Machine Rolled Hem

The machine rolled hem is, of course, completely not period before the advent of sewing machines and special task machine feet.  But it’s neat, it’s quick once you get the hang of it, and it’s a fantastic way to finish simple linens.

Sample:

The Machine Rolled Hem.

The Machine Rolled Hem.

Critical Stats:

Width: 1/8″
Seam Allowance Required: 3/8″
Additional Tools Needed: Rolled Hem Foot.

Process:

This odd looking beast is a rolled hem foot.

This odd looking beast is a rolled hem foot. That curved bit of metal helps scoop the fabric into a roll.

Start the hem with 2-4 straight stitches, 1/2" from the hem edge.

Start the hem with 2-4 straight stitches, 1/2" from the hem edge. This will secure the threads.

Lift the foot, wiggle the fabric into the curvy metal jigger, and lower the foot.

Lift the foot, wiggle the fabric into the curvy metal jigger, and lower the foot. You can see the roll for the hem forming. From here on out, you'll want your right hand about 3" away from the foot, and you should always see the edge of the fabric making exactly this curve.

Then, you just sew.  When you're done, it's all pretty.

Then, you just sew. When you're done, it's all pretty.

Now, let me add a note here.  The above description makes this sound nearly impossible to screw up.  It is, in fact, very possible to screw up – even, easy.  It took me about 6 years to get to a point where the rolled hem foot produced a rolled hem, rather than a stream of foul language.

There are a couple things that will really impact your success with this little beastie.

  1. You absolutely must maintain the same position with your hands.  If you change the angle between the hand holding the fabric and the machine foot, your hem will change.  Upsie-downsy isn’t so bad, but leftsy-rightsy will change the amount of fabric incorporated into the roll.  You don’t want that to change.  Like, ever.  I’m really serious.
  2. Remember that you are not trying to set a land speed record.  Sew a little slower than normal.
  3. Focus.  Focus completely and absolutely on that hem – specifically on that cone of fabric heading in to the foot.  That is the only thing you should be looking at.  I find that this hem is a pain to stop and start on, so if possible, you want to get it done in one go.  That might mean ignoring a phone call.  ;)
  4. Make sure your needle is sharp and your bobbin casing is not full of shmutz *before* you start.
  5. Approach any seams in the hem carefully.  This is the one time you should move your hands.  It works best if you trim a corner off each seam allowance, to reduce the bulk going in to the roll.  You will probably have to push the seam into the foot.  I find it’s easiest to spear it with the tip of a pin and move it that way.

If you let your focus and your little fabric cone drift, you might find that your rolled hem is no longer rolling.  It’s really difficult to restart in the middle, unfortunately.  You can sorta do it if you cut your threads, go back a bit to where the roll was starting to come undone, and restart (just like you started out in the first place), but really, it’s easier to just not mess up.

The rolled hem, seen from the wrong side of the fabric.

The rolled hem, seen from the wrong side of the fabric.

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