How to Mark and Prepare Hems

You can stitch hems by machine or by hand. Some hems should be invisible on the right side of the garment, the hem allowance  can be up to 3″ (7.6cm) wide. For a flared garment, the hem is usually from 1 1/2″ to 2″ (3.8cm to 5.1cm) wide. Sheer fabrics and light-weight knits almost always have narrow hems stitched by machine.

Marking a hem

Put on the garment, with all the appropriate undergarments and accessories. Enlist the help of a friend to chalk or pin-mark the hem an even distance from the floor. Stand in one place while your helper moves around you, measuring with a yard stick. (meterstick) and marking.
Pin up entire hem to make sure you like the length. Make adjustments as needed.

Preparing to Hem

  1. Trim the seam allowances below the marked hem-line to reduce bulk.
  2. Fold up the hem along the marks and hand-baste it to the fabric, close to the fold. Measure and mark the desired hem depth from the fold. Add 1/4″ (6mm) if you are clean-finishing the edge. Trim away the excess fabric.
  3. If the hem is curved, stitch only 1/4″ (6mm) from the raw edge with a long machine stitch. Pull the bobbin thread every few inches to ease the fullness.

To Clean-Finish the Edge

If your fabric tends to ravel, you may want to clean-finish the edge before you hem.

  • Turn under 1/4″ (6mm) to the wrong side and press the fold. Machine-stitch.
  • Machine-straight-stitch 1/4″ (6mm) from the edge. Trim the edge with pinking shears.
  • Zigzag or overcast the raw edge.
  • Edgestitch a seam binding or hem tape to the right side of the garment edge, overlapping the short ends.
TIP: If your garment is cut on the bias, hang it on a hanger for 24 hours before marking the hem. The fabric will relax to its true length.