How To Hem Without A Sewing Machine

Gathering the Necessary Materials and Tools

Hemming without a sewing machine may seem like a difficult task, but with the right materials and a bit of patience, it can be done. Before beginning, it is important to gather together a few supplies: scissors, pins, a needle, a thimble, thread and, of course, the fabric itself. If a person is working with very thin fabric, they may want to consider investing in a piece of interfacing material, which is a stabilizing fabric that adds extra strength to the final product.

Choosing the Correct Number of Fabric Clips

Hemming usually requires pinning the fabric in place before any sewing takes place. It is important to remember that the pins should be spaced at least one centimeter apart. This ensures that evenly spaced clips are used throughout the hemming process. Additionally, the pins used should be sharp and long enough to hold the fabric in place without slipping around.

Marking the Seam Width

Once the pins are in place, the next step is marking the desired seam width. This typically varies based on the item being hemmed. For example, the desired seam width will be greater for a heavy curtain panel than it would be for a lightweight blouse. It is important to measure the seam width multiple times in order to ensure that it is exact.

Hand Cutting and Hemming the Fabric

The fabric should then be hand-cut to the correct size. It is important to be precise when doing this, as an uneven hem can drastically affect the finished product. Once the fabric is cut, the hem should be sewn by hand. The most common stitches used for this purpose are either a slip stitch, or a catch stitch. Both stitches are similar, but the catch stitch is slightly more secure. Each stitch should be evenly spaced, and should not be too tight or too loose.

Finishing the Hem

Once the hem is sewn, a thimble may need to be used in order to push the needle through the thicker parts of the fabric. Finally, the ends of the thread should be trimmed and tucked away in order to keep the seam looking neat.

Press and Steam

Before wearing the garment, it is important to press and steam it. This helps to make sure that the fabric sits properly and ensures that the hem is the same on the inside and outside of the garment.

Using an Iron on Hem Tape

If a person does not feel comfortable hand-hemming fabric, an alternative method is to use iron-on hem tape. This tape has an adhesive on one side, which can be ironed onto the fabric. Once it has been applied, the fabric can be cut down to the desired size and the edges of the tape can be ironed down for a secure hem.

Alternatives to Hemming

For items such as thin fabrics and t-shirts, hemming may not be necessary. Instead, a person can opt for a simple and stylish rolled-edge look. This can be achieved simply by rolling the edge of the fabric and tucking it in place.

Hems on Knit and Stretchy Fabrics

When hemming fabrics that contain Lycra or spandex, it is important to sew the seam at a lower tension than usual. This is because if the seam is too tight it can cause the fabric to pucker and stretch out of place. An overlocker machine can also be used for certain fabrics, which will provide extra strength and will generally look neater.

Saving Time and Money with a Serger

Sergers are becoming increasingly popular for those who wish to save time and money when constructing clothing. Sergers are able to sew, cut and finish the fabric in one single step, meaning that the fabric can be hemmed quickly and with great accuracy.

Creative and Interesting Hems

Hems do not have to be boring. If a person is feeling creative, they can embroider a hem, create a scalloped shape or even use a decorative trim. These interesting hems are sure to add a creative and unique touch to any item of clothing.


Hemming without a sewing machine is entirely possible with the right materials and a bit of patience. Whether a person opts to hand-sew, use iron-on tape or even invest in a serger, they are sure to achieve a neat and professional-looking hem.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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