While hemming exists in both sewing and metalworking, the purpose of this article is to teach you about the former and its relation to garments and clothing. A hem is simply a part of the fabric or material used, folded over its own edge in order to prevent the fabric from unraveling. It also looks nice. While hemming is a part in the process of finishing a garment, it is also used in re-sizing clothes; it’s easy to shorten clothing that’s too long and still be able to let it out later on.
As textiles can unravel and split, hemming can be important to preserve an edge as well as reinforce it. Additionally hemming is used to hide raw edges in addition to being able to shorten a length of fabric used in clothing. There are many ways and techniques to hem, some depend on preference, some are better suited to different materials and purposes. Some hems may appear different in appearance and they can feature varying amounts of complexity. All hemming techniques share a common principle; folding or rolling an edge inwards and stitching (or sewing) it shut. Even metal hems are the same in that they are simply an edge that’s folded over on itself. You can essentially hem two items together in a similar method by rolling surfaces inwards, but this is distinguished as a seam.
The diagram above illustrates the 3 most popular kinds of hems used in clothing; a simple hem, a blind hem and a slip stitch. While the simple hem is truly the most simple, it may show the stitching more than desired aesthetically. A blind hem helps reduce the visible amount of stitching while a slip stitch hides as much of the stitching as possible.
While hemming is usually used for aesthetic or sizing purposes, it serves very practical uses in that it can dramatically increase the lifetime of clothing by preserving their edges. Without a proper hem, edges can become frayed and unravel. Over time, an edge without hemming will wear out and compromise the integrity of an entire piece of fabric, possibly destroying an entire piece of clothing.
Mastering the hem can take time, practice and patience. You will find what works best for your intended purpose or material as you go. If you simply need to hide or reinforce an edge of material, a simple hem will always do the trick. If you care about how things look; experiment with blind hems, slip stitches or variations of both in order to achieve the appearance that you want.