Tips & Info About Different Types Of Hems
Hems are produced when the edge of a piece of fabric is folded under and sewn in place in order to hide and enclose the raw edge. This makes a neat finish and prevents the material from fraying. Learning how to sew hems is a vital sewing skill, especially if you plan on making your own clothes.
The most common hems are 1/4″, 3/8″ or 5/8″ wide so they are quite narrow usually. Sometimes smaller hems are used, for instance if a fabric is particularly fine and/or floaty, and sometimes larger hems are used where more weight is required, for instance at the bottom of curtains. If you are following a pattern or project instructions, you will be told the hem allowance to use.
Rolled hems are an example of a narrow hem, and these work well with curves if working with thin materials, particularly slippery or delicate lightweight fabrics. Rolled hems don’t work well with thick fabrics. You can buy a specialized rolled hem foot attachment for your sewing machine too, which makes this type of hem even more straightforward to make.
Hems can be sewn straight or curved, and this page will provide links to the most helpful tutorials online for both of these hem types, but I’ll also explain my own methods for sewing a curved hem using extremely artistic diagrams (!). I will link to information for creating curved seams too, which is where a curved fabric edge is sewn to either another curved edge or a straight edge. Curved seams you find a lot in dressmaking, for instance on the top half of fitted dresses.
Curved hems range from slightly curved, like at the bottom of a full circle skirt, to tight curves like in scalloped edges. Adding hems to a curved edge is difficult due to the edge being folded having a greater length than where it is to be sewn to. Difficult to explain, but this situation causes the excess fabric to gather together to produce a bumpy finish which doesn’t look great and is hard to sew. That’s why it’s very handy to know some tricks and tips before trying to do this for yourself if you’re unsure.
If the curve is very gradual, you may be absolutely fine if you hem like you would on a straight edge but go slowly whilst carefully moving the fabric round with your hands as it goes through the sewing machine. It may also be a good idea to use a shorter length of stitch than normal. With tighter curves, certainly read the instructions on this page first before proceeding. Most people say that pinning is essential to stop the curve moving when sewing.
Pressing any folds with an iron is extremely important when hemming, to give a crisp finish and help your sewing. Remember pressing is where you press the iron onto the wrong side of the fabric repeatedly rather than moving it along the surface like regular ironing. Always check you haven’t got the iron setting too high otherwise you will ruin your fabric – and also remember to have the steam setting on.