Using a Narrow Hemming Foot

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!

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  1. theperfectnose June 8, 2012

    hahaha Tanitisis had the same problems and we had a discussion of sorts about it and I put up downloadable instructions for mine here (at the end of the post). It work well at moderate speeds but if you’re angry sewing at light speed there is a chance of the fabric slipping out during periods of inattentiveness XD.

    BTW any chance of you getting install disqus so I don’t have to deal with recaptcha (it’s got pictures now XP) for commenting? Disqus handles spam blocking for you (it uses Akismet, the same algorithm that’s built into WordPress) and enables cross platform commenting while keeping tabs on comments, responses, pings and trackbacks. This means people from wordpress, typepad, livejournal, overblog etc will be able to keep track of responses without having to get a Google ID (OpenID is supposed to facilitate this but it doesn’t actually work for non-Google IDs XS).

  2. Katy June 8, 2012

    That looks really good. This would be ideal for hemming linings as well. I’m off to find a narrow hem foot on ebay now!

  3. Miss P June 8, 2012

    Ooooh, the lining I hemmed was slippery as hell and tricky to sew using this foot. The finish I eventually achieved was far from perfect on that fabric. You may want to try a temporary fabric stabiliser to get better results. Would love to know how you get on!

  4. Sonia June 8, 2012

    ohhh – that looks very tricky but very neat! Might have to have a look at one of these – anything to avoid ironing and folding hems! Hope you have a good weekend x

  5. Scruffybadger June 8, 2012

    This is weird, I have also just had a rolled hem revelation too!! Igot my foot to work after taking faith in another tip I found in a book … but it didnt cover the joining, so thank you for covering this 🙂

  6. House of Pinheiro June 8, 2012

    stunning result. really worth the trials and errors

  7. I have to get myself one of these hemming foots!!! I tired doing a similar project (for a friend of course!) turning and stitching by hand – I’m surprised it didn’t end up out the window :O – thanks for the tips!! x

  8. zilredloh June 8, 2012

    This was such a great post! I’ve tried using my narrow hem foot a few times without much success. You’ve emboldened me to try and practice with it some more. Thanks! 🙂

  9. Bratling June 9, 2012

    I have a confession to make. I’ve never managed to make my rolled hem foot work right, so my latest, down-and-dirty method is to serger hem it (my serger does rolled hems, too) and then fold it over and top stitch!

  10. Amy T June 9, 2012

    I’m still battling with my rolled hem foot.

    You’re right it responds differently with every fabric you try! I like that you conquered it in the end so neatly 🙂
    I got mine from a sewing shop but looking online some people referred to them as “Peakow” feet which I’d never heard of before.

  11. Love to Stitch June 13, 2012

    This has saved my life. Thank you so much!!! I hate hand sewing hems, but now I don’t have to (:


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