Friday, May 10, 2013


Lately as I've worn a garment, I've looked at the insides differently...trying to assess if I've done the best interior construction that I'm capable of...or if I need to step up my game.

My hems have recently come under my inspection and I've determined that I can do better. Usually the hem is the last part of the garment that I sew before it's complete.  By that time I'm ready to put the garment on, have some photos taken and wear it so I tend to rush my hems.

Now I know better.  I know that a hemline is just as important to the success of a garment as the rest of the construction.  I also know that a wacky hemline can take a dress from well made to Becky Homecky.  I don't think my hems are in Becky Homecky land but I can step it up there.

I once took a class with Cynthia Guffey who advised that a hemline should have three lines of stitching to anchor it and balance out the dress/top/pants, etc.  For a while I followed the three line of stitching philosophy but to accomplish that you need to have a deep hemline ~ at least two inches most times more.  Over time I've found that I don't like hemlines that deep in my garments.  So I stopped using that technique though it worked wonderfully and gave my hems the umph they deserved.

Generally I do make sure that my hems hang evenly around my garment and on me.  Normally I add a rayon seam binding to the hem's edge and hand stitch the hem to the dress.  Most times I add a lace binding to my lining (especially in my dresses) to finish the lining off nicely.  But sometimes I rush.  Sometimes I turn the lining hem up and press not even bothering to encase the serged hemline.

I want to do better.  I want to have amazingly finished hems that I can proudly turn up and show to another sewist.  Hey regular people don't know the difference, so I need to go with the discerning crowd. *smile*

So what about you?  How are your hemlines?  Do you take your time and add a lot of important details?  Or do you rush through so that you can wear your garment?  Also do you have any special techniques that you use to get a superior finished hem?  Do tell - because this is the Question of the Day.  So talk back to me people! always more later!


  1. Interesting question. I am most concerned about the hem looking perfect on the outside, nothing showing and no wrinkling. The inside is usually kind of workmanlike and I skip all lace if there is a lining. However I always think your lace on the lining is so pretty I may start.

  2. I do agree with you that hems are very important. A hem that doesn't hang well can ruin a garment. How to tackle the hem depends on many factors - the style, the fabric. It's definitely not a case of one method every time.

  3. I do try to add the important details to finish the garment, adding lace as you do, mitering any corners and add fusible strips of interfacing cut on the bias to give the skirt/dress some body at the hem. This lets me finish the hem by hand-stitching it to the fused hem allowance on the garment (I hope that makes sense).

  4. I am in complete agreement with you on both points. Sewing a hem well ensures the garment looks good, but by stage in the process I just want to wear it! I *try* to force myself to take a break before hemming (day plus) but that doesn't always happen! The results are much better if I'm patient though. My top tip for hems is getting the length right. The wrong length is unflattering and a dead give away that something is home sewn (and not in the good way!).

  5. I agree totally, I am trying to up my game and make the inside of my garments as good as the outside. I do like to use a tape finish and I enjoy sewing the herringbone stitch on my hems.

  6. Oh Carolyn. I learn so much from your site. My real name IS Becky Homecky!! But I'm working on changing it. I've only come back to dressmaking and there is so much I don't know.

    I was taught by my mother but she taught herself so there are so many things I don't know. I am still trying to work out how you would finish a lining with lace! And I have no idea what you mean about three lines of stitching to make a hem hang well.

    What a treasure trove of information the net is. I am going to cut out a skirt tonight (I'm home alone) and it will be such a project for me. I've learned how to buy the correct size pattern for me, how to make alterations to it so it actually fits me, learned how to line it properly (I think!) and now how to hem it properly.

    Thank you for sharing so much. You really inspire me.

    Diann in Australia

  7. Hemming is my least favorite part of sewing.... I've seriously considered on more than one occasion to take my all-but-finished- garment to a local tailor to hem, and I currently have 3 items hanging around waiting to be hemmed because I just can't get excited about it.

    I'm learning some trick to help. I like to press and hand stitch any curved hems. I just a found a great extra fine fusible knit stay tape for bunch-free machine-sewn hems on knot garments.

    My favorite hem was a machine-sewn hem on a teal denim mini with purple hem tape. It came out so clean and strait and lovely!

  8. Like you I've been upping my game on finishing the inside of garments. I like to use a Hong Kong finish on hems. I also like a deep hem, 1 1/2" to 2" depending on how straight the hem is. I like to interface hems, particularly if the garment is lined so that it doesn't show.

  9. Many moons ago I worked in a dry cleaner and always admired the clothing brought into the store. I especially liked when there was some sort of little extra such as lace on the hemline. Now that I sew I add those little details to my garments. I think a garment should look as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. Just like we should be.


  10. I love putting lace or seam binding on my hems before I blind stitch them by hand... I think it's such a pretty way to finish them, and just looking at it makes me happy :) I don't understand why people hate hand-sewing hems... ummm, that means you have permission to watch REALLY trashy tv while you do it!

    I also want to hear more about these hems with three lines of stitching. I am intrigued!!

  11. I am still on the path of Becky Homecky at the moment (love that phrase Becky Homecky LOL!!) But am really trying to change.

