Skip to content
November 8

The Dreaded Hem(s)

One of the things I highly dislike is sewing up my hems.  I’m still not certain why this is, but they just feel tedious to me.  More often than not, I’ll have a few garments fully sewn for weeks just waiting for their hems.

What makes them bearable is that I often set up my laptop on my sewing table in order to treat myself to a movie while I complete my hand sewing, or in this case sewing my hems.  Last night I decided to throw on How to Train Your Dragon while hemming.  (I heart* toothless!  He was my desktop image for the longest time).

In spirit of hems, I thought what better blog post than to show you three different types of hems I just used on 2 skirts and 1 dress.

Catchstitched Hem:

The first, and most basic hem I’ve frequently used is a catchstitched hem.  This skirt I used this hem on is the Linda Pattern from Burda, and is on my sewing list for my fall wardrobe plan.

Linda is a basic circle skirt, but I decided not to use a horsehair braid on it, and wanted to let it fall naturally.  I’m glad I didn’t use the horsehair since the fabric is a bit on the thin side and the horsehair braid would be too structured for it.

What I usually do on large hems like this is I first have my hubby mark the hem as I’m wearing it.  I then trim the seam allowance so it is consistent all the way around.  From there I serge the raw edge, stitch on my hem tape, and then catchstitch the hem tape to the skirt (invisibly from the right side).

See below:

The ripple that you see at the top of the hem tape is just the extra ease from the circle skirt.  It’s quite invisible from the right side (see below).

Right Side:

While I’m pretty careful while I sew my hems, this fabric is extra forgiving.  The texture really hides any rogue stitches on the outside.

Here’s a quick shot of the full skirt:

The downfall to this type of hem is the fact that your catchstitches have to be nice and small.  If you make them too large (aka too far apart) you’ll end up snagging things on your hem.  This brings me to my next hem…

Blind Catchstitched Hem:

Another project that I needed to hem is my A-Plus A-Line skirt from Twinkle Sews which is a free download on Burda.  This is also one of the projects from my fall sewing schedule that needed some finishing touches (hem and hook/eye closure).

There are pleats in the front of this skirt, so I decided to reference one of my sewing books for a good hem to handle the pleats.  And it turns out the blind catchstitch hem was the winner.

Again, I serged the raw edge but decided not to use any hem tape this time.  I thought it would bulk-up the hem around the pleats too much so I omitted it.

Inside hem of my A-Plus A-Line Skirt:

The idea is the same with a blind catchstitch as the basic catchstitch, but instead you’re sewing the hem from inside the seam allowance (instead of on top of it).

Click on this link from Oliver + S to see the blind catchstitch in action.  This link is a pretty good visual, but O+S’s stitches are quite large.  They pick up at least 3 threads on the right side of the garment and they’re for sure going to show to the right side.  So take care when hemming that you only pick up a thread or two of the fabric (from the side that will show to the right side).

I hope you can see my blind catchstitches below.

I’m lifting up my serged raw edge to show you my catchstitches.  They look like little V’s or lots of W’s.

Below is another image (with a flash).  Can you see the W’s?

I hope you can…

And for good measure, this is what it looks like from the right side:

One can vaguely tell where my hem is if you’re quite close but from a distance you can’t see the hem at all (see below).

And here’s the full skirt:

(I still have yet to hem my lining…)

I think I’m an official convert from the basic catchstitch hem to the blind version as my “go-to” hem stitch.  It does take a bit more time to complete, but I think it’s well worth the effort to have stitching that doesn’t catch on things (for instance shoes and buckles & heels on said shoes…).

The last hem I have to show you today is perhaps, the most complicated of the three.

Pin Hem:

I’m currently working on my 40’s bow dress aka McCalls 6677 and the skirt overlay needed to be hemmed before attaching it to the underskirt piece.

Here’s the envelope image for reference:

The overlay will not be tacked down but will be free flowing, and therefore the underside may end up showing with every step, if it’s a windy day.  So I needed a hem that would look invisible from the right side and just as nice from the wrong side.

