Finishing Hems - Using folds and Bias Tapes

When a sewing project is almost done, all that's left is to finish the hems. The bottom hem, neckline and armholes (if sleeveless). There are many methods to go about this...based on the fabric and what you are comfortable with. Here are a few of my preferred methods for finishing hemlines...

Click on any of the above methods to skip to that section or read on to see them all...

Simple single fold: Ideal for knits and selvage ends

This method is ideal for ends that will not fray, like knits. In most other fabrics you might have noticed the selvage ends....self finished fabric ends. If you had planned the cutting of your fabric so that the selvage ends up on the bottom hemline, your finishing work becomes very simple.  

Just fold along the selvage edge, about 1/2 inch and iron the fold.

Top stitch.

Although the fabric will not fray, this is not the best looking finish if you are aiming for good looking inside as well as the outside of the dress... But definitely keeps things simple. Also note, the hem allowance is a bare minimum 1/2 inch.

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Finished single fold

The same as the single fold, but for non selvage ends. Just run a zig-zag stitch along the edge of the fabric.

Fold in your allotted hem allowance. Press flat and top stitch.

Again, not the best looking finish. But when you are on a budget hem allowance, you only need 1/2".

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Pinked finish single fold

An alternate to running a zig-zag stitch, cut your fabric zig-zag using pinking shears. Cutting the fabric this way eliminated unraveling of the fabric...but only to an extant.

Fold. Press. Top stitch.

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Double fold

This is my most preferred method for most bottom hemlines. Fold in the edge 1/4". Press flat.

Fold once more for about 1/2" to 1" and press flat.

Top stitch close to the edge of the first fold. Minimum hem allowance 3/4".
This give very neatly finished insides.

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Inside finish using single fold bias tape: Ideal for necklines, armholes and rounded bottom hems

You will have to use bias tapes on rounded ends, like armholes or necklines or certain rounded skirts. To understand more about bias see here. (Link)

This method uses single fold bias tape. To make your own single fold bias tape, refer here. (Link)

Open the bias tape and align one of the edges along the edge of the good side of the fabric. Leave about 1/2" of tape at the start and stitch along the fold. We will use this free end to join the ends of the tape for a cleaner finish.

Stitch along the fold. If the fabric ends are rounded, make sure the bias tape bends along with the fabric. Don't stretch it while stitching.

When you come back to the start fold in the free end.

Place the other end over the folded end and stitch over it.

Fold the tape along the stitch/previously created crease over to the wrong side of the fabric. Top stitch along the edge of the bias tape.

You can use this method for bottom hemlines, if they are rounded...or you simply want an accent or a pop of color on the inside. For armholes and necklines, use a thinner single fold bias tape.

Hemline allowance depends on the fold width of your bias tape. If you use a 1' bias tape, the fold width is only 1/2". Likewise, for a 1/2 in bias tape, the fold width is 1/4".

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Outside finish using single fold bias tape: Ideal for necklines, armholes and rounded bottom hems

This is the same as the previous method, but if you want the bias accent to show on the outside of your outfit. Simply repeat the steps above, but starting with the wrong side of the fabric.

So that, when you fold and top stitch, the bias tape ands up on the correct side of the fabric.

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Using simple bias tape: Ideal for necklines, armholes 

This is another one of my most preferred methods. If you want to make your own simple bias/ binding bias refer here. (Link)

Align the edges of the bias tape along the edge of the good side of the fabric. Stitch them all together leaving a 1/4" seam.

Fold over to the other side along the stitch. Press flat.

Top stitch.

The hem allowance here again is very minimal. 1/4" in the above example.

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Using double fold bias tape: Ideal for necklines, armholes and rounded bottom hems

This method gives an accented finish both on the inside and outside of the fabric. You can be very creative with the design and color of the bias tape you use to either blend in with the rest of the outfit or pop-out as an accent as well as a finish. If you want to make your own double fold bias tape, refer here. (Link)

Open up the bias tape and align the edges of the tape and the fabric. It really does not matter if your fabric is facing good side up or down, but make sure the bias tape has its good side down. Stitch along the first fold of the tape.

Fold just the bias tape over, and wrap it around the fabric edge. The fabric edge should sit comfortably at the middle fold of the bias tape.

Top stitch on the other side now.

You really should use a better blending thread. I was too lazy to change it after using the black tape in the previous steps!

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So there. These are just my favorite methods. There is also blind hem and rolled hem, either of which I haven't tried yet.


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