Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Sew a Hem Facing

Some time ago I made a fall skirt for Emily with a curved
hem facing. I didn't know at the time what it was called,
which is typical of how I sew (without knowing the names
of techniques, parts of sewing machine, type of fabric etc).
In that post, I briefly explained, sans photos, how it was
done, but I thought it might be worth another look at,
this time with photos.

I usually only sew this sort of gathered-waist rectangular
skirt in the summer. It is a very casual style (because of the
elastic) and is all breezy-carefree-light for the wearer. Also,
thin cotton summer fabrics gather well without bunching.
But both Emily and Jenna are oddly refusing to wear pants
in spite of the frigid temperatures here, and keep trying to
layer their summer skirts over unmatching leggings and tights.
Some days it is an assault on the eyes!

Since there is going to be skirt-wearing regardless of my
protests, we might as well have some in winter-type fabrics.
They may be bunchier but at least they have a nice weight
and thickness. This is a combination of a thicker off-white
16 wale corduroy for the main skirt and printed 21 wale
corduroy for the hem, waistband and pockets.

I will not be explaining how to sew this kind of skirt. I will
only be explaining how to do the straight hem and waistband.
For an explanation on how to turn a rectangle into a skirt, see here.

Step 1
Serge (or zig zag) only the short sides of the main skirt (and the pockets, if you are adding any). This is the only raw-edge finishing you will need to do.

Step 2 (optional)
Sew on the pockets.

Step 3
Measure the width of the rectangle used for the main skirt (shown folded in half) and cut a waistband (mine was 2.75" high) and hem facing (mine was about 4.5" high) of exactly the same width as the main skirt. See in the picture below how they match up.

Step 4
With right sides facing, sew up the side seams of all three pieces:
  • waistband
  • main skirt
  • hem facing

so that they form three tubes.
Iron open the seams if you want.

Step 5
With all three tubes wrong side out,
  • slip the waistband tube over the top of the main skirt and pin so that their top edges are flush.
  • slip the hem facing tube over the bottom of the main skirt and pin so that their bottom edges are flush.

Note: For completely idiosyncratic reasons, I like lining up the side seams for the bottom hem and main skirt but not the waistband. This is mainly to avoid having all the seams together when I thread the elastic through the waistband later - too crowded. Please feel free to put your seams wherever you like.

Step 6
Sew a seam all around the bottom edge of the skirt to attach the hem facing. Repeat for the top edge to attach the waistband piece. Iron open the seams which should look like this:

Now turn the skirt right side out and fold the hem facing up over the front of the skirt. Fold down the top of the hem facing (about a quarter inch), pin and top-stitch the hem facing onto the front of the skirt, all around.

Step 7
Fold the waistband down over the top, and onto the front, of the skirt to make an elastic casing. You could choose to fold the entire printed piece down to form a front facing

or fold down just half of it to meet the original seam line.

The way you choose will affect the final length of the skirt.

Step 8
Top stitch along the bottom and top of the waistband as shown, leaving an opening along the lower seam to insert the elastic. It doesn't matter if your waistband is a little wonky because everything will be scrunched up with the elastic.

This is what the hem facing looks like when completed.
The only raw edges (finished earlier by zig-zag stitch or
serging) visible will be the side seam of the main skirt fabric.

Insert elastic, sew ends together and close up
the opening in the waistband.


  1. Fantastic technique! Love the end product!!! Though if I tried to mimic, I think I'd have to post signs throughout my sewing area reminding me "Yes, right side to wrong side!!! Just this once!!!" : )

  2. Awesome tutorial! Up until a few months ago, I had always just turned under the raw edges (shirttail hem). Once I did one hem facing, I was forever hooked. It's also a great way to finish off an A-line skirt so that the fabric doesn't all bunch up at the stitch line.

    I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  3. Hi, I'm Laura from Italy! I have a blog and I'd wrote a post where is cited also your blog:

    I'd like to invite you to visite my italian blog, bye bye Laura!

  4. Recently discovered your blog, you have awesome talent. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. your photos are phenomenal! will you share what type of camera you use?

  6. Kathleen: couldn't find your email address so am hoping you are reading this here: I use a Nikon D40. My husband, however, is constantly appalled that I am using rubbishy settings on the camera.

  7. Kathleen: couldn't find your email address so am hoping you are reading this here: I use a Nikon D40. My husband, however, is constantly appalled that I am using rubbishy settings on the camera.

  8. this is very cute and sweet work.


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