Hem finishes

There are just three basic forms of hem – turned-up (the most common), faced and enclosed but we use a whole host of methods within those types to achieve the finish we’re after!

Some are simple, familiar and great for our ‘everyday’ sewing, and others are couture finishes that you may not have encountered before but if you master them they will give you a superb result to a special garment. Sue Young shares just a few examples that might be useful:

1. A narrow rolled hem without needing to trim

  • Begin by sewing a row of straight stitching 5mm away from the cut edge that you’re hemming.
  • Then press a crease along this row of stitching, it should fold quite easily.
  • Turn the folded edge again to enclose the raw edge and stitch a second time close to the original crease.

This is a nice finish on plain weave cottons like lawn or poplin, and stable viscose rayons. Finer fabrics like georgette or chiffon look better with a pin-hem (very narrow and twice-stitched) or using a roll hem finish on your overlocker.

2. Faced hem

The simplest faced hem uses bias binding sewn to close the raw edge then turned up (it may benefit from understitching too) and either slip-hemmed by hand or machined in place.

TIP: Why not try a contrast binding, or make your own to match the garment?

If the edge you want to hem is shaped then cutting a facing in the same way you might for a neckline can help you achieve a crisp finish.

The facing should be cut the same shape as the edge it’s being sewn to. I’ve used an extreme shape in a contrasting colour so you can see it more clearly. Neaten the top edge of the facing first, then pin right sides together and sew in place using a scant 3-5mm seam allowance. Pay close attention to sharp corners or tight curves. Trim and snip carefully as required into corners or around curves. Turn, ease the seam onto the edge and carefully push out curves and corners. Understitch if necessary then press.

3. Enclosed hem

This hem style is commonly a simple bias binding finish but I want to show you a variation of a ‘banded’ hem. The principle is the same but the fabric that encloses the raw edge is there to add extra length so it is cut wider. Decide how deep the extra band needs to be [my example has a finished depth of 3.5cm so the band was 7cm plus 1cm (2x5mm) seam allowance making 8cm in total] the band can be cut on the bias or the straight depending on the shape of the edge it is being attached to. Measure the total circumference and allow an additional 3cm to join the band.

Start by folding the strip in half lengthwise WS together and press the fold, press under one raw edge by 5mm. Pin the unpressed edge to the hem RS together and stitch using a 5mm seam allowance. Join the short ends of the band as necessary and press the seam towards the band, then fold the band up. You could now slip hem the band in position by hand, or you can sink stitch (stitch in the ditch) from the front into the seam to catch the band on the reverse. Or you could use a decorative machine stitch (in a contrast colour possibly)on the right side to secure the band like in my two examples. Because banding adds length this could be a useful technique if you want to get extra life from a child’s garment for example, or if you want to make something reversible this is an ideal method to choose.

These are just four examples of each different type of hem finish but there are so many more. It’s fun to explore the huge number of techniques that are possible and they will add variety and interest to your sewing and garment making experience.

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