Tuesday, 18 August 2015

How to sew a fine hem without a hemming foot

Have you ever wondered how you can achieve a very fine hem on delicate fabrics such as chiffon, georgette and fine satin?  These are all fabrics that beginners dread working with and can even be difficult for the most accomplished sewers.

There is a special sewing machine foot called a “Rolled hem foot” or “Fine rolled hem foot” which can be purchased for your machine to do exactly this job and will create a very narrow hem, especially useful on fine fabrics.

Not only do you have the cost of purchasing the foot (probably around £15), but  unless you are very experienced this is a very tricky thing to master and takes a lot of practice.  It means that you need to cut your fabric within less than a centimetre from your final hem line and it can be very difficult to maintain a correct line, especially if you have to curve it around the fabric grain. If you encounter any problems during the sewing it can leave you with quite a wobbly hem line.

Here is my tip on how to sew a fine hem without using a hemming foot

I have to admit that it won’t be quite as fine as what can be achieved with a hemming foot, but with a little practice you can achieve a hem that is less than 0.5 cm (or around 1/4 “) and I find that it is much easier to control and you can still get a very professional finish.

So here goes and the secret is to do one thing at a time and be patient.

Firstly turn your hem up (wrong side to wrong side) and press the fabric at the exact hem line you wantFRH1 to create.






You do need to be careful to get your iron to the correct iron setting, I normally use a wool setting but you must do your own testing to your satisfaction, so if you can cut off a small piece first to practice.  I can’t express practice enough in this post as there’s no going back once the hem is cut.

Press the hem carefully and make sure that the fabric is smooth and the press line can be easily seen as you will be using it to guide your stitching.


If you are taking a lot off the hem as I was in this instance, trim off the excess to leave around 2” of fabric as this will make it much easier to handle and give you a bit of fabric to practice on.

If you are hemming a long dress it is often appropriate only to take up the front of the dress so you will have to consider how to join your new hem to the existing hem.


About 3 inches from where the new hem will meet the existing hem, un pick the existing hem line from the trimmed hem to just beyond where the new hem will join and trim the excess.


Now it’s time to start stitching.


If you have a practice piece of fabric, PRACTICE NOW.  You don’t need to use a small stitch, a medium length stitch will do fine, but you do need to get your sewing machine tension right so that it doesn’t pucker and stretch the fabric while you are stitching.

Also at this point I would always use a new sewing machine needle and for fine fabrics like this I recommend a size 70 point needle. 


With the right-side of the fabric uppermost, fold under your excess so that the fold line is approximately a quarter of an inch (0.4cm) from the pressed hem line. I have made it a little bigger in the pictures to make it stand out more.  The smaller you can make this line, the narrower your hem will be. It will depend on your skill, confidence and possibly your machine.

Start from just before where the new hem line will be created and finish just before where the new hem line will finish.

The next stage needs a lot of patience and care as we are about to cut off ALL the excess.


My advice to  you is don’t hurry this part, don’t do it if you have any distractions or it’s the “I’ll just do this and finish for the day” or if you are tired and can’t concentrate. This is where you trim the fabric and this is how I do it. You may with practice find your own method though. TAKE YOUR TIME.

With the right side of the fabric towards your hand, and the turned up hem uppermost, hold the hem in between your fingers and very VERY carefully cut away the excess fabric as close as you can to the stitched line. I use a very small pair of embroidery scissors and literally work one inch at a time. I can’t stress how important it is to take your time to ensure that you only cut off the excess and don’t cut through both layers of fabric.

From the start of trimming and the at the end of the trimming where the existing and new join, trim so that a neat line will form when you turn over the hem again.


Now you will make the final line of stitching.

With the right-side uppermost, fold under your hem using the original pressed hem line as a guide and stitch.  Make sure that your stitch line is close enough to the new hem line to allow smooth stitching and a really neat stitched line,  but far enough away to keep the hem from rolling open.  This is something that you will learn with practice.

At both ends, tease the new hem and existing hem to roll the fabric round and make a neat finish.

Now you can press your hem and you are finished.

Your new hem will show one line of stitching on the right-side and two on the wrong-side.   If you want to, you can now go back and pick out the first line of stitching which you can see from the wrong side. I don’t normally bother unless the fabric is extra fine or you have used a colour that does not match and can be seen from the right side.  It’s up to you.

So my advice is with PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, you can still achieve a very professional finish without a fine rolled hemming foot.

I’m sorry about all the shouty words in capitals, but this is one of the most difficult hems to create and as you trim the fabric to within a quarter of an inch from where you want the hem to be there is no room for error and once you have cut off the fabric excess, or even worse, snipped into the wrong piece of fabric you can’t make the hem longer. I always err on the side of making the hem too long rather than too short, but even then it is very difficult with this hem to just take off a very small amount.


If you have any feedback or comments, please feel free to leave them  below.

Thank you for reading and see you again soon.

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