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How To Hem A Dress With A Sewing Machine

Hemming refers to the finishing done at the edge of any garment- in this case, a dress- to prevent it from fraying or unravelling over time. Hemming also improves the aesthetic appearance of the garment if done carefully and with a bit of skill. Let’s learn how to hem a dress with a sewing machine without breaking into a sweat.

How To Hem A Dress With A Sewing Machine

Hemming is one of those essential sewing skills you learn once and use a million times for as long as you are sewing any fabric. To hem a dress, you’ll probably just need a keen eye, a pair of scissors and a sewing machine with the right thread. This is how to hem a dress with a sewing machine the easy way. Let’s assume you are cutting a long dress to size and hemming the edge to complete the job. 

You will need a pair of scissors, an iron box, sewing machine with matching bobbin and main thread, some marking tools, measuring tape and half an hour to finish the entire job in one pass. Start by measuring the dress with the tape and marking where you want to cut the hem.  You can do this while the dress is hanged or wear it if it belongs to you. 

Spread the dress on a sewing table with the bottom edge nicely visible for marking. Now go ahead and measure the length and mark with a continuous line across where you would like to cut the dress and hem it.  Now measure an allowance of about 12 centimeters to 15 centimeters below the hemline and mark with a horizontal line; this will be where you will cut the dress and fold the hem.

Now that you have marked your hemline and folding allowance, go ahead and grab your fabric scissors and cut along the new lower line accurately. Failure to cut evenly will obviously lead to the dress being wonky or destroyed, so be steady! 

Next, you just need to sew some zigzags with your machine to prevent fraying. Then, fold your hem up and iron it down before you sew you hem with a straight stitch with the dress inside out. Following is an even more detailed and easier to follow guide on how to hem any dress with a sewing machine.

Step by Step to Hem Dresses with A Sewing Machine

What you will need

  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Marking tape/ Chalk/ marking pens
  • Sewing machine
  • Cotton/Polyester thread depending on the fabric
  • Iron box
  • Dress

Step 1 – preparing the dress 

The first and perhaps most important step in hemming is finding the perfect spot to create the hem. This is a subjective thing as the dress height you want depends on many things such as the length of the dress, the height of the owner, or how short you need the dress to be. 

Go ahead and put the dress on a mannequin of the right size. Use your measuring tape to mark a spot that signifies where the dress should reach. You can either mark with a piece of chalk, marking tape or attach a sewing pin at the spot. Remove the dress and transfer it to a large sewing table placing it so you can comfortably work on the hemline.

With a straight ruler, draw a straight line across the bottom of the dress as guided by the mark you put earlier. This will be where the hemline will lie after stitching. However, you’ll actually need to move a little lower than the hemline and create an allowance of about 15 cm or less depending on the size of fold up you want to create with the hem- this depends on your design. 

Step 2- cutting the dress

With the fold up allowance created, you now need to mark the lower line where you will cut the dress to size ready for hemming.  Go ahead and cut the dress along the lower line making sure you follow the guideline accurately. It’s best if you can cut both sides of the dress (bottom and top) if possible, to achieve an even shape and maintain your design. Experienced designers know that cutting can make or break a job, so make sure your hands are super-steady while cutting!

Step 3- securing the edges

This step is optional but can be important for certain types of fabric that fray or come apart easily. With a short Zigzag stitch set on your sewing machine, you need to secure the edge of dress that you just cut all around to secure the fabric from fraying.

Step 4- creating the fold up

This step can be done manually using an iron box to press down the fold-up or using the hemming foot on your sewing machine. If you go for the first option, Fold the dress from the bottom at the point where you marked the original hemline and iron it down. Some designers like to create a simple, temporary hand stitch in the middle of the fold-up at this point. You can use the hemming foot if you want to create an even shorter fold up at this point depending on your design preferences.

Step 5- sewing the hem with your sewing machine

The final and most satisfying step in the hemming process is sewing your hem into place. For this, you need to set a short stitch with any hemming stitch of your choice. Examples of hemming stitches you can go for include but are not limited to:

  • Blind hem stitch- creates a stitch that is invisible on the outside of the fabric
  • Convex hem stiches
  • Picot edged hemstitch
  • Baby hemstitch
  • Straight stitch 

For this guide, we’ll go with a straight stitch on the wrong side of the fabric as it is the most common and beginner-friendly type used for dresses of various fabric. 

To finish the hem with a straight stitch, just turn your dress inside out and press it down with the sewing foot with the needle positioned pointing just inches below the edge of the upper fold up. Sew a short straight sew all around the dress, and you will have created your hem!

As a final but optional step, you can iron the hem down once more to secure it and make the job neater. If you find yourself doing a lot of hemming, you might consider getting a Serger or overlock that is specifically designed for this kind of jobs.

Related Questions

How do you hem stretchy sheer fabric?

A lot of beginners tend to struggle when it comes to creating hems with sheer or stretchy fabric. However, working with stretchy or light dresses can be easier if you do the preparation right. First, you, need to catch the dress with something heavy when you are cutting and make sure there is no pressure on either side of the cut to avoid going off the line. 

Secondly, you should try and create as thin a fold as you can so you don’t end with a bulky, unsightly hem- use a hemming foot if possible or sew a straight line in the middle of the fold and iron it down first. Lastly, make sure you sew a simple straight, but short stitch as close to the edge of the fold up as possible- again- a hemming foot could come in handy for this. 

What is the best stitch for stretchy fabric?

There are no right or wrong stitches for a hemming job as it sorely depends on your design and sometimes, your skill level. In most cases, a simple straight but short stitch will do just fine although zigzag and overedge stitches do also work with stretchy dress fabrics. Feel free to try different stitches on some material before you choose the right one for your project.

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