Sewing Blog

7 Must-Know Tips for Sewing Even Hems

How many items have you sewn that are nearly complete except for that pesky hem? Hems can be a bit tricky to do, especially on fussy fabrics or bias cuts. Here are a few tips to achieving even hems on all your garments!

hem line of a sleeve

1. Plan ahead

Use the shorten or lengthen lines that are typically marked on most patterns. Even if you don’t make a muslin you can pin-fit the tissue paper pattern and hold it up to see if the hem lengths are in the right zone. Adjusting before you cut will save you a lot of time! 

2. Use the horizontal balance line

pattern piece with  horizontal balance line

We all pay attention to the grainline on our patterns, but have you taken note of the horizontal balance line? This is perpendicular to the grain line and should stay at the same level and parallel to the floor the whole way around your body.

If you make a muslin, it’s a good idea to mark this on the fabric. Seeing where this line tilts up or down can indicate where you need more or less length on your garment. Adjusting this ensures that your hem stays even, making hemming much easier. It could be that only one side of your garment tilts up or down, but adjusting this will put that hem back to level. 

3. Alter your hem depth

hemming-stitch on green wool

Sometimes you might not be sure about the garment length — we reserve the right to change our minds between a knee-length, midi, tea-length or maxi-length as we sew. Using a 1″ to 3″ seam allowance gives you lots of wiggle room, it’s easy to deal with and it makes pinning an accurate and even hem less of a chore than a very deep hem allowance that will only be cut off later. 

4. Take asymmetry into account

Everyone has a bit of asymmetry in their body — perhaps a high shoulder, a tilt in your spine or one hip lower than the other. These differences make themselves known in our hemlines.

Get to know your body map and plan for that in your sewing. If you have one pant leg that’s always a bit too short, plan your hem accordingly. Adding more to that pant leg or pinning the two pant legs at different lengths will allow them to fall evenly.

5. Sew seams accurately

sew side seams accurately

When it comes time to hem, if the seams of your garment are not sewn accurately, you may have differences in the edge as shown above. Take time to sew the seams accurately so you don’t introduce unevenness at the hem edge.

6. Enlist a friend

Pinning up your own hem can be a challenge. Who hasn’t spent some time pinning, checking in the mirror and repeating until you get it just right? And seeing the back is nearly impossible!

Have a hem session with a sewing friend! You can measure and pin the hems on each other’s garments and make quick work of this task. (Or if you must, bribe your partner or children to lend an eye.)

7. Use a yardstick

 

If you must mark the hem by yourself, you’ll need a yardstick and a mirror.

To hem a dress or skirt, pin the hem allowance up at the point that you think will be right. Then, holding the yardstick straight up and down, note which inch mark corresponds to the desired hem length. Move the yardstick around your body, keeping it straight, and compare the garment hem to that specific inch mark on the yardstick. It will be apparent where the hem dips down or is too high.

Then, make some adjustments with your pinning and check again (you may need to take it off). Check both sides and the back in the mirror. You could even take a picture to double check the back. Usually, I find if I get the sides and part of the back at the same level relative to the floor, then I can connect those across the center back.

Don’t stress over tiny differences — our clothes move with us and no one will be able to see if your hem is 1/8″ off. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for achieving an even hem?

sew professional seams guide

Sew Professional-Quality Seams

Now that you’re a hem expert learn how to sew professional-quality seams with this 20 page guide filled with tips, tricks and techniques! Get The FREE Guide

9 Comments

Mary

About twenty years ago I made myself with the help of a friend a duct tape mannequin. It has become my best friend in the sewing room especially when it comes to hemming garments. Also I mounted a no longer used bathroom mirror over a baseboard in the hall way to get the big picture when I am doing hems or fittings on myself. No one has ever questioned why it is there. lol Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box for solutions.

Reply
Mary

One more thing. I found the directions for the duct tape mannequin in a magazine. I am sure if you Google it you will find directions.

Reply
JenL

IMO it’s also a good idea to stand in a natural position when marking the hem. If it’s a fuller skirt or knit dress that might get a little hung up in the back, I will sometimes purposefully make it a little longer in the back – not much, maybe 1/2 inch.

Reply
Linda Rupe

I have, and use, a hem marking tool. It is adjustable, uses chalk powder and a bulb you squeeze to blow chalk onto the garment as you turn, marking an even distance from the floor. Surely these are still available?

Reply
mependleton

Great tips -I always appreciate your posts & tips

Reply
Noreen

For fine weight fabrics or very full skirts, bridal shops mark the hemline plus 1/4″, press that mark, turn over and sew close to the edge. Then, cut the excess fabric, turn over again, and sew down. You can get very small rolled hems this way.

Reply
Pam F

Another great article with helpful hints. Thanks Beth!

Reply
Justine McGrath

I sew a line of stitching at the point I want the hem turned. It turns naturally then when you iron. This equals lovely even hems every time.

Reply
Sara

Very helpful – I’m surprised using pure beeswax to wax your threads wasn’t on here; it makes threading so much easier. It’s hard to find pure beeswax but I found mine online at
thebeebx.com. They have a good selection, very clean

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply