Tidying up the Unfinished Edge of a Hemline, or Getting Ready to Hem: A Cheater’s Method

When I was a beginner I wondered what to do with the raw edge of fabric at the hemline.  Most often when I got to the end of my side seams there would be a tiny portion hanging over at the bottom. 

A typical bottom edge mismatch for me on shirts.

As a new sewer I did ask for a solution, but my advisors, both in person and in book format, sidestepped or just didn’t get it.  

The first advice I was given at the time was to measure my hem from the floor, mark, cut and then sew.

Problem: Seeing my hemline accurately was hard when it was slightly uneven.  I was then told if I had sewn the garment correctly the seamlines at the hem would not be uneven.  I think I was getting this admonition from ladies who mainly sewed aprons.  They sidestepped. 

Result of taking such advice: Guilt and I still had my initial problem.

Next piece of advice:Mark your hemline from the unfinished edge. Problem: If you mark your hemline from an unfinished edge that is uneven, you get an uneven hem. They didn’t get it.

Result: I got dorky looking hems.

I find this maddening as this is the kind of stuff that trips up new sewers.

I did not know it at the time, but my garment was not ready to hem.  I have never seen it in a book, or even read in any manual or magazine, but tidying  your raw edge is an actual step before hemming.

All those photographs of perfectly even raw edges being hemmed in manuals, someone has evened the edge before photography began!

Though my method is hardly sacred sewing technique, I am going ahead and offering it as I wish someone had given me some kind of solution when I was a new sewer.

It looks haphazard but I am using the accurately sewn (I hope!,) garment itself as the base.

[My only caveat:  If I found a huge seam mismatch, say five inches, I would not do this.  If you have a huge gap at the bottom, dear reader, please retrench and abandon this technique I am showing, because it won’t work to correct that situation!]

 But the unevenness I typically experience is not enough to worry about, by that I mean it won’t affect the hang of the garment.   The photo at top shows a mismatch of one inch or less.  This technique will work on a simple shirt hemline or a basic non-back-vented skirt.  I am going to use a shirt to illustrate.

 * Fold up the garment so the side seams are together exactly.  For example, with a shirt I lay the side seams atop one another, match and pin the armpit. 

Here I am flattening and pinning my front bodice. You can see the pins on the button front. The back gets a bit scrunched when you do the front. After cutting the front even, repeat with the back, flattening and matching up seams.

* Pin again at bottom if the fabric tends to shift. 

*Make sure the back and front bodice are divided equally in half.  If there is a collar or button placket it is easy to lay those seams atop one another and make a perfect match.  Skirts are handled the same way using the waistband or yoke and side seams as your match points.

*Take a deep breath, because every sewer knows once its cut its gone, and carefully take your scissors and tidy that seam. 

The uneven portions coming off the bottom raw edge. See that front placket. Now there will be no mismatch at bottom as long as you hem as evenly as you have cut.

Because it is back to back, front to front and the garment is folded in half exactly the right and left sides of your unfinished edge should match.  One side should not hang lower than the other.

* Now I am ready to mark my hem, on a new pattern, or sew it up for a TNT. 

Why do you need to tidy your raw edge before hemming?  To get professional looking results. Though this method looks a little funky in the picture, like it could never come out even, before I started doing this step, it was my shirt hems that were funky and uneven.  If you are a newbie having the same issues with this as I did, I hope this helps!

Next Post: Tuesday, November 30, 2010: Even I am going to be surprised as I haven’t chosen a topic yet!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steph
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 02:28:18

    Very nice. I can’t believe you were given such terrible advice! Horrible! I teach my girls to mark the hem, measure a certain width out from the marked hem, trim, finish the raw edge, and hem. Basically we have the same system. 🙂

    If you’d sewn the garment correctly the edges would be even? Pish-posh.


  2. Sister
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 04:34:37

    I have yet to sew one garment that did not need the raw edge trimmed up because of a minor discrepancy in length – I’m with you!


  3. Ludy
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 08:04:38

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I’ve been searching/surfing the net for a solution to this problem! I will sleep easy now and fix the hem in the morning. This is the first time I’ve visited this site, I’m sure to be back. Greetings and many thanks from Downunder. And yes – pish-posh!


  4. cinny
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 20:12:14

    thank you, i wanted to hem the uneven dress with out a second person.


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