A lettuce hem gives an attractive edge finish to your stretch fabric projects. It is not hard to work out where it got its name from, is it? The edge looks a little like the crinkly edge of lettuce. Traditionally this hemming technique is done on a serger but it can be easily and quickly sewn on your regular machine with a simple zig-zag stitch. Once you practice a few times you won't be able to tell much difference between a serged and zig-zag lettuce hem.
Lettuce Hem - On Your Machine
Fabrics to Use
A lettuce hem only works on stretch fabrics. This is an important factor. Stretch fabric stretches out along a cut edge whereas a woven fabric will not.
You will get the best results from stretch fabrics that are thinner and have a tendency to curl up.
See how my Riley Blake spot fabric is already curling at the edges? This is the kind of fabric that is perfect for a lettuce hem. It is a thinner stretch fabric that has a small percentage of Lycra giving it good recovery factor. This means that when you stretch it, the fabric quickly goes back into shape.
Stretch fabrics that are thick or only have a small amount of stretch factor will not work.
Which Edge to Hem
Make sure you are hemming an edge with the greatest stretch. Most stretch sewing patterns have the greatest amount of stretch going around the body so this should be no problem for most projects.
How to Sew Stretch Fabric
If you haven't already read my article on how to sew stretch fabric, I suggest you do so before you start. There are a couple of things you will need including a stretch needle and a strong thread.
I always sew stretch fabric with my Teflon foot. This coated foot glides over stretch and prevents pulling and uneven stitches.
How to Sew a Lettuce Hem
First, test a scrap of fabric to get your stitch length and technique correct. You don't want to start on your finished project until you have had practice.
Step 1 - Roll the edge
Put the fabric under your presser foot with the raw edge rolled over once by ⅛ inch (3mm). If your fabric curls this will be really easy. Just use your fingers to roll it over, there is no need to iron it.
It doesn't matter if the fabric is right or wrong side up as the zig-zag stitches will hide the edge. While saying this, I must admit that I prefer sewing right side up just so I can double-check that it all looks neat.
Another tip is to just go with the direction of the natural curl. My fabric wanted to roll over on the right side so I placed it right side up.
Step 2 - Stitch the Lettuce Hem
Put your zig-zag stitch settings on a width of around 5.0 and length between 0.2-0.5. Your machine may have an applique satin stitch that will work perfectly too.
Lettuce Hem Stitch Settings - Width 5.0 Length 0.5
Stretch out the fabric as far as it will go holding it both in front and behind while maintaining the small folded edge. The zig-zag will go off the edge and over the fold.
Step 3 - Relax the Fabric
When you have finished, give the fabric a little time to relax back into shape. See what a pretty lettuce hem this gives.
Alternatives to Lettuce Hem
Your only alternatives to a lettuce hem are to do a folded hem or to leave the hem raw.
While stretch fabric does not fray, leaving the hem raw can mean it curls up much shorter than you intend and may result in runs in the fabric.
A folded hem is a neat alternative to a lettuce hem. Press the raw edge up once on the wrong side and then zig-zag over it catching in the edge. For thin fabrics that wrinkle, a bit of hemming tape can give much-needed stability.
Lettuce Hem - In Conclusion
Now you know how to sew a lettuce hem you can make all kinds of interesting clothing. See the articles below to learn more about stretch fabric sewing.