How to HEM with a Sewing Machine (20 Unique ways)

Learn ho to Hem the edges of your fabric, be it a skirt, dress or pants the right way with these step by step tutorials for 13 ways to hem.
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 hemming stitches

How to hem?

All edges of your clothing, be it a shirt, skirt, pants need to be hemmed, unless you are going for the selvedge look or the frayed hem look.

I like sewing hems by hand but sewing hems by machine is very convenient and FAST.

Checkout the post on 16 different ways in which you can hand sew a hem

How to sew a perfect hem 

Steps you need to follow to sew hems of pants, skirts and dresses.

Finish all your other sewing

Sew the hem after all other stitching is done. (Unless you have pleats in which case you had better hem and then pleat.) All the experts’ advise not to complete the hem on the same day you have created the dress. Let it hang overnight or for a day for the stretch of the fabric to do its job. Then hem. Otherwise, your fabric may hang uneven.
If you are altering an existing hem, unpick the old stitches , remove all the old thread from the fabric (this is important for a clean, professional look) . Iron open the folds.

Mark the hem

Decide where you want the hem to be. Mark it by using a basting stitch or pin inserted horizontally every few inches , pin should be inserted just above where you want the hem to be. Press.

Mark accurately. As they say mark twice and cut once. If you cut a little extra it is simply impossible to recover. If you have a bit of extra hem you can again take it out. But what would you do if you do not have enough. So be careful.
It is ideal, if you wear the dress and see where you want the hemline. Most perfect if you have an assistant to exactly mark the hemline. I would advise you to take it off from your body and then continue marking the rest of the hemline by measuring from the top. Otherwise there is a chance of it looking wonky. That is what I feel. May be you have success marking the whole thing when worn.

Cut the material accurately

If you are using lining, cut it atleast 1 inch shorter than the main fabric. A ready made template made of a cardboard is great to mark hems. Cut out a template which is two inches wide and mark at 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths and even 1 inch and 2 inch.This makes a great template to press up hems

Finish the cut edge of the fabric

Finish the edge of the fabric by any of the edge finishes – Pinking , overlock, zigzag, piping, lace trim or tape. Check out this post on fabric edge finishes

Interface if needed

Interface the hems of thin or drapey fabrics – for a good looking hem. Cut a 1″ hem allowance. Use a 3/4 inch interfacing strip. Place it 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Fuse it there. (You may have to clip the interfacing in places if it is a curved hem) Fold up the interfaced hem. If you stitch in the ditch of the seams it will anchor the interfacing more.

Ease the extra

When the fabric edge is more than the hem line , for eg. like in an A line silhouette or a circle skirt, you will need to ease the fullness of the fabric edge to match the hemline width. Sew a line of basting stitch along the fabric edge. Pull the basting thread till the edge matches the hem fold line. You can alternatively sew a narrow rolled hem to avoid going to this extra steps.

What tools can be used to mark hems?

There is a tool that has a sliding marker that adjusts to your desired measurement. it is handy to mark hems. It is called a HEM GUAGE.
If you do not want to buy this, a ready made or DIY template made of a cardboard is great to mark hems. Cut out a template which is two inches wide and mark at 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths and even 1 inch and 2 inch.This makes a great template to press up hems.

What should be the width of the hem?

You can either have a wide hem or a narrow hem.
For a wide hem, you can go as much as 3 “- 8” for skirts and dresses. To sew a wide hem on curved edge you will have to go in for a faced hem or easing the edges with a gathering/basting stitch. Narrow hem is best suited for thin and delicate fabrics, especially the rolled hem with a rolling foot.

How to mark the hem of pants?

If you are hemming pants you have to decide (fold there) the hemline at four points – center front, center back, inseam and side seam. Just above these points place the pins. Press. Trim the hem allowance. A good length for pants is said to be 2 cm from the floor when wearing shoes.

Types of hems


1.Top Stitched hem 

Top Stitched hem once turned – This is the most commonly used machine stitched hem. You should finish the edges with zig zag, overlock or by pinking.

Top Stitched hem twice turned – Another very commonly used hem. This machine stitched hem involves first turning the edge once by 1/4″, then turning for the width of the hem. This is top stitched with a straight stitch. 

2.Top Stitched hem with twin needle stitching

This is done with a double needle inserted and simulates a coverstitching as done by the cover stitch machine (What you see on store bought tshirts).

Remember to change your straight needle plate if you have that on the sewing machine; you need a zig zag needle plate, as a zigzag stitch is formed at the back of the cloth when you use this method. Now you can make two perfectly spaced rows of top stitching done along the hem.

Checkout the detailed post on double needle stitching.

double needle stitch hem

3. Narrow rolled hem 

This is done using the narrow hemming foot. This foot automatically takes in the fabric edge and folds it into a double fold roll which measures 1/8″. This is the best hem for chiffon and other lightweight fabrics. Even medium weight fabrics can be hemmed with this one.

Works best on hemming my shawls. What I would do with those slinky shawls if it was not for this foot, I don’t know.

Check out this post on how to use the hemming foot.

4. Narrow False Piped hem 

This is a hem used to sew the edge of very delicate and thin fabrics as well as crisp fabrics. it is used instead of the rolled edge. A piping effect is formed at the edge. To make this stitch the edge is turned once first by 1/4″ to the right side of the fabric and then again turn 1/4 inch to the right side.

You can use the hem template for this. Now stitch through the middle of this fold with a straight stitch. Turn the hem to the other side. Press. Stitch again. Now you have a false piping on the edge. 

