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The Bottom Line

Master hems for a pro finish

The hem is typically the last thing you sew on your garment, but it needs to be considered long before you make the first stitch. Select the most appropriate hem treatment based on your fabric and garment silhouette, then allow for enough fabric at the bottom when you draft the skirt.

To figure out where to place the hem once you’ve sewn your skirt, simply try it on and let the fabric hang on your body. Then mark on the skirt where you would like the hem to end. You can do this with any temporary fabric marker, or by simply placing a pin at the desired hem level. Then, take off the skirt and pin up the hem allowance along the desired finished edge. Make sure you measure all the way around the skirt to make the hem consistent and even. Then try on the skirt again to double-check the length. Make sure the hem is parallel to the ground all the way around (if you want it that way, of course).

Choose Your Hem Allowance


For thicker fabrics, such as heavy wools, cashmeres, and fleeces, a little extra hem support is needed.

  • For patternmaking, allow 2″ to 2½” for the hem allowance. Clean finish the raw edge.

For straight silhouettes, turn up the entire hem allowance and press. Partially fold the hem allowance back down and
hand-sew it in place about 1″ above the hemline with a catch stitch. Then, fold the top part of the hem back up and catch-stitch along the hem allowance edge.

hemming heavyweight fabrics


The topstitched hem is the quickest hemline to sew. However, it leaves a line of stitching on the garment’s right side, so keep that in mind as you’re designing.

  • For patternmaking, allow a 2″ to 2½”-wide hem allowance. You don’t need to clean finish the raw edge because it is enclosed in the hem.

Press the raw edge ½” to the wrong side. Then, turn and press the hem 1½” to 2″ to the wrong side along the hemline. Topstitch the hem allowance in place along the inner fold.

A narrower version of this doublefold hem is frequently used to finish off other edges, such as the outside edge of a wrap skirt. In that case, press under the raw edge ½” to the wrong side, then press under another ½”, then topstitch. Occasionally the project instructions will call for a ¼” double-fold hem.

Note : Turning the raw edge on heavyweight fabric would make the hem too bulky. Usually, a catch stitch will keep a raw edge from raveling, but if you like, you can zigzag or serge this edge before doing the catch stitch.

topstitched hem


Unfortunately, a wide hem on a full skirt won’t turn under and press flat because the hem allowance is wider than the garment.

  • For patternmaking, allow a ¾” to 1½”-wide hem allowance.

For light- to medium-weight fabrics, ease the hem edge by stitching one row of gathering stitches and pulling the stitches slightly. Once the hem edge fits the inside of the garment, stitch hem lace or hem tape to the edge (if the
fabric doesn’t ravel, you can leave the hem edge unfinished). Once the hem allowance has been eased, press it in place. Machinetopstitch or hand-sew it in place.

full hem

Alternatively, for heavier fabrics, you can cut slashes into the hemline and overlap them to reduce the bulk. If the fabric ravels, you can use a fray-stopper product to stop the raveling, or you can finish the edges with pinking shears.

full hem for thicker fabrics


I love this hem treatment for fine fabrics and full silhouettes, on fabrics such as batiste, chiffon, charmeuse, and other lightweight materials.

  • For patternmaking, allow a ⅝”-wide hem allowance.

There is no need to clean finish the raw edge, as it will be enclosed in the hem. To stitch a narrow hem:

1). Stitch around the hem edge ⅜” from the raw edge. Press the raw edge to the wrong side along the stitch line and stitch again just inside the fold.

narrow hem 1

2). Trim the hem allowance close to the stitching. Then roll the hem allowance to the wrong side again, hiding the raw edge. Edgestitch the hem in place.

narrow hem 2


A blind hem is invisible on the right side of the garment as long as the thread color blends well with the fabric. To stitch, first consult your sewing machine manual to determine the proper presser foot, install the right presser foot, and select the “blind hem” stitch. Usually it looks like a straight stitch that kicks out to the side every five stitches or so.

machine-stitc hed blind hem

  • For patternmaking, allow a hem allowance that is at least 1½” wide.

Clean finish the raw edge as desired. To start:

1). Fold the desired hem allowance to the wrong side and pin it in place.

2). Fold the garment back, exposing the hem allowance’s raw edge, as shown in the diagram.

3). Select a blind stitch on your machine, and stitch along the hem allowance and use the presser foot to guide the stitch so that when the stitch extends to the left, it catches the garment.


A faced hem works well on a curved or shaped hemline. I used it on the asymmetrical hemline because the skirt has a dramatic curve across the bottom. You can use fabric or a wide strip of bias tape for the facing.

  • For patternmaking, allow regular seam allowance, but you will need to draft the facing.

1). Clean finish the top edge of the facing using your favorite method. Pin the facing to the garment at the hem edge with right sides together and raw edges aligned, and stitch.

faced hem 1

2). Press the seam allowance toward the facing and understitch in place. Then press the facing to the wrong side. To secure the top edge of the facing to the skirt, topstitch it in place, or hand-sew so the stitches are invisible from the right side.

faced hem 2


For an invisible finish from the garment’s right side, there are several hand stitches that will help you tame unruly fabrics and look great both inside and out. I like to use the slipstitch, catch stitch, or whipstitch when finishing hems by hand.

To hand-sew a hem, simply press the desired width hem allowance to the wrong side. Then clean finish the raw edge using your favorite method. Pin the hem in place (if you have to ease it, use lots of pins) and hand-sew, taking care to only stitch through one or two garment threads.


A padded hemline makes a soft edge on thicker fabrics, especially those with nap, such as velvet or mohair.

  • For patternmaking, allow a 2″ to 2½”-wide hem allowance. Clean finish the raw edge as desired.

1). For padding, cut a strip of flannel fabric along the bias the same width as the hem allowance. Position the bias strip about ¾” from the garment’s raw edge. Secure the edges of the flannel in place with a catch stitch.

padded hem 1

2). Turn up the hem allowance along the hemline. The bias strip should be exposed above the hem allowance for ¾”. Secure the hem allowance in place with a catch stitch, taking care to only sew through the padding.

padded hem 2


A reinforced hem, such as the one found in the Jazz Age Skirt (trumpet silhouette), adds shape and support to a hemline. This hem is ideal for flared and A-line silhouettes. Typically, horsehair braid — a stiff, mesh-like material available in various widths — is sewn into the hemline. It once was made from actual horsehair, but today it’s completely synthetic.

  • For patternmaking, allow a hem allowance slightly wider than the width of the horsehair braid. Do not finish the raw edge; it will be hidden by horsehair.

For wider horsehair braids, make sure you add a hem allowance to your pattern that is wider than the braid. Gently pull the gathering cord found on the edge of the braid to ease it slightly. Then position the braid with the non-corded edge along the hemline. Hand-sew the braid in place along the bottom edge with a catch stitch or whipstitch. Then, press the hem allowance to the wrong side, turn under the raw edge, and catch-stitch it in place, hiding the braid.

wider horsehair braids

For narrow horsehair braids:

1). Stitch it to the garment with right sides together along the hemline.

narrow horsehair braids 1

2). Fold and press the braid to the garment’s inside and catch-stitch it in place.

narrow horsehair braids 2

Source :
SKIRT-A-DAY SEWING Create 28 Skirts
For A Unique Look Every Day
Nicole Smith