Thursday, November 29, 2012

{Pencil Skirt Sew-along} Hemming

Of course, you can sew a simple hem by machine, but on a slim skirt like this without a large hem circumference, sewing the hem by hand doesn't take that long and gives a really professional-looking finish.

First you'll need to determine the desired length of your finished skirt. I like my pencil skirts between about 28-30" - a good 50s length, a little below the knee. If you have other skirts you like the length of, you can use them as a guide. Measure down from the waistband and mark with pins.

Fold up along the line you marked with pins, taking out the pins and pressing as you go.

Simple turned-up hem

This is a good option for lighter weight fabrics (as it's double-folded, thicker fabrics can get a bit bulky). Unfold the crease, then turn in about 1/4-1/2" from the raw edge and press. Turn the hem up again, pin in place and blind-hem with an invisible hem stitch (see below).

Hem with seam binding or hem tape

Seam binding is a ribbon-like tape made of rayon or polyester. Seam binding gives a lovely looking hem and is perfect for thick fabrics as it adds no bulk, but as it can be a little slippery you may prefer to opt for a bias binding hem, which is easier to control. Lay the seam binding along the edge on the outside of the skirt. Pin in place (note: my pins are facing the wrong way because I am stupid. Face your pins the other way to make it easier as it's going through the sewing machine).

Stitch right up close to the edge of the seam binding (here you can see why it's important to have your pins facing the right way). When you get to the end, fold the raw edge under and stitch in place.

Fold up the hem along the crease line and pin in place. Blind-hem using an invisible hem stitch (see below).

Hem with bias binding

Like seam binding, bias binding gives a very pleasing result. Bias binding is folded in on both sides, so no raw edges and no visible stitching.

Fold in the end. With the skirt right side out, lay the bias binding along the bottom edge, easing the fold open and pinning in place along the crease. Stitch along the crease line.

Fold the bias binding along the stitch line, then turn up the hem on the fold line and pin in place. Hem by hand with an invisible hem stitch - see below.

Invisible Hem Stitching

I promise this is not difficult - or even very time consuming - and it's so worth it for the polished look of the finished hem. There are two types of stitch commonly used - regular blind hem stitch and herringbone catch stitch. Note: These instructions are right-handed - if you're a lefty you might find it easier to mirror the techniques.

With the hem pinned in place, thread a needle and knot the end. I usually like to start at a seam so I can stitch on the spot without it showing on the main part of the garment. Draw the needle from the back to the front (so the thread tail is enclosed within the folded hem) and make a couple of stitches on the spot to secure.

For hems using seam binding or hem tape, we'll use a simple blind hem stitch. From the starting point, push the needle through the tape from back to front. Then take a tiny tiny stitch - just catching a few threads - in the main skirt slightly to the right of where the needle just emerged. From there, catch the top of the hem again. Continue all the way around the hem.

After stitching, give the finished hem another good steam press, paying particular attention to the kick pleat to make sure all the creases are crisp.

Hemming the slip lining

We'll make a narrow double-fold hem for the lining. There are various ways you can do this, this is just one method (google "baby hem" or "machine-rolled hem" for more). Turn the skirt inside out and turn the hem under to about 1/4" longer than your desired length (the finished lining should be 1/2" - 1" shorter than the skirt). Press.

Flip the lining over the waistband so it's inside out (wait, should that be outside-in? The other way round, anyway) and clear of the outer skirt. Trim 1/4" from the crease, then fold up again and pin.

Machine stitch the hem as close to the folded edge as you can.

When you turn the skirt the right way round, if all has gone according to plan the hem of the lining and the hem of the skirt should be facing each other, so no turnups are visible from the inside or outside of the skirt. (I've got the skirt folded in half in this picture, which is why you can see the outside of the skirt at the top and bottom of the pic!)


  1. I love bias binding my hems - one of the most satisfying steps in sewing, I find, and such a neat finish.

    And I'm always putting my pins in the wrong way! Glad to see I'm not the only one who pins parallel to the hem. I never get the principle of pinning perpendicular. I only end up stabbing myself on the pins as I sew!

  2. You should't measure your hemline from the waist down but from the floor up. Most likely you have a bum (and perhaps belly and hips as well...) and therefore the skirt needs to have different length in the front and the back. Otherwise the hem will look uneven.

    It's also always better to put the pins perpendicular; pinning them parallel to the seam causes strain in the fabric which might give a woobly seam.

    1. Good advice re the measuring! But as I don't have a mannequin or capable helper, I have no way of measuring the skirt from the floor up - and I've found that the waist-down method works fine for this style of skirt, where there's no bias to stretch.

      I have heard that it's best to pin perpendicular, but personally I find that that method seems to distort the fabric more rather than less. I've also noted (I did research!) that most of the sewists I admire tend to pin along the seam. Obviously I remove the pins as I sew towards them, so the fabric is flat as it goes through the machine.

      xx Charlotte

  3. This series of posts are great- just what I need! I just ordered some fabric and going to follow along your blog posts, but would love to see your finished skirt! Am I missing a final post? Trying to decide which pattern to go for!


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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