5.Faced hem/ False hem

This is basically a facing sewn to the edge of the hemline. In this hem you sew a similarly shaped piece of fabric to the edge of the hem.

A 2 1/2 inch wide strip cut on the bias is used to create the facing for the hem. 1/4 inch seam allowance is used to stitch this to the fabric edge. This facing piece is kept on the fabric right sides together.  

This hem technique is especially useful when sewing curved hem edges of dresses and skirts or sewing hem of thick fabrics – reduces the thickness at the hem. By using this hem you can have a wide hem on curved edges. You may need to steam press to ease the facing a little.  

Imagine a situation where you find that you have cut the hemline a little too short. Faced hem is the solution here. You can use another piece of the same fabric to compensate for the hem turning. 

This is also called a false hem as it uses a different fabric to turn under and make the hem.

A Shaped hem is cut on the same grain and pattern as the garment. With this hem, you can make features like a Scalloped hem or even a zig zag hem.

6. Blind hem

A blind hem is very aptly named – you will not be able to see it from the right side of the fabric. This is a very apt hem finish for pants. A little difficult to learn but once you learn it, you will be using this one over and over.

Checkout this detailed tutorial to a blind hem stitch by machine and by hand ; Using a blind hem foot

Here is a video showing you how to do the blind hem easily.

7.Piped hem

Piping brings a very attractive detail to the hem of your garment. I love a piping in contrasting colour on the hem of my blouses. You use a zipper foot to sew the piping to the hem , then add a facing to finish the hem. 

8.Convex hem

Convex is a pattern which turns outside. For hems having a convex shape, a faced hem is the best bet. You will have to trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ and clip every one inch small notches.Other wise when you turn the facing inside you will not get a smooth turning. Ensure that you are not clipping through the seam line. 

 9.Picot edged hem

A Picot stitch is used to make this hem along sheer and delicate materials like chiffon or Georgette. It is made with a zig zag stitch and the narrow rolled hem foot. This is usually used as a substitute  for the narrow rolled hem. Checkout this post on how to sew a picot stitch

10.Frilled/ pleated hem

This hem is created by adding fabric ruffles/ pleats to your hem line. 

11. Horse hair braid hem

The horse hair braid is a flat nylon braid which is very stiff and springy. It is used to stiffen the hem of a full skirt.

They come in different widths but the most common width used is 1/2″. This braid is kept on the garment right sides together, then once the edge is sewn, the braid is turned to the inside.

If you are lining the skirt it is easier and looks much better. The hem is turned under and then the horse hair braid is sewn to the lining.

It has a thread for drawing it up to ease it, if you need to. You can hem the braid to the garment by hand stitching

How to sew the Horse hair braid on the hem

Step 1. Mark the hemline with a 1/2 inch seam allowance

Step 2. Keep the horse-hair braid on top of fabric ensuring that edges are even; Overlapping end. Do not stretch the braid. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step 3. Turn the braid up along hemline. Machine stitch at bottom of horsehair (edge stitch on garment) or hand stitch at top of horsehair to hold the braid in place. Slip stitch a piece of ribbon over the cut ends of the braid

12. Baby Hem 

This is the most suitable hem for lightweight clothes and sheer fabrics. And also for sewing curved hems – because it makes a very narrow hem, the curves look nice.

To sew this hem, you may want to make three rows of stitching lines. First make a stitching line to mark your hem – this will establish your seam line. Next stitching is made after folding the edge by 1/4 inch first. Trim away fabric very close below the stitching line. Turn this edge to the inside again, folding on stitching line and top-stitch on right side, 1/8″ from fold. This will give you a very narrow folded hem.

You can use an edge joining foot to sew this hem. Simply place the guide of the foot along the folded edge and sew. You will get a stitching line 1/8 inch from the fold. 

13. Serged hem

The fabric edges are serged and left it at that. 

14. Fringed hem

fringe trim

Other than adding readymade fringes at the end of the hem you can create a fringe on the hem from the loose threads of the garment edge. To make this hem, you have to sew a line of stitching (either  a straight line or a fancy stitch) just above the hem edge ; this is done so that the edges would not fray beyond a point. You do not want the whole garment unraveled. After the stitching, weft threads (those running horizontally in a fabric weave) are taken out leaving the warp threads (vertical threads in a fabric) hanging down making a nice fringed hem.

15.  Fabric trim hem

Lace, ric rac and other fabric trims are attached to the hem on the raw edge. Checkout this post on different fabric trims.

To attach the fabric trims, keep the trim on top of the garment right sides together, stitch along the raw edge. Flip it down and top stitch in place.

16. Machine embroidered hem

This hem technique uses zig-zag stitches to make scallops or straight satin stitches on the edge of the hem. This is a beautiful hem and is used mostly in children’s clothing and nightwear. You have to use interfacing to the back of the fabric when stitching the embroidery stitches. The fabric beyond the stitches are cut away carefully.

17. Shell edge hem

A shell edge finish is made using the sewing machine on the hem. 

18. Rolled edge hem

The rolled edge foot is used along with a zig-zag finish to make this hem. This is a good hem to use for circle skirts

19. Seam binding hem

This is mostly used for raveling fabrics. A store-bought seam binding tape (1″ – 3″) is used on the hem.

20. Lettuce edged hem

This creates a frilly edge to the hem of a knit fabric . An overcast stitch used on a stretched edge of a knit fabric will make this attractive wavy edge to the hem. Checkout the tutorial for a lettuce edge hem can be found here.

Related posts:

fabric trims
how to sew picot edge
shell edge stitch

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.