Rolled Hems

Knowing how to sew rolled hems either by hand or using a sewing machine are really useful techniques to learn.  In this tutorial I have included a machine sewing method and two hand sewn versions.

I finish the majority of my blouses, and skirt and dress linings with machine rolled hems.  This method produces a strong, even (but flat) hem.  You need a rolled hems presser foot attachment (you could always just double fold the very edge of your fabric and top sew it using an ordinary foot but this would be fiddly).

This works best on fairly thin material.  First, especially if you have used french seams like me, cut out some of the bulk from the bottom of each seam to enable it to fit into the rolled hems foot.  To get going, double fold a small section of very tiny hem, begin sewing a small straight stitch and then lift your fabric into the trumpet shaped part of your rolled hems foot.  Keep feeding it in as you sew and the machine will automatically fold and hem at the same time.  This is so quick and easy to do.  If you want a rounder machine rolled hem try using a zigzag stitch.  I haven’t used this method because I feel the stitches would be too visible for me.  (That’s just me.)

At school I was taught how to sew rolled hems by hand.  This is my preferred method to use on garments that have visible hems such as a blouse.  This produces a very neat, polished hem.  You could use a whip stitch with this one but the stitches would show.

(Working from right to left.)  Double fold a tiny hem.  Insert your needle into this (with a knot in your thread), pick up a thread or two under the hem and take a stitch from the hem itself.  Repeat this stitch whilst rolling the hem with your thumb.  This really is a very effective technique.  Apparently, my old sewing teacher knew her stuff.

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This is the second technique that I discovered a couple of years ago.  This is the method to use on a scarf or hanky.  It creates an extremely tiny, ’round’ hem.  I don’t feel it is suitable for use on a top due to the distance between the stitches leaving it a less strong, less even hem.  However, that does also make it more decorative for a scarf or hanky.

(Working from right to left.)  Fold a tiny hem (just once, not a double fold) and insert your needle and knotted thread into it.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of the (single) fold, put your needle into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm along the fold.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of your hem, insert back into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm further along the fold.  Repeat for about five stitches, then pull the thread tight.  This pulls the hem into a small round roll.

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This method does make an impressively tiny, neat hem.

Knitting Baby Booties for a Neighbour.

One of my neighbours is expecting a baby soon and I thought that was a good excuse to knit some more booties.  I spotted this book while looking for ideas, ‘Knitted Booties for Tiny Feet by Catherine Boquerel.  

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I just love the designs in this book.  The reviews are not good as, apparently, the instructions have a lot of errors (probably due to the translation from French to English) but I found a link for the Knitted Booties Errata so decided it was worth a shot anyway.  I particularly like the look of the booties on the front and they’re the ones I want to knit in some baby merino I have had in my stash for some time.

Although the book should only take a few days to arrive (and I still have a lot of WIP’s that really need sorting), once I had thought of knitting baby booties, everything else was discarded (there is a possibility that I am just avoiding finishing the jumper I have started knitting – it is taking forever)  and I started looking for a pattern for baby ballet pumps.   There are quite a few available but none to my taste.  So, I made some up.  I really need to work on my maths skills.  I was sure they were right.  I checked them more than once.  Then I tested them.  So many mistakes.  But now they are correct and the patterns are in my shop.

Both these baby booties patterns are seamless and neither require stitches to be picked up.   Where possible, I always avoid seams in knitting, and picking up stitches – which really is not difficult, it’s just the thought of it.

The first pair ‘Haf’ (‘Summer’ in Cornish) is knitted in garter stitch and has a knitted I-cord tie to help it stay on.  I was going to put in an optional eyelet row for this in case it was difficult to insert the tie between the stitches, but I had no problems doing that and I felt the tie would stay in much better than if it was threaded through eyelets.

The second pair ‘Kyfvewy’ (‘Party’ in Cornish; they are ever so slightly over-the-top!) is knitted in stockinette stitch, has a diagonal button loop stretching from near the heel, and a flower on the front.  Again, other than attaching the button and flower, and weaving in the ends, there is no sewing involved; the whole thing, including the button loop is knitted in one piece.  The green and pink ones are quite pretty but not exactly as I had planned (but hopefully my neighbour will like them) , so I have altered the pattern slightly and I am happy with the finished result.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Tea Leaves Cardigan

I have knitted quite a few cardigans recently. I made this cardigan a few months ago from a beautiful pale pink soft merino which has a reputation for stretching in the wash.  I actually put this cardigan in the washing machine and I’ve not had any problems.  My alpaca and merino mix cardigans get hand washed, but the merino is fine in the machine as long as you put it in a net bag to keep it confined.

Melissa LaBarre’s Tea Leaves Cardigan is a really simple pattern suitable for a beginner knitter.  You do have a lot of stitches on the needle when doing the yoke but you only need to know a few basic stitches and techniques.  I could happily knit this one with lots going on around me without the worry of losing concentration and going wrong (I usually need complete silence when I’m knitting).  This could be my go to cardigan pattern when I don’t want anything too involved!  A lot of other people feel the same way.  More than two and a half thousand people have posted their copies of this cardigan on Ravelry.

