Handpicked Hem, Hand-Picked Hem, Hand Picked Hem

I made myself another dress using McCall’s 8108.   It says it takes 1 hour of sewing time, but with my adaptations, extras and incredibly lower-than-average sewing speed,  it actually took me much, much longer.  I finished off all the edges with an overlock stitch, made the entire pattern a size smaller, added a closure on the neckline in the back and learned a few things along the way.  It was really nice to be able to finish a dress and wear it to church the next day.  Sewing clothes is becoming more and more fun! 


I learned how to sew darts and do a handpicked hem.  Traditionally, I think a handpicked hem is meant for lightweight fabrics, but it worked just fine on this heavyweight cotton dobby (more on this fabric another time).  I have an aversion to hemming things.  When I made myself curtains a few years ago, I left the bottom unhemmed for so long that my mom finished them up for me when she visited (thanks, Mom!).  But a handpicked hem is actually quite fun.  I think I could actually start to like hemming!

Hand-Picked Hem  (In the pictures below, I am using a swatch of fabric, not an actual skirt hem.)

First, you fold and press the raw edge toward the wrong side (1st fold). 


Then you fold it over again and press (2nd fold).


Next, (and here’s the counter-intuitive part, at least for me) fold the whole hem toward the RIGHT side (3rd fold), making the edges of this fold flush with the first fold and pin into place, but do not press with iron.


Now all machines are different, but on my machine (Bernina 440QE) you use the blind hem foot (#5) and use the blindstitch (#7).  Line up the edge with the midline guide and start stitching.  The blindstich is 4 straight stitches on the right of the guide where the needle is falling through the air, not catching any fabric, and forming a chain of thread along the edges,


followed by a zig zag stitch.  The zig zag catches the layers to the left of the guide and returns to right side for the 4 straitght stitches.  Using my blind hem foot, the zig zag stitch goes over a metal pin, allowing more thread per zig zag so that there isn’t any pull on the fabric when it is flattened. 


This is the result from the wrong side,


and the right side.


Pretty, isn’t it?  With closely matched thread, it would almost be invisible.

39 Responses to “Handpicked Hem, Hand-Picked Hem, Hand Picked Hem”

  1. 1 Stephanie February 13, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Wow, I honestly didn’t even know what a blind hem was or what that was for….thanks!

  2. 2 Amy February 13, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I am so short I have to hem everything. I gave up on jeans and just cut them off and leave a raw edge. For nicer pants/skirts I usually sew by hand when I dont want the stitches to show, but this looks like it would work great. Thanks for the tip.

  3. 3 Wendi February 13, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Now that’s neat! I’ve sewn for a lot of years, and didn’t know how to do that! I usually hem by hand to get a nice finish, but that’s even better!

  4. 4 Jennifer February 13, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I have sewn since I was in middle school and I have never heard of a Handpicked Hem. I love it. I use a blind hem a lot but this is so much cleaner looking. Thank you for the detailed steps. I can’t wait to use it soom.

  5. 5 Cassie Jones February 13, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Love the dress. I want to make clothes for myself but I’m a chicken about the fit! You are inspiring me, though. Nice work!!

  6. 6 Mary February 13, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Love the hem tips! I may have to give that a try soon.

  7. 7 Kiva, Southern Girl Musings February 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    That is a cute dress and I look forward to hearing about the fabric (which I love). 🙂

  8. 8 Sarah February 13, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Wow, I’ve never known how to do that – my machine has that stitch but it never made sense before!

  9. 9 katie February 13, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    That’s a super cute dress, Linda! What is the difference between the hand-picked hem and the blind hem? I thought what I usually do is a blind hem, but I might have it all wrong. It looks just like what you showed up ‘yonder. =0)

  10. 10 Ginny Ingram February 13, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I stitched a hem by hand! I always use with the blind hem on my machine, or simply fold up the hem and stitch from the right side (usually on home dec items or pants. Works for me, and I’m glad it worked for you, too!

  11. 11 Jen February 14, 2008 at 4:31 am

    Great dress. I think that is so funny, I havent stitched a hem by hand for years always using my trusty Bernina, but I dont blind hem like that!! Will give it a go. Thanks.

  12. 12 Sue B February 14, 2008 at 4:42 am

    beautiful. I really like the fabric that you used and I do like the style of that dress. Easy to wear and dress up or down. You make me want to try sewing clothes again.

  13. 13 Joanne February 14, 2008 at 5:29 am

    That’s brilliant – so neat. You’ve inspired me to sit down and play with my machine more to figure out what it can do.

  14. 14 Ali February 14, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Nooo – my brain is hurting. Cannot get my head around it. That’s why my hems are so crap. Must try harder.

  15. 15 Tracy February 14, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Lovely dress! Great fabric–looks like a nice, drape, good to work with. Your tips and tutorial were very good. Being petite, I find it hard sometimes to size down patterns to fit me–shoulder seams and necklines give me grief! Looking forward to seeing your next clothes sewing adventure! :o)

  16. 16 wondermommy February 14, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Really cute dress, thanks for the handpicked hem tip.

