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Tammy Top Sew-A-Long: Making a Very Narrow Rolled Hem by Machine

Because the Tammy Top is made with lightweight, floaty fabrics she begs for a very narrow or serged, hem. I thought it might be helpful to share with you how I approach this challenge. I will do this in two parts, the first being the very narrow rolled hem. The serged hem will follow in another blog soon.

I know you’ve seen them – the very narrow hems in ready-to-wear, and perhaps you’ve been thinking, “they must have a special machine for that”, or otherwise have experts specializing in that step. And you would be right; they do. But I would like to tell you that you can do it, and without a rolled hem foot or single needle plate successfully, and in just a few steps. Now I know you are going to scroll down to see how many steps are shown here and gasp, but I promise you it’s not that hard! I’ve used a lot of wording in order to be clear. But, once you give it a try, you will understand, and I’m confident you will be able to repeat it on your own. So, here we go!

How to make a very narrow rolled hem by machine.

Tools Needed:
  • An iron and ironing board
  • 1 Can of spray starch (I use Faultless brand)
  • A size 60 or 70 needle
  • A standard sewing machine
  • A walking foot, if you have one, otherwise a standard will work too
  • A good pair of sharp scissors are essential, appliqué scissors if you have them, otherwise just make sure your scissors are sharp
  1. Place pattern piece, with paper pattern still attached, on your ironing board.
  2. Position the piece so that the hem is in a good place for you to press without moving it once the paper pattern is removed.
    • Carefully remove the paper pattern without moving the fabric piece. If you accidentally move it don’t panic, just carefully put it back in the right shape by using your paper pattern as your guide.
  3. Spray the hem edge narrowly with canned spray starch. You should test a scrap of fabric first to be sure no bleeding or staining occurs with your fabric.
  4. Press the edge to set the starch. (Don’t iron – pressing is a process of lifting the iron on and off of the fabric without sliding it back and forth)
  5. Insert the correct needle in your machine for the fabric you are sewing. In general, for all fabrics intended for the Tammy Top, you should be using a 60 or 70, nothing larger.
  6. Set your stitch length between 1.8 and 2.0 and reduce your tension to about 3.0 (Do a test on the scrap you spray starched earlier to be sure).
  7. Pull out about 3” – 4” of thread tails, from the upper and bobbin threads, towards the back of the presser foot.
  8. Position the raw edge of the hem so that you will start your stitch about ¼’ from the leading edge and 3/8” from the hem edge (do not begin the stitching at the very end of your piece). Doing this prevents the fabric from being pushed down into the bobbin case by the needle. Make sure you have a 3”-4” tail of both bobbin and upper threads to hold onto behind the presser foot.
  9. While holding onto the thread tails, release the presser foot and hand crank the needle to the down position. Do not back stitch. Hold onto the threads while you sew until you are able to hold onto the stitched line instead. Hold onto the stitching line the entire time you are sewing. This keeps even tension and also helps you steer the fabric in a very straight, controlled line. Continue stitching a straight line 3/8” from the hem, proceeding slowly and cautiously until you reach a speed that is comfortable for you.
    • Once you reach the end, pull the piece out from under the presser foot leaving a 3”-4” thread tail on both the piece and the machine.
  10. Fold the hem edge along the 3/8” stitching line to the wrong side and press in place (the stitched line should appear just barely along the folded edge on the wrong side).
    • Your pressed fold should look like this:
  11. Place the folded hem edge under the presser foot so that the needle pierces the fabric 1/4” from the leading edge and as close to the fold as possible.
    • Thread tails:
    • Folded edge position:
    • Needle position:
  12. Begin sewing again as you did in steps 8 & 9, only this time stitch very close to the folded edge (not 3/8”).
    • If you get off the edge while sewing, stop immediately, lift the presser foot and carefully (without pulling out more thread from the bobbin) reposition the fabric edge and restart where you went off. Do not cut the thread; just keep going.
    • When you reach the end of the stitching line, leave thread tails as you did earlier in step 9.
  13. Press the stitching in place and then trim off the excess very close to the second stitching line. Use appliqué scissors if you have them. Be very careful not to cut through to the front of the piece.
    • Trimming off excess:
  14. Fold trimmed edge over along stitching line to wrong side and press.
    • Folded and pressed hem:                                  
  15. Position the newly folded edge under the presser foot again, 1/4” from the leading edge and so the needle will just pierce the hem edge of the fold. Hold onto the tails as in previous steps and stitch the entire length one last time.
    • Proper placement under presser foot:
  16. Remove the piece from the machine and trim all thread tails.
  17. Press the hem in place.
    • Finished narrow hem:

That’s all there is to it!! I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial on how to make a very narrow rolled hem by machine. This technique is useful for many other sewing projects such as finishing the edges of scarves, skirts, dresses and blouses. I do hope you give it a try on the new Tammy Top, and when you do, please remember to send us images of your work, or post them on Instagram using #ZZDTammyTop. We would love the opportunity to share what you’ve done on our social media.

And, if you haven’t purchased Tammy yet, you can do so at my Etsy shop.

Stay tuned for part two, the narrow serged hem, coming soon!

Happy Sewing!!

Christine Groom


ZigZag Designs