Hand Sew a Hem

Recently, a reader inquired about how to hand sew a hem. So, let’s walk that through together.

There are many techniques and stitches that can be used, so I just want to say up front that this is not the final word in hemming, but I hope it will help.

First, if you would like to look at the entire process of hemming from the time you pin a pair of pants to the finished hem, you may want to look at these posts first:

Hem Your Jeans The Professional Way

How To Hem Pants And Skirts

How To Hem Without Puckers: Tapered and Flared Pants

Hemming Stretchy Knits

This post will tackle the actual hand stitching of the hem.

To begin, thread a needle by running the end of the thread that comes off of the spool through a needle. Knot the end. I like to use a single thread. Some people like to double the thread and then tie a knot.

I use a single thread because a double tends to get tangled up alot easier on me.

Some people use beeswax or a product called “Thread Heaven”

sewing blog 249Thread Heaven is a very small box that contains a substance that coats the thread and keeps it from tangling. Beeswax has the same effect, I am told.

Once you thread the needle, put your finger over the thread (see photo) and pull the thread through, as if you are sewing with it, keeping your finger there, so that the thread gets covered with the coating. Do the same if you are using beeswax.

To begin, I like to serge the edge of the pants or skirt or dress. I like the finished edge that serging produces. (For this demonstration, I am using some scrap fabric so that you can see the stitches better).

If you don’t have a serger, you can finish the edge with a zig zag stitch, or trim the edge with a pair of pinking shears (if you have them), or add on seam binding or stretch lace that you purchase at your local sewing store. Walmart carries the latter two as well.

Let’s say you don’t have any of those options. You can always turn down the top 1/4″ of the edge and press it. Then, you can stitch on that folded edge. We’ll look at that in a moment.

First, let’s look at how to hem a serged edge.

I fold the serged edge towards me and hold it down with my fingers as I sew. You can also pin it if you’d like.

Bring your needle up through the fold and take a tiny stitch into the leg of the pants. I try to only take up one thread if possible so that the stitch doesn’t show through on the right side of the garment.

sewing blog 252Then, take your needle behind the fold and take a tiny stitch into the fold.

sewing blog 303Repeat this process until you are finished.

This is what the underside of the hem looks like:

sewing blog 304This is what the pants will look like on the right side of the garment:

sewing blog 256I like this type of stitch because it is not sewn right on the hem edge. This makes it nearly invisible from the right side.

Another stitch that is common is this one. For this one I come up through the hem section and take a small stitch on the garment. Notice I am working from left to right this time.

sewing blog 257I continue by taking a small stitch in the hem and then a small stitch in the garment. Keep your stitches a little on the loose side. Don’t pull too tight.

After a few stitches, it should look like this:

sewing blog 259Another way to hand stitch a hem is by turning the edge under 1/4″ as previously mentioned. Once you turn it under, you can stitch it down like we did in the first example:

sewing blog 261Take a small stitch into the garment and then one into the tunnel.

It looks really nice on the inside of the garment

sewing blog 262Just be careful not to iron over the fold like this

sewing blog 264If you do, it will leave a bump on the right side of the garment like this:

sewing blog 265Just iron on the bottom fold only and from the wrong side of the garment. That will ensure your hand stitched hem doesn’t show from the right side and looks professional.