  17. 17 randomrevelations February 14, 2008 at 11:20 am

    How did you find out how to do all of that? Sounds complicated for my simple mind. Now it’s time to do a mini version of that dress.

  18. 18 Pieces February 14, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I have never used my machine’s blind hem stitch and I don’t know why. I always just sew hems by hand. Maybe I’m just dumb.

  19. 19 beki February 14, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Wow, thanks for explaining that!

  20. 20 Beth February 14, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    What a cute dress! I love that fabric.

  21. 21 ruby February 14, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Great trick! I can’t wait to try it.

  22. 22 Stacy T February 15, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Gorgeous dress mama!! I used my blind hem foot on my machine for the first time 6-8 months ago for hemming a skirt for a friends mother and havent touched it since, lol.. Kudos on hand hemming though!!

  23. 23 quenna February 15, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Your dress turned out lovely! Making adult garments seem so scary…

  24. 24 thedomesticdiva February 15, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Great job Linda! Cute dress!

    I’m thinking the blind hem I’ve done many years ago is a bit different than your hand-picked hem…my blind hem is not double folded, but rather folded in an S and has little Vs…almost like a tiny zig zag on the folded hem with a few bigger zig zags that catch the dress fabric.

    Great tutorial!

    oh…and as far as hemming curtians, I’m just as bad. However, I found a great trick…gather the bottom and wrap a rubber band around it. Then tuck it inside of itself…poof…instant hem!

    With friendship,

  25. 25 Johanna February 15, 2008 at 8:53 am

    What a great thing to learn! I usually do my hems by hand, which I HATE doing, because I never learned how to do this on my machine. Now I will have to try it!

  26. 26 Christy S. February 15, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve always wondered how to use that stitch and now, thanks to you, I know!!

  27. 27 Karen February 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    So pretty! I love the fabric choice, as usual. 🙂

  28. 28 Kris C. February 16, 2008 at 9:39 am

    So you’re calling this a handpicked hem (done by machine) because the straight stitches don’t fall onto any fabric at all, as the regular blind hem would. Instead, they form that chain that sits against the fabric. So basically, if you folded your fabric just a hair differently and the straight stitches were in the wrong side fabric, then it would be your traditional blind hem.

  29. 29 Cindi February 16, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Oh, you look so wonderful in that dress. I think it is very becoming on you. I learn so much from you! That is not the way I was taught to do that stitch. Your way is sew much easier! I hope to try it.

    Love you!

  30. 30 Melanie February 16, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I’ve seen something similar…but I think it was called a blind hem. This is something I need to try but while I frequently make myself bags, I have not made myself clothing in years. Actually I think that my high school prom dress was one of the last things I made. Seriously SO long ago. 🙂 Anyway, maybe I’ll get up the courage to make myself some form of clothing. I’m thinking a skirt from the Hip Skirts pattern….I’ll let you know how it turns out. 🙂

  31. 31 Chris February 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I love your dress. I have only made skirts up until this point. I just ordered the pattern to make that dress and some nice fabric (probably too nice for a first dress that may never come out). Thanks for the blind hem information.

  32. 32 weirdbunny February 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Fantasttic hemming, I’ll have to try that.

  33. 33 Donna S. February 17, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. Never knew how to do that!!

  34. 34 judicreations February 19, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    That dress looks very nice on you. I have the pattern also and as soon as I purchase the material I’ll have one also. I have never made a hem in that manner. Thank you for the tutorial. I’ll have to practise and maybe hem MY dress with it also.

  35. 35 Gini D March 8, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    I’m a first time visitor to your blog and enjoy it so much. I love sewing, hope to devote myself to it again soon. Excellent demo of the hem: I think I’ve heard it called an “air hem” because the running stitches are not through the fabric. Here’s a tip on those narrow hems, try making a template to turn the hem up: i.e. for a 1/2 inch hem draw a line 1″ from the edge of an old folder or similar. Turn the fabric up to the line and press, then turn the folded edge to the inside to the crease and press. This saves on burned fingers from the iron and gives a nice even turn–the narrower the hem the better hint this is! You may be able to do these without injury, but I have burned myself a few times. Your hem looks perfectly even as well. Happy sewing!

  36. 36 pam April 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Ohh I have never used this method before, this is way easier than the way I do a blind hem and I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

  37. 37 susan April 19, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    i too hate hemming, it is the major reason i wont make skirts! i have to try this, it looks nice and professional
    awesome tute, thans so much

  38. 38 Dena Berg (Sugar Shop) March 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    You rock! Your dress is awesome and seriously how cool is that to MAKE a dress and wear it the next day!! and I’m glad I’m not the only slowww sewer. Hope everything is going well with you!!!! XOXO

  39. 39 Darcy October 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Great job! Esp if that was your first time.

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Craft Apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Well, crafting is my apple. It’s what I do to maintain my sanity while taking care of my family. I homeschool my three boys, ages 14, 15, and 16), am a quilter, a bagaholic, and pattern designer.  Oh – and I also like taking pictures.

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