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!


How to Find Your Hottest Hemline? Just Look for the Diamond.

Recently I attended a “Modest is Hottest’ Party.  The hostess gave her testimony concerning her struggles with body image, her battle being especially poignant as she was born a thalidomide baby and had to deal with both her own and others perceptions of that condition.  She also spoke of how her Christian faith has helped her in healing those issues.   This spurred the participants to think about their own self-image issues while taking part in the fun of doing our colors, looked at our figure types, and playing around with the jewelry brought along by a local seller.

Our Modest is Hottest hostess Kim Hacker with her friend, a local jewelry seller of Just Jewelry. After the party everyone enjoyed trying on the beautiful jewelry and visiting with each other.

The local-ness of the whole thing struck me.  The hostess was from a local church, the participants largely lived in the same local area, and it was local merchants who donated goods.  High fashion is marketed to us like what is great in Manhattan will fly anywhere.  It doesn’t.  Locality matters. Different regions admire different fashions.  The community feeling seemed counterculture to the mass market fashion that I am used to and I really appreciated it. 

We received a lot of good advice but one thing stood out to me as a fashion sewer. 

Why are some skirts dumpy even though we know we have worn this particuliar style in the past.  The missing link could be the hemline.

Where should our hemlines fall?

In the diamond sections of our legs.  The diamond is the open sections where our legs do not meet.

The open areas are the "diamonds". The top one I haven't had since around sixth grade, but it would be a good indicator for where a mini should fall. I am sticking to the knee and calf diamonds.


 A few ladies stood up and demonstrated by moving material around their calves and the hem did indeed look best when situated within the diamond open space.  At times it can be hard to reconcile a fashionable hemline with one that is flattering for me, especially with long skirts.  Sometimes I look short in long skirts, while in others I look fine.   Keeping a long skirt hemline to the open part of the calf was most flattering and it still “read” to the viewer as a long, full skirt.  When the hemline was moved to the touching parts of the calf the woman began to look shorter and less “together.”  

As the diamond is individual to each women, that explains why some skirts are more flattering than others though they are the same style. 

As every fashion item we sew ends with a hem I thought this advice might be helpful.  We need to consider where the open diamond area is on our leg and then hem our skirts within that area. Sometimes I am reluctant to cut too deeply into a hem because I feel guilty getting rid of all of that fabric, or I think a long skirt must have tons of fabric.  Sometimes I then resist wearing these skirts because they make me feel dumpy. Now I have a tool that I hope makes for fewer wadders.

Next Post: Thursday, August 26, 2010; Vogue 8605 Short-Sleeve Dolman Jacket: Pattern Review

Side Seam Zippers Puckering at Bottom



Except the kind of pucker I am dealing with is not so pleasing. 

 My side seam zippers are puckering at the bottom. 


Unless I tell every pattern with side seam zips to kiss off, I will have to confront this problem.

But I have sewing amnesia. 

I don’t remember being bothered by unsuccessful side seam zips in the past, but come to think of it, they are a distant memory.  I have avoided the side seam zipper for years.  Not intentionally.  I have grown so disgusted with pants patterns that I have not needed a side seam zipper since I haven’t gotten beyond a muslin in pants fitting.  On skirts I like to use a back zip because my waistline fluctuates and it easy to nip in at the sides without dealing with the side zipper.

Times have changed.  I have a pants pattern that I like and I need to make a side seam zip in a closely fitting garment.   

But I am perplexed as to why they are puckering at the bottom.


Yes – I have interfaced. 

Pattern Alterations

I do have a standard side seam pattern alteration.  My hips are much straighter than most patterns so I eliminate much of the curve.  I thought that would make zipper insertion easier.  It hasn’t.  


Is there a trick to side seam zippers? 

Has anyone else confronted and solved the pucker problem?

Next Post: Thursday, July 1, 2010; McCalls 5695 Girls Smock: Pattern Review

Simplicity 9825 Yoked A-Line and Pencil Skirt:Pattern Review

Simplicity 9825

Straight or A-Line Yoked Skirt

I keep making yoked skirts this summer.  I used to think yokes would worsen my prominent belly but I am so glad to see that they actually work to hide it by breaking up the area.  Now I hope that I don’t sew so many yoked skirts that my wardrobe becomes repetitive.


  • Few pattern pieces are easy to construct and the design lends itself well to assembly-line sewing.
  • The close-fitting A-Line is flattering to many figure types and there is a pencil option with which to experiment.
  • The yoke fit well with just some small tinkering at the waist since I have a straight waist.


