How to Sew a Double Fold Hem
I’m back at it with a tutorial today, folks. There’s only so much cutting, pressing, pinning and sewing (and instagramming said activities) a girl can do before she feels the need to stop and take some photos. All of sudden photos are taken, notes are jotted down, words start flowing out of my fingers and into this post. I can’t go long without a tutorial post, it’s true. I just love the whole process of them.
Today? It’s all about double fold hems. What is a double fold hem? Well it’s a very basic way to finish the bottoms of shirts, pants, shorts and skirts. This post will lead you through the process of how to sew a double fold hem, while pointing out a few alternatives you might want to try. Let’s get into this.
Basic Double Fold Hem
First, get yourself a seam gauge if you don’t already have one. It will become your best friend right after your seam ripper. A seam gauge is a particularly helpful tool for creating straight, even hems. For this tutorial, I’ll be demonstrating how to sew a ½” double fold hem.
1. According to your pattern instructions, fold the raw edge of your fabric up (with wrong sides together). I’m folding mine up the width of my hem, ½”.
2. Press that fold well, making sure to keep a consistent ½” fold.
3. Now, fold your fabric up again ½”.
4. Press the second fold well, again making sure to keep a consistent fold down the entire length of your hem.
5. Pin your pressed hem, as often as you need to ensure the fabric won’t shift while sewing. I’m an every 2” to 3” kind of pinner. Make sure to pin the fabric from the right side.
6. Now, topstitch your hem with a seam allowance slightly smaller than the width of your hem (3/8" for this tutorial). Make sure to sew on the right side of the fabric.
Ta da! That’s a double fold hem. Super easy.
Eased Double Fold Hem
A basic double fold hem is a great technique for a beginner who’s sewing mostly straight hems, with no curves. But as your sewing skills improve, you’ll inevitably want to experiment with curved hems. A basic double fold hem does not handle curved hems well. See my proof here:
The result of using the basic double fold hem? Wavy, wonky hems that don't lie flat. Sure, they usually iron out well, but after one wash, those wavy hems are back with a vengeance. Why does this happen? Well, put simply, your main fabric isn’t cut on the bias at the hem. So it’s not able to stretch around curves like a fabric with a bit more give.
But there’s a solution! Several, in fact. In this section, I’ll show you how to ease your double fold hem, so that your hems sit nice and flat.
1. First, set your sewing machine stitch length to 5, or nearly as long as it will go.
2. Now, sew a basting stitch just slightly less than the width of your hem. Make sure that you leave long tails of thread on both ends.
Because of the increased stitch length, your fabric will probably gather slightly. This is good! If your fabric didn’t gather, lightly pull on one of your long thread tails and evenly distribute some very tiny gathers among the length of your hem. If your fabric gathered too much from your basting stitch, simply pull it flat. Your hem should look similar to this:
The rest of the steps of the eased double fold hem are no different. Simply start at step one of the basic double fold hem above. The easing should help create a nice curved hem, that sits flat against your body!
An Alternative to the Double Fold Hem
Basic and eased double fold hems are a perfect introduction to hemming. Heck, I still sew using these methods as opposed to more advanced techniques like blind hems, simply for the time saved. But there’s another method out there with an even bigger visual impact, that doesn’t take too much more time. That method? The bias bound hem.
Remember when I showed you how to How To Use Bias Tape to finish necklines and armscyes? Well you can use that exact same method to finish your hems!
This is a normal bias bound hemline, with the bias tape visible only on the inside of the garment:
This is a bias bound hemline, with the bias tape visible both on the inside and outside of the garment. I just love the contrast of this method:
So, while hemming can seem like a rather simple sewing techniques, there are tricks to make your hems as beautiful as the rest of your garment. While hemming is rarely illustrated in patterns, it’s still important to understand its mechanics and some alternatives you can use to take your handmade clothing up a notch.
Want to try your hand at some double fold hems? The Picnic Skirt, Foxglove Tank, and The Sparrow Top all use this technique!
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