5 ways to hand stitch a hem


While machine sewing a hem is fast and easy, hand sewing can give you a nearly invisible finish. Below are five different options for hand stitching your hems.

Before we begin, let’s go over a few basic techniques that will be the same for all hand stitching.

Anchoring and tying off

Work with an arm length of thread, and anchor/tie off in the hem. To begin sewing, stitch twice in the same place, but do not pull thread all the way through. Pass the needle through the loop twice.


Pull to tighten knot down to fabric.


When you reach the end of your thread or hem, tie a knot in the same way. To hide the tail, pass the needle through the fabric layers without going all the way through. Bring the needle out a couple inches from the knot.


Cut the thread flush with the fabric. The tail will disappear and be hidden between the layers.


For any hand stitching, if you find it difficult to maintain even stitches, a quick marking with a disappearing fabric pen can be very helpful.


In the photos, contrasting thread is being used to make it easier to see, but you will want to use thread that matches your fabric.

And lastly, any right handed directives are bold in the main text, and left handed directives are in italics and parentheses. Hopefully this isn’t too confusing for anyone, but I wanted to make sure everyone could follow along!

Catch stitch

A catch stitch has a bit of elasticity, and the criss crossing of the thread adds strength.


Worked left to right (right to left).

Anchor thread. With needle pointing to the left (right), take up a very small bit of the garment fabric just above the fold of the hem. Try to make your stitch very small as it will be visible from the right side.


Pull up thread. Move the needle a bit to the right (left) – about 1/4″ to 1/2”. Take up a small amount of the hem fabric with the needle still facing to the left (right).


Continue to complete hem.


Your stitching will look like little “x’s”.


Blind stitch

A blind stitch is barely visible from either side.


Press hem allowance into a double fold hem. Fold hem towards right side of garment so that finished edge sticks out by about 1/8”.


Anchor thread. Working right to left (left to right), pick up a very small bit of fabric in the folded edge of the garment fabric. Make sure you are only sewing through one layer, and make your stitch as small as possible as it will be visible from the right side.


Move about 1/2″ to the left (right) and pick up a bit of fabric in the hem.


Continue working this way until the end of them hem.


Fold hem down and press.

For a variation, use the same technique, but sew a catch stitch to create a blind catch stitch. This will be slightly stronger.

Slip stitch

This stitch works great with a double fold hem, as most of the stitching is hidden within the upper fold of the hem allowance. Like the blind stitch, it’s useful when your hem needs to look good from both sides.


Work right to left (left to right) with the needle pointing left (right). With wrong side of garment facing, sew a stitch in the upper fold of the hem 1/4”-1/2” long. Be sure to not pierce all the way through to the right side of the garment. Think of your needle as just skimming through the fabric.

When you bring the needle out of the fold, pick up a very tiny bit of fabric on the garment.


Pull thread through. Enter back into the fold of the hem directly even where the previous stitch ended.


Stitch forward another 1/4”-1/2” and repeat process to complete hem.


Fell stitch

The fell stitch is stronger than a slip stitch, but it is visible from the underside of the work if a thinner single layer of fabric is used. For bulkier fabrics, the thread can be hidden by passing through only a portion of the fabric’s thickness. With linings it can be completely hidden by stitching only through the lining and hem.


Anchor thread. Working from the wrong side and right to left (left to right), pass needle through garment fabric to make a stitch approximately 1/4″-1/2” long. (For a lined garment, stitch only through the lining.) Bring the needle out through the very top edge of the folded hem.


Enter back into the garment directly behind end of previous stitch to make another stitch.


Repeat to end.


On the underside of the work, there will be a line of slightly diagonal stitches.


Hand rolled hem

This is a nice hem for lightweight and sheer fabrics. It does not work well on thicker fabrics or embellished fabrics.


Trim any vertical seams in the hem allowance down to 1/8”. On your machine, baste around the hem at the hemline. Then shorten your stitch length to 1.5 and stitch 1/8″ below the hemline. This will keep the edge of the fabric from fraying.

(Note: For a slightly wider, but easier to roll hem, stitch 1/4″ below the basting line.)


Trim about 6-8” of the excess fabric close to the stitching line. Attach the end of the fabric to something stable to act as a third hand. You can safety pin it to a couch, put a weight onto it, or put it under the presser foot of your machine.

