The last couple of weeks I have had a baptism of fire in respect of narrow hemming. My inability to say no led me to agree to shorten a friend’s sister’s wedding dress for her to wear to someone elses wedding, without looking like the bride herself. (Are you keeping up?) The latter aspect was easily remedied by making a gathered chiffon cumberbund and matching flower corsage in vibrant shades of pink. Wedding appropriate but no longer “bridal”. The biggest hurdle for me was the hemming. Three layers each almost 3metres in circumference. Silk chiffon, silk satin, and a lining fabric from hell. Slippery as anything AND I’ve ended up with some of it welded to my ironing board cover! Aaaargh!
Anyhow, EVENTUALLY, after some practice scraps (and alot of swearing), I got there……
Ths is the machine foot concerned. A narrow hemming foot. (available in a few diffrent widths) It’s comprised of a narrow shaft with a guide”curl” of metal over the top. The idea being that as you feed the fabric through the curly bit guides it over and under the shaft where it is promptly stitched in place; creating a clean narrow (or baby) hem. After a bit of practice, it really does beat turning and stitching a hem yourself and as you’d imagine is much quicker…
Starting and finishing is the trickiest part. And I can’t say I’ve mastered either perfectly, but after digesting a few online tutorials, I opted to start off by turning and pinning the first inch by hand. Then edge stitching close to the innermost fold, as if this were a standard machine foot….
With the first inch sewn, and the needle in the down position, raise the foot and gently manouvre the raw edge of the fabric over and round the shaft like so…
Then lower the foot back down. The width of the “hem” as you feed it through the foot should sit within the “open” part of the foot. (There are grooves on both sides of mine to help with this but other models may differ.) Essentially the folded edge should not be allowed to slip under the the right side of the foot; and the raw edge should not be allowed to cover the left side of the foot. I found the only way to avoid this was to work steadily and carefully. I worked my way along the hem about 2″ at a time. Finger folding the hem and gently holding it in place (being careful not the stretch the fabric as this can result in a “curly” hem) as I fed it through….
This is how it emerges on the other side as you feed it through. (Make sure you trim raw edges before starting. Can you see the loose threads poking through on the finished section here?)
Every fabric I tried this on reacted differently. Some I had to lift slightly and feed them down into the foot. Some I had to maintain a good tension on the fabric for it to work. Some I had to feed through from the front and gently pull through from behind at the same time. Basically, practice, practice, practice on scraps first. When all said and done though, a pleasing finish…..
So, lesson 1 learnt – How to use a narrow hemming foot. Lesson 2? When will I learn to say no to time consuming alterations for other people??!! Gah! Probably never, I’m such a sap!
NB: Thanks to A Perfect Nose for pointing me in the direction of this post which has ALOT of interesting points, and discussion and links in the comment section. Especially about tackling intersecting seams, which I neglected to mention. (essentially I treated these in the same way as starting off. Disengaing the hemming foot, turning under by hand, stitching as normal, then re-inserting the fabric into the hemming foot and continuing on.) It seems I am not alone in finding this a tricky one to use. When I say practice, practice, practice, I exagerate not! I wish I had kept the practice scraps to show you how much I bodged it before I got anywhere near a decent result!