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Finishing a homemade furnishing with suitable hems and correct mitring is an important part of achieving a neat and professional look.
The careful preparation and execution of hems is as vital as choosing the right fabric, or the best type of seam to use. When deciding on a hem, it is important to select the appropriate depth for the fabric and the scale of the furnishing: deep for large items and heavy fabrics; shallower for lighter fabrics and smaller pieces.
Mitring is a vital skill to master because it is the only effective way of achieving a neat corner on deep hems.
Hems can vary from 5 mm (1/16 in) to 15 cm (6 in) in depth. If it is not important to hide the sewing, you can sew the hem by machine. Use straight or zigzag stitch, or (if the machine has the option) blind hem stitch.
For inconspicuous stitching, it is best to hem by hand. Use a thread slightly darker than the fabric: hemming stitches catch the light more than the fabric.
Herringbone Stitch, Single Hem
1. Stitching Fabric: This method is used for heavy fabrics and on-lined curtains. Neaten the edge by oversewing or with a zigzag stitch. Turn the hem up to the required depth, pin, and tack. Secure the thread, and catch up a few threads of the main fabric, against the direction in which you will sew.
2. Stitching Hem: Pull the needle through. Crossing the thread over the first stitch, push it into the hem further along. Make a stitch through the hem turning - again, working in the opposite direction to the seam. Repeat this procedure along the hem, with each stitch crossing over the last.
Double Hem with Concealed Stitching
1. Stitching Fabric: This method is suitable for finer fabrics. Turn up the hem to the required depth, press, and turn up by the same amount again. Pin and tack a little way from the top. Fold back the top of the hem by 5 mm (3/16 in). Secure the thread, and catch up one or two threads from the main fabric.
2. Stitching Hem: Sew a small stitch through one layer only of the folded back top of the hem. Continue this way, stitching alternately through the hem and the main fabric. When the hem is finished, fold the top part of the hem flat and press it: the stitching will be concealed within the hem.
Twice-Turned and Slipstitched Hem
1. Pinning Hem: Use this method for hiding raw edges on medium-weight and lightweight fabrics. Turn the raw edge up by 1-2 cm and press. Turn the edge up again to the required depth, pin, and tack.
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2. Stitching Hem: Slipstitch the hem by alternately catching up a few threads from the main body of the fabric and making a stitch of 1 cm in the hem fold. Continue along the length of the hem.
This is a quick way to hem if the stitching need not be hidden. For example, on curtain linings. Turn the hem up to the required depth for a double or twice-turned hem, pin, and tack. Machine sew close to the top of the hem.
Mitring hem turnings at corners ensures a neat and tidy finish, no matter how bulky the fabric. It must be done before the rest of the hems are sewn. Mitring is an important technique and is particularly useful when making curtains.
It is not difficult, but the method does vary according to both the type of hem used and the depth of the turnings. Folding the corners to make a mitre can be an awkward task with some particularly thick and difficult-to-handle fabrics.
Cutting excess fabric out of the corner mitres will reduce the quantity of layered fabric and help to make a neater finish.
Single Hem Mitre
1. Marking Corner: Neaten the raw edges. Fold the hems to the required depth, one over the other, and press. Mark the points where they cross with a pin in each turning.
2. Folding Corner: Unfold the hem turnings. Make a fold across the corner from one pin to the other - the creases from the hem turnings should align. Press the fold.
3. Stitching Mitre: Refold both of the hems over the diagonally folded corner to give a neat mitre. Slipstitch the corner folds together, and sew the hems as required.
Double Hem Mitre
Fold helm twice. Mark where the one on top falls on the other with a pin. Repeat with the other hem on top. Unfold the second hem folds, fold from pin to pin, press, refold hems, and slipstitch mitre.
1. Folding Edges: Lay the fabric wrong side up. Fold the edges to be hemmed to the wrong side by 1 cm and press the turnings. Fold them up to their required finished depths, and press again.
2. Folding Corner: Unfold the second turning and fold across the corner diagonally. Align the second turning creases on the folded corner with the same creases running along the edges. Press flat.
3. Completing Mitre: Refold the hems along the fold lines of the second turning with the corner folded inside the hems. Slipstitch the mitred corner and sew the rest of the hems.
Cutting a Single Hem Mitre
1. Folding Corners: Follow steps 1 and 2 for the single hem mitre. Unfold the fold across the corner, and refold the whole piece of fabric on a diagonal into the corner with the right sides together and the adjacent sides aligning.
2. Cutting Across: The crease left by the fold across the corner is now folded double on itself. Sew along it, and trim away the excess corner fabric beyond the seam, leaving a seam allowance of 6 mm. Press the seam open.
3. Turning Out: Unfold the fabric, and turn the mitred corner right side out. Carefully push out the corner with the end of a pair of scissors: use scissors with rounded, not sharp, tips. Sew the rest of the hems as required.
Cutting an Uneven Mitre
1. Folding In: Follow steps 1 and 2 for the twice-turned mitre. Open the corner. Fold the piece on a diagonal, right sides together. The fold runs through the point where the creases of the second turnings cross, not into the corner.
2. Completing Corner: Sew along the crease across the corner, and cut away the excess fabric. Press the seam open, turn the corner right side out, and refold the hems. Push out the corner with the end of a pair of scissors.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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