Roll the trimmed edge of the fabric towards the wrong side, stopping at the basting stitches. The other stitching line should be enclosed by the roll of the fabric. (Licking your fingers will really help. It’s ok, no one’s watching.)


Use slip stitches to sew down the roll. Roll and stitch a little bit at a time. When you get close to your trimmed edge, trim a bit more. Trimming as you go prevents stray threads from fraying as you work with the fabric.


Continue to finish the hem.


Remove basting stitches.


For an additional tutorial on sewing a hand rolled hem, you can also check out this Coletterie post.


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6 ways to finish the edge of your hem


Finishing the raw edge of your hem not only makes it look cleaner and more professional, it also adds durability and helps give your hem a longer life. Here are six different methods you can use to make your hems strong and tidy.



Serge along the raw edge of the hem, aligning the cut edge with your serger blade. Try to shave off a few threads as you serge, as this will create a much neater and clean-looking edge than not trimming anything off.


Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press, and then stitch as desired.


ZigZag or Mock Overlock


Use a zigzag or mock overlock stitch to sew along the raw edge of your hem. A good zigzag option for a single layer of fabric is the three step zigzag. Instead of sewing one stitch with each zig and zag, it sews three little ones. This helps prevent the zigzag from making a ridge in the fabric.

If you find that your machine is mangling the edge of your fabric, sew ¼” in from the edge and trim the excess when you’re done. Just remember to then deduct ¼” from your hem allowance when you fold and press your hem.


Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press, and then stitch as desired.


Turn Under

This is a good choice when you want a very neat and clean looking finish.


Turn up your hem allowance, pin and press.

Now tuck ½” of the raw edge down into the hem. An easy way to do this is to measure ½” less than your hem allowance with a seam gauge or ruler as you pin.


Press and stitch as desired.


Bias bound

Using bias binding is useful for hems with a slight curve. It’s also a good choice when you’re using bulky fabric and want to avoid the thickness of multiple folds. Use premade single fold bias tape, or make your own out of a fun print.


Press up hem allowance. Open one side of bias tape and align raw edge of bias tape with raw edge of hem allowance, right sides together. Leaving a loose tail of tape at the beginning, backstitch and stitch tape to hem edge along crease in tape.


When you get all the way around, backstitch and a few inches from where your stitching started.


Bring the bias tape tails together and pin them where they should meet, flush with the fabric.


With bias tape completely unfolded, sew together at pin.


Trim tails, press open and attach loose section of bias tape to hem between backstitches.


Fold hem allowance up and stitch around free edge of bias tape to secure.


If you’d like to avoid losing length of the garment to the hem – or if you’re trying to squeeze something out of less fabric – skip the initial pressing of a hem allowance and stitch the bias binding to the raw edge of the fabric as described. Fold it to the inside to create a facing and stitch free edge as desired.


Hem Tape

Hem tape is a quick but professional looking hemming option. It’s a good choice when you have bulky fabric and want avoid the thickness of multiple folds. It also provides a smooth, comfortable edge for more textured or irritating fabrics. It comes in a ton of colors, so you can match your fabric or go with a fun contrasting pop of color.


Press up hem allowance. Overlap hem tape along hem so that the raw edge of the fabric is running down the middle of the hem tape. Edgestitch along tape to secure to fabric.


When you get all the way around your hem, fold under end of hem tape and pivot to stitch down. Fold hem allowance up. Stitch along free edge of hem tape as desired.



Lace Hem Tape

Lace hem tape is a pretty hem finish that is great for lightweight fabrics.


Press up hem allowance. Overlap lace along right side of hem so that the raw edge of the fabric is running down the middle of the lace. Edgestitch along lace to secure to fabric.


Fold hem allowance up. Stitch along free edge of lace as desired.


What’s your favorite way to finish a hem?


Giveaway! Sew Ready: Garment Basics with Brett Bara on Craftsy


I don’t know about you, but I’m a hands-on learner. When I first learned to sew, I did it by actually making things I wanted to wear, however basic.

Of course, trial and error isn’t necessarily the most efficient learning method. If I were starting again, I’d still take the hands-on approach, but I’d look for a lot more guidance.

That’s why I’m excited to be giving away this fantastic class from Brett Bara and Craftsy. Brett is an amazing, accomplished teacher who does a great job breaking things down for beginners in her class Sew Ready: Garment Basics.


What I like best is that this class walks you through an actual project, a simple pencil skirt. So you actually get something you’ll be excited to wear – which is important not just for practical reasons but for keeping up our motivation to keep sewing.


