sewing · Tips, Tricks, Techniques

Hemming Knits Without a Struggle

Or should I say without tearing out every hair on your head??? You know that awful wavy, pleaty thing that happens when you hem knit fabrics? Well, I’ve got a simple method for hemming your knit makes that you’ll love and use forever. And, the sun will shine, and birds will sing and your thighs will be thin. Well, maybe not that last part, but this is an awesome, must-have skill sewing friends!

My Octo Shirt with Fabulous Hems!!
My Octo Shirt with Fabulous Hems!!

The Problem With Hemming Knits

Knits are my favorite thing to sew, but the hems have always been a mystery. Will they look great or won’t they look great? Will they stretch and wave while I’m hemming or buckle up, growl and sneer? It was just never the calm, wonderful end that I’d like for a project.

Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop
Image Source: The Sewing Workshop

The Hero of Our Story

True confession: Knit hems can be grizzly monsters. I’ve been known to leave the hem out of a knit t-shirt and just always tuck it in. No one knew – don’t judge. Until . . . . (can you hear the drumroll?) I went to a Sewing & Stitchery Expo class taught by the amazing Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop! Are you ready? Here’s the method I now use . . .

The 12 Step Solution to Fabulous Knit Hems

  1. Place your ready-to-hem project on your ironing board – single layer with the wrong side up.
    rolling out the fusible hem tape
  2. Roll off a length of the Hem Tape about the width of your ironing board. It tears easily, so you won’t need scissors. I find a shorter length much more manageable than rolling off enough for the entire hem.
    finger pressing the paper covered tape
  3. One side of your Hem Tape is sticky and the other side is covered in paper. Finger press the sticky side along the cut edge of your project hem.
  4. Pro Tip 1: Be careful not to have your tape past the cut edge. You don’t want to end up with fusey goo on your ironing board or iron. Keep it a hair’s width inside the cut edge just to be sure. (Yes, fusey goo is a technical term!)
  5. Pro Tip 2: Although knits do not ravel, I often serge the cut edge of my hem because I just like that finish. If you have serged your edge, you may want to place your hem tape just inside the serged edge. So that it is on the fabric, not the thread. The hem tape does not always play nicely with the thread and you may have trouble with it sticking.
  6. Carefully peel off the paper and discard it. Your hem will now have sticky tape facing you.
    turning up the hem
  7. Turn the hem up to the width that you want and finger press the now fusible hem edge. We’ll make it more permanent in a later step.
    sleeve hem turned up
  8. Move your project around your ironing board, so that you are working with a new section of unfused hem. Repeat Steps 3 – 6 and continue until you have fused the whole hem length.
  9. Turn your project right side out. Try on your top, dress, skirt, or whatever to be sure that you like the length. (If you are absolutely sure that the hem is the right length, then you can skip this step.)
  10. If the length isn’t what you wanted, go back to the ironing board, undo the hem and make it shorter or longer. You can do this because that magic little hem tape is repositionable!
    Using a pressing sheet with iron
  11. When you are sure that your hem is correct, head to your sewing machine and hem your project. If this makes you a little nervous, you can lightly steam the tape to make it more permanent before you stitch the hem. Use a pressing sheet if you want to be super sure about keeping that fusey goo off your iron.
  12. Now, listen carefully and look around. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, you are smiling and your hem looks fabulous, darling!!

Lite Steam a Seam 2 Hem Tape

Fusible Hem Tape Love

Linda Lee uses a different brand of hem tape than I do. There are a lot of similar 1/4″ double-sided fusible hem tapes available and you may already have a favorite. Make sure that it is repositionable and very lightweight. Try it on a scrap of knit fabric first, just to be sure it will work for this method.

I really, really love the Lite Steam a Seam 2 Hem Tape made by The Warm Company and I know if works beautifully for knit hems. So, that’s why I’m recommending it for you! I also love the fact that you get two 20 yard rolls of tape in each package for under $5.00.

Lite Steam a Seam 2 Hem Tape roll

For the Sewing With Knits class I taught at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo this year, I hemmed all 12 of my clothing pieces with just one of the 20 yard rolls. Unless you sew knits constantly and will go through a lot of it in the next year, one package will probably do. It does have a shelf life, so I recommend just getting one package at a time. Buy Lite Steam a Seam 2 Hem Tape from a locally-owned store if you can. Order it by clicking here, if you can’t.

Okay, you may now leave the room and go hem your knits!! Do you use this method? Or another one? Please share and let me know how it goes!

Annette signature

Moment of Further Truth:
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18 thoughts on “Hemming Knits Without a Struggle

  1. Hey Annette! Nice blog. When you stitch your knit hems to you use a coverstitch machine, a twin needle and/or stretch thread?

    1. Thanks, Claire! I don’t own a cover stitch machine and usually use a twin needle. But, now that we have Coats Eloflex Stretch Thread, I’ve been able to sew some really lovely single needle, straight stitch hems, too. Just depends on the garment and what look I’m after.

      1. Yes! The stretch thread is great and it will be a post on its own soon. Your dress is adorable!! I’ve seen so many dresses in the Octos, makes me wish I’d bought more.

  2. I’ve been doing this for years. I can’t remember where I first read it. Steam a seam 2 is good stuff, isn’t it? Maybe one day I’ll get a cover stitch machine.

    1. That’s great, Ginger! I’ve loved SS2 for years and can’t believe I didn’t know about this earlier. I’m sure glad I know now! Yes, Cover Stitch Machine is on my sewing bucket list. Do you think we could get a bulk deal?? 😀

  3. The only thing I would add (I always use tape as well – oftentimes I use SewKeys brand of 1″ tape) is to set my serger to gather (the feed differential) and slightly gather that bottom edge (I do this with woven hems too) so when I flip it up it’s just the right size or even if it’s too gathered it’s easy to pull out to fit perfectly 🙂

  4. Oh gosh I laughed out loud at the thinner thighs! If only 😉I’m going to have look for a similar product here in the UK as I am definitely a knit kinda girl too. Thanks for the info. 😊

    1. Wish I could guarantee the thinner thighs, but I’m glad I got you laughing. I bet you’ll find something in the UK and be a happy knit hemmer from now on!! Thanks for the fun comment!

  5. Totally agree about steam a seam 2….the best stuff. Really makes life easier for many different things. And I have to say, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your Octopus fabric/shirt.

    1. Thank you!! The Octos are in danger of being over worn – I love it, too. Sounds like we’re co-fans of SS2! Warm Co. is local in my area and I’m super impressed with all their products. Steam a Seam, Warm & Natural batting. All great stuff!

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