When working with lightweight or even sheer fabrics, the best way to finish an edge is often with a rolled hem foot: faster than hand-sewing and a lot easier, if you know how to do it.
What? You don't? No worries!
Let me share with you my best tips and in no time you'll be sewing a perfect rolled hem: I can see so many fluttering dresses, silk scarves, napkins (and so on) featuring this couture hem in your future 😉
Wait! I don't have a rolled hem foot: where can I find one for my machine?
You can try with your sewing machine dealer, if you're so lucky to have one in the neighborhood. If not, check your manual and see if there is an online shop (or just google *your machine brand* + spare parts online).
You can save some money and get an universal kind of foot. Be sure to choose the right shank version: most of the home sewing machines use a snap-on low shank, but some Singer have a slanted shank (double check in your manual!)
Check out a generic universal rolled hem foot here on Amazon:
Depending on your fabric weight, choose an appropriate rolled hem foot: smaller funnel width goes with lighter fabric, and vice-versa.
Note: you can use a wider rolled foot hem on a lightweight/sheer fabric but you'll have a hard time squeezing it in a narrower foot a medium weight fabric so, if you want to buy your first one, I'd better choose one with a funnel 1/8″ wide (or more)!
Rolled hem foot anatomy
The rolled hem foot coolest feature is the funnel you see on the front side: it's here, where the magic happens!
Your fabric will roll up into it and go out in the back, running through the groove, carved in the bottom of the foot… almost unbelievable!
Let's start with the basics
Here is a step-by-step for you, filled with my suggestions for better results:
1) To get the hem started, you'd better press (or finger press, depending on your fabric) the double crease for the first couple of inches: this will help you guiding it through the funnel.
To do that, press the hem toward the wrong side of the fabric, keeping it of consistent width, just a smidge less than the finished hem width (matching the groove below the foot).
Repeat, pressing it another time toward the wrong side. Put a pin on it to keep it in place. 2) To the sewing machine: lay your fabric on the needle plate, wrong side up.
Lower the presser foot and do a couple of stitches, using the hand wheel. Remove the pin.
Needle down, raise the presser foot and use your tweezers to feed the creased fabric into the funnel, as it is. Lower the presser foot again and start sewing slowly (use a straight stitch, setting length = 2).
Note that you're sewing ON THE WRONG SIDE of the fabric, so the bobbin thread will show on the right side: keep it in mind when choosing its color and when testing the balance of the seam (it's important that your bobbin-side of the seam looks perfect, not like the one below – intentionally bad-looking!)
3) Go on sewing and keep feeding the fabric into the funnel, holding it in tension, but without pulling it.
Feed the fabric keeping a consistent hem allowance (double of your foot hem width – see picture 3 in step 2)
Important tip: sew at a slow pace, working small portions (3-4″) each time; stop, re-fold the fabric checking it's 2x hem width, sew, repeat!
Tip # 2: use both hands to guide your fabric: the right hand will keep the seam allowance raw edge at the right distance, while the left one will guide the fabric so it goes straight under the foot!
Now you may think it looks easy (and it is… just need some practice to get it perfect) but, if you've ever tried sewing with one of those rolled hem feet, you may have a few questions coming in mind: let's go deeper and try to answer to some of them!
Rolled hem on a curve/on bias – problems and solutions
Fabric behaves in a totally different way when cut on the bias. While sometimes is exactly what we want, you'll rapidly learn that on rolled hems it's really annoying!
Remember that even a garment that isn't cut on bias may have problematic rolled hems: any curved hem will be, ultimately, cut on the bias!
There is a cool tip I've learned a while ago and that will save your children from learning a few “nice” words (been there…).
Here is the suggestion: first of all, using your regular foot, sew a straight seam almost where the final fold of the fabric will sit, to stabilize the bias so you don't get the fabric rippling.
Snap your narrow hem foot on, sew the hem and, when you're done, rip the stabilizing first seam away if it's visible (you'll be using a blending thread color, hopefully, I used this fuchsia so it showed to you!)
Intersecting another seam
When sewing a hem in round, most of the times you will need to intersect at least one side seam: please don't try to squeeze it into the funnel!
Instead, do the following:
- Stop (needle down) when you reach the hem
- lift the foot and take the fabric out of the funnel, while keeping the fabric creased
- put the foot down again and sew over the side seam bulk, controlling the fabric so you sew just on the fold (as you did until that point)
- when you're gone over it, re-slip the fabric into the funnel (use your tweezers or a needle to help yourself) and re-start sewing.
… that's it 😉
6 more little tips…
… that come into my mind when I hear “rolled hem foot”
- Tweezers are your new BFF: get a pair of them if you still don't have them!
- Start your seam holding the thread tails, to avoid the fabric being eaten from the needle throat. If all else fails, add a piece of toilet paper between the fabric and the needle throat and sew over it (gently rip it away after you've finished sewing)
- Press the whole hem on the right side of the garment after sewing it.
- Sheers not behaving? Spray starch is the answer!
- Avoid too-fraying edges (trim them right before, using a rotary cutter or sharp scissors)
- Try using a rolled hem foot paired with a blind-hem stitch… and expect something cool! (Check first your foot can accommodate wide stitches by turning the hand wheel… by hand!)
Now it's your turn: do you ever use a rolled hem foot? Do you like it? I'd love to hear from you!