More Hemstitching

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.

Sewing along the gap in the hemstitch fork.

The loose stitch line securing the fold.

Cutting the fold open. Scissors are better than a seam ripper if you have some with sufficiently narrow blades.

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.

The seam cut open and ready to press and stitch down.

Sewing a narrow hem to neaten the edges.

The finished hemstitch. I have used contrasting thread to better show the detailing but would usually choose thread to match the fabric.

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.

Line of basting stitches against which to place the hemstitch fork for a wider margin.

The line sewn along the central gap, with the outer edge formed by the line of basting stitch. The basting can now be removed.

The basting thread removed, the fold is cut open and folded back ready to be pressed and neatened.

Topstitching a line close to the edge of the hemstitching. This will be repeated on the other side.

Close-up of the hemstitching.

The wider margins shown hemmed and sewn down. This forms a handy margin into which to place some decorative topstitching.

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.

The folded edge, hemstitched and ready to fold & press back.

Topstitching, worked as closely as possible to the ends of the hemstitching, gives a neat finish and anchors the fold securely behind the exposed hemstitching.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie Givens
    Jun 17, 2016 @ 08:16:06

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I understood every word, which is usually a challenge for me. I think I even have one of these devices and will go look. Something new to learn.


  2. foufymaus
    Sep 11, 2014 @ 07:34:58

    *thinks* I wonder if this technique can be done with those snap apart chopsticks you get at Chinese restaurants….I will definitely be playing with this technique. Thanks for the lovely photographs. 😀


    • Offspring
      Sep 11, 2014 @ 08:08:31

      Hi and thanks for dropping by! I’ve never seen the chopsticks in question (not a fan of Chinese food, lol) but if they taper towards the end then I’m afraid it probably wouldn’t work as the taper would affect the spacing of the stitching when pressed open. That’s not to say you can’t improvise – anything that is strong enough to remain rigidly parallel either when sawn up its length or else strapped securely together in a pair ought to work fine. Maybe experiment with pencils…? Let me know how you get on, too. I’m so glad you asked this…I feel a whole new experiment coming on and will blog my results. 🙂 xxx


  3. rantalot2010
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 10:20:30

    Hi there Hevsi, just managed to register, and log on, so that I could leave a comment about this great tutorial.

    Excellent description of the process, backed up by lovely photographs.

    I will PM you later when I’ve had a go myself!

    Just one thing, can you only do this on short lengths of fabric?

    Kind regards, Jessie


    • edsmum
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 15:34:10

      Hi Jessie! No, you can do it on any length of fabric – because the fabric is folded over the fork with the bulb end towards you, when you reach the end of the first length, stop with the needle down, raise the presser foot and gently ease the fork backwards until lowering the presser foot again just catches the open end of the fork. Then, just keep sewing. 🙂 xxx


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