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Itsy Bitsy Hems

When hemming super sheer and delicate fabrics, I am always reminded of that quote from Futurama, “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

I learned this technique from Vicky, one of my frequent co-workers on shows, who is honestly far too modest considering all of the amazing costumes she has made over the years. (She doesn’t really have social media etc.) I forget the exact reason it came up, but she said it was a favorite technique she would use on delicate dresses she made for Coleen Atwood films. The key is adding machine paper (Like from an adding or cash register machine) a nice roll of almost computer-paper weight paper, nothing fancy like the shiny chemical reactant kind. This method is a little time consuming, but with practice you can get amazingly clean hems that are 1/8” - 1/16 on even the most difficult of fabrics.  

For this tutorial I documented sewing the skirt of my Evelyn Cosplay, because the skirt is one continuous piece of fabric (about 5 yards) I really wanted the hem to be as clean as possible, and this technique is perfect for that. The Top two photos were Taken by Eric Anderson, or my finished costume at the Exposition Rose Gardens in Los Angeles.

Step 1 -
Lay your fabric/hem edge on a flat surface, like a big table or the floor. It is important to let the fabric sit as you want it to be hemmed. So if its bias and you want the hem stretched out/ to ripple, stretch the fabric gently. If you want it natural - lying relaxed and so on.  pin the adding machine paper under the hem, keeping the desired hem tension. On curved areas tear and angle the paper. Basically you are using the paper to “block out” the desired hem once sewn.

Step 2 -  Stitch about 1/2” from your cut edge, as shown. (I had a 1/2” Seam allowance on my pattern) Once it’s all stitched to the paper, take out your pins and go to the iron. Using the paper as an anchor, use the iron to press the fabric on the stitch line so the seam allowance folds over onto itself. You want a clean sharpe fold.   Remove the paper gently. I find it easiest to tear one side free, taking advantage of the stitch perforations. The second side will fall away much easier; any lingering little bits can be gently wiggled loose with a pin.

Step 3 -  Stitch a second line of stitching next to the first/now the folded edge. If you stitch 1/8” your finished hem will be close to 1/8”, 1/16 will be 1/16” etc. I find I get a nicer result if I *very* gently pull the fabric taunt while sewing this second line. Using very small scissors (I have a curved pair I like for this) trim off the seam allowance as close to the second line of stitching as you can. Press.

Step 4 -  Folding the hem one more time on the second stitch line (or as close as you can get it) stitch through all layers. Again, I find I get a nicer result if I *very* gently pull the fabric taunt while sewing.
Trim off your thread tails, press it again and Viola! Done.

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