never passes under the excess thread.

Take a small stitch in the curtain fabric, just above the folded hem and 1/8-inch to the right of the first stitch. The smaller the stitch the better. Try to pick up only two or three fabric threads. Fewer threads in the stitch will reduce the visibility of this stitching. Insert the needle from the right to the left and take care that the tread does not become tangled. Pull the thread all the way through the stitch. Lightly hold the excess thread down to reduce tangles. Remember that you never pass the needle under the excess thread.

Make a small stitch in the top fold of the hem 1/8-inch to the right of the stitch just made. Insert the needle, from the right to the left, into the fold of the top of the hem and exit the fold after 1/8-inch. The thread runs between the two layers of the hem, and this stitch completes the final leg of a sewn “X.” Pull the thread all the way through.

Continue sewing the hem to the opposite side. Take several tiny stitches into the top of the hem fold to anchor the thread and cut off the excess.

How to hand sew a hem

Learning Basic Sewing Techniques Is the Easiest Way to Support Sustainable Fashion

Truly sustainable fashion starts with our own two hands. Buying fewer clothes, finding secondhand pieces, or investing in eco-conscious garments is a great start, but learning a few basic hand-sewing techniques is the easiest way to reduce the amount of clothes going to landfill. If you’re anything like us, then maybe you never learned how to sew. Instead of figuring out how to sew a loose button, fix a snagged thread on a jumper, or patch a pair of socks, we often end up buying something new because it seems easier.

Our relationship with fast fashion is kind of bizarre when you really think about it. If we compare fashion and clothing to food and cooking, then your perspective really begins to shift. Whether you have a super-busy lifestyle and food deliveries help to make your days easier or a weekend order-out is a treat that you look forward to all week long, we almost all make our own food, at least some of the time. Even when you think about beauty, most of us buy our beauty products brand new, but making your own face mask or hair mask is also a very normal thing you probably do in the name of self-care or saving money.

When you apply that same logic to fashion, you start to realize how odd it is that throughout our lives, most of us have never made our own clothes because it’s never been the norm. Don’t get us wrong, sewing is by no means cheap or easy, unless you’re picking up the basics of crochet or knitting. Being able to sew a garment means investing in a sewing machine, fabric, and a bunch of accessories to support you in creating a professional-looking result. But before you get bogged down with making your own spring or summer dress by hand, we found a few easy DIY sewing videos that will show you the basics and give you more control over your wardrobe. Are you ready to get more comfortable with a needle and thread and do your bit to champion sustainability? Then we found a few simple sewing videos that will have your next rip or tear covered.