Hems Up, Hems Down

Most of the time, OK 99.9 % of the time hems are shortened but once in a great while a client brings in one to drop down and lengthen. Not too much of a problem unless there is not enough fabric to make the fold back to the inside.

“Can you add something?”, the client asks. “Oh yes”, I answer and after she leaves that is when the thinking time/madness begins. Now you seamstresses out there know that thinking time is not something we can charge for so off I go into my other sewing room where scraps of fabrics are stored to find something compatible with this fabric content: Well there is not a lot of rayon/nylon blend in my fabric stash to attach to this stretchy hem but recently I had to add a black decorative sash to another client’s bathing suit and I see a strip of the Lycra blend just waiting to be used.

The new strip has to be at least an inch wide and long enough to get around the circumference of the hem. The ends are sewn together to make a band and the little seam allowances ( 1/8 inch wide!) are stitched flat and this looks like the solution!

Then I proceed to attach it and under-stitch to keep the join flat before flipping to the inside. Last week I saw Nancy Zeiman using the multiple zigzag on this technique so I altered my machine to do it like her.  

It worked great and it was flipped and pinned, sorry about the fuzzy photo!


Once this is sewn by hand and pressed to remove the old hem mark they will lay flat and no one will know the difference except you. If this had been a non-stretch fabric anything could have been used to match the thickness of the original fabric, even something a little crazy like a print for kid’s clothes.

Now, the same client brought in a pair of denim jeans that needed to be shortened so we have a whole different problem. Again the same maker but this time made in the USA. I LOVE THAT!

  I will be using my technique for hemming jeans that produce a very flat edge with no flaring out later. You may have seen it in the past but here is the technique: measure flare compared to the finished edge (flip and check), reduce any width by taking in side seams, serge off excess, serge new bottom edge, snip hem fold in seam allowance and flip apart (no lumps!) before stitching down. The following photos explain:

See how much we have to take away? About 1/2 inch (total 1 inch) each side to make the leg straight. OK let’s pin it out and check:

  snip  and flip

Using a thick thread in the bobbin and thin thread on top, stitch flat and remember to pull your bobbin thread (thicker one) to the inside for tying off later. This makes the right side cleaner and less chance of fraying threads later.  

Snip off the extra thread and check out the right side…perfect! You can see my red thread basting. I thread baste all my finished hem lines before removing my pins so I always have a reference in case something happens and they fall out. It also helps if I want to steam press the hem up before hand stitching and then there will be no pin marks.

OK it is time consuming/really tedious but when I’m getting in dozens of pants every week I can plow though them pretty fast if that step is done first. These are steps than can be accomplished while watching Project Runway or Chelsea Lately along with hand sewing hems. Speaking of Project Runway…poor Bert…out of the running but that leaves the rest to squabble among themselves…who will be the final 3?

Here’s hoping none of you have to drop hems this week and the only thing dropping are leaves in your garden and the price of gas….well a girl can hope!

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2 Responses to Hems Up, Hems Down

  1. John Yingling says:

    Thread tracing hems? That’s a Claire Shaeffer technique! How about simply chalking that same line with a Chaconer or tailor’s triangle chalk? Especially on black denim, it would save a lot of time. Also the best machine for hemming jeans? A walking foot machine, sews through multiple layers of denim like butter.

  2. Thank you for the great ‘snip and flip’ idea!

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