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How to Sew A Hem


Hemming is a method of finishing the raw edges of garments. Hems are sewn on the lower edges of skirts and trousers, blouses and sleeves, or on parts of a garment like ruffles, flounces and pocket edges. The raw edge is turned to the inside of the garment and sewn in place. You can either sew the hem by hand or by machine. Machine-stitched hems will be visible unless you use a special blind hem stitch. Hand-stitched hems will be nearly invisible.

Once-turned hem

Once-turned hem

Twice-turned hem

Twice-turned hem


You’ll sew hems on all types of garments or when mending or altering clothing. From skirts to blouses, all edges need to be finished with some type of hem unless you’re deliberately choosing a raw edge finish. Even home décor sewing requires hems on curtains and napkins. Hems are usually sewn at the end of the construction process, once the garment is complete. Some hems, for example sleeve hems, may be sewn when that section of the garment is constructed.


A hem allowance is the length included in the pattern for the hem. You must account for this when choosing the length of your garments. The hem allowance is often noted right on the pattern pieces; if not, it will be mentioned in the pattern instructions. Hem allowances can be very narrow, just a regular seam allowance, or very wide, up to 6″ (15.2cm).

Tips + Notes

  • It’s easier to shorten garments at the hemline than it is to lengthen them! When in doubt, add extra length to the hemline.
  • Lining is always hemmed to hang shorter than the main fabric. The general rule is to hem the lining 1″ (2.5cm) shorter.
  • When hemming in a circle, for example on a sleeve hem, overlap the stitching by four or five stitches when you reach the start point, instead of backstitching, for a subtle look.


If your hemline is on the bias (page link), if the whole garment is cut on the bias or if bias sections fall along the curve of the hemline, allow your garment to hang on a hanger for at least twenty-four hours before hemming. If you’re not sure, you may want to let your garment hang just to be safe. This gives the bias part of the hem time to grow and stretch to its natural length.

How to sew a hem (1)

Measure up from the floor and trim off the excess evenly. It’s easiest to do this with a friend to do the measuring or with the garment on a dress form. If you do adjust the hem using a dress form, try it on yourself as well to ensure that the hemline is still even when it’s on your body.

How to sew a hem (2)

Press up the hem allowance. Try on the garment and ensure you are happy with the length. You can shorten it at this time or take a very narrow hem if needed to keep as much length as possible.

How to sew a hem (3)

Finish the raw edge of the hem. You can do this by turning under the raw edge and pressing it, by serging (page link), zigzagging (page link), pinking (page link), binding it (page link) or by applying lace tape. All of these methods will ensure that the raw edge doesn’t unravel.

How to sew a hem (4)

If the hem edge is wider than the garment, ease in the fullness. You can do this by sewing a line of hand basting along the raw edge and pulling the threads until the hemline fits the garment.

How to sew a hem (5)

Pin the hem in place. You may want to hand baste (page link) the hem as well, if you are sewing it by machine.

How to sew a hem (6)

Sew the hem in place. For finished edges that have been serged or zigzagged, sew with a catchstitch (page link) or topstitch (page link). If the edges have been turned under, you can slipstitch (page link) the folded edge to the garment for an invisible hem or edgestitch (page link) along the fold for visible stitch lines. If you’re sewing by hand, sew loosely and don’t pull the thread too tightly or dimples will show on the right side.


How to choose the hem width (1)


Wide hems add weight to the garment and are best for straight edges.

If you want a wide hem on a curved edge, consider adding a hem facing (page link). This will allow you to sew a wide hem on a curved edge without having to ease in a lot of fullness.

How to choose the hem width (2)


Narrow hems are lightweight and best used for curved edges, but they work great on straight edges as well.

For a very narrow hem that looks great from both sides, see page link. This hem is turned under twice and is best used for lighter weight fabrics rather than bulkier fabrics.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine