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Sewing Lesson - Basic Folded Hems

First, we will discuss machine hemming methods. Machine hemming is suitable for most fabrics and garments, but there are times when hand hemming is preferable, which I will discuss in another segment.

Basic Double Fold Hem


This hem type is suitable for many types of applications and works best with light to medium-weight woven fabrics. This is an easy hem and with careful pressing and sewing, it will yield professional looking results. The example below shows how a narrow and a wide hem will look when finished. I have used a contrasting color of thread for visibility, but typically, you will want to select a matching thread unless you are using the hem as a decorative detail.

  • Fold fabric over toward wrong side 1/4 inch and press.

  • Fold fabric over a second time toward the wrong side to the desired width and press.

  • Sew close to first folded edge to finish.

The photos show how the right and wrong side of two different widths of double folded hems (the narrower is 3/8 inch wide and the larger one is 3/4 inch wide) will look when finished.

Tips: Take your time pressing the hem and use a sewing gauge to ensure that the fabric folds are pressed straight and to a consistent width all the way along the edge. If the fabric isn't pressed straight, you will end up with a wobbly edge, which is a pain to fix.

If you are hemming a large section of fabric, pin the hem as you press it, so that it won't unfold as you continue pressing.
double fold hem finished


Single Fold Hem


When using heavier weight fabrics, a double fold hem is just too bulky, so it works better to finish the raw edge of the fabric and then fold it over once and sew it in place. To finish the raw edge, you can use pinking shears to trim the fabric, use a zig-zag or overcasting stitch, or use a pinking shears (the top edge of the example is pinked), which is what I have done in the example shown here using a pre-quilted fabric.

Knits can also be hemmed this way and because they do not fray like wovens, it is not critical to finish the raw edges, though it does give the hem a nicer finished look.
single fold hem finished


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