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BellaOnline's Costuming Editor

How to Sew a Lettuce Edge on Dance Costumes

Hemming stretchy fabrics on belly dance, ballroom or skating costumes can be a nightmare. But with the right stitch on your sewing machine or serger, this one little trick makes hemming a breeze. This edging technique provides a little extra flounce on your skirt hems, ruffles or sleeves. These beautiful lettuce edges are super-easy to achieve, and there's no time-consuming ironing or folding necessary.

You'll need a stretchy fabric and matching thread. All you have to do is place the edge you want to finish a tiny bit beyond the edge of the presser foot. (You want the fabric to fold under along the edge.) Then as you sew, stretch the fabric both in front and behind the presser foot as you feed it into the machine. You're going to keep constant tension on the fabric, so it's stretched evenly as it feeds into the machine. You'll quickly see those lovely curly-ques billowing out the back of your machine. If you have a serger, or overlock machine use the rolled edge setting. And put the differential feed on maximum stretch. If you have a regular home sewing machine, use the zigzag stitch and set it at maximum width and minimum length. That will give you a nice tight stitch. You may need to go around the hem a second time to get a smooth finish. Some people recommend narrowing your stitch width a little for the second pass to get the edge even smoother.

Want to make the edge a little sparkly? There are two ways to do this. You can use a beading foot and run a strand of molded beads or pearls along the edge. Or you can use a metallic thread in the top and a clear bobbin thread on the bottom. Be sure to use a needle designed for metallic thread, or you'll just be frustrated with shredded thread. Pretty!

It's a good idea to practice this technique on a scrap of your fabric to get all the tension and spacing just right. Remember that with circle skirts, you are going to have different degrees of stretch depending on where you are with regard to the bias. So, to keep an even tension, stretch the fabric more on the straighter grains and less when you're on the bias. Once you get the hang of it, you may never hem another costume the hard way again.

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