Thursday, March 31, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Wow, wow, wow! Thank you so much to Nicole, Wendy, Carla, Sarah E., Julia, Mamafitz, Webfrau, Mary, Alison, Sarah, Summerset, Becky, Shannon, katherine h, and Patsijean for talking back to my confession last week!

I asked what kind of hems everyone uses and - Wow! - did I get a lot of excellent information!

Of course, as usual, the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the answer is: It depends. ;)

But there was so much detailed information that I struggled a bit to come up with a good way to summarize it.

So, it looks like the majority of the various hemming methods can be described by picking one method from set A (see below) for the first step and then one method from set B (see below) for the second step.

Set A
  1. Fold the fabric up twice (double it)
  2. Serge the raw edge of the fabric (with an overlock stitch) and fold it up once
  3. Apply a binding material (bias tape, lace, grosgrain ribbon, etc.) to the edge and then fold it up once

Set B
  1. Top stitch with your sewing machine
  2. Apply a blind hem stitch with your sewing machine
  3. Hand stitch

Pretty much all possible combinations of one step from Set A and one step from Set B were mentioned by at least one person.

So, what did I learn about each combination?

When it comes to doubling the fabric, people were fairly evenly spread between following up with machine top stitching (3 'usually's), blind hemming by machine (2 'usually's and 1 'sometimes') and hand stitching (2 'usually's, 1 'often' and 1 'sometimes').

It looks like doubling the fabric and using a machine top stitch is most commonly done on casual clothes, and for narrow hems.

When it comes to serging the raw edge, people are most likely to follow this up with a machine top stitch (6 votes - 2 'usually's and 4 'sometimes') or a machine blind hem (1 'often' and 1 'sometimes'). Only 1 person said that she sometimes follows this up with hand stitching.

The reasons to serge & then machine top stitch included: (a) not having enough fabric length to support a double fold, (b) saving time and (c) taking in ease for garments like full skirts. Patsijean uses this technique on pajamas, and then does multiple rows of decorative stitches for her top stitching.

The folks who use a machine blind hem after serging a raw edge seem to do so on more professional clothes - dress pants, pencil skirts, etc.

When it comes to using some type of binding material - whether it be hem tape or grosgrain ribbon or lace (Wendy likes the nice seam binding that she gets at Steinlauff and Stoller) - most people follow this up with hand stitching (6 votes). Only one person mentioned using bias tape and machine top stitching for curved hems.

The main reason for binding and hand stitching is to finish very special garments made with delicate and/or expensive fabrics (4 votes), however there were some other reasons mentioned as well, including dealing with thick fabric and protecting fabric from wear and tear.

That pretty much sums up the majority of the general comments on preferred hemming methods.

While most people referred to the type of garment when deciding which of the above hemming methods to use, several people called out knits as a special category of fabric when it comes to hemming. The special methods for hemming knits that were listed include:
  • using twin needles
  • using a zig zag stitch
  • using a walking foot and a longer stitch length
  • serging with a rolled hem
  • using a coverstitch
  • and even leaving them unhemmed (but make sure to secure the threads on the side seams!)
Finally, we had a few special hem treatments called out. Mamafitz likes to use a Hong Kong seam finish, followed by hand stitching. Julia has several special finishes for her heirloom dresses, including a madeira applique hem and growth tuck hems.

Well, I've tried the best I can to summarize the flood of useful information - feel free to read the comments directly (here) for even more wisdom. :)

Thanks again, everyone! You guys are sewing geniuses!


PS - I never heard back from 2 of my give-away winners, so I re-drew names. Congratulations to: katherine h and Sarah E - please email me at!