  • The short pencil needs a small vent but that is not included in the option I choose.  My pencil skirt is a little more formal feeling in that it constricts my movement just a tiny bit.  I made it to be a casual skirt and I am wondering how much wear I can get out of it realistically.  If you are making the shorter pencil skirt think about where you might want to make a small vent; front, back or two little ones at the sides.
  • The length is quite long even though I am of average height.  I imagine most women are going to need to do a serious take-up at the lengthen-shorten line.
  • For beginner venturing into more structured skirts this one does require a zipper, a lapped or centered zipper will do.  If you are unfamiliar with inserting zips make a few practice runs on scraps.  

Some Assembly Required:

I assemble the front fully and then the back fully, including zipper.  I always try to work my assembly process around  inserting the zipper while the pieces can be laid flat. I hold off on understitching or topstitching.  After both front and back are finished separately,  I continue onwards to sewing sides seams, checking fit and then serging seam allowances.

After sewing sides seams the skirt makes a full circle.  Then I go ahead and understitch the facings and topstitch down the facing as it can now be done in the round.  Finally I complete the hem. 


The pencil skirt is made of a navy gabardine remnant.  Apparently cheap gabardine because everytime I photograph it the results look rumpled.   I real life it looks much smoother and our eyes have become accustomed to the slightly rumpled casual Docker.  However, seeing the photographed wrinkles has spurred me to look for higher grade gabardine.

Simplicity 9825 Pencil Skirt in Navy Gabardine. Lightened original image as it was too dark.

The second skirt is made of wide-wale corduroy.  Wide-wale is not my first choice as the fabric is very heavy.  But it came in a bag of remnants from the local thrift store.  I had about 2 ½ yards and it cost around $2.00 total.  You can’t beat that kind of deal and it was in one of my favorite colors: chocolate brown.  It made a cute casual skirt and the heavier weight made for a better lay of fabric. 

Simplicity 9825 Brown Corduroy: Again I lightened the image in Photoshop so you could make out the detail.

It also topstitched beyond my expectations.  I couldn’t believe how nice the topstitching looked, nor how the feed dogs seemed to grab the fabric, instead of fabric sliding around creating wonky stitching.  Who knew wide-wale corduroy was so friendly?


Skirts are now being worn at the knee.  Skirts designed for calf-length typically have a lot of fullness.   This pattern is not designed with excess fullness so try to get the hem at the most flattering part of your knee.   At my first fitting the A-Line hem fell at mid-calf and looked frumpy.   I was dubious about taking so much off at the hem but was glad I did.

Will I Sew it Again?

Yes.  I am thinking of some little woolen A-Lines.  I would have to draft a lining but that wouldn’t be hard for this simple pattern.

Advice to Others:

I like my knee-lengths to be just below my knee. This design works well in the inch below to inch-above knee range. Most women wouldn’t mind that range, but if you are adamant about wearing only calf-length, this might not be the pattern for you.

Overall Style Grade:  A, I think it will become a wardrobe staple. The uncluttered close-to-the-body A-Line is especially flattering.

Results Grade: A, easy to sew, you can choose the level of detail so beginning sewers can achieve a better finish by opting out of any fussiness, and you could churn out quite a few of these in no time.

Next Post: Tuesday, June 22, 2010: Sewing Snit: Interfacing Ickiness

No Pattern EasyPeasy Gathered Skirt

Back in the mid-nineties I bought this fabric for about $17.00 a yard and I had sixty inch wide – 2 ½ yards of material.  It is a burnt out velvet chiffon with an intricate border and frankly for years I was too chickenshit to cut it.  I spent so much money, the fabric is so lovely, and my past experience with wadders so extensive.   

This year I am working hard to reduce my stash and finally decided to wear this fabric instead of being perpetually intimidated by it.   With such a gorgeous border I knew I wanted to highlight that detail making a skirt the best garment to meet that objective.

This fabric presented three problems. 

  1. The see-throughness had to be dealt with.
  2. Where was I to cut so I didn’t mess up the border.
  3. Avoiding choosing a design likely to be a wadder.

My Solutions

First the design: As the material was chiffon I thought that a simple gathered waistband would be easiest and would not compete with the skirt hem for attention.  The waist could be gathered with elastic, giving me gathers without needing a waistband or zipper insertion, thereby eliminating two techniques that offered me a chance to mess up in cutting, sewing and fitting.  Normally I have more confidence than this but as I said before this was very expensive, very lovely fabric and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.

