Monday, May 9, 2016

Tutorial: Tiny Machine Hem for Sheer Fabrics


Some of you asked me to show how I achieve a narrow machine hem on a sheer fabric. I learned this technique back in the early 80s and I'm not even sure from where, but I did not originate it. The finished hem, as tiny as it is, contains three rows of stitching. This adds the tiniest bit of weight to the hem, to a very nice effect.

It has been suggested (in the comments) that this technique originally appeared in a Threads article many years ago. That may be where I learned it as I was a voracious Threads reader back in the 80s. One reader remembers that it was attributed to Calvin Klein. Maybe someone can look it up in their Threads Archive and let me know!

I rushed to get these pics after work and before I lost the daylight.


Step 0: Prepare and press fabric. I rough cut this strip very quickly which is why it's a bit ragged.

Step 1: Run a line of machine stitching. Press. (Press at every step!)

Step 2: Fold the raw edge under, with the row of stitches just slightly towards the back side. This is called favoring the seam or, in this case, favoring the right side of the garment. Run another row of machine stitching just along the edge—as close to the edge as you can while keeping it at a consistent distance from the edge. In order to make this process easier, I move the needle position closer to the edge of the fabric. Press.

Step 3: Trim the raw edge, as close as you can to the stitching. Go slowly. This is a good time to use your duckbilled scissors, if you have them. I don't know where mine are, so I used my Kai scissors. Press.

Gingher Duckbilled Scissors

Trimming complete. Again, I was in a rush.

Step 4: Turn the hem under again, as close as you can. I don't use pins. With practice, you can get the finished hem to be 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch. Run a final line of stitching to secure the hem. Press.

Completed hem. I did this in a rush, so it's not my narrowest hem.

I also used this technique here.

If you want to use this technique on chiffon, first stiffen it with Perfect Sew or liquid starch. I am a fan of Perfect Sew and have blogged about it.


Also, I did not serge the seams on my duster. Serging adds a lot of thread and makes a seam more obvious in a sheer fabric. I used a traditional seam for sheer fabrics: I stitched a normal seam, then I stitched a second row of stitches 1/8th of an inch from the first seam. I then trimmed very close to the second row of stitching. This results in a more subtle seam.

Thanks for all of your kind feedback on my duster!

32 comments:

  1. Thanks for the clear directions and step by step photos. Makes sense!

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  2. this is so clever! and perfect timing. I am going to tackle some chiffon pretty soon.

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    1. Claire, I updated the blog post with this information: Before using this technique on chiffon, stiffen the fabric with Perfect Sew or liquid starch. I like Perfect Sew and I added a link to my relevant blog post up above.

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  3. This is great! Thanks for putting this together for everyone.

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  4. Thank you for the easy-to-follow great tutorial. I am trying this today. Blessings, Pat.

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    1. Thanks, Pat! Let me know how it goes!

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  5. Oh that's terrific - the result is so neat looking!

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  6. I think I remember learning that hem from Threads magazine long ago. They said it was a Calvin Klein technique. It takes patience but it does make the most beautiful little hem, and I remember the article saying that the three lines of stitching help to weight the hem very slightly. I do seams on sheers just the same way as you do...they look nice and there isn't any bulk. ~Martina

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    1. Yes, Martina. That *might* be where I learned it, but I don't remember. And it *does* add a tiny bit of weight that is very lovely. I almost wrote that in the post. ;)

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    2. Favoring the first stitch line! Three times! (I feel a little like Mrs Lovett explaining the meat pies)

      It's the little details in this that make the difference.
      And I have just the project for this! Thanks everso!

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    3. Great, SJ! I'm glad I could help!

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  7. Thanks for the tutorial! I've read something similar in an older Threads magazine. Your duster is fabulous by the way.

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  8. Great use of home dec fabric.
    Believe this technique came from Sandra Betzine/Marcy Tilton?

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    1. Carol, the consensus (if you read the previous comments) is that it came from a Threads article back in the 80s and was, originally, a technique from Calvin Klein. I'm at work and don't have access to my Threads archive, but maybe someone can look it up and share. :)

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  9. Thank you! Really appreciated! - Heather

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  10. I picked this technique up sometime ago too... might have been from that Thread's article!
    I wonder if I am seeing correctly that you have moved your needle to the right? I do that when stitching such narrow seams as you can move the garment more to the right and the feed dogs get more hold on the fabric.
    And I love how specific you are on pressing with each step! If only I could get my students to understand the importance of that.

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    1. Ooooh, you are eagle-eyed, Kathleen! Yes, I move my needle to the right. It's just automatic and I didn't think to mention it. When I have some time, I may add that info to the post.

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  11. Thats great , The other thing I would add is that if you have a straight stitch plate or foot or if you have an old straight stitch machine , this is where they come into their own . I did yards and yards of hem on a wedding dress made of chiffon and didnt have to stiffen it first because I was able to use my old straight stitch Singer

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    1. :D Yes, I don't have that for my Bernina and it's not such an issue for the organza I was using. But it can be a lifesaver!

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  12. I distinctly remember this technique from Threads. I made a photocopy of a little window of the technique they published and it is always up on my bulletin board. Thanks for publishing this for all those who may have missed it.

    Its always amazed my why anyone would fiddle with a rolled hem foot on the machine when a technique like this and a couple of others out there give such perfect and easily achievable results. Only way to go!

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    1. I SO agree, Bunny! Those rolled edge feet are way too fussy for me.

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  13. Thanks so much for this great tutorial, Shams. Perfect timing! My daughter came to FL from MA to celebrate Mother's Day. How nice! She brought with her a "few" pieces of clothing for me to hem. How nice?? Your tutorial worked perfectly to hem a dress she wanted changed into a blouse ..what a beautiful hem! I politely declined to remove the sleeve cuffs, shorten the sleeve and reattach the cuffs. Roll 'em up! Have you shared your method of achieving sharp collar points? I've tried so many but have yet to be impressed with my result. Any suggestions? Thanks for all the time and effort you spend helping your fellow sewists.

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    1. How wonderful, Fran! I'm happy it worked out! And you are smart for dodging the bullet on further alterations. ;) I haven't posted how I do sharp collar points. I've tried different techniques and I am generally able to get them fairly sharp. Even Peggy Sagers technique of NOT cutting off the corner works pretty well in some fabrics. In thicker fabrics, you have to trim. Sandra Betzina has a technique where she sews the seam in a slight curve as you approach and leave the corner, but I don't generally find that necessary.

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  14. If you ever end up hemming hundreds of chiffon bridesmaid dresses for a living, (God forbid) you can skip the first row of stitching and just stitch close to the fold, then trim with duckbills, fold again and stitch and press press press. Great photos!!!! Thank you!

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    1. Yes, I bet you could! I admit that I do like that first line of stitching, though. Seriously, HOW do you do it, Mrs Mole?!?! :)

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