No matter what kind of sewing project you’re doing, you’ll probably end up with raw edges that need to be finished. An unfinished edge can fray and ravel, and a properly-finished hem can do wonders for making your project look polished and professional.
“Serging” is the typical finish used on store-bought garments, but not everyone has access to an expensive serging machine. So here are 3 options for finishing hems that anyone can do with a home sewing machine.
This is the “standard” home sewing method to finish raw edges. To make a turned-under seam, first fold up your unfinished edge once (with the “wrong sides” of the fabric together), then fold it under again. You’re basically making a tube of fabric.
Carefully work your way around the entire hem, folding under twice and pinning your fold as you go.
Then just sew your folded hem with a straight stitch. I usually go with a 3/8” seam, but you can choose a wider seam if you prefer.
The main thing to keep in mind with a turned-under seam is that you’ll need to account for the length you’ll be losing. So don’t forget to include at least 1 inch of seam allowance when you cut your fabric!
Most sewing machines have at least one “zigzag stitch” option. My Elna machine has 4 zigzag settings, but I usually just go for the simplest one (Setting D).
When you feed the edge of your fabric through your machine, make sure that the outer “zag” of your zigzagging needle is hitting as close to your raw edge as possible. Or if you prefer, you can just trim away the extra fabric after sewing your zigzag stitch.
A zigzag stitch is often the best choice for projects with curved edges. And as a bonus, with many lighter-weight fabrics, your needle will naturally fold over your edge as it zigzags. It’s sewing magic!
You can either leave the zigzag exposed if you like the look of it, or turn your edge under and sew it again with a straight stitch to hide the zigzag. It all depends on the final look you’re going for.
Double-Folded Bias Tape
This is my favorite way to finish a hem. It’s easy, you don’t lose anything to seam allowance, and it makes for a really cute polished-looking edge. It adds a lot to the look of the final garment, however, so it’s not right for every project.
Bias “tape” isn’t really tape in the way you might normally think of it. It’s not sticky, it’s more of a pre-folded ribbon. You could do a similar hem with a regular piece of ribbon, but bias tape comes pre-folded so you don’t need to measure or press it to force it into a perfect little “hem sandwich.” It’s already ready to go.
Using bias tape is easy. Just open up the main center fold of the tape, sandwich your raw edge between the two halves of the bias tape, and pin.
Then just straight-stitch the tape in place, making sure your needle is going through all 3 layers (tape, fabric, tape). And you’re done!
Bias tape comes in a ton of colors, sizes, and textures. I usually go for the black 1/2″ variety, but think about what style would complement your project and have fun!
Bonus Option: No Hem!
If you really want to avoid finishing your edges at all, you can always choose a fabric like fleece or vinyl that won’t fray in the first place. Just make sure your scissor cuts are really smooth and even, since that’ll be your final finished edge.
There are plenty of other methods of hemming fabric out there, but these are my three favorite options. The important thing is to choose a method that you’re comfortable with and looks great with your final project!