The border: A gathered skirt required only one seam and gathers would hide any small imperfections in matching the border design.  Additionally, a woman my size needed the full yardage at the hemline.   I decided to not cut the fabric at all.  I sewed up the seam following the original cutline of the store worker who cut out my yardage.

The transparency:  I was going to need an underskirt and dreaded buying more material, making a lining from a pattern without one included, then inserting zipper and waistband around a slippery lining and equally ornery fashion fabric.  The burn out velvet was placed only at the bottom leaving pure chiffon at the top.  Any pattern would have me cut off that top portion of chiffon.  Instead I decided to fold the fabric in half and use the upper portion of the material as my underskirt.

Here is the process

Right sides together I folded the fabric in half and sewed it into a big tube.  I only had to true up a tiny portion of the seam edge at the top of the fabric as the original cutline from the shop associate was surprisingly straight.

Then I folded the tube in half pulling the inner chiffon a few inches short of the bottom edge of the outer skirt.  When I folded in half for my seam I put cut edges together.  This time I folded the selvedge edges together.

Basting the folded edge of the waistline.

I basted that edge at the waistline so it wouldn’t slip when I sewed on the elastic.  I made sure the skirt length kept the same measurements.

I sewed on the elastic.  I had 34/36 or so inches (can’t remember which) of elastic and it took all I had to stretch it over 2 ½ yards but I just made it.  I did not make a fold over band to insert the elastic into as this makes my waist look pudgy.  I laid the elastic on top of the skirt with both the skirt and elastic to the left of the needle.  Then the elastic flipped upwards creating the appearance of a waistband.

I Photoshopped the original so you could see the black elastic.

The skirt was technically finished here but I wanted to edge the hems which were the original selvedges.  I finished the underskirt with 1 ½ inch black lace, and the outer skirt with a simple black cotton crochet edging.

You can see the lace edging of the underskirt through the sheer outer layer edged in triangular crochet trim.

Now I have a lovely skirt for winter parties from a fabric that I dreaded for so long.  I think my worry got in the way of my thinking clearly about the problems presented and how to realistically confront them using my current level of expertise.   This skirt took no time and from now on I am going to try to let my panic go and concentrate on problem-solving.

I lightened the original photography so you could better see the design though it is still rather hazy.

Next Post: Tuesday, May 11, 2010; Gaping, but not Staring: Getting Rid of the Ghastly Armhole Gap

McCalls 5056 Gathered Godet Skirt:Pattern Review

McCalls 5056 Godet Gathered Skirt

This spring I am looking for a few simple skirts to quickly sew.  I thought this one looked a little more dramatic than a basic pull-on skirt.  I especially liked the idea of adding a pretty trim at the bottom to emphasize the flair of the godets.


  • It is easy to construct after you master the godets. 
  • Since RTW summer clothing is often imperfectly sewn, any slight wonkiness in your godets will not be noticed, and may be completely imperceptible if you select a small-to-medium size print.
  • The sewing moves along quickly giving you a sense of accomplishment.


  • The godet assembly can be repetitive.  This type of sewing works best for me when I am in a certain kind of mood.
  • There is a small difference in godet size.  This can be easily overlooked.  See the illustrations.


Some Assembly Required:

1.)  I overcast all of my edges at the beginning before seaming.  It doesn’t have to be done this way.  I just thought it would be easier to get it over with than worry about managing the serger past the godet insertion points.

2.) I sewed the shorter godets in first. 

  • Take the panels, sew down to the mark.  This will be the lowest mark on the panel because we are using the shorter godet. 
  • Then insert the godet. 
  • Do this for all four short godets and you will end up with four skirt pieces.

3.) Then take the four skirt pieces you have and begin working on the longer godets by sewing down to the mark, and then inserting the longer godet.  Again you will do this four times.   The fourth time will sew the skirt together. 

4.) While there was no waistband and the skirt can still be laid flat, I laid it out checking the hemline.  Touch up the hemline now. 

5.) I put the elastic waistband in next so I could do a final check of the hemline during the final fitting. 

6.) Then I overcast and stitched the hemline.

7.) Next I quickly took a picture of it before giving it the final ironing so it looks a bit rumpled, but here it is. 

McCalls 5056: Needing the final iron but finished and wearable.


I used a bright pink cotton that I have had in my stash YEARS!  Bought in the mid-nineties the fabric needed to be used.  It isn ‘t broadcloth cotton.  It is a looser weave, but still opaque, somewhat like what you see in folk costumes. 