    I do put lace on my linings (as learnt from your blog) but need to put more effort into the interior.

    I have purchased lots of Hug Snug but don't know how to apply it. Especially on seams that cross over each other - so they remain sitting on the table unused! And how do you sew it on the hem without the stitching coming through to the front.... ???

    I am Becky Homecky indeed!

  12. First off, all of my hems are 3" from the floor(religious). I've learned a long time ago that I will walk the hems out of my clothing, so I always do a straight stitch. Nothing fancy and definitely no hand sewing. Every now and then I will sew a fancy stitch from my sewing machine. At one time it was important to me to finish my hems with the best handsewing but not now. I always try to make sure the hem is even and hem allowance is cut even and serged.

  13. I'm not consistent where my innards are concerned and that includes hems. It just depends on how anal or lackadaisical (is that a word?) I'm feeling. Generally, a big project such as a coat or suit will be more demanding than a simple item. I do like professional looking results so most of the time, I hem carefully.

  14. Back in the late 80s- the last time I consistently wore dresses to work every day- lace hem tape was awful and rayon was nonexistent. I can remember the scratchy lace snagging my pantyhose, so I stopped using it. Of course, now I rarely wear dresses to work and rayon hem tape is available online. I need to order a basic stash of rayon hem tape. I still have not tried lace- but yours looks great. How does it feel inside your dress against your skin or hose? Since I mostly make blouses, jackets, pants, etc. it is much easier to do a nice looking machine hem. If I am doing an alteration for someone I will try and copy the hem from RTW. Though sometimes the RTW hem is awful and it is my job to fix it.

  15. Like Nancy, I like to interface hems and bind them Hong Kong style. But the bottom line is does the hem show and is it pressed properly. I have seen more invisible hems online that fall in very unflattering points because of improper or even non existent prssing. It looks just awful and this is particularly rampant in lovely children's clothing. Drives me nuts. Give me that dang iron and move out of the way. I'm gonna fix that hem!

  16. Well, you touched a nerve with this one. I, too have been known to rush a hemline. Of course, I measure to make sure it's ever all the way around, but more and more I find myself just serging the bottom edge and moving on. You caught me just in time. I just finished a lined linen skirt. Now that you have brought it to my attention, I'll make sure to use hem tape and put my hem in properly.

    Thank you and Happy Mother's Day.

  17. Interesting question! I love to blind-stitch hems by hand, unless I'm really hating a project, but my guilty secret is that I never check the hem on me to see if it's even-- I just turn it up and away we go! I feel bad asking hubs to help me check hemlines, and I'm too lazy to do the chalk line in the doorway thing!

  18. I'm glad you posted on this. I've been thinking about this a lot too.
    Actually, about all of my interior finishes, but mostly hems.
    I always want to do a nice finish, but usually end up with some variation of an turned in hem. I don't even add any interface to the ones I *know* needs it.
    I'm going to commit to doing better.
    Thanks for this post!

  19. Confession: I HAVE rushed though my hems, but more and more, I'm realizing that I want to slow down and enjoy every detail of my sewing process and try to achieve the best look possible...which may not always be a folded machine hem.
    There is something so pretty about a lace hem binding and so soothing about doing a pretty hem stitch.

  20. I used to finish many skirt hems with a wide bias strip this way when I wrote this article for THREADS ( "Flat Lining",Aug./Sept. 1992, #42, page 58-59) as this technique looks particularly nice on straight wool skirts. Living in an increasingly warm Tennessee, I've not made a wool skirt in quite a while. Recently, I've been making 4-gore, slightly A-line skirts which I line, and with some fabrics, underline. I prefer a 1-1/4" hem which I serge before construction with a slight gather courtesy of the differential feed. I know the hem length, which I mark with tailor tacks while cutting. I press the hem on each piece adjusting the gather so that the hem lies flat. My hems are then blind stitched after construction is finished. Not fancy but it does not look bad at all. Serging and pressing before construction begins means that everything, except a 15-minute blind hem stitch, is finished.

  21. Thanks to you, Carolyn, I've begun to slow down my sewing. This is a good thing. I rarely have to unsew seams now! Yay! I also used lace to finish the bottom edge of the slip I made for my dd's high school graduation last week. Thank you for that idea. Other hems: My go-to hem used to always be either hem tape, or lace hem tape, both sewn onto the bottom edge by machine, then hand-hemmed. Now, I'm learning other things, including the blind-hem foot & stitch on my machine. For my dd's graduation dress, I turned under the hem 1/4" using Kenneth King's Tiny Hem that I learned on Bunny's LaSewista site, then used the blind-hem. Worked perfectly. On the same dress, I finished the edge of the facing with pinking shears, then sewed a narrow lace around the edge. No bulk! I don't know if you've ever shown that technique, but the idea came from all your lace hems! Thank you!!! I would like to learn how to do a piped hem (I love piping in seams), and how to add weights to the bottom of skirts. My dd is going to a college where she has to wear dresses/skirts daily, and her favorite style is a tiered skirt. I'd like to learn to add weight to the bottom to keep it down!!!
    Teresa in WV


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