Tutorial: Hemming a curved edge by machine
When I was a young sewist, I made a ton of circle skirts which, oddly enough, I learned to make from a Usenet newsgroup (I am old and a nerd). I wore them over brightly colored crinolines like a 90s goth version of Cyndi Lauper.
The one thing that always stuck in my craw about circle skirts was the hemming. Curved edges can be quite a pain to hem, because the raw edge that you fold under is bigger than the seamline. This can result in all kinds of twists and puckers.
One solution is to stitch your hems by hand. This is often my preference anyway, as I like a wide, invisible hem. But that can take a really long time, and sometimes you just want to let your machine do most of the work.
I’m going to show you my technique for hemming tricky curves with a sewing machine, and a couple tips I’ve picked up through the years.
Here’s the raw edge of my hem. You can see it’s got a bit of curve to it. We’re going to be sewing a 5/8 inch hem.
First, stitch a line of basting 1/4 inch from the raw edge, all the way around your hem. I used a red thread so you can see the basting clearly. I like to increase my thread tension just a bit when I do this.
The basting does three things:
- It measures and marks a precise 1/4 inch for you, so you don’t have to do a lot of tedious measuring and marking by hand.
- It forms an almost perforated line, making the hem easier to fold.
- It very slightly eases the edge in, making it a little tighter and easier to fold under twice. Increasing the thread tension just a bit helps with this.
On the wrong side, turn along the basting and press. Holding it a little taut along the basting will help you fold the edge as you press. Use plenty of steam and press firmly (moving the iron up and down), don’t iron (pulling the iron side to side).
One your hem is pressed, turn again and press. The raw edge should be up against the bottom fold, within the hem.
You may be wondering: if we turned it over 1/4 inch, then turned 1/4 inch again, isn’t that only a 1/2 inch seam allowance?
Excellent point! But I find that the extra 1/8″ is usually taken up by the turn of cloth (that is, extra fabric that is taken up by forming the folds). If you use a very light fabric, this might not be the case. In that case, if you’re really into having a hem that’s exactly 5/8 inch, you could make your original basting 5/16 inch from the edge. I don’t imagine most of us would care that much.
Now edgestitch along the fold on the inside of your skirt to form a perfect hem. If you have an edgestitching foot, I recommend using that.