There was a similar pattern on Ravelry for a short sleeved jumper called Ruched Yoke Tee by AnneLena Mattison which is knitted in a double knit yarn.  I really liked the keyhole at the neckline but I didn’t want a short sleeved version as I have lots of T-shirts and can’t be bothered to knit one.  But I really like that keyhole and this pattern is easy to knit like the Tea Leaves Cardigan so I have started knitting one in a pale pink cotton merino, but with three quarter length sleeves.  I usually only knit cardigans; I can’t remember the last time I knitted a jumper.  It is taking forever.  It shouldn’t be.  It is knitted in the round using stockinette stitch, so I just have to keep knitting.  No purling.  But it’s still very slow going (I do realize that’s only me as nearly everyone else on Ravelry has said it was a quick knit for them) and I keep getting side tracked with other projects like darted tops and baby booties patterns.  I really have to finish it.  Just one more waist decrease, then increasing again for the hips.  The worrying thing is that my next planned project is in 4 ply.  Perhaps I should put that off for a while and do a quick aran knit first.  Or perhaps I should stop thinking about what else I want to knit and just finish this one!

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Solar Dyeing Results

So, the moment of truth.  A whole month has passed since putting my solar dye jars out in the sun and at last I can find out what, if anything, has happened to my fabric.

A couple of days in: To start with the spinach dye smelt like farmyard manure, so I thought it was probably best not to put my lovely fabric in it, so discarded that solution.  Fortunately my fennel plant had grown enough to harvest some leaves.  I just put them in a net bag on top of the sea water and soya mordanted fabric in a jar and added water.  Even the next day I could see the fabric had turned to a lovely pale green/ yellow – perfect.  The avocado one has gone a peachy colour – not quite the ‘flesh pink’ promised.  The plum skin dye has already turned the fabric a gorgeous dusky pink.  I hope that lasts and I’m not really sure about the purple onion skins in the last jar.  The water is a red colour, but the fabric looks taupe?  The onion skins were the replacement for the black beans.  I researched them some more and discovered that they prefer a cold dyeing process.  So, I put some more beans in a large dye pot with cold water and left it for 24 hours before removing the beans (which were in a net bag) and adding some fabric which had had an alum and soda crystal mordant the previous day.  I left this for another 24 hours.  After a few hours it turned a beautiful mauve (gorgeous and I probably should have removed it at this point) but when I checked again the following morning hoping it would be more intense, it had turned a vibrant blue, still lovely but not what I wanted, so I added bicarbonate of soda and it changed to a sage green.  Very pleased with that.  I know it looks grey in the pictures but it is sage green.  Actually, in these pictures the blue does look really nice.

So, a month on:

The jars all look lovely.

I hung all the fabrics up to dry in the shade and decided not to wash them until after they have been stored for a few months.  The first jar I emptied was the purple onion skins – a very strong onion smell!  I’m not sure what you would call the colour, (an orangey brown?) but I like it.  I painted a pattern with an egg resist onto this fabric before it was dyed and this shows up as a dark brown.  It will be interesting to see how this alters when the fabric is washed.

The avocado dyed fabric, which also had an egg resist painted on came out a lovely pink colour with dark pink flowers and it didn’t smell too bad.  The third one, the plum skins, was the slightly disappointing one.  It had faded a bit from when I last checked it and was even paler than the avocado dyed fabric, but was still pretty and it had a really lovely plum smell.  Now, for the fennel.  Maybe if I had added more fennel foliage it would have turned out  with more of a green tinge, as it had appeared after the first day in the sun.  As it is, it came out pale yellow and slightly mottled.  I will definitely use this fabric if I can get rid of the aroma of fennel combined with eau de farmyard manure!!  I think I might need to store it separately from my other fabrics.




Lettuce Hem and Invisible Lock Stitch Hem

Everyone needs a reliable hand stitch for hemming.  This is the one I use the most.  It is resilient, as it is a catch stitch so each stitch is locked into place and it has the added bonus of being virtually invisible from the front of the garment.

To make the stitches in this hem as hidden as possible you need to remember three things:

  • Match your thread to your fabric.
  • Only pick up one or two threads with your needle.
  • Make sure your needle is parallel with the fabric grain.  This ensures your thread is laying next to the thickest thread in the weave of the fabric, which will disguise it.

First, either finish the raw edge, fold and press the hem or, as I do, double fold and press the hem.  Finishing and folding the hem once will produce a more inconspicuous hem.  However, I still prefer to not have any visible stitches if possible and I like a hem to have a good weight.  Then fold the hem back so that you can just see the edge and pin in place.

Working from left to right, attach your thread to the hem allowance, then take a smallish stitch from the hem allowance to the right of this.  Start to pull the thread through, catching the thread as you do so.  Then repeat to the right of that stitch.  As an experiment I did the first half of my hem in a matching cream thread and the second half in a bright red to stand out.

When the fabric was turned to the right side, I could not see the cream stitches at all and I could just make out one of the red ones, and on the reverse of the fabric the stitches are completely hidden.  This really is my favourite hemming technique.

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The machine stitched hem I have chosen this week is the lettuce hem.   This is really just an excuse to play around with this hem as I have been dying to use this technique for years but haven’t had a reason.  It would be useful for a very full fifties style skirt or underskirt, or a child’s party dress or a fancy dress outfit.  I am demonstrating two versions.  The first one is the fun one using fishing line.  (Yes, actual fishing line from an angling shop.)  The second version has been done accidentally a million times while machine rolling a hem using delicate or slightly stretchy fabric!

Fold a small hem over some fishing wire and using a zigzag stitch sew over the edge of the fabric sandwiching the fishing wire.  I’ve found the way that works best for me is to hold the threads fairly taught at the back.  Trim away the excess hem (a bit more carefully than I have done) et voila, a super curly hem.

The second one is basically the same technique without the fishing wire, but you need to make sure you hold onto those threads and keep them very taught, exactly what I said not to do in my stretch fabric post as it causes any delicate, knit or stretch fabric to stretch and pucker.  In this instance that is the look we’re going for.  It produces a much more subtle, delicate effect than the fishing wire lettuce hem, suitable for an evening dress or nightie.

Next week I will be revealing the results of the solar dying!