How to Make: A tiny rolled hem without a serger!

Rolled hems are infinitely useful in costumes. They're light, flexible and quick. They're also a pain in the behind if you don't own a serger or have a serger that requires everything short of standing on your head to change functions.

So lets say that you only have a sewing machine available, or you don't like standing on your head. What's a costumer to do?

Today I'll show you a "quick and dirty" method for creating a rolled hem using the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine!

Here We Go!

We'll start by setting your sewing machine to the widest zig-zag stitch available, and crank the wheel once around to be sure your needle isn't going to hit the presser foot.

Your stitch length will be very short. A length of 1 or 1.5 gives a nice, lightweight hem. Every machine is different, so once you try this you'll need to play with this setting to find a length that you're happy with.

Rotate your needle into the down position on the RIGHT HAND side of the zig-zag.

Place your fabric on a firm surface, and fold the raw edge in roughly 1/8 of an inch. Crease lightly being careful not to stretch the fabric. If you're more disciplined than I am, you can pre-fold and press these edges...but again, this is the quick and dirty version.

Place the folded edge under the presser foot, with the crease pushed up against the side of the needle, and drop your presser foot. It's best to start on a wide section of fabric. Starting on a narrow little tip will cause your fabric to push down into the needle plate.

Be sure to hold your top and bottom threads out the back as you take your first few stitches. This saves your thread from becoming 'nested' under the needle plate, or making an unsightly tangle in your pretty hem.

Start slowly! As you sew, the needle should fall into the fabric on the left side of the stitch and JUST off of the fabric on the right hand side of the stitch.

If you're in a hurry and didn't press your fold in place (or lazy, like me) you'll need to keep folding the edge as it comes under your foot.

Your finished product is a tidy rolled hem with a lovely uniform edge.
The left side of this photo shows a stitch length of 1.5 and the right side is a length of 1.

A Few Tips
~* Stretching or pulling gently on your fabric as you stitch will produce a gentle wave in your hem.
~* Stretching or pulling HARD on a knit fabric will produce a frilly "lettuce" edge. A very short stitch length is required, and you need to steam the hem when you're finished to make it contract and ruffle.
~* If you are working on the bias (diagonal) and you DON'T want a wavy edge, pre-fold and press your fold into place. Be VERY CAREFUL not to tug, pull or drag on the fabric as it passes under the needle.

What Else Can I Use It For?
~* Table Linens
~* Sashes and Ribbon edges
~* Scarves and Handkerchiefs
~* Pre-finishing raw fabric edges before laundering.
~* A tidy edge for ruffles!

I hope this how-to is useful for you.


Cynthia said...

Very cool! This is timely since it's almost Halloween- the only time of year I really sew for people. Thank you for the tutorial. I'm pretty sure I'll be needing to use this technique on my dd's fairy princess costume.

dg said...

Great tutorial. I'm looking forward to more of your posts. Maybe it will inspire me to get the sewing machine out! (Oh! It IS out. It's been on the dining room table for two months, along with fabric!)

Gloria said...

Wow - this is great! I started sewing costumes for my daughters dance company last year and couldn't find ANY tips or resources online. I am an avid quilter, and sewing with spandex, organza, and netting has me really out of my element!!! I tried and tried to get a rolled hem on organza with my serger last year and never could get it to work. Finally I ended up using fray check around the edges and was never happy with it! I am going to try your method right away. Thanks!

Lauren said...

This is a great website. Can you please share the brand/model of sewing machine you are using? Thanks

Anonymous said...

That was a great tutorial!!! I look forward to reading more ... keep posting!!!

Redclix said...

Lauren, the machine I use is a Janome Harmony. It's a middle of the road home machine, but I really like it. I do have an industrial machine that I use for the REALLY heavy stuff (vinyl, leather, etc) but other than they, my little Janome takes it all. :)

Kristina Meister said...

Awesome! I've been trying to figure out how to finish this silk shirt I'm making for ages. I can't afford a serger and KNEW there had to be a way. I see now that this is the way! Thanks so much you've helped a ton!

ranksubjugation said...

Man, I wish I saw this before buying a rolled hem presser foot for my machine! I am sure I will still use this method when feeling especially lazy, though. :)

Kimberly Ann Petersen said...

Thank you for posting this! You've saved my day. :)

Robin said...

Wow this is great! I have a serger and am just learning how to use it. I read the instructions for a rolled hem and was totally lost! You have done a wonderful job explaining how I can get the same effect with my sewing machine! Thank you!

PEMSewer said...

Will this work on a bridal veil edge? I am having trouble on an organza fabric...have tried 3 thread rolled hem, 2 thread rolled hem and both pull away from the fabric...will the zigzag really work?Thanks..this is my daughter's veil I am designing....

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

This worked perfectly on the hem of my chiffon circle skirt. Gave it a nice fluttery edge and I didn't have to buy an expensive rolled hem foot for my machine. Thank you!

minpot and more said...

Loved it !!!! As I work with knit fabrics very often . . this is very helpful to finish my hem. Looks really good on my dress Thanks

missrdevine said...

I used this lifesaver on my wedding dress in the week before I needed to solve what to do with the hem... So thank you thank you thank you!

Unknown said...

Worked great! I did press it down first - but still did the trick. Thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

I also like to use nylon fishing line for a rolled edge on an Organza.Just stitch a zig zag over it.