I've got a project I'm working on that has been giving me a headache. I've been itching to make a half-circle skirt but the hemline is just not turning out as I would like. It really is impossible to sew a ‘regular' hem when the bottom of the skirt is so curved. Usually on a skirt I would turn in half an inch and press, and then turn up another inch, inch and a half or even two inches on the bottom of a regular skirt, and sew.
But that's not going to work on a circular hemline simply because the length of the hem around the outside is longer than the length of the fabric you are turning into, so it's never going to lie flat.
Now you can sew a teeny tiny hem, by pressing up tiny 1/8th inch amounts and using a rolled hem foot. (See the Sewing Loft article if you want to give this a try.) But the way my iron spews boiling hot water and steam randomly out of the front exactly where my fingers are, I didn't fancy my chances, and nether do I own the rolled hem foot. And I really wanted a wide hem on this project.
So the only way to do this is with a hem facing. The same as you can sew a facing to the neckline or armhole of a dress to get a neat finish and hide the raw edges, you can also sew a facing to the hemline of a circle skirt! Who would have thought it? But it's not difficult and creates a beautiful finish, even on lightweight fabrics, and it creates the wide hemline I was looking for.
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Creating your facing pattern
The facing piece for the bottom of the skirt is basically exactly the same as the bottom of the skirt. So making a pattern piece is easy. Once you have used your pattern piece to cut all of the main pieces of the skirt, you can use the same for the facing. I wanted a 1.5 inch wide hem.
I folded my pattern for the circle skirt quarter into 4 and along the bottom, marked a line 2 inches away from the bottom of the skirt, 1.5 inches for the hem and 0.5 for the seam. Then I simply chopped off the bottom of the skirt pattern to create the pattern piece for the facing. Mine was a self drafted pattern anyway, but if yours is a pattern you might want to use again make sure to copy or trace the pattern first before you go cutting it into pieces!
Voila, one skirt hemline facing pattern. Cut your hem facing pieces and join them in the same way you have joined the main skirt pieces, using the same seam allowance.
Sewing the skirt hem facing
First we need to finish the raw edge on the facing pieces, on the inside or shorter edge of the facing. If you have a serger, go ahead and use that, or if you have a regular sewing machine, neaten the raw edge to prevent fraying with a zig-zag finish, or like I did with the overcasting stitch. Then give it a press because we want everything to lie as flat as possible.
Now match up the raw edges, the bottom of the skirt with the bottom of the facing, right sides together. Pin to stop any shifting about on slippery or lightweight fabrics and take care not to stretch those bias pieces. Stitch the two together with a 1/2 inch seam.
Now give the seam a good press, pressing both of the allowances towards the facing.
Next comes the understitching. This is also a technique used on neckline and arm facing pieces to stop them from peeking out and will help us get the perfect smooth edge without the facing showing on our hemline. With the seam allowances facing up, stitch through to join them to the facing, right through the middle of the seam allowance.
Time to go back to the iron and this time, press the facing up towards the main body of the skirt and with the help of the understitching, you should be able to see that the facing is neatly hidden and creates a perfect bottom edge to the skirt. As you press, make sure everything is nice and flat and pin the facing in place.
Now back to the machine, and with the facing upwards, stitch close to the top edge, keeping an even distance from the bottom of the skirt, and there you are. A beautifully finished skirt hemline on a curved skirt, but with a nice wide hem. Give it a final press and admire your work.
This technique can also be used to lengthen a skirt when you don't have much hem allowance to turn down because it just looses a half inch from the bottom and the facing can be a different fabric because it's hidden inside.
I'm still working on developing the pattern for this skirt. If it turns out nicely, I'll share it with you soon. If it doesn't I'll pretend it never happened 😉