Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alteration Station: Basic Machine Hem

It blows my mind sometimes how many people come to me for hems. If you have access to a sewing machine, but are feeling timid, a hem is a great place to start.

So, this is a post for all the beginners out there. Never fear, it's easy! Just look!

This method of hemming is great for most garments, the major exception being nice tailored things. Sure, it's POSSIBLE to do a machine hem on nice tailored things, but it's generally frowned upon. Suit pants and wool skirts should have a blind hem (tutorial coming soon!)

What You'll Need

Sewing machine
Garment that needs hemming
Matching thread

First, try on your pants or skirt and mark where you want your finished length to be with a pin. You only need one! Be sure to look in the mirror after you've marked it; what looks right when you are bending over, pinning, might not look right when you're standing upright.

Take your garment off and lay it on a table. From your desired finished length you have to add seam allowance: size of hem + 1/4"- 1/2".  I most often add 3/4" for what appears in the end as a 3/8" hem. But sometimes you may want a big, fat 2" hem, or a little bitty 1/4" hem. It all depends on the garment!

Here I have marked my finished length + seam allowance. Now I measure up from the current hem and mark with pins (or tailor's chalk) a nice, even line. Now cut on that line to chop off your excess!

Next we fold our cut edge up to the inside twice, so that the raw edge is tucked neatly out of sight. This can be done with pins or with an iron, either works, it is simply a matter of preference. I used pins!

My pinned hem

Now we sew!

As my former sewing teacher used to say, when sewing something circular, you always want your presser foot to be like a hamster in a wheel. This way you won't accidentally sew the other side of your pants to the back of your hem. 

It is best to always keep a visual line in mind, like those handy marks engraved in the sewing machine to keep your stitch line straight.

If you're hemming denim, like I was, to get that real authentic denim style, pick up some gold topstitching thread, and weather your new hem with some sandpaper.

Always give everything you've just sewn a good strong pressing with the iron to help it look its very best.

And that's all there is to it!


  1. Hi, nice information. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting!