7 Types Of Hem Finish And Their Uses

7 types of hem finish and their uses.

As part of my series exploring techniques and details, I thought that today I’d delve into hem treatments and look at 7 types of hem finish and their uses plus what fabrics or garments that they would suit. 

*Before I get started properly though I just wanted to say that I hope you’re finding a way to cope during this awful global pandemic that’s going on. It’s a very different world right now and daily life feels very odd, to say the least. I wanted to carry on providing content though because it’s a way of keeping some normality going and keeping connections going. So I hope my posts will be a welcome respite and nook of creativity for you as well.*

And now let’s get cracking and have a look at the wonderful world of hems. 

ONE: A basic machine hem

This is the simplest and easiest to do. You can either fold under the raw edge of the hem or overlock it and then machine stitch it all into place. Machined hems can be anything from half and a few inches deep. This technique is suited to a wide variety of fabrics like cotton, linen, denim, wool etc. You could consider this type of him perhaps a bit more casual but I have seen it used on some formal clothes as well. You can contrasting thread, do several rows of topstitching or even use a decorative stitch.

On knit fabrics, you would probably use an overlocker and may or maybe a cover stitch machine and do a couple of rows of stitching here are a few examples of machine-stitched hems.

7 types of hem finish and their uses
7 types of hem finish and their uses
Dress with multiple rows of stitching on hem

TWO: A very narrow machined hem

This is great on sheer fabrics and adds very little bulk to a garment.  I have a specific method that I use for doing this narrow hem and have used it on a couple of my own things this sheer blouse with cat motifs on and also this cocktail dress.  There’s a tutorial on this Pussy Bow Blouse blog post.

7 types of hem finish and their uses. Narrow machined hem
7 types of hem finish and their uses.
Narrow machined hem

THREE: Roll hem

I’m referring to the type of roll hem done using an overlocker/ serger. These are fabulous on sheer fabrics and some jersey fabrics. If you set the differential feed on your overlocker to the stretch setting you can also create a lettuce effect which can look really pretty.  I wrote a full tutorial on how to do a rolled hem in this post here. Here are a couple of photographs to show how pretty they can look.

7 types of hem finish and their uses. Roll hem.
7 types of hem finish and their uses. Roll hem
7 types of hem finish and their uses. Roll hem ruffle cuffs

FOUR: Hand-stitched hem

This is lovely for when you don’t want your hemline to show at all on the right side. Before you sew, you can overlock your raw edge, add tape to it or bind it with a lightweight fabric.  When sewing this sort of hem you just pick up one or two threads as you go and this creates a lovely invisible hem from the right side. There are actually several types of hand stitches that you can use and I discovered a great resource on the Megan Nielsen blog. I love to use a handsewn hem on woven wool fabrics, crepe, sometimes linen and some cotton fabrics like cotton sateen. 

7 types of hem finish and their uses. Handsewn hem
7 types of hem finish and their uses. Handsewn hem

FIVE: Faced Hem

This method is great for using on hemlines that are shaped, for instance, curved or scalloped etc.  You would create a facing to match the shape of your hemline and it would be sewn on separately. Depending on the hem shape you’re using, I would treat it just the same as a facing that you might put on a neckline and understitch it if possible so that it lies correctly and doesn’t show on the right side of your garment. Finish off by either machine stitching or hand sewing the hem in place. I used a faced hemline on my teal flounce dress here.

Faced hem

And how about this fabulous scalloped hem from the latest Chanel Fall 2020 collections.

7 types of hem finish and their uses. Scalloped hem on Chanel dress

You can also create facings with wide bias-cut fabric. How about making it a feature in satin as used on this dress? So lovely!

7 types of hem finish and their uses.
Bias hem facing

SIX: Raw hem

This type of hem is the easiest to do with little or no preparation or sewing.

Generally, this finish is best suited to fabrics that don’t fray and some great fabrics to try this method with are boiled wool, felted wools, double-faced wool, faux leather, leather, suede and faux suede. I’ve even seen it used on some single jersey and ponte knits.  

How about also using a raw hem on woven fabric and doing a fringed edge where you draw threads out? 

Try a distressed fringing look in denim or what about doing something like my coral skirt? (Coral skirt blog post) In this case, I think it’s always best to do a stabilising row of stitching just before the fringed effect begins.

7 types of hem finish and their uses. Fringed raw hem

Distressed fringing on jeans:

Fringed denim hem by Nasty Gal

How about this Oska coat collar too?

7 types of hem finish and their uses

And my online pal Manju has made a fabulous coat with all raw hems. She made it in beautiful camel wool.

SEVEN: Bound hemlines 

These can look fabulous if you use a different fabric texture or a different colour. You can get little gadgets to make your own binding with or buy it ready-made. 

Isn’t this a lovely effect on this tiered dress?

Bound hem detail dress.

I hope you enjoyed this meander through the world of hems and maybe even feel inspired to try a few different techniques yourself. And why not save this post for future reference by pinning on Pinterest or adding to favourites.

Oh and I nearly forgot…If you want to read the other posts in this series here they are: Topstitching, Ruffles, Colourblocking, Buttons and Buttonholes

In the meantime take care, stay safe, stay well and I hope to chat again soon.

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