How to Sew a Rolled Hem

Kate Miller-Wilson
sewing a rolled hem

Whether you're shortening the length of a skirt or making your own curtains or other decorating items, it helps to know how to sew a rolled hem. Hemming is a simple process, and you'll find that it comes in handy for many of your sewing projects.

How to Sew a Rolled Hem by Hand

If you want a very finished look for your project, it's best to sew a rolled hem by hand. The tiny hand stitches are nearly invisible on the right side of the fabric.

For some fabrics, especially those cut on the bias, you'll still need a sewing machine to stay stitch the raw edge. This keeps the fabric from unraveling and distorting as you work.

Things You'll Need

  • Item to be hemmed
  • Sewing machine, if desired
  • Fine-gauge hand needle
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Books or other heavy object

What to Do

  1. Start by making sure the raw edge is as even as possible. Trim off any loose threads or areas that have unraveled. If you're working with a silky or sheer fabric, stay stitch about ¼ inch from the raw edge.
  2. Iron the fabric and examine the edge again. If it is not straight, trim it carefully. If you stay stitched the raw edge, trim close to your machine stitches.
  3. Use something heavy to weight one end of the raw edge. This will help the fabric retain its shape as you work. Pull gently against the heavy object until the fabric is tight but not stretched. Starting at the edge, gently roll the fabric over on itself so that the raw edge is completely inside the hem.
  4. Take a stitch to tack the end of the hem in place, and then slipstitch the hem. You can make a slipstitch by taking a very small stitch just above the hem and then taking a diagonal stitch through the rolled hem. Keep the stitches very small for a finished look.
  5. Continue rolling and slipstitching the edge until you reach the end.
  6. Depending on the type of fabric you're using, you may or may not want to iron the hem when you're finished. If you're working with a garment hem, especially one made of chiffon or satin, the end result may be better if it's left unpressed.

Sewing a Rolled Hem by Machine

You can also use your sewing machine to sew a rolled hem. While the stitches will be more noticeable than they would be if sewn by hand, machine hemming is much faster. Not all sewing machines can do rolled hems, so consult your owner's manual for more information about your specific model. You'll also want to use care in selecting the hemming foot. Choose a foot that is made for your machine and that creates the appropriate hem width, usually measured in millimeters.

Things You'll Need

  • Item to be hemmed
  • Sewing machine
  • Rolled hemming foot in desired size
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Iron

What to Do

  1. Before you begin hemming, iron your fabric and check the edge to make sure it's even. Then use your fingers to roll the fabric to the desired width, and use the iron or your fingers to press about an inch of the hem. This gives your hem foot a starting point.
  2. Line the hem up with your rolled hem foot, and sew a couple of stitches to secure it. Adjust the needle so it is down in the fabric, lift the foot, and move the pressed portion of the fabric into the flange of your hem foot. Put the foot back down.
  3. Continue sewing. The hem foot will roll the hem as you sew.

Projects to Help You Practice

Whether you're creating your rolled hem by hand or by machine, it helps to practice your technique with something simple. Before you begin a major apparel or home decorating project, try one of these simple ideas:

  • Create a special handkerchief with a rolled hem. To do this, simply cut out a square of fabric in the desired size and make a rolled hem on all four sides.
  • Make a little bag for a gift. To create a simple bag for a gift, cut two same-sized rectangles of fabric. Hem one side of each rectangle and sew the raw edges together.
  • Make simple dinner napkins. To make a dinner napkin, cut a piece of fabric about 18 inches square. Make a rolled hem on all four sides.

An Important Skill

Once you feel comfortable with the technique of making a rolled hem, you'll be able to give all of your creations a finished look. Making a professional looking rolled hem takes practice, but it's a skill you'll use for the rest of your life.

How to Sew a Rolled Hem