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 thoughts on “Handpicked Hem, Hand-Picked Hem, Hand Picked Hem

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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)

  9. 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!!

  10. 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,

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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. 🙂

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

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