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Blind Hemming Explained

At various points I have been asked to explain how the blind hem stitch on a machine works, what this particular symbol meant, and what you need to do to get a good blind hem out of an ordinary sewing machine. Well, here’s the final explanation in words and pictures!

A photo showing blind hem symbols on a sewing machine.

On your sewing machine you may find one or both of these symbols*.  These are the blind hem stitch symbols.  (If you have an older machine, this may be on a disk you insert rather than built in: pop the disk in as you would any other)

a: this one is the straight stitch blind hem, used on woven fabrics.
b: this one is the stretch stitch blind hem: the zigzags allow the hem to stretch with the fabric, rather than popping a stitch and unraveling.  It can also be used on woven fabrics if this is the only one you have.

A photo showing a pinned hem.

The first thing you need to do when making a machined blind hem is determine the hem length required on the garment. Having determined this, and the amount of hem the garment needs to hang correctly, you need to clean finish the trimmed edge and pin it at the right level.

A photo showing an adjustable blind hem foot.

Then fit the hemming foot to the machine. This one is adjustable, which gives greater accuracy. The foot is moved to the left or right by the little red adjuster wheel. (NOTE. There is a Blind-Hemming Foot available for every make & model of sewing machine).

A photo showing the slection of a blind hem stitch on a sewing machine.

Choose the correct hem stitch for the fabric you use. Here I have a loose weave polyester boucle crepe woven fabric, so the straight stitch blind hem stitch is the correct one to use.

A photo of a blind hem diagram.

This is how the stitches are supposed to line up with the folded edge of the hem. Adjust the stitch so that this is what happens. Doing a test hem on a bit of scrap fabric is a really good idea!

This is what the stretch version should be like!

Adjust the stitch length to suit the hem placement: cuffs of sleeves and trouser/pants hems will need a closer stitch, so a smaller stitch length.

Adjust the width to suit the fabric: you only want to catch one thread of finer weaves, and possibly two of thicker fabrics.

Fold and pin the hem so that there is a narrow edge on which to stitch, and the fold you want to catch is an even distance from the folded bottom edge of the garment. Pin or tack/baste in place. I usually just pin, but tacking/basting with thread is possibly easier for those new to the technique.

Line the foot up with the fabric fold so that the swing of the needle to the left just catches the one or two threads you want, and sew slowly and steadily. Allow the feed dogs to pull the fabric through under the foot.

Here you can see clearly that the left toe of the foot is higher underneath than the right, to fit over the thicker folds of fabric. It also helps to prevent those folded layers creeping under the right toe and the needle grabbing a bigger bite of hem than it needs to!

Here are the finished stitches, just catching the threads along the fold, securing the hem. Finish off the threads with a few small hand stitches in the hem. Be careful not to let them show on the outside!

And here is the outside! All our lovely stitches show on the inside, but are invisible from the right side of the garment, just as we want them to be! 🙂

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