What you’ll learn

As you make a pencil skirt with Brett, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose your size and customize your pattern.
  • How to sew darts properly.
  • How to install a centered zipper.
  • Installing a waistband.
  • Seam finishes.
  • Hemming.




Most lessons are about half an hour, allowing you to work on your skirt in managable chunks of time, no matter how busy you are.

Win this class!

Craftsy has generously offered a free enrollment in this class to give away!

To enter, visit this link on Craftsy and join using your email address or Facebook.

If you’re already a Craftsy member, all you have to do is visit the link, click the “sign in” button, and sign in with your Craftsy account.

Craftsy will pick one winner from all the entries on September 12th, so you have until then to enter.

Good luck! And be sure to check out the class after you enter.

Click here to enter to win!

{This giveaway was generously sponsored by Craftsy, one of our partners this month. Thanks Craftsy!}

Everything you need to know about stabilizing hems


Let’s investigate the mysterious world of hem stabilizers today.

Hem stabilizers are one of those things many of us might have heard of, but are never quite sure when to use. Like other forms of stabilizers (namely interfacing), there are a wide variety of choices for different applications.

Unlike interfacing, it’s not likely that your sewing pattern instructions will let you know if you need one (unless you are making a tailored jacket, perhaps). The need for stabilizer, and the choice of which to use, mainly depends on your fabric.

At the end of this article, you will understand:

  • Why you might use a hem stabilizer.
  • What the main types of stabilizers are.
  • How to choose the right hem stabilizer for your project.

Why use stabilizer?

There are two main reasons to use a stabilizer:

  1. To improve the appearance of your hem. A stabilizer can add crispness, structure, or volume to the hem of your garment. This is why they are almost always used in tailored jackets and coats, where a crisp look is so prized.
  2. To make your hem easier to sew. Some stabilizers are used not to change the drape of the hem so much as to allow you to execute the hem without problems. For example, when sewing a knit hem, a stabilizer keeps the hem from stretching out and becoming wavy.

Types of hem stabilizer

You are probably familiar with at least some of the various types of interfacing that exist. Interfacing is a stabilizer that can be used anywhere in a garment, including the hem. There is a huge variety of interfacings for almost any need.

In addition to traditional interfacing, there are some specific products out there that can also help you adapt and stabilize a hem.


Fusible interfacing

Fusible interfacing is available in several forms, including woven, non-woven, and knit.

You can find fusible interfacing at any fabric store. It’s intended to be bonded to fabric with the heat of an iron.

Fusible interfacing provides a quick and simple way to add stability to a hem. Cut your interfacing in long strips and bond them to the hem before sewing.


Sew-in interfacing

Sew-in interfacing can really be any type of fabric that’s used to add an additional layer of stability!

You can buy fabric that is specifically made to be used as a sew-in interfacing, or choose a fabric that works well with your main fabric.

A few good choices are:

  1. Canvas. Commonly used in jacket and coat hems, and usually cut on the bias.
  2. Silk organza. A great choice for light fabrics, because it adds crispness while remaining extremely light.
  3. Netting. Like organza, netting adds stiffness without much extra weight.
  4. Self-fabric. Sometimes self-fabric can be used to give just a bit of extra structure to a hem. Reserve this for crisp fabrics that won’t add much bulk.


Elastics and tapes

Clear elastic is often used to stabilize knits, and other elastics can be used for the same purpose.

In addition, there are several adhesive tapes on the market that are specifically made for adding stability to hems and seams.


Horsehair braid is commonly used to add extra volume at the hem, especially in full skirts.

Other forms of braid can also be used for the same purpose. They are well worth experimenting with, because they hold their shape well and are easy to mold around curves.


Temporary stabilizers

If you simply need a stabilizer to make sewing easier, but don’t necessarily want the extra structure or bulk they might add, try using a wash-away stabilizer.

These can be adhered to your fabric, sewn over, and then removed with a single wash. This is a great option for delicate fabrics that tend to stretch or shift when they’re sewn, such as knits or light silks.

Wash away stabilizers can be purchased as fabric (similar to interfacing), or as tapes like the wash-away stabilizing tape above.

