Sewing any type of hem on a garment can be a challenge, but it’s a lot easier to do when you get some helpful tips. Narrow hems can be particularly difficult, but a good rolled hem foot can help. In fact, learning how to use a rolled hem foot is the first step to making the hemming task a little easier, so after a while, knowing how to sew a rolled hem can be second nature.
When you use a rolled hem foot, you get narrow hems that are very neat and even, which makes a big difference in your final project. This narrow hem foot makes sewing a narrow hem a lot easier and faster, and it is perfect for sheer and fine fabrics, such as organza and chiffon, as well as curved hemlines.
What Is a Rolled Hem Foot?
The rolled hem foot is also known as a hemmer foot and looks a little different than other feet do. With a curved channel at the front section that causes the raw edge to have a double fold, stitching a hem is a lot easier because you don’t have to press the hem manually before you start sewing.
Think about sewing hems on ruffles. They can be difficult, but with a hemmer foot, they hang perfectly, even saving you a ton of time on the sewing that you do.
The best part about this type of foot is that most sewing machines already come with one. If yours doesn’t have one, you can find one in most sewing stores or online, and they are usually very inexpensive. Some of the accessory sewing kits you can buy also include a hemmer foot.
Hemmer feet are usually either the snap-on type or on older machines, the screw-on type. There is a curved channel near the front of the foot, and this is what is used to make the fabric turn over while you sew.
Basically, you can plan to use your rolled hem foot to make very narrow double-folded hems on the edges of the fabric. The fabric will go through the foot, then roll into a tunnel underneath the foot to form the small hem. In other words, it does a lot of the work for you.
Sewing a rolled hem is a lot easier to accomplish because of the spiral-like feed on the foot’s front section and the narrow tunnel underneath it. If you take a look at the width of the tunnel, you’ll notice that it is the same size as the foot and the same width as the hem it’s going to sew for you.
Why Learn to Use a Rolled Hem Foot?
A rolled hem foot comes in handy more often than you think. Even if you are planning to iron the hems before you straight-stitch them, a rolled hem foot makes the task much faster. It also ensures that your hems are neat, attractive, and very even.
Rolled hem feet are also good when working with synthetics and very sheer fabrics, as well as gauze and other types of fabric (think polyester mixes) that are very difficult to iron. Simply put, it is much easier and less time-consuming to use a hemmer foot not only on straight edges, but on soft curves as well.
The only time a rolled hem foot is not recommended is when you’re working with deep curves or corners. You can use it for hemming skirts, scarves, blouses, and anything else that requires a narrow but very neat hem.
How to Sew a Rolled Hem Step by Step
Before you get started with your rolled hem foot, you should know that these feet come in different widths to suit the widths of the desired hems. More often than not, people use the one-eighth-inch (3 mm) width, but you can choose the one-fourth-inch (6 mm) width instead if you like.
Generally, people use the smaller width when they’re working with lightweight or sheer fabrics and the larger width when working with thicker fabrics such as cotton. This is why, if the hem you’re working on is curved or the fabric is very sheer, you’ll get a better overall look by choosing the smaller width.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you adjust your machine so that you’re using a small stitch length and a straight stitch. If you set the sewing machine to around 2.0, the length will look like it’s in better proportion.
Of course, other types of stitches can also be appropriate, but you’ll have to play around with it a bit to make sure the stitch you use looks good with the item you’re sewing.
Learning how to use a rolled hem foot involves only a few simple steps, and here they are:
1. Check the Edges of Your Fabric
Look at all of the edges of your fabric to make sure none of the edges are frayed. If the edge of the fabric is nice and clean, you get a neater hem in the end. A clean edge also means there will be fewer rogue pieces of cotton found protruding out of the edge once the project is complete.
Getting rid of threads sticking out of the fabric once you’re finished sewing is not only difficult, but frustrating and time-consuming as well. So, if you notice an edge that is badly frayed, go ahead and cut the edge before you start to sew. This way, it simply won’t have time to unravel.
2. Iron or Use Your Fingers to Press the End
The next thing you’ll want to do is iron or finger-press the end by roughly one-eighth of an inch (3 mm). Do this twice so the fabric stays down better, then put a pin in the fabric horizontally to hold everything in place. Fold over at least the first three inches (8 cm), maybe even more.
