Learn how to do hemming stitch in order to hand stitch a hem. Would you like to be able to make a hem that hangs beautifully and looks very professional? A hand-stitched hem is a way to go! It may sound tedious in this modern world of technology and speed but hand stitching a hem is really worth the effort especially if you want an invisible result.
Hemming Stitch Tutorial
The hem of a garment is a very important part of the finished product. There is a wide range of hemming stitches to complement the finish of a dress, blouse, or pair of pants. Hems can be decorative or almost invisible, but the best hems are sewn by hand. You can read more in my article on how to sew a hem.
The stitches listed below will give your handiwork the perfect finishing touch.
In all my samples I have used contrasting red stitching. For invisible stitching, use a matching color thread.
How to Do Hemming Stitch
Here are 7 types of hemming stitches:
- Catch Stitch
- Blind Hem Stitch
- Slip Stitch
- Felled Stitch
- Whip Stitch
- Hand Rolled Hem Stitch
- Running Stitch
My photos include a shot of the front and back of the hem so you can make the best decision on the hand sewing hem style that you prefer.
How to Hand Sew a Hem, Step by Step Instructions
Before you start learning how to hem by hand, you need to press the hem.
- On the wrong side, press up the raw edge by ¼ inch (6mm). Your sewing pattern may specify a different amount.
- Press over the hem a second time by the hem allowance.
- You are now ready to sew.
All of these hemming stitch options are easy but if you have never sewn a hem before then go straight to the easiest which is the running stitch.
1. Catch Hemming Stitch
The catch stitch is a good choice for a hemming stitch on knits because it has a certain amount of elasticity and stretch. The cross-over of the stitch adds strength and durability.
DIRECTION - Work the hem stitch from left to right.
- Step 1 - Anchor your thread in the fold of the hem and have the needle pointing to the left. Pick up a small piece of fabric on the wrong side of the garment. Work just above the hem. Make your stitch very small because it will be seen on the outside.
- Step 2 - Pull up your thread and move the needle and thread to the right ¼” -½" (6-12mm) distance and catch a little piece of the hem with the needle facing left.
- Step 3 - Continue in this way and as you work you will see the thread crossing over to make the next stitch. Remember to use cotton as close in color to the fabric because a small ‘catch’ stitch will be seen on the right side of the garment.
2. Blind Hemming Stitch
The blind hemming stitch is a very professional way to create a hem on pants. It is also known as an invisible hand stitch hem. Here is how to do a blind stitch by hand:
- Step 1 - Measure and fold a double hem to suit the required length of your garment. Blind stitch hems are usually wider so I did 2 folds of 1 inch (2.5cm).
- Then fold the folded hem back to the right side of the garment and leave about ⅛” (3mm) showing over the top of the folded fabric. This is the fold of the hem you will be working in.
- Step 2 - Anchor your thread in the hem and start to work from right to left. With your needle, catch a small piece of the fabric in the folded edge of the garment. This is to be next to but not inside the hem. This small stitch will be visible on the right side when the hem is complete. Check to be sure you only pick up one layer of fabric to make this small stitch.
- Step 3 - Move the needle about ½” (12mm) to the left and pick up a small stitch in the hem of the garment. The threads will be concealed in the fold of the hem. Continue in this way to the end of the hem.
- Step 4 - Fold the hem down again and press on top of the hem. The only visible stitch will be the small amount of fabric caught up in the stitch on the right side.
The alternative to using a hand blind stitch is to use the blind hem foot on your sewing machine.
3. Slip Hemming Stitch
The slip hemming stitch looks good on both sides of the garment and is a commonly used stitch.
Here is how to hand stitch a hem with the slip stitch.
- Step 1 - Prepare a double fold hem. The size of your hem will depend on your personal choice for the finished length. This stitch works equally well on a wide or narrow hem. Start to stitch on the upper fold, working from right to left.
- Step 2 - Insert the needle into the main fabric. Make sure you keep the stitch level with the fold of the hem. The tiny stitch you make will be visible on the right side. Pull up your threads to make the stitches taut but not puckered as you sew.
- Step 3 - Insert the needle into the fold and pass the needle along inside the fold. Pass the needle and thread along the fold for a short distance. Pull the needle out to the fabric side under the fold of the hem.
- Step 4 - Pick up another small dot of fabric from the garment. Continue in this way for the length of the hem. End off in the hem fold at the end.
It is important to measure the space between the amount of fabric taken in the fold and the amount taken in the small dot to make sure the stitches are evenly spaced. Mark with a removable pen if this makes it easier to keep an equal distance.
4. Felled Hemming Stitch
The felled hemming stitch shows on the outside of the fabric. This stitch copes well with bulkier fabrics as it can be hidden in the pile of a thicker fabric. If the garment is to be lined the lining shields the long stitches from view.
- Step 1 - Prepare the hem and anchor the thread on the wrong side to begin working from right to left.
- Step 2 - Make a stitch from the folded edge of the hem to run through the fabric for about ¼” - ½” (6-12mm) into the fabric and come out again at the folded hem edge. Stitch into the hem with a small stitch and then repeat the stitch that goes through the fabric and returns through at the hem fold.
