Rolled hems

What is the trick to making tidy rolled hems? I’ve just made Vogue 1240, a confection of flappy chiffon layers, and consequently have spent quite a bit of time struggling with this lately.

Vogue 1240 pattern photo

Vogue 1240 envelope

The pattern instructions assume that you don’t have a rolled hem foot for your machine and have you stitch close to the edge, turn at the stitching line, press, and then turn, press, and stitch again. This would probably work fine on any fabric that will take a crease, but my fabric’s an unpressable mystery synthetic. I tried but the folds sprung open every time I let go of them. I did make one hem on the actual dress with this method but it wasn’t a pretty one.

After that I resorted to the rolled hem foot and read about twenty internet tutorials on how to make a perfect rolled hem. About the best piece of advice I found (and now I’ve lost the link) was to hold the fabric edge vertically in front of the foot and let the hem do the rolling as much as possible, but even that didn’t always work for me. I found that on straight lines, if I trimmed the hem beforehand so that the edge of the fabric was perfectly straight with no fraying at all, I could get quite a good result. I know this one doesn’t look straight in the photo but it is in real life.

But any curves in the hem or wonkiness in the cutting rapidly caused problems. I’ve sewed over this bit twice in the hope it will stay put.

I think the difficulty I have is in feeding the right width of fabric into the rolled hem foot in the first place. If the width is too narrow the hem doesn’t roll and if it’s too wide you get a fraying edge sticking out from underneath it. I am starting to wonder if the answer isn’t to mark the correct width on the fabric so that I have something to aim for when sewing. Thoughts? I am determined to crack this!

9 thoughts on “Rolled hems

  1. I don’t make that many rolled hems so I have to practice a little before any attempt but there are enough hurdles that I’ve had to learn a bit about it.
    You can always blame your tool. Rolled hem feet come in several varieties and each machine offers a different assortment. But the most common ones are for straight seams only. There is a trough on the underside of the foot where the completed hem sits while it feeds under the foot. If this is deep and continues all the way to the back of the foot, then it is intended for straight edges only. To stitch anything other than a very gentle curve, the fabric would have to jump out of the track. There are also feet where the trough is deep behind the scroll but fades to a smooth foot behind the needle opening. These are for hemming curves. It still takes some care to hem curves and use your left hand to guide the fabric in the direction of the curve as it passes under the foot because the fabric still prefers to follow the groove and go straight.

    In general I have best results with holding the cut edge up with the right hand as you say. The guide to watch is the point where the fabric enters the scroll. The cut edge which you have been holding up should be folded over once and pointing directly down and resting in a small groove as it enters the foot. The scroll will roll it tighter further back but as it enters the fabric should be a single fold. Watch that as your guide and you should form a perfect hem. Make slight adjustments with your right hand to keep the fabric in place. Also watch that you never get a fold of fabric pinching under the right hand front tip of the foot or even the left hand edge of the foot. I’m not sure any sort of marking on the fabric would help as it’s still how it enters the foot that’s important. Of course practicing on scraps is helpful and the actual fabric can make a big difference as with everything else some fibers are just easier to work with. Also, hemmers are available in different widths at least with Bernina feet (all I know) the width isn’t based on what you’d like your hem to look like (2mm vs. 6mm) it’s determined by your fabric thickness. If you are using a thin fabric you want the narrowest hemmer foot. A thicker fabric needs the bigger scroll of the wider hemmer. And I believe the widest hemmers actually can’t be used with thin fabric because since only the left side of the foot rests on fabric it is filed down slightly to accommodate the fabric under only that side keeping the foot balanced. If you send a thin fabric through a wide hemmer, it won’t actually feed the fabric properly because there is that extra space and the fabric isn’t held against the feed dogs.

    1. Wow, thanks for the detailed reply! That was really useful, i will take a good look at my foot and look for those grooves you mention.


  2. Y’know, I’ve always dreaded rolled hems on any fabric that’s flimsy, but I have found two ways of doing it that work for me. The first is to do it by hand, which is extraordinarily tedious, but it works very prettily. I will use a slipstitch most times. The second is to stitch along the hemline, press the hem allowance up very closely alongside the stitching, and then stitch it again, close to the first set of stitching. It’s not the greatest, but it does work, and the hem is not as noticeable as you think it will be.

    1. I admire your patience – the thought of hand sewing all that hem makes me flinch! I’ll have to give the turn it twice method another try on a more cooperative fabric though – it really ought to work!

  3. I still do the tedious stitch, press, fold thing and try to avoid those bouncy fabrics, but I am sure I have a (pristine) rolled hem foot somewhere so may have to experiment with some of these tips.

    (BTW you about inspiration sites I use, here are some that are quite new to me, hope you find some of them useful (I know UK folks are probably sick of them!)

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