3. Prepare to Sew
Once the presser foot is lowered onto your fabric, you can remove the pin. Then, stitch a couple of stitches while you hold the threads so that they don’t catch underneath. If you don’t do this, your machine may jam. This usually happens when the end of your fabric gets pushed into your dog feed, which is located underneath.
4. Stitch Your Rolled Hem
Once you’ve stitched a couple of stitches, stop your sewing and make sure your needle is in the “down” position and in your fabric. When you do this, the fabric can’t move around as you reposition it. Lift your foot up, insert the fabric that is folded (the hem) into the foot’s curl section, then place the foot down once again.
Right here is where it can get tricky. You want to make sure you don’t curl the fabric over too much. Instead, let the foot perform the work for you.
Hold the fabric in the front and begin stitching again. The results will amaze you. You’ll end up with a neat, even, clean-looking edge without using other types of feet and without ironing the fabric by hand. Learning how to sew a rolled hem has never been easier!
5 Tips to Make Sewing a Rolled Hem a Little Easier
Just like any other sewing tasks, sewing with a rolled hem foot is easier if you learn a few practical tips that other sewists have learned by experience. Below are a few things that can make sewing with your hemmer foot a little easier:
- While you’re stitching, hold gently onto the edge and make sure it’s folded just slightly. This sometimes takes practice, but you’ll catch on faster than you think.
- Try not to pull or curl the fabric yourself. Instead, let the curved component of the hemmer foot do the work for you. Stopping regularly to reposition your hand and make sure it’s in front is normal.
- If you finish sewing and the hem looks a little stretched out or wrinkled, just iron it with a steam iron. When you do so, press down, then lift the iron before you get to the next section. In other words, don’t drag the iron over the seam but iron in sections instead.
- As you’re ironing the seam, stretch out the hem gently. This will make the seam look much better in the end.
- Once you get to step number four above, keep in mind three things: your fabric’s folded edge needs to be next to the right stop of your foot; you have to make sure the hem’s raw edge is right next to the foot’s left stop guide; and the hem has to always pass through the tunnel and underneath the foot.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to get the best narrow hem regardless of the sewing project you’re working on.
What If You Absolutely Have to Do a Corner?
We mentioned earlier that a hemmer foot shouldn’t be used when you’re doing a corner, but what if you absolutely must work with a corner? For one thing, this is going to require two separate steps. First, you’ll go ahead and sew the first edge until you get to the very end. Next, sew the second edge but sew it separately and start again at step one.
Another way of sewing hems that have corners is to use a regular foot in addition to a standard double-folded edge along with a mitered corner technique. This method is somewhat time-consuming, so you’ll need to make sure you have enough time to do it correctly.
The methods involved in learning how to sew a rolled hem when you’re working with a corner depend entirely on how perfect you want the final product to look. Whether you do the two-step method mentioned earlier or the more time-consuming mitered corner method depends on your preferences and the time you have devoted to the project.
These methods demonstrate why learning how to use a rolled hem foot comes in handy so many times. Whether you’re working with a corner or not, and regardless of the fabric you’re using, a good hemmer foot can make your project a lot easier to do.
A Few Other Things to Know Before Working with a Rolled Hem Foot
When you see a foot that has a tiny scroll that the fabric goes into, you’ll know you’re looking at a hemmer foot. The foot takes some getting used to when you’re a beginner, but once you learn how to use it, you’ll be glad you have it because of what it does.
When choosing the right size for your rolled hem foot, keep in mind that the smaller ones are made for lightweight fabrics. The bigger the foot, the thicker the fabric it can accommodate.
In the beginning, you’ll want to complete a few test stitches to choose the right foot to use. Get some scraps of fabric and practice so you can determine which foot is best for which project.
When you’re using a rolled hem foot, you can choose either a straight or a zigzag stitch. The medium zigzag foot, in fact, is the most common type, but there are others you can also use with ease.
In fact, it’s fun to play around with different rolled hem feet, so if you visit your favorite sewing store, you can purchase a few different sizes to have them on hand for various future projects. If you see some generic hemmer feet, keep in mind that some of them might require an adapter to work right.
If you’ve been hesitant to learn how to use a rolled hem foot, don’t let it stop you. The truth is, while you’ll have to practice some to get used to it, the feet are not that difficult to learn to use. When you’re sewing narrow hems or using sheer fabric, the foot is the perfect addition to your sewing routine.
Indeed, learning how to sew a rolled hem is much easier if you take your time, follow each step to the letter, and most importantly, practice on scrap fabric first for better end results.