Shell Tuck Stitch Hems

Shell tuck stitch hems this week.  The shell tuck stitch makes a really decorative hem.  You could use it on a variety of garments: blouses, baby clothes, lingerie and accessories.  It  is a very versatile stitch and it’s easy to do!  The shell tuck stitch hem can be done on a sewing machine and it can also be done by hand.  The methods are very similar to the rolled hemming techniques from my last hemming post (you could almost imagine I planned that).  There are a few ways of sewing a shell tuck stitch hem by hand but I shall just show you my preferred one which is, I think, the most durable because you secure every third stitch.  Again, as with rolled hems, the shell tuck stitch works best on a finer fabric.

For both of these shell tuck stitch hemming techniques you need to match in your thread to your fabric to make them as inconspicuous as possible,  but I shall be using a contrasting colour so that you can see what I’m doing.

You need the same sewing machine presser foot that you would use for a rolled hem and it is basically the same technique, except that you need to increase the top tension on your machine so that the shells are pulled in tighter and you need to use a blind hem stitch; you might need to use a mirror blind stitch depending on your machine so that the zigzag part goes to the right.  You will probably need to experiment with the correct length and width for your stitch but it should be about 1.5 mm long and between 3.5 and 4.5 mm wide.  The needle needs to miss the actual hem both sides.  So, your straight stitches need to fall in the single layer of fabric to the left of your hem and the zigzag stitch in the middle needs to fall off the right hand side of your hem to pull in the shell shape .  If your machine won’t line up properly (like mine today; annoyingly my old machine does this really well, but this one does not want to play ball) you can sew the hem first with a long stitch then try to align the blind hemming stitch again. Afterwards remove the original hemming stitches.

For the hand version, you need to turn under a very small double fold about 6 mm deep and hold it with your left thumb and working from right to left (apologies if you are left handed).  Secure your thread to the lower edge of your hem and take a very tiny stitch from the fabric below it.  Insert the needle back into the hem in the same place it came out and push it along the fold and back out about half a centimetre along.  Take another tiny stitch from the fabric below, and again insert the needle back into the hem the same place it came out, push it along the fold and out again about half a centimetre along.

This time, taking your needle over the top, insert it into the back of the hem and out through the front, pulling the hem down into a scallop.  Repeat this stitch so that each scallop has two threads pulling the fabric down, and as you tighten it catch the thread with your needle to secure it (this is not the type of hem that you want to unravel).

You have now completed the first scallop or shell and you just need to repeat this all the way around your hem.

The machined version of the shell tuck stitch hem is more subtle but more uniform and very fast.  Obviously it would be better with a matching thread but I still think the stitches would show quite a lot.  But the hand sewn version I love.  I could work on uniformity!  But apart from that I do prefer the result to the machined one and I enjoy hand sewing a hem as well.  Now I just need to think of a project to use it on.

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