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4 ways to sew a turned hem

10

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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.

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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″.

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2) Turn the raw edge of the hem under 1/4″ and press.

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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.

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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.

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6) Give the hem a final press.

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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.

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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″.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5) Give the hem a final press.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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6) Remove the basting stitches. Give the hem a final press.

Conclusion

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?

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Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 10

Rachel W. more-courage-than-skill.blogspot.com

Hem #4 forever! This might be an old trick, but on the off-chance some of the new-er sewists haven’t yet discovered it: try setting your serger needle tension about a half-setting higher than normal. You don’t even have to switch the differential. Just that slight difference makes the fabric want to fold up to one side.

On circle skirts, I’ll reduce the hem allowance to just 1/2″ and make two passes. The first pass, I serge, cutting very little off. The second one, I’ll fold up just until the serging is invisible, press, and stitch down. It makes for a very narrow hem without the guesswork and cussing of folding by eye.

Barbara J

My understanding is that topstitching should be done on the front side of the garment as it always looks better. So I stitch the turned hem from the public side. The down side of this method is I can never get a good edge stitch.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I’d stitch from the right side only if I were doing decorative topstitching, like on jeans. Otherwise, I don’t think it makes enough difference to put up with the less tidy edge on the inside, since ultimately the stitching is intended to blend with your fabric.

Patti

Trying to turn up and press a small SA such as the 1/4″ as in hem #1, or even on a doubled hem as in #3, it can be tricky to get that first turn. I like to let my machine do the hard part. I use a long-ish stitch and sew around the circumference at the desired point of the fold. Then when you press it up it turns quite easily and is also very accurate. I usually work it so that the stitches don’t show when folded, but if they do, or if you just can’t stand to leave them in, they are pretty easy to pick out after the hem is set.

sj kurtz erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

I used to laugh at this method (prestitching?), but after spending a lot of time with bias hems on chiffon skirts, it’s the fastest way to go. You have to have the precise hem line set (which puts the fiddly part before this) but it makes the rest of the procedure fly by.

I figured out I prefer a blind stitch rather than the topstitch for most hemming, which just adds one step in this (flipping the twice ironed hem back to the front by 1/4″, pin and blind stitch) process. Procedure? Grammar police !

For us old folks, would ya use a fabric for the examples that is printed on one side? It’s hard to read the muslin samples. And thanks for spending a month with my favorite alteration!

Molly mygrandmotherlegacy.wordpress.com

I used turned hems a lot, but sometimes have a problem with a narrow turned hem flipping up to the right side after a washing. Just a characteristic of the fabric (usually cottons, twill, etc.)? Or, might I be doing something that could prevent that?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

If your hem is curved, this might be the reason. The folded edge on the inside is wider than the bottom of your hem, causing it to want to flip. (I’m just guessing!)

Ease stitching near the raw edge before turning under might help!

Betty Jordan Wester nouvellegamine.com

I want to thank you for all of this for free, as well as linking to other tutorials. The Coletterie has pretty much become my go-to morning reading. It’s also the place I direct new seamstresses for ideas.
In comparison, my former favorite sewing spot, Burdastyle is selling a tutorial on hemming. *facepalm*

clemensnp clemensnp.wordpress.com

So helpful, thank you!

catherine

Very useful tips for different situations! But all these fractions 1/8, 5/8 inches….are doing my head in! Centimetres are so much more useful for sewing.
When is America going to go metric… like the rest of the world?

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