The other tricky thing I had to accommodate is my fabric choice, itself.  I am using a navy, wool crepe for this dress.  The fabric has nice drape, but it is a bit sheer and is very much prone to fraying.

So turning to my handy Fabric Sewing Guide from Claire Shaeffer, I found the pin hem would be perfect for my overlay (pg.418 for those of you who also own this book).

It’s very similar to a machine-rolled hem, but instead of the machine finishing the hem, you hand stitch it down instead.  You can either use a fell stitch or with slipstitches.  I went the slipstitch route on mine since I thought the stitches would show less on the right side.  The last step in the pin hem is key for me since my overlay has a curved edge; the final hem would be more precise to work it by hand instead of on the machine.

A (very quick) How to Pin Hem:

1.) Stitch 1/2″ from your raw edge (by machine), assuming you have a 5/8″ seam allowance.  2.) Fold under the edge on the stitched line and edge stitch. 3.) Trim really, really close to the machine edge stitching 4.) Fold the hem again and finish with fell or slip stitches.  5.) Press lightly.

Here is an image of the overlay from the wrong side:

If you look carefully, you can see two rows of machine stitching on the hem: one is on the inner fold line and the other is about 1/8″ to 1/16″ away from the first.  These are the two lines of machine stitching, but they don’t show on the right side of the fabric (nor on the folded edge).  The raw edge of the overlay is tucked inside this hem so there isn’t an issue of fraying.

Here is an image of the overlay from the right side:

I know it’s quite dark, but you’ll have to trust me that the stitches are invisible from the right side.  The curve is nice and, well curvy, and the pin hem doesn’t leave the edge stiff like a machine-hem would, so that the overlay piece with be nice and drapey.

While I don’t have the skirt portion fully pressed yet, here’s a quick photo for you all to see the overlay piece on top of the skirt:

I was actually surprised that the pin hem didn’t take quite as long as I thought it would.  I think I was able to sew both overlay pieces in about an hour (that’s quick for me!).  :)

So while I dread hemming, once I resolve to sit and do it, I’m usually able to produce one final hem and evening (with a bit of time left over for other sewing or knitting).

How do you guys do your hems?  Do you tend to focus on one type of hem and use that as your basic hem, do you machine stitch your hems, which hem stitches have you tried/loved?

  1. Emma / Nov 8 2011

    The blind catchstitch is definitely my go-to hem for skirts and dresses, but for anything that is very dainty or see-through I tend to go with a rolled hem. I do all of my hemming by hand, except on trousers. I make the invisible part of the hem, hidden under the turn-up, machine sewn.

    I hate hemming too. It’s only really bearable with a laptop and a DVD. I don’t know why… I really like embroidery. :)

  2. Lauren / Nov 8 2011

    aw, i actually enjoy hemming. i couldn’t tell you why, but it makes me happy! i prefer to stitch mine by hand, using some kind of lace or seam binding and then catch-stitching it down… although i admit that sometimes i get lazy & i just use a blind hem stitch :) for hemming lining, i just do a tiny rolled hem on my machine. hemming lining is obnoxious!

  3. Tasha / Nov 8 2011

    I hate hemming too! I have a skirt from April that still needs to be hemmed.

    I usually use a catch stitch, although I think I do it slightly differently. I’m wearing a vintage skirt right now that used a really interesting looking stitch to attach the seam binding to the skirt. Like a catch stitch, but somehow they made a loop coming up from the seam binding, catching that in the stitch taken into the skirt fabric. At least I think… I should probably stop pulling back my hem in my cubicle at work to examine it. LOL

  4. Melizza / Nov 16 2011

    Thank you so much for this post. I was *just* telling my husband how crap I am at hemming and how much I hate it. I have just seen the light and am now a blind-hem-stitch girl from now on. Tried it on a skirt and loved it.

Leave a comment