There’s no doubt that the easiest way to sew a hem is to do a simple turned hem on your sewing machine. With no handstitching required, this hem is fast, easy, and efficient.
Because the stitching from a turned hem shows on the outside of your garment, turned hems tend to have a very casual look. I like to use them on casual dresses, shirts and blouses, and everyday pants and shorts, like jeans.
There are several ways you can create a turned hem, and we’re going to cover each of them. The hem you choose depends on the shape of your garment and the type of fabric you’re using.
1) A folded edge hem
This is the simplest turned hem, and one you’re probably used to sewing. It involves turning your hem a small amount, then turning again and edgestitching in place.
When to use it:
- Fairly straight hems. This hem works best if there isn’t a huge amount of flare in your garment. It’s fine for most pants and shorts, works well for most blouses, and can be used on skirts with a straight or a-line shape without difficulty.
With fabric that won’t show bulk. If your fabric is thick, make sure it won’t show a lot of bulk. Denim works well with this hem because it’s so stiff that bulky seams and hems aren’t noticable.
With opaque fabric. If your fabric is sheer, the edge may show through with this hem. For sheer fabrics, you’re better off with the twice-turned hem (see below) or a rolled hem.
How to do it
1) Determine your hem allowance. Decide how wide you want your finished hem to be. If your hem is very flared, use a more narrow hem allowance. If it’s straight, you may use a hem allowance of 1 inch or more. Add 1/4″ to this amount for the total hem allowance and adjust your pattern if needed. For example, if you want a finished 1″ hem, you should cut a hem allowance that is 1 1/4″.
2) Turn the raw edge of the hem under 1/4″ and press.
3) Turn the rest of the hem allowance again and pin in place all the way around. Use a tape measure or seam gauge to make sure the hem is even all the way around. Press.
5) From the wrong side, edgestitch the folded edge in place. An edgestitch foot is recommended. Start and end the stitching at a side seam, backstitching to secure.
6) Give the hem a final press.
2) A curved folded hem
If you are sewing a skirt with more of a flare at the hem, you can sew a variation on the folded edge hem. This method helps ease any extra fullness into the hem.
When to use it:
- Flared hems. You can use this technique when you want the easy, casual look of a turned hem but your skirt has a bit too much flare to make that easy.
- With fabric that won’t show bulk. You especially don’t want to use this technique if it will make your hem look bulky, because the extra fabric from the curve will add a little more bulk than usual. Avoid using it with synthetic fabrics that don’t press well.
- With opaque fabric. Again, sheer fabric will show the edge beneath, so stick with this technique when there’s no danger of show-through.
How to do it:
See our previous tutorial on curved turned hems for full instructions on this variation.
3) A twice-turned hem
Ok, this one looks a lot like the first one, but in person, it’s slightly bulkier with a little more weight.
A twice-turned hem is basically doubled up. The hem is turned once, then turned again by almost the same amount. This gives the hem added structure and hides shading if your fabric isn’t completely opaque.
When to use it:
- When you want crispness. The doubled-up hem can add a little extra structure, so it’s a good choice for crisp fabrics like shirting.
- With fabric that won’t show bulk. This is another one that should be avoided if you’re worried about excess bulk. It’s often used on denim because bulk is easy to hide with such a sturdy fabric. Try sampling this hem with your fabric before you commit to make sure it will look right.
- With somewhat sheer fabric. If your fabric has a bit of sheerness, like a white shirting or a cotton lawn, the twice-turned hem helps to hide any of the show-through you might get with a folded edge hem.
How to do it
1) 1) Determine your hem allowance. Decide how wide you want your finished hem to be. If your hem is very flared, use a more narrow hem allowance. If it’s straight, you may use a hem allowance of 1 inch or more. Double this amount and add 1/8″ to this amount to account for turn of cloth. Adjust your pattern if needed. For example, if you want a finished 1″ hem, you should cut a hem allowance that is 2 1/8″.
2) Turn the raw edge of the hem under by the finished hem amount. In our exampe above, that would be 1″. Use a tape measure or seam gauge to make sure the hem is even all the way around. Press.
3) Turn the rest of the hem allownce again and press in place. In our example, that is another 1″. The extra 1/8″ will be taken up by the turn of cloth. Pin the hem in place all the way around.
4) From the wrong side, edgestitch the folded edge in place. An edgestitch foot is recommended. Start and end the stitching at a side seam, backstitching to secure.
5) Give the hem a final press.
4) Serged and turned hem
This method is ideal for curved hems or hems that might be in danger of showing a lot of bulk. The raw edge is finished with serging (or another finishing stitch if you don’t have a serger) and eased into place to help control the excess fabric from a curve.
When to use it
- With a flared shape. This finish is ideal when you want an easy machine-stitched hem for the most flared skirts, like circle skirts, full gathered or pleated skirts, or semi-circles.
- With bulky fabric. This is also a good choice if your fabric shows bulk, because there’s no turned edge to add extra thickness. Of course, it works with non-bulky fabrics too.
- With opaque fabric. Because the edge is finished with serging, this isn’t a good choice for sheer fabrics. For a sheer fabric with a curved hem, try a narrow twice-folded hem, a rolled hem, or a baby hem instead.
How to do it
1) Determine your hem allowance. Decide how wide you want your finished hem to be. For flared skirts, a hem of 1 inch or less is ideal.
2) Finish the raw edge with a serger. If you don’t have a serger, you can also use the mock overlock stitch or a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine.
3) Sew a row of ease stitches all the way around, close to the serging. Use a stitch length of 4mm and leave long thread tails.
4) Turn the hem allowance up and pin in place. Adjust the ease stitches by pulling on the bobbin thread tail and adjust the easing until the hem lays flat. Use a tape measure or seam gauge to make sure the hem is even all the way around. Press in place.
5) From the wrong side, stitch the folded edge in place. I like to stitch right next to the basting stitches. Start and end the stitching at a side seam, backstitching to secure.
6) Remove the basting stitches. Give the hem a final press.
The turned hem is an easy machine-stitched hem that’s suitable for many casual kinds of clothing. While it’s not always the right choce for every garment, this old standby is easy and can suit many different uses. If you don’t mind the look of visual topstitching at your hem, try one of these techniques.
Whether your hem is flared or straight, whether your fabric is sheer or opaque, and whether your fabric creates bulk or not, there is probably a turned hem technique you can use.
Do you frequently use turned hems?