Struggling to Decide Which Types of Hems Are Best for Garments?
Then You’ve Come to the Right Place!
Even if you’re new to the sample-making process, you’re probably aware of all the nitty-gritty details that make up a stellar garment. Seams and hem finishes are the most overlooked, yet fundamental parts of your design. The best designers are knowledgeable of different types of hems and finishes and they aren’t overly dependent on sample-makers to execute their intended vision.
What is a hem exactly. . .?
Hems are located at the end of a piece of cloth- usually a sleeve or pant leg. A hem is where the fabric has been finished or manipulated in such a way as to prevent the material from fraying or losing its shape. Hemming can be done by hand or done on a machine. Hem length, stitching, and technique can define your garment’s aesthetic and silhouette, so choosing a hem should never be an afterthought decision.
Consider the following as you decide the best types of hems for your design.
- Which hem will allow this garment to hang most gracefully and evenly?
- Does this fabric or price point call for delicate hand-stitching? Or can a machine-stitched hem work?
- Should the hem be hidden or seen?
- Will this technique result in a smooth, even finish without lumps and puckers?
Most Common Types of Hems
Turn Back / Bend Back Hem
This is the simplest type of hem. This hem is created by turning or folding the hem allowance under the fabric one time – wrong sides together. Since the raw edges are seen on the interior side, the edge must be either serged or concealed with seam binding. The width of the amount of fabric turned back can vary from ¾” to 1” or even 1 ½”. It’s quick and easy, but only neat when the raw edges are finished somehow. This hem can either be top-stitched with a machine or slip/blind-stitched by hand. It’s most commonly seen in trouser pants and keep in mind this hem can typically not be used on curved edges. When requesting this type of hem it is best to say, “1 bend back with single needle topstitch” for example.
Double Fold Hem:
The double fold hem is similar to the turn back hem listed above, but the fabric is folded twice concealing the raw edges inside. It can then be top-stitched on the machine or blind/slip-stitched by hand for an ultra-clean finish. This hem is quick and easy like the turn back hem, but its double fold adds extra body and structure.
A baby hem is a narrow, double fold hem used primarily on light-weight fabrics like chiffon, voile, or organza. Baby hems are great for ruffles, silk blouses/skirts, silk scarves, ruffles, or sheer curtains. The width of this hem is typically 1/8” – 1/4” and so this hem is not recommended for thick fabrics because the fabric is too bulky to execute such small folds.
A rolled hem is simply a very fine (less than 1/8”) baby hem done by hand instead of machine. It is the most expensive hem and so it is only used for the most high-end garments. You’ll typically see this type of hem on the edge of a Hermes scarf for example.
As you can tell by the name, a blind hem is the most inconspicuous type of hem. A blind hem can be done by hand or machine; but the hand-method yields a more invisible, elevated finish. A blind hem is great for garments that need a deep, weighted hem like a skirt, jacket, coat or pants. They give a clean, tailored look and they are used most often in luxury lines with higher price-points since they are so delicate and time-consuming. A blind hem is NOT recommended for casual pieces that undergo a lot of wear and tear.
Bias Bound Hem:
A bias bound hem is an easy way to add color contrast and structure to a hem. They’re also useful for hems with a slight curve. Instead of turning the fabric, a strip of bias tape or fabric tape is attached to the raw edge and stitched down flat. Bias tape can either be bought or made custom with a fabric of your choice.
A faced hem, also known as a false hem, is simply a facing piece sewn to the edge of the hemline. A faced hem uses either interfacing or a hem facing pattern piece to neatly enclose a bottom edge of a garment. A hem facing pattern piece is drafted from mirroring the bottom edge of the garment. There are many advantages of using a faced hem. It’s great for deeply curved or oddly-shaped hems that are difficult to turn under. These hems allow you to add a unique edge to your garment like a scalloped edge or a zig-zag edge while maintaining structure and durability.
A few options are fringe, embroidered tapes, piping, ricrac, ribbon, or lace! When constructing a trimmed hem, the trim is placed on top of the garment (right sides together) and stitched down along the raw edge. After sewing, the trim is flipped over right side-up, pressed, and stitched into place.
No turning or folding is needed for this hem. A frayed hem is achieved when the horizontal weft threads are removed from the bottom edge of a garment-leaving a frayed bottom edge. The frayed edges are then stay-stitched. Staystitching is simply a row of stitches on a single layer of fabric that prevents a fabric from unraveling or distorting. This finish is often used on denims and tweeds. Frayed hems are great if you’re going for an edgy distressed look.
Laser Cut Hem
A laser cut hem is constructed when the raw edges of a fabric are intricately cut on a laser cutting machine. This is an exquisite detail that makes any garment cool and innovative!
This is a highly-functional hem stitch that maintains stretch while achieving a clean finish all at once. It is always done on a cover-stitch machine. The hem is folded once while the top side is finished with two rows of topstitching and the backside is finished with an overlock stitch. It’s commonly used in knits such as sweatshirts, athleisure, and t-shirts.
This technique is not turned or folded like the others. Instead, 3-5 separate threads are wound around the fabric edge to keep it from fraying. This technique is achieved on either a serger or overlock machine and simply left at that.
Purl Edge Hem:
This is a tiny, decorative finish done on a purl machine. Unlike a serged edge, the stitches are extremely close together and much tighter. This stitch is typically done with a matching thread but sometimes a contrast color is used as a fun design detail. Purl edge hems are best executed on delicate, fine fabrics like organza, gossamer, or tulle. They provide a nice accent on lingerie and sleepwear pieces.
Lettuce Edge Hem:
This hem leaves your garment with a wavy, rippled edge. It’s constructed with a tight purl stitch and the fabric is stretched as it’s being sewn- resulting in a wavy, “lettuce” edge finish. This technique must be done on knits or bias-cut fabrics for proper execution. Lettuce edge hems are always a dainty option, most commonly seen on girl’s skirts and dresses.
A cuffed hem is a turned-back hem, often seen on sleeves or pants, that is turned towards the front instead of the back. Cuffed hems are turned at least twice to conceal raw edges and prevent fraying. Cuffed hems are pressed but not stitched completely down like other hems. Instead they are stitched or tacked at side seams and at front and back. Cuffed hems are extremely convenient for pants and sleeves as they can be let out and lengthened very easily.
Which types of hems do you like the most? Having knowledge of the different types of hems will not only elevate your designs, but shape the function, aesthetic, and durability of your garment. For more sample-making knowledge, check out our Source, Design, Create Online course!
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