Sewing Basics - 3 Ways to Fix a Hem
Welcome to Stylecamp's #sewingbasics series, here to help you learn new skills and fight the boredom during the global pandemic! My tutorials so far cover How to Sew on a Button, Basic Hand Stitches and Sewing an Elastic Waistband, and in this chapter I'm going to show you 3 easy ways to alter or fix a loose hem, with or without a sewing machine.
Learning these basic sewing skills and repairs also ties in neatly with the concept of #slowfashion, which is all about mindful shopping habits and taking care of the things you already own. By learning these basic skills you can confidently repair or alter anything in your wardrobe that need a little tlc, to get them looking their best so you can wear them for longer.
WHAT IS A HEM?
A hem is the natural end to a garment's bodice, skirt, sleeve or cuffs, with the fabric turned back and sewn inside a garment for a neat finish.
Hems are generally either single turned (folded back once) for speed, or double turned (folded back twice on itself) for a more tailored finish. If you're using a single turned hem, you'll need to finish the raw edge first with an overlocker or pinking shears to stop the fabric from unravelling. With a double turn, the raw edge is encased neatly within the hem, so you don't need to worry about this extra step.
You can choose any depth you like for your hem, using a design eye to bring balance to the overall look of your garment - i.e wide cut trousers in heavier fabrics often look good with deep hems, while delicate dresses in soft fabrics and stretch fabrics tend to have narrow hems.
PREPARING THE HEM
If you're repairing a garment's hem, look at the method that was previously used and use this as a guide for your repair. The most common hems are either stitched with a straight stitch via a sewing machine, glued with an adhesive or fixed by hand using a blind stitch.
If you're raising or lowering a hem, you can choose any of the above options, simply measuring from the waist down to your desired length and making little chalk marks all the way around around the bottom edge of your garment. Don't forget to add on seam allowance (twice the amount if you're using a double turn), as you'll be turning the hem in towards the inside of the garment for a crisp edge.
In either case, you'll need to press the hem seam allowance up with an iron first and pin in place before you start sewing. To get it straight, make yourself a hem guide from a thin piece of A4 card with the depth of your hem drawn on lengthways. Lay the card over your fabric and fold the hem edge up towards your drawn line, pressing a section at a time until your whole hem is neatly pressed up.
HEM WITH A SEWING MACHINE
This is perhaps the quickest way to fix a hem if you have a sewing machine to hand. Place your pre-pressed hem under the machine's foot and sew your hem using a straight stitch, following the edge guide on your machine to keep the hem depth even.
If your garment is made from a stretch fabric, you can use a zig-zag stitch instead to ensure the stitches don't pop when the fabric is stretched.
GLUE A HEM USING BONDAWEB
Bondaweb (also known as Wonderweb) is a wonderful tool to have in your sewing kit and it's really useful for repairs like this, especially if you don't have a sewing machine. It's basically double-sided sticky tape for fabric, applied in strips which melt when heated.
Simply cut a length of bondaweb tape to size and insert it into your pre-folded hem. You don't want to get this stuff on your iron so make sure the fabric is completely covering the surface of the tape before applying heat. Work in sections and leave it to cool to bond the fabric together.
You can go over the edge with a sewing machine afterwards if you so wish, as this product also helps to keep the hem in place if you're working with a fiddly or stretch fabric. In the case of stretch fabrics, I also find bondaweb useful for stabilising the hem a little to prevent them from stretching out.
HAND SEW WITH A BLIND STITCH
While this one is more time-consuming and requires a little skill, the end result of a blind stitch is flawless and ideal for lighter fabrics or tailored pieces where you don't want an obvious stitch line. This delicate stitch catches only a few threads of the outer garment at a time, making them barely visible.
Once you get the hang of it, you can do it quite speedily! Head over to the last of my Basic Hand Stitches post for a video and picture tutorial of this useful hand-sewing technique.
Check back soon for more Sewing Basics tutorials!