- Step 3 - Continue this way and a series of slightly slanted stitches are formed on the right side of the work and the smaller anchor stitch appears on the folded edge of the hem. The longer outside stitch will be concealed in the lining if a lining is used.
5. Hemming by Hand with Whip Stitch Hems
Whipstitch is a simple stitch for hems that need more control. The stitches are smaller and closer together and you will see small long stitches on the outside.
- Step 1: Prepare the hem by pressing it over twice.
- Step 2: Place the needle in the main fabric and bring it up at an angle through the fold of the hem.
- Step 3: Repeat keeping the stitches even.
6. Hand Rolled Hem Stitch
The hand-rolled hem is ideal for finishing sheer fabrics or very lightweight materials. It does not work well with thicker fabrics. Use with soft linens, silks, and cotton.
- Step 1 - Prepare the hem by creasing one fold along the hem edge with your thumb or finger. Make a narrow fold close to the edge to keep any bulk away from the hem.
- Step 2 - You will be working the hem in small stages from right to left. Secure the thread with a few back stitches. It is best not to use a knot with fine fabric as it may show and spoil the delicate look of the hem.
- Step 3 - Start the hemming by hand by making a small slanted stitch into the fabric just above the hem. Then slant into the hem and take another stitch in the hem. Repeat this without pulling the threads and working between the hem edge and the fabric. (See in the photo below how the needle makes a small down and up stitch first through the fabric and then at the edge of the hem. )
- Step 4 - After you have completed 3 or 4 stitches pull the thread gently but not too tight. This will make the hem roll in gently as it forms the hem and encloses the raw edges. Repeat.
7. Running Stitch Hems
Running stitch a fast and easy hem stitch by hand. It is ideal for beginners.
- Step 1 - Prepare your hem to the required width. Press and pin in place.
- Step 2 -Thread your needle with matching or contrast thread. The running stitch can be decorative as well as just utilitarian.
- Step 3 - Knot your thread and start with a slip stitch in the fold of the hem. Continue to fasten the hem with simple running stitches following the fold of the hem. Choose the length of the running stitch to suit the purpose of the garment.
Tips to Create a Professional Hem Stitch
Here are some more tips for how to hem by hand:
- Hang the garment overnight to give the hem a chance to ‘drop’ before sewing. This is especially important for a bias cut hem.
- Try to hem with a single thread. Hemming stitches need to be almost invisible and this is aided by a thinner thread. I used double thread in my sample photos as I needed the stitches to be thicker so they would show up in a photo.
- Mark your hem with a sewing gauge or a tape measure.
- Measure from the floor to the hem to ensure the hem is straight in line with the ground level. The hem will look straight if lined up with the flat surface of the floor.
- Keep an eye on the width of the hem. A rolled hem, for example, needs to be thin while other hems may need to be broader to help the skirt drop and hang nicely.
Decorative Hem Stitch by Hand
There are many decorative hand hemming stitch suggestions. Depending on the decoration or the stitch, hems can be embroidered, scalloped, or even tasseled.
Blanket stitch is often the stitch used to attach a crochet edge or create a scalloped hem. Beaded, braided, and fringed - there are many options for the simple hem.
Hemming Stitch FAQs
What is Hemming Stitch?
A hemming stitch is a hand or machine stitch used to hold a hem in place. Depending on the stitch you use, it can be invisible or show on the outside of a garment. Machine hems are commonly sewn with a straight stitch and hand-stitched hems are usually sewn with a blind or invisible stitch.
What is the Best Stitch for Hemming?
The best stitch to use for a hem sewn on your sewing machine is a straight stitch with a medium length. If you are hand sewing, then the best stitch to use is a slip hemming stitch or blind hand stitch. These stitches are almost invisible on the outside of a garment.
Hemming Stitch - In Conclusion
Although the hem of the dress or sleeve edge is the last part of the process it does not have to be a dull finishing portion of the garment. a hand stitched hem can be the finale, the last pizazz of the garment, and an opportunity to be creative.
More Hem Articles
- GENERAL HEMS – How to Sew a Hem
- NARROW HEMS – Sew a Narrow Hem
- ROLLED HEM FOOT – How to Use a Rolled Hem Foot
- WIDE HEMS – How to Sew Wide Hems
- CIRCULAR HEMS – How to Sew Round Hems
- BLIND HEMS – How to Sew a Blind Hem
- RUFFLED HEMS – Lettuce Hems
- KNIT FABRIC HEMS – How to Hem Knit Fabric, Catch Stitch
- KNIT HEMS – Twin Needle
- SQUARE HEMS – How to Sew Mitered Corners
- HAND HEMS – Hemming Stitch
- NO SEW HEMS - How to Use Hemming Tape
- SIMPLE HEMS - Single Fold Hems
- DOUBLE HEMS - Double Fold Hems
- BIAS - Bias Tape Hems
- SCALLOPS - Scalloped Edges
- INVISIBLE HEMS - Blind Hem Stitch