Tutorial: How to sew a hem in a woven fabric using a thread guide

I used to dread hemming somewhat and would sometimes put it off until another day. When I had to fold and press a hem on a woven top I usually wished I had an extra set of arms. I am not so good at measuring a specific hem depth, keeping it folded down at the right measurement and pressing a fold using my iron all at the same time.

That’s something of the past though. When I discovered the thread guide method, life suddenly got a whole lot easier and I no longer wait before I do the hem on a garment. I took some quick pictures when I made my latest Belcarra blouse to show you how this super simple trick works.

Basically you use a temporary line of stitches as a guide for folding your hem.

You will need:

  • A garment made from a woven fabric that needs hemming
  • Seam ripper
  • Thread

Method

Step1: Set your sewing machine to a much longer stitch length, I put it on 5, which is the maximum on my machine. The longer stitch length will make it easier to remove your thread guide afterwards.

Step 2: Stitch all around the garment at the hem allowance distance from the raw edge. The hem allowance on my top was 1.5’’, so I sewed my line of stitches 1.5’’ from the edge. You can use one of the markings on the plate of your sewing machine as a guide, or, if you don’t have a marking at the right distance, put a sticky note or a piece of tape on the plate to use as a guide.

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Step 2: I used a matching thread colour because I was too lazy to switch thread to a contrasting one, so I hope you’re able to see it.

Step 3: Put the stitch length on your sewing machine back to normal so you don’t accidently end up stitching your hem with a ridiculously long stitch. This may have happened to me more than once which is why I try to remember to put it back to normal immediately.

Step 4: Take your garment to the ironing board and fold the hem to the inside using the stitched line as your guide. The stitches should fall just to the inside of the garment. You’ll find that the stitched line not only saves you from having to measure while you’re using your iron, it also helps the fabric fold more naturally at that position.

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Step 4: For me it works best if the raw edge of the fabric faces away from me at first so that I fold the hem towards me as I am pressing with the iron.

Step 5: I like a double folded hem with a completely enclosed raw edge so I fold the fabric a second time, this made the hem depth on my top ¾’’ (half of my 1.5’’ hem allowance). Alternatively, if you don’t mind a single folded hem, you could finish the raw edge with a zig zag or overlock stitch and skip this second fold, that way you end up with a deeper hem.

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Step 5: You can see how I folded the hem a second time so that the raw edge almost touches the inside of the first fold.

Step 6: Stitch your hem, make sure to catch the edge of the folded up hem allowance. I like to sew with the right side of the garment facing up, but if you’re anxious about not catching the hem you can also sew with the inside of the garment facing up.

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Step 6

Step 7: To remove the thread guide, unpick some stitches and then it should be really easy to pull the thread out.

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Step 7: You only need to unpick a couple of stitches, the long stitch length makes it really easy to pull the thread out. I normally really dislike unpicking something but this is a piece of cake.

Step 8: Give your hem a final press and wear your garment with pride!

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Finished hem from the right side.

This trick is especially great if you want to make a narrow hem (e.g. ½’’ inch hem allowance, ¼’’ hem), that has a bit of a curve to it like on a classic tailored shirt.

Were you already familiar with this method? Or is this something you’d like to give a try on your next garment?

June 2, 2018

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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8 Comments

  1. katechiconi

    Normally I press the fold over a card template the right width, which works too, but I can see this is a better process for a curved hem.

    Reply
    • Emmely

      There are always several solutions to a problem. I have used cardboard templates for other things, like pockets, but I now usually use this thread guide method there as well. For a curve this really makes the process so much easier. I no longer procastinate!

      Reply
  2. Patricia

    I had forgotten this, learned it in the 1950’s.

    Reply
    • Emmely

      Ah, so it’s quite an old trick! Thank you for sharing, I find it interesting to learn about these things.

      Reply
  3. Kathy

    I’m looking forward to my next hemming task with this trick! Thank you Emmely. I enjoy your intelligent blog posts – Your intros ore short and sweet with helpful information before the tutorial starts.

    Reply
    • Emmely

      Thank you for this lovely comment! It really makes my day when someone finds the information I share useful.

      Reply
  4. Susan

    I was not familiar with this method. It would be helpful when hemming jeans for my younger son. He’s always asking me to do that! I keep telling him he could actually buy them the right length. LOL

    Reply
    • Emmely

      When someone nowadays asks me to hem their jeans I reply that I can show them how they can do it themselves. They either accept the offer, which is rare, or they then decide to take it to a tailer instead. I do alterations for my husband though, but he does other stuff for me so that evens things out.

      Reply

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