Knee Deep in Hems

This week I have been hit hard by clients with pants and jeans. Some gals like those True Religion jeans at $200 a pop and search the internet for cheaper prices and when they do….Lord have mercy! I have stacks of them all around my sewing room all needing hemming with that thick beige decorative thread trim that makes all your friends think that you never had to have the jeans shortened.

About 30 years ago a lovely clothing teacher told me that one problem with jean hems is that when they are folded under twice they tend/insist to want to roll back out to the right side and curl. This has to do with the weave being on the diagonal which gives it the great “give” that we like to mold to our bodies.

But to combat this she recommended that to deal with this the excess fabric should be serged (giving a relaxed edgestitch) and then turned under once and sewn flat. This gives a more polished edge, flatter edge that will never try to roll to the right side and curl up. It is also nicer for those that iron their jeans or those that grab them right out of the dryer.

With only 2 layers of fabric to sew the decorative hem it allows the seamstress to sew either from the right side using thick thread in the needle or from the wrong side using the thick thread in the bobbin. I use the latter as I can see the exact edge of the serged area and I can just finger press the 1/2 hem as I go without lots of pins.

Another trick is those thick side seams…oh my…how can my home sewing machine manage to stitch through 4 layers of denim or more at that junction and still maintain the same stitch length and not jamming up? Pray for a miracle and get yourself another diet drink and a cookie?

Two solutions: Split the seam in two and flatten before sewing.

Or if that is not possible make a snip towards the side seam and flip the top cut portion away from the lower seam. This distributes the bulk evenly and if you really want to mean business you can do like Sandra Betzina and use a hammer to pound them before stitching.

Then just flip down and stitch as normal and your presser foot will be very happy!

For those of you who are making your own jeans and have pressed the side seams flat anyway here is a nifty trick for making the hem edges sharp. Make snips into the seams from both sides and that allows the fabric to spread and relax before you make your final hemming.

OK…now what kind of thread to use…Button hole twist, Jeans thread, cordonnet, Upholstery thread…it can be almost anything that matches the original because if you use the second technique by filling the bobbin, using a size 90/14 denim needle, lengthening your stitch and reducing (if your machine allows) the presser foot pressure you will sail through this job.

If your machine balks at climbing up the side seam mound you can get out the rarely used plastic gadget called a Jean-a-ma-jig or slide the old hem edge that you have cut off under the back of your presser foot to level it out and away you go!

All that is left is to steam the hems from the wrong side giving a little tug to set the long stitches into the fabric and give a crisp edge.

If your client insists on the double layer hem with 6-8 layers in the side seam junction…do what I do…refer them to someone in town who just loves to do this and save your machine for nicer jobs.

Listening to my machine groan and grind trying to go through mounds of fabric at side seams is not my idea of good sewing and the chance of breaking a needle and threads and damaging your bobbin case is just foolish.

Hope your weekend is filled with lovely things to do like watch snow fall from my sewing room window.

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5 Responses to Knee Deep in Hems

  1. Shirley Bewley says:

    A hint: years ago I leaned that craft or quilting machines presser feet raise about 1/2″ more than regular machines. They are usually sturdy machines as well so they work great for going over those doubled side seams in jeans. 🙂 Thought I’d share. SB

  2. Alethia says:

    Thanks for sending my way, I will share your tip on SMT!!

  3. Pingback: Hems Up, Hems Down | fit for a queen

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing these hints- this will help with my next pair of jeans.

  5. John Yingling says:

    My two tips for hemming jeans – an industrial sewing machine and a pair of pliers. A walking foot machine makes quick work on those hens and all the bulk, and those machines like heavy thread. When I interned at a denim jeans company back in the ’70’s, the seamstresses all had a pair of sturdy pliers to smash down the bulky seams, making sewing a little easier.

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