Hemming Techniques

Are the little ones in your life growing at a rapid rate? Does the length of their clothes need adjusting, requiring you to take up the hem?

Judy Hall reviews hemming techniques.

Think how many times you have seen a teenager literally walking on their jeans because they are too long or the hem frayed to nothing from dragging along the ground? You know it’s true. A whole generation seems to have missed the basics of sewing, be it male or female, having not been taught such practical things at school as to how to sew on a button securely (or at all) and how to take up a hem.

Help is here! The easiest way to take up a hem is not to sew it at all! Yes, you may well be smiling and asking ‘is she serious?’ I don’t mean safety pins, paper clips, staples, blue tac or glue, yet I’ve seen all of these – I mean 21st Century methods such as fusible tape. There are various brands readily available from haberdashery outlets, eg. Steam-A-Seam, Heat-n-Bond, Seams Great, Design Plus and Heat Press Batting Together ¾”. Some on the market will result in a firm, stiff finish whilst those I’m suggesting have a very soft, flexible finish and remain intact throughout laundering.

Neaten any trimmed fabric hem with an overlock stitch, a zig-zag stitch, simply cut with pinking shears or a pinking blade in a rotary cutter.

As with any adhesive product, read the instructions and follow the suggested heat setting for your iron. If you ever need to alter the hemline, reheat the hem with your iron and whilst warm you may gently separate the fabric and rehem. Alternatively, you may use Fusible Thread on the inside of the hem finish (either in your bobbin or on the lower looper of your overlocker) and simply iron for a secured hem.

Refer to a previous Into Craft editorial for instructions for Fusible Thread.

A no-sew is a quick and easy option.


New fusible products on the market give a soft flexible finish.


For school uniforms it is quite acceptable to straight stitch a hem into place. Always neaten the raw edge of the fabric with an overlock-type stitch; evenly press the hem up, pin to prevent movement, then straight stitch around the hemline using matching thread. When measuring the hem to be taken up, there are useful products such as sewing or hem gauges, to help you keep the hem straight.

One easy-to-use method is to fold the hem over a piece of cardboard which has been evenly cut to a specific measurement. As you fold the fabric over the cardboard you press the hem firmly around the entire hemline, section by section. The trick is to have trimmed the hem evenly and have the edge of the fabric level with the edge of the cardboard – resulting in an evenly pressed hem. If the fabric is knit, then I suggest you use a Twin Needle for your straight stitched hem as it allows some stretch necessary for any t-shirt or sweatshirt. Most knitted garments in shops are finished in a similar way.

A twin needle gives a neat hem and slight stretch necessary for knit fabrics.


If you are letting down a hem and there’s insufficient fabric for a new hem, simply sew hem facing (available at haberdashery stores) to the edge of the fabric and it virtually becomes the hem. Alternatively, you could apply a ‘narrow hem’. This is achieved by straight-stitching 6mm in from the fabric edge; press the fabric over once on that stitching line as a guide, then turn again another 6mm to form a narrowly turned neat hem. Straight stitch using an edge-stitch foot or other sewing machine foot which will enable you to guide the fabric carefully for such a narrow width.

A row of straight stitching will give you a pressing line when doing a narrow hem

 Pressing with a Rajah Cloth certainly helps to give a hem a nice, crisp finish and prevents the fabric developing a “shine” or maybe even scorching.

  Hem Tips:

  • Work on a stable, well-padded ironing board or a table
  • Press the fabric to be hemmed
  • Use a pressing cloth
  • Check the desired length before cutting off any excess
  • Turn up the hem using a sewing or hem gauge or the cardboard method
  • Check to make sure the hem is straight and evenly turned up
  • If there is too much bulk at any side seam line, consider trimming the seam allowance of the side seams within the hem area
  • Use well matched and good quality thread
  • Whether sewing by hand or machine, choose a suitable needle for the fabric and thread (refer to previous Into Craft Nifty Notions posts)
  • If sewing by hand, use small stitches, taking a minimum of threads from the actual garment and a greater amount into the hem. A slip stitch is adequate for school uniform hems. If you want a better finish – neater and one that allows you to ease in fabric fullness, then herringbone is certainly worth trying. The tiny horizontal stitches are invisible from the right side and the inside will look very professional!
  • If using a blind hem stitch on your sewing machine, check the settings on a suitable scrap piece of the fabric first – adjusting the zig-zag width, stitch length and needle position.

 So, c’mon Mums, Aunts, Grandmas, when you get out the needle and thread, make a point to show someone the basics of sewing. It is up to us to teach the next generation! Next time we’ll explore other methods of hemming, more particularly for dressmaking and tailoring. Products mentioned are available from good haberdashery retail outlets or from Punch with Judy, a regular exhibitor at Craft & Quilt Fairs.

You can also visit www.punchwithjudy.com.au

Print Friendly



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *