I’ve been asked to cover hemstitching in more detail so I’m going to cover three of the most common finishes: a narrow hemmed, open hemstitch; a wider version of the same and finally a closed hemstitch which offsets the hemstitch against the background fabric.
Hemstitching done with the hemstitching fork gives a similar result to drawn threadwork although in its method it is more similar to faggoting in that it uses a thread to span two fabric pieces rather than punch and stitch a pierced design through the fabric.
There is more than one brand of hemstitching fork available including the Stoppax, the Nu-Way and one marketed as being for the Husqvarna which is a modern equivalent of the Nu-Way. Only the Husqvarna one is still in production so if you see one of the older style ones at a reasonable price it is worth snapping it up.
For a bold hemstitch, use a long stitch length and bring the upper tension right down, even to zero. This will give a widely spaced, deep hemstitch and give a nicely proportioned finish, should be worked with a thickish thread and a thick needle. If a fine, narrow hemstitching is required, use a fine needle, a slender thread, a smaller stitch length and a normal (or even slightly tightened) thread tension. If in doubt, just experiment with some spare fabric scraps until you get a finish you’re happy with.
To do a narrow-hemmed hemstitched row, fold the fabric around the hemstitch fork, place it under the foot, looped end towards you and sew down the gap between the parallel bars of the attachment. When you reach the end, remove the fabric and the hemstitcher from the machine and, taking care not to pull the threads when you do so, slide out the hemstitch fork. This will leave a loosely stitched tunnel and it is this tunnel which is slashed open and the sides smoothed apart to reveal the stitches. For best results, press this open before continuing.
Once pressed open, it is necessary to deal with the raw edges. For the sake of this tutorial I have done a narrow hem, using my narrow zipper foot to get in nice and close to the edge of the hemstitching while still having good access to the fabric. An alternative would be to finish this with braid or a decorative satin stitch which would seal in the raw edge out of view.
A wider hem can be achieved in just the same way as described above but first sew a line of basting stitches to act as the fold against which the hemstitching fork is pressed when in use. The fold is then cut open in the usual way, the basting thread removed and the item pressed. The raw edges can then be turned in and sewn down as before. In this case I find it useful to also sew a line of stitching close to the edge of the hemstitching to keep the finish crisp and neat.
It is not necessary to cut open the fold after the hemstitch fork is removed. If preferred it may be folded and pressed back and a line of stitching placed close to each side of the hemstitching to secure the fold behind the hemstitching. You might like to thread in some braid or ribbon to give a contrast, too.