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Two Ways to Tame T-Shirt Hems

Hemming the knit garments that we sew can often be a frustrating experience. 
Wavy, stretched-out, lumpy, and uneven hems are all too common. 
Here are 2 easy ways to get great looking hems on knit garments every time!

The first way to hem knit garments and the one I use most often is by "Crowding the Needle".  

As you can see in the photo above, as the un-stitched part of the hem of this knit top approaches the needle, I push it towards the needle. This lets the feed dogs do all the work while I gently guide the fabric,  deliberately "pushing" it towards the needle with one hand...while I keep the garment straight by guiding it gently with the other hand behind the presser-foot.  "Crowding the Needle" this way acts like the differential feed of a serger, producing a nice smooth hem with no puckers or waves.  This method works best when there is very light pressure on the foot, and when you stitch slowly.  Just FYI...Sometimes "Crowding the Needle" is referred to as "Feeding the Dogs" :)

The second way to tame knit fabric hems is by using any of the various brands of 
Clear "Water Soluble" embroidery stabilizers...such as the brand-name product, "Solvy" 
(easily available at chain fabric stores).

As pictured below, first cut about a 10-inch length of the stabilizer. Then roll it up into a tube. Next, as shown below, cut off a "slice" of the tube the depth of the hem. I usually cut several 1-inch "slices", as that is the hem depth I use on most knit garments.

Now you have several nice uniform strips of stabilizer ready to FUSE your hem.


Yes, that's right, you will be using the stabilizer to temporarily "fuse" the hem into place before stitching. Here's how:

Just as you would use regular fusible web to permanently fuse a hem, place your strip of "clear wash-away stabilizer" between the hem allowance and the garment ("inside" the hem). Then thoroughly steam-press the hem. This melts the water-soluble stabilizer strip, temporarily holding the hem in place while also making the hem area firm and completely stable.  If the "Clear wash-away stabilizer" doesn't melt enough to hold the hem in place, steam again from the other side, or lightly spray the hem area with water and steam again.

Now stitch your totally stabilized hem. A twin-needle hem works especially well, because the hem area is so stable that the stitches will not "tunnel".
Once your hem is stitched, the stabilizer is easily and completely removed from the garment by a quick trip through the rinse cycle of the washing machine. After drying, your hem will be soft, flexible, and beautiful...with no puckers or waves!


What do you think? Please add a comment by clicking here-->


Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks for this tutorial!!!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

This is great Pam, thanks!

11:05 AM  
Blogger gwensews said...

Thank you! I like the idea of the Solvy. I don't have a coverstitch machine, and usually fuse a lightweight interfacing in the hem, which does stiffen it too much sometimes. I will definitely use the Solvy next time. And in fact, I have 7 pieces of fabric that is going to get made into Ts soon!

11:33 AM  
Blogger KID, MD said...

Great tips!! Thank you.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I'm definitely going to give this one a try.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Summerset said...

Excellent - more techniques to try!

12:05 PM  
Blogger Ann Made Studio said...

Thank you I will definitely try the solvy technique.

Merry Christmas!

12:07 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Cool! Thanks for the tips!

12:36 PM  
Blogger a little sewing said...

great tips, I like how you explain the concepts. Merry Christmas!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Nancy K said...

Since I bought my coverstitch machine I haven't had problems hemming knits, except this gorgeous wool blend sweater knit from EOS the other day! Wavy, stretched out. Grr. My wonderful dh picked out the hem and now I am going to be happy to try your solvy method. Thanks for the great tip.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Suzy said...

Solvy will melt! Who'd a thought? Great tip, and I have just the top to try it on. Thanks!

5:05 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

Very nice techniques. I wish I'd known them before I had a coverstitch. But I'm sure I'll put them to use in the future anyway.

7:17 PM  
Blogger debbie said...

Awesome tips! Thank you.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

The solvy is coming out right after holiday clean-up. I have a knit top crying to use your technique. Merry Christmas!

8:50 AM  
Blogger CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

Perfect timing! I have a knit top on the ironing board now just waiting to be hemmed and I have Sulky Solvy. Thanks alot and have a Merry Christmas.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Linda L said...

Very helpful information with the water soluable stablizer.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

Thank you for the great tips. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Gosh! What great tips. I work with alot of knits and never tried the crowding the needle technique. It's been one of those slapping-the-forehead-while-saying-Of Course!-moments for me. Thanks!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Thank you for sharing these tips!! I've used the first method before, with mixed success. I'd wondered about using a soluble stabilizer but hadn't gotten around to experimenting with it yet.

I featured your tips on Craft Gossip Sewing:


7:30 PM  
Blogger Linda T said...

I must try the solvy trick. Thanks for being so generous with your tips!

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your amazing blog!
always give a look here!
much success in 2010!

9:53 AM  
Blogger Maiden Jane said...

Thanks so much. I have great difficulty sewing knits on my machine!

11:33 AM  
Anonymous phyllis said...

Great tip Pam! Another good wash away is Sol-U-Web. It has the same properties as the clear film wash-aways, but it seems (for me anyway) to store longer. I find the film wash-aways get brittle after about a year.

8:21 AM  
Blogger julia said...

Thanks for these great tips!

11:15 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Oh! I wish I had visited your blog last night! I hemmed a knit top and although it turned out OK, I love your suggestions and I'll try them on my next projects.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Sigrid said...

As always great information Pam. Thanks for sharing. Hope to find Solvy here.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Cennetta said...

Another gem! I have struggled with hemming knits. Sometimes resulting to hand sewing them. Thanks again!

11:41 AM  
Blogger midnight hysteria said...

i love, love, love your tutes ... awesome solution for those danged knit hems ... thank you, pam!


11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the tip on using the Solvy - I have a coverstitch machine but have friends who do not....

Pam, you are an inspiration to us all - love the items you make (especially for the little girls in your life) and the shirts are simply superb.

Bryden - in New Zealand

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice tutorial.
I use strip of pro-sheer elegance intefacing fused to the hem line. It is almost invisible (even on the finest knits) and my hems are stable and never wave or bunch (I use either a coverstich machine or a sewing machine and a walking foot).

4:08 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Anonymous...I am so glad you like the interfacing that I have exclusively milled. Yes, Pro-Sheer Elegance Interfacing is wonderful for so many applications because it is so sheer and flexible.
As you already know, you can see all the details about it at

12:54 PM  

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