Techniques you must know to get a good result:

This is an easy skirt with only two techniques to master.

  • Elastic Waistbands.
  • Godet Insertion: I practiced my godet insertion.  Here is a photo of the practice muslin.  If you have not done godets before do a practice muslin with much shortened panels and godets.  Unlike a fitted woolen skirt in which the insertion point must be spot on, this is a great pattern with which to master this technique because the gathers are going to hide any imperfections. 

McCalls 5056 Practice Muslin. I cut it impossibly short and the hemline is uneven but it allowed me to practice the godet insertion.


Iron as I go instead of waiting until the end.

The original hemline for the calf-length hit the floor on me.  If you desire a knee-length you are really going to have to hike up the hem.

Will I Sew it Again:

Yes, I enjoyed it.  I think my next one is going to be in a funky madras plaid with a bright grosgrain ribbon at the hemline.  This pattern is simple and quick enough to allow you some extra time and energy for creativity.

Advice to Others:

As always, make a practice muslin.

Pull out a few manuals and consider the different methods of godet insertion, give each a try on your practice muslin, and choose the one with which you have the most success.

Overall Style Grade:  A, this skirt is flattering to many figure types and adaptable to many different prints and solids.

Results Grade: A, after you master the godet getting a good result is easy as you aren’t moving from technique to technique, you are just sewing one technique over and over again.

Next Post: Saturday, May 1, 2010: A Sewing Snit

Butterick 5041 Yoked Skirt:Pattern Review

Butterick 5041

Butterick 5041 Yoked Skirt

After having such mediocre results from the gathered yoke of Kwik Sew 3242 I was eager to hit the pattern sales and find designs with more fitted yokes as I thought if I placed the yoke strategically across my hips that it might detract from my belly.


  • Even with the zipper and yoke facing this is easy to construct flat and then attach at sides.
  • I cut my finished piece a bit too large at the yoke and after sewing had to go in and take it in.  I hate alterations but this one was easy.
  • The finished piece looks harder than it is so you can look forward to impressing your friends.


  • Can’t think of any.  Loved it.

Some Assembly Required

  1. First I tackled the back sewing the yoke facing to the yoke at top.  Then attached the yoke to the skirt body.  Remember to leave the facing free.
  2. Then I sewed up the two halves of the skirt back to the point of the zipper insertion.
  3. Inserted zipper.
  4. Repeated process with skirt front, sewing yoke facing to yoke at top seam.  Then attaching yoke to skirt body leaving yoke facing hanging free.
  5. Next I sewed up the entire side seams from yoke facing, down to yoke and on to the skirt hem. Match your seams remembering to lay the yoke seams so they will lay inside your yoke when you finish.
  6. Then I understitched the yoke facing down.
  7. Serged the yoke facing edges, laid the facing down and topstitched closed by stitching in the ditch on the right side of the skirt.
  8. Serged the hem, turned it up.

Ready to wear!


I bought this fabric a few years ago with some half-hearted idea of making a jacket, the design long-forgotten.  The material then aged in storage until this year.  When I began cutting I nearly cussed myself as the pattern is directional.  I barely got my skirt cut out of the yardage and I worried that the print might give me trouble.

Butterick 5041 Yoked Skirt in Embroidered Linen

I was absolutely mistaken

The directional embroidery took care of me gracefully pulling the eye over seams.   As long as I kept the flowers pointing up everything turned out alright.   I wish every print I worked with was a eager to please.


My zipper turned out a bit wonky as I kept being interrupted by my preschooler to answer knock-knock jokes and consider requests for candy and snacks.   My machine also decided it wanted its needle changed during this process making me cuss it out in some kind of maniacal frenzy that caused my family to eyeball me, go silent and then turn their backs evincing a fresh renewed interest in the TV show.

In the future I shall remember this experience and be sure to change my needle at the start of the project.  And have some snacks on hand.  The knock-knock jokes I am afraid I will have to endure.

Will I Sew it Again:

Definitely!  I’ve got some ideas and more material aging in storage that needs a purpose.

Advice to Others:

Make sure the yoke fits before attaching skirt by cutting at least a practice muslin of the yoke only.  If you take care of that right off the bat the rest of the skirt should come together for you.

 Overall Style Grade:  A, Different fabric will give you an entirely different look making it a workhorse of a  pattern.

Results Grade: A, I loved it and look forward to making more skirts for spring and experimenting with some winter light woolens.

Next Post: Thursday, April 29, 2010: McCalls 5056 Godet Skirt: Pattern Review

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