How to choose a stabilizer

If you think your hem might benefit from a little more stability, choosing the right stabilizer is your next step. This is a bit more art than science, and you’ll probably want to experiment and try sampling some ideas on scrap fabric.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the goal of this stabilizer? Do you want to add crispness and structure? Do you want to make a full hem more voluminous? Or do you simply want to make a flimsy hem a little easier to stitch?
  2. How will it affect the texture? Choose a stabilizer that won’t be visible from the outside. If it will change the outer texture of your fabric, don’t use it. For example, if your fabric won’t stand up to heat, a fusible won’t be the right choice.
  3. Will it add too much weight? The last thing you want is for your hem to be weighed down by a heavy stabilizer. Match the stabilizer to your fabric weight.
  4. Will it add bulk? If your fabric is light, thick and sturdy stabilizers can make your hem appear bulky. For light fabrics, think about light stabilizers, like netting or organza.


Common uses for stabilizer

Hem stabilizers can be used in almost any garment, depending on the look you’re going for. Think of this as a design choice that you can make when you’re sewing. It’s all about the final look.

Here are a few common scenarios for using a hem stabilizer:

  • Stabilizing a coat or jacket hem (often with canvas, cut on the bias).
  • Stabilizing knit hems with fusible tape or knit interfacing to avoid wavy lines.
  • Stabilizing silk hems with organza for added crispness.
  • Stabilizing full skirt hems with horsehair braid for more volume.

It’s up to you how and where you use them, but they really can open up possibilities and make hem sewing a little easier.

Do you use hem stabilizers regularly? Or have there been projects where you wish you had?


How to get a level hem


Have you ever put together a garment – whether it’s a dress, a skirt, pants, or a blouse – only to notice afterwards that the hem seems to be drooping in certain areas?

It’s not necessarily the fault of the pattern. There are a few reasons you might experience this, but it’s an easy one to fix if you just follow a few simple steps every time you hem.

Why hems droop

There are two main reasons you’ll get an uneven hem:


1. The grainline.

Unless you’re making a skirt out of a rectangle, chances are that your hem falls on different grainlines. The center front might be cut on the lengthwise grain, but the side seam is on the bias (that is, a diagonal grain).

As you might know, fabric tends to stretch along the bias. As the skirt hangs, this seam stretches a bit and starts getting longer and longer.

Full skirts tend to exhibit this issue more than straight skirts, because the angle of the bias seam is more severe.


2. The body

Another reason you might see an uneven hem simply has to do with the curves of the body.

The fabric must form around the curves before reaching the hem. If, for example, the person wearing the garment has a bit of a booty, more fabric is required to cover that curve. Otherwise, you wind up with a hem that rides up in back.

How to level a hem

You should level your hem every time you make a garment, before actually doing any hemming. Here’s how.


1) Hang the garment

Hang the garment up for at least 24 hours.

This gives your fabric a chance to relax and stretch. The bias grain will stretch out overnight and you’ll have a better sense of what the fabric will look like when it’s worn.

This step is much more important if you are sewing a full hem. As I explained earlier, full hems will have more area cut on the bias while straight, narrow hems will be cut closer to the straight grain and are less prone to stretching.


2) Put the garment on

If you have a dress form that you use, put the garment on that. If not, put the garment on yourself and try to get a friend to help out.

Be sure to wear the type of shoes you plan to wear with it, so you have a better sense of the appearance of the hemline. If you are using a dress form, adjust it to the height you are with these shoes.

If you’d like, you can put the dress form on something high, like a table, to avoid crawling around on the floor.


3) Mark the length

Mark your desired length with a pin. I like to do this along a side seam, but you can also do it at the center front or anywhere else that makes sense.

If you have a skirt length that you know is flattering on you, use it! Measure that length from the natural waist and mark it on the skirt. You could get this measurement from a similar garment you have that you already like the look of. Or, put on the garment and adjust the hem to your preference.

Add hem allowance. This is the amount your hem will be turned under.


4) Meausure from the floor

Measure the distance from the floor to your pin.

I like to use a yardstick (or metre stick for those of you in civilized cultures) to measure this distance. You can also use a tape measure, but a yardstick makes it easier to measure at 90 degrees to the floor.

Measure this same distance all the way around the hem and mark, either with pins or chalk.


5) Trim.

Now you are ready to trim off any excess fabric. Use the pins as a guideline to cut around the hem.

You are now ready to finish that raw edge and move on to the next step of hemming. Congratulations on that straight hem!

Tell me: How and when did you learn the importance of leveling out your hems?


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