How to Sew or Make a Rolled Hem by Hand
How to Hand Sew a Rolled Hem
For most people, the same basic steps come to mind when they think about hemming fabric: pull out the iron, fold up the fabric, press, fold again, press again and then throw down a quick row of stitches with the trusty (hopefully!) sewing machine.
Historically, there were many different types of hems that were used on different types of fabric and for different purposes. Many people today choose not to use these specialty hems out of convenience, but this page shows you how to create a rolled hem. Rolled hems are quick and easy to make on fine fabrics, such as lightweight cottons, silks and linens. Rolled hems are less than ideal for heavy fabrics.
Materials Needed for Making a Rolled Hem
First, have the project you want to hem on hand. As you can see, mine was a simple square that spent a few too many hours in the bottom of my bag before I had the time to pull it out. I have used rolled hems on neckerchiefs, handkerchiefs, cravats, shirt cuffs and aprons. It would be an excellent choice for napkins and lightweight skirts or dresses, too.
Sewing a Rolled Hem
Next, make a crease in the fabric. It is not necessary to use an iron. If you have a wood or bone crease, that is all you need for most lightweight fabrics. A coin, thimble or other hard object can stand in as a crease, too. I usually just use my thumbnail, as I am in the picture. It is best to make this crease fairly close to the edge, or else the roll can become bulky. I usually fold over less than 1 cm of the fabric. You can crease the entire length of the hem at once, but I usually just hand crease a few inches at a time.
How to Secure Thread for Hand Sewing
Next, you want to secure your thread to the fabric. Do not tie a knot! This is a huge mistake beginning sewers make. Tying a knot is a bad plan, in most cases. It creates a little nub that stresses and wears holes in the fabric. Instead, secure the thread by making a few small stitches on top of each other. Don't be nervous - it will hold. Obviously, you probably want to use thread that matches your fabric. I did the first few stitches in a contrasting thread that is much too big for the project to make them easy to see in the photos.
This picture is to show you one of those anchoring stitches. Because I knew I wanted to remove the red thread before finishing the cup cover, I did not anchor it very securing.
Another important thing to remember when hand sewing is that the direction the thread comes off the spool matters. Thread has a twist to it, and most modern thread is designed to have the end coming off the spool threaded through the sewing needle, as it is on a machine. If you thread the freshly cut end, you are working against the the thread's twist and are much more likely to experience snags and snarls as you sew.
Now you're ready to get hemming! Make a small, slanted stitch directly below the bottom of the fold. Then, heading diagonally, make a small stitch through the top of the fold. In the picture, I am hemming from right to left, so my second stitch is to the left of the lower, first stitch. My stitches are a little exaggerated to make them easier to see - you may want yours to be smaller.
Next, repeat this process without pulling the thread tight.
You want to have somewhere between three and five stitches before you pull the thread tight.
After you have several stitches (3-5) in place, tighten them down to create the rolled hem. Make sure the stitches are tight and there are no gaps, but do not pull the thread so tight that the fabric pulls and puckers.
Simply repeat the process as many times as necessary to hem your entire project. I like to bind off the thread at each corner and start a fresh piece for each new side, but it is really just personal preference.
This is what the rolled hem looks like on both sides. Once again, I made the stitches a little larger and further apart than you might want to, but it is really up to you.
I hope you enjoy using the rolled hem as much as I do. I usually dread hemming because it is usually the final step before finishing an item, but rolled hems are quick and easy.
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