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Sew News
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Fancy Footwork:
Rolled Hemmer

     Part 1 of a series
     Carola Russell

Rolled-hem feet are designed to create very narrow hems--much narrower than you could achieve by manually turning, pressing and stitching. You'll be impressed with the perfect tiny hems this specialty foot can stitch on ruffles, napkins, tablecloths, linings and scarves.

Depending on the brand, rolled-hem feet come in several sizes, creating hems from 1mm to 6mm wide. The finished hem width is directly related to the size of the front scroll and the groove on the foot underside.

The Right Choices

Rolled-hem feet are designed for fine to mediumweight fabrics such as cotton batiste, broadcloth and handkerchief linen. If the fabric is too heavy it won't fit or feed evenly through the foot scroll.

  • Choose a needle appropriate for the fabric-usually a size 70/10 or 80/12-- the finer the fabric the smaller the needle. Keep in mind that the needle is penetrating three fabric layers in roll-edge hemming. A needle that's too large will push the fabric down into the machine throatplate and delicate fabrics may jam. Always insert a new needle before hemming.

  • Choose good quality thread, either cotton-wrapped polyester or a fine cotton embroidery thread for best results.


  • Clean and oil the sewing machine (blot away excess oil). Note: Consult your manual; some machines don't require lubrication.

  • Attach the roIled-hem foot.

  • Set the tension at the normal straight stitch setting.

  • Select a stitch length of eight to 12 stitches per inch-use the shorter stitch length for finer fabric and the longer stitch length for heavier fabric. Use a straight stitch or narrow zigzag setting.

  • It's very important to have a neat fabric edge with no loose threads-rotary cutting gives a smooth cut edge. Note. It's easier to make a rolled hem on a straight-grain edge than a bias cut edge.


  • Fold the fabric twice to make the smallest hem possible and use a pin to hold it in place. The folded hem should be approximately the same size as the groove on the foot underside.

  • With the fabric wrong side up and the hem on the right and fabric bulk on the left, place the pre-folded hem under the rolled hem foot directly below the scroll.
  • Turn the sewing machine flywheel (hand wheel) to sink the needle into the folded hem. With the needle in the hem, lift the presser foot and remove the pin (1).

  • With the presser foot up and the needle in the fabric, pull the folded edge of the fabric into the scroll. Lower the presser foot. With the thread tail in your left hand and the fabric edge in your right hand, hold the fabric taut in front of and behind the foot as you sew (2). Use your right hand to guide the fabric edge into the scroll, with your right index finger slightly rolling the fabric around your right thumb. This helps the fabric roll into the scroll as it enters the foot. Your left hand will keep the fabric moving evenly as it feeds through the machine.

    Low Shank High Shank The rolled hem foot is an optional accessory for many sewing machines. If a branded foot isn't available for your model, purchase a generic foot in a comparable shank length-either high or low. Check the machine manual or contact your dealer for information.

    Tips for Success

    Exactly the right amount of fabric must be fed into the hemmer scroll and this requires practice. If not enough fabric is fed into the scroll, the hem will fold only once and the raw edge will show.

    If too much fabric is fed into the scroll, excess fabric will peek out of the rolled edge.

    If the hemming suddenly becomes unsatisfactory, stop. Unpick the errant stitching and reposition the rolled hem under the presser foot. Start sewing again starting on the last ½" of the hem. As you near the unstitched portion, stop with the needle down. Lift the presser foot and push the fabric edge back into the foot scroll. Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.

    Getting the first stitches at the fabric edge to be perfect can be difficult because the feed dogs are only partially covered by the fabric and may have a hard time grabbing as you begin to stