Friday, May 5, 2017

Taming Towel Hems

A few sewing techniques that aren't common knowledge can make a difference in how hems on towels turn out.  After taking so much time designing a beautiful towel, the goal is to have a hem that is equally attractive.

The techniques I use avoid some common complaints such as flared hems, rippling hems, and weft threads unraveling or poking out from the ends of the hems.

The first thing I do is serge apart my group of towels before wet finishing, leaving a thread tail of about 1 1/2" - 2" at each end. Serger chains tend to unravel, so an overhand knot on the chain somewhere will allow the chain to stay intact during wet finishing.  Many of the machine stitches on a sewing machine will work also if a serger isn't available, but the ends should be very secure so the weft doesn't unravel.

Wet finish using standard instructions for your yarn type. Dry and steam press.
 I turn the hem while doing my heavy steam pressing.  Don't let the hem area flare out.  The best time to control flaring is with pressing during wet finishing.  That is the press that will set the threads into memory.  If they are allowed to flare at this point, it is almost impossible to correct it later.

Pull the tail onto the first hem crease, pulling a tiny corner of the towel into the hem.
Fold up the next fold, enclosing the tail and corner. There shouldn't be anything sticking out. Pin if necessary to keep control. The top and bottom layer should be aligned.

Pick a thread color that is the least conspicuous when placed across the cloth and thread the sewing machine.
Starting at the top corner, one warp thread in from the hem edge, put the needle down through the layers and check the alignment again at the edge.

Do not sew over pins, unless you like to fix snagged warp or weft threads, purchase new needles or to pay for your machine to be timed again.

Stitch to the corner and reverse back to the start point, leaving the needle in the down position. Raise the foot and pivot to start sewing across the hem.
If you look carefully at the photo, you can see a little ripple of fabric in front of my finger. (Clicking on the photo should enlarge it.)  This is an easing technique used in the sewing industry. The little ripple is pushed toward the foot as the hem is sewn. It actually eases a tiny amount more fabric under the foot than the feed dogs are pulling and keeps the hem from flaring. Don't ever pull on the hem while sewing.

If you don't have a lot of control of your machine speed, you may want to use something other than your finger to do the pushing. Pierced fingertips will leave blood on your pretty towel!

Remove pins before you get to them, keeping stripes or pattern aligned until the other end of the hem is reached.

As you get close to the end, the beginning process will be repeated.  If you didn't turn in the other chain and tiny corner when turning up the hem, do so now.

When you reach the end, put the needle down one thread from the edge, pivot, align the edge and sew to the bottom corner, and reverse to the top of the hem.


  1. Thank you! There is information here that is new to me!

  2. Thanks Jenny. Just finished my first set of towels and this will definitely help on the next set.

  3. Thank you for the info on hemming towels. I wished I had seen it yesterday when I hemmed my very first ones (flared hems LOL).