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Feb 01

Tutorial: How to do a rolled hem by hand

One of the most challenging, frustrating fabrics to work with (at least, for ME) is chiffon.  Over the years I’ve learned various tips and tricks to working with it – some quick and dirty (machined hems!), and some time-consuming, but beautiful.  One of the prettiest techniques is doing a rolled hem by hand.  It’s a little tedious, but once you get your rhythm going it moves along fairly quickly.

I love this technique because it produces a lovely rolled edge without much prep work – you don’t have to iron or pin anything into place.  I sketched in my hem line lightly with pencil so that it would be even – but you don’t really have to do that, either.  Use a nice, sharp needle that will allow you to pick up single threads – the smaller, the better.  Your thread should be fine and color match your fabric – here, I’m using Gutterman silk.

Like all new techniques, you should practice on a scrap of your fabric before working on your actual garment.  If your garment has curved or bias edges, make sure you practice on a curved or bias scrap!

(Warning: unmanicured hands ahead!)

Step one: fold your cleanly cut edge in about 1/4″ (or 1/16″, for a truly tiny edge!) towards the wrong side of the fabric.

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Steps Two and Three: pick up a SINGLE thread from your fabric, and then a tiny stitch from the edge of your fold, like so:2013-01-30_13-52-31_920

Step Four: Pull your needle and thread through, but do not pull taut.  Repeat this step a few times – I generally do an inch or two, like so:

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Step Five: Once you have a few stitches in place, gently but firmly pull your thread through.  The chiffon will roll back in on itself, creating a lovely little rolled edge, like so:

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And, from the front:

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And, the finished edge, after ironing:

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It takes a little practice, but the technique is fairly easy and gives your work a truly lovely finished look.  So much nicer than machine rolled hems!  This also works well on fine handkerchief weight linens, which makes it a great way to edge veils for Medieval reenactors and SCA folks.

Happy hemming!

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  1. zweisamkeit

    Ahhhh! Thank you! I spent a chunk of time looking for a HAND-sewn rolled hem tutorial. Yours is absolutely the best I found. This is so clear and detailed and you included perfect images. Thank you so much!

  2. Lauren

    I agree, definitely the best tutorial I found

  3. Kiran

    A very good tutorial and I like th end result. However, I was looking for a method they use in Indian sarees and scarves made from chiffon etc.the stitches seem to cross over the rolled edge.

    1. Silverstah

      I’m sorry – this is the only method I use. I’m not sure what they use on sarees!

  4. Sarah

    Your tutorial has given me the confidence to tackle this. Thank you!

    1. Silverstah

      Wonderful! Good luck!

  5. lynn Dee

    That helped me so muct! I am working on a dance costume with a silk chiffon circle skirt attached to a leotard. Do you have an idea of the best way to seam the two full circle pieces of chiffon together for the waist and then attach it to the leotard. Serging is too aggressive with this material. Would a double zig zag work to avoid fraying?

    1. Silverstah

      Lynn – I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful! To seam the two halves of the circle skirt together, I’d probably use a French Seam – that will firmly encase all the raw edges and be nice and strong for the abuse that dance costumes seem to take. As for attaching it to the leotard – a double zigzag would probably work to reduce fraying. What is the waist treatment going to be like? I might consider cutting a small strip of jersey or other stretchy fabric and overlaying that on top of the attachment point at the waist to cover up that seam?

  6. Fiona

    I would like to say thanks for sharing that. I have experimented with varying degrees of success, and this is so simple! thanks again

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