Notions: Hemming by Hand

I am afraid I am one of those dreadful bores of a teacher who insists that Hemming is done by hand! It just looks simply beautiful, & gives a truly professional finish to a garment that has been carefully stitched together, by hand.

I have taken this Tutorial from my Simple A-Line Skirt Tutorial because this subject has come up a lot lately and I thought a refresher was a good idea… see, I told you I was a bore about this!! 

Turn up and pin the hem 1cm (3/8″). Iron. Then turn up & pin the hem 2cm (6/8″). Iron again, then set to Herringbone Stitching!

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Measuring & pinning the Hem up a further 2cm, then ironing. There will be slight puckers which need to be ironed plat as small pleats, to be Hand Sewn down. This will help the fabric manage the curve, whilst remaining flat in front. 

With the Hem still pinned, & nicely ironed!, start Herringbone Stitching it down…

MCCALLS Herringbone StitchIllustration from McCalls Sewing in Colour, 1960. 

I know this seems complicated but I use Herringbone Stitch for all my hems. I first got taught this technique when I was working at the- now sadly closed down & sold off for parts- BBC Costume Department in West London.

The reason it was being used on costumes was twofold… firstly it doesn’t show from the front (at all!) and secondly, it’s super strong. If your heel gets caught & rips one stitch the rest don’t immediately unravel because of the way Herringbone Stitch is worked.


Often called Catch Stitch, as you can see from the above diagrams, it is a version of Back Stitch, in Cross Stitch form.

Firstly, thread the needle in a complimentary colour, then stitch a couple stitches ‘on the spot’ to start. This stitch is worked backwards so the first stitch you take will be through the main body of the fabric. Take a stitch from right to left but only take a thread of the fabric. This stitch should lie directly above the hem fold as illustrated.

Secondly, and roughly 1.5cm to the right of the first stitch, take a larger stitch through the folded part of the fabric. Do not go all of the way through to the front. Move to the right again and take another stitch through the main body of the fabric, as illustrated, and only taking up a thread. Continue until the hem is complete or you need to re-thread.

The examples above I have completed in black & white, so you can imagine how the stitches disappear when executed in a complementary colour. Click here for the original Tutorial.

I like to put on a good movie and settle in when I have a Hem to do…


Detail of the Herringbone Stitch, & the completed Hem!

Happy stitching!


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