Learn how to do hemming stitch. Would you like to be able to make a hem that hangs beautifully and looks very professional? A hand-stitched hem is the 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.
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.
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 8 ways to do a hemming stitch.
My photos include a shot of the front and back of the hem so you can make the best decision on the style that you prefer.
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.
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 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 1/4” -1/2″ (6-12mm) distance and catch a little piece of the hem with the needle facing left.
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.
Further Reading: Catch Stitch
Blind Hemming Stitch
The blind hemming stitch is a very professional way to create a hem on pants.
Step 1 – Measure and fold a double hem to suit the required length of your garment. Blind 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 1/8” (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 1/2” (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.
Slip Hemming Stitch
The slip hemming stitch looks good on both sides of the garment and is a commonly used 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 removable pen if this makes it easier to keep an equal distance.
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 1/4” – 1/2” (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.
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.
Further Reading: How to do Whip Stitch
Hand Rolled Hem
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 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.
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.
Further Reading: How to do Running Stitch
Tips to Create a Really Professional Hem
- 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 Suggestions
There are many decorative 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 – 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. The hem can be the finale, the last pizazz of the garment and an opportunity to be creative.
‘Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of the ending.’ (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)
In the end, dressmaking is an art form. The dressmaker sews a beautiful garment. The hem is the ending and tribute to the whole creation.
More Hem Articles
- GENERAL HEMS – How to Sew a Hem (This is the best article to read if you are not sure what kind of hem you need. It gives a rundown of all the most common types)
- NARROW HEMS – How to 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 circular hems
- BLIND HEMS – How to sew a blind hem | blind hem foot
- 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