Tag Archives: machine

Intersecting seams

Seams that cross or meet need to be treated in a particular way to avoid lumps of stacked seam allowances. This sample shows seams crossing one another, but the same principles apply if two seams form a T-shape. Right: intersecting seams on the right side of the project (above) and on the wrong side (below).

1 Sew the first pieces together following Steps 1–3 of Open Seam. Press the seamed area flat, but do not press the seam allowances open. At the end of the seam that will intersect, trim the seam allowances to a point, starting to cut about ¾″ (2cm) from the end of the seam and sloping the cut to end about ⅛″ (3mm) from the line of stitching. Trimming the seam allowance with pinking shears will help prevent fraying without adding bulk.
2 Press the seam allowances open. Repeat Steps 1–2 on the other intersecting piece.
3 Measuring accurately, press under the seam allowance (across the trimmed end of the first seam) on one of the pieces to be joined.
4 Lay the pressed piece on the other piece, ⅝″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge, and match up the seams perfectly. Pin the pieces together, then press the top seam allowance flat again.
5 Taking a ⅝″ (1.5cm) seam allowance, sew the new seam as for an Open Seam. Stitch carefully over the ends of the first seams, being sure not to ruck up or pucker the seam allowances.
6 Press the new seam flat, then press it open.

Hemmed in

Many of your sewing projects will need a hem somewhere, whether it’s the lower edge of a skirt, the top edge of a bag, or the opening of a pillowcase. A smooth, beautifully stitched hem of the right type for the project will help give your work that finish that carries it over the line from homemade into handmade.

Above: a single hem on the right side of the project (left) and on the wrong side (right).

Hem allowance

The amount of fabric folded over to make the hem is called the hem allowance. On lightweight fabrics this is usually 1″ (2.5cm) for a single hem and for a double hem—the most commonly used type—it will usually be 1⅜″ (3.5cm). Always check a pattern to see what it specifies. Hem allowances on heavier fabrics can be up to 3″ (8cm), as narrow hems on thick fabrics become stiff and bulky. Curtains will routinely have a hem allowance of up to 8″ (20cm). You can add extra to the hem allowance on children’s garments to allow for letting the hem down as they grow, but bear in mind that too deep a hem will hang oddly. When the hem is let down there may be a permanent mark on the fabric along the original fold line. This mark can be disguised by sewing ribbon or braid over it (see Sewing On Ribbon Or Braid, page 90), but a fashion-conscious child may not be thrilled by this idea.

Single hem

This is the most basic of hems and is only suitable if either the edge being turned up is the selvage, or if the project doesn’t need to wear well—a Halloween outfit maybe—and the raw edge can be zigzagged. Selvages are tempting to use, but can cause problems so read the box below before using such an edge. You can learn more tricks at www.bestsewingmachinereviewed.com in case you need help.

1 Using a ruler or seam gauge to check the measurement right along the hem, fold the selvage edge of the fabric over by 1″ (2.5cm). Press the fold.
2 Pin the selvage edge in place. Set the sewing machine to a medium straight stitch. Put the fabric under the presser foot of the machine with the edge of the foot against the selvage edge. Machine-sew the hem, removing pins as you get to them and reversing at each end to secure the stitching.


The selvage is the edge along the length of the fabric: it is created during production of the fabric and won’t fray. Woven fabrics, such as the one used here, usually have a selvage that is the same colour as the main part of the fabric, but it can have a slightly different, tighter weave. This can shrink during washing, which would make a selvage-edge hem pucker unattractively and permanently. Printed fabrics usually have a white selvage—often with the manufacturer’s name printed on it—and that, too, can be of a different weave. If you want to use a selvage, wash a bit of the fabric first to see what happens.

Above: a double hem on the right side of the project (left) and on the wrong side (right).

Double hem

The most commonly used type of hem, this gives a neat finish by enclosing the raw edge. If the fabric frays readily, then either trim the raw edge with pinking shears or zigzag it before making the first fold.

1 Using a ruler or seam gauge to check the measurement right along the hem, fold the edge of the fabric over by ⅜″ (1cm). Press the fold.
2 Fold the fabric over by a further 1″ (2.5cm) and press this second fold. Pin the folded edge in place and machine-sew the hem as for a Single Hem, positioning the edge of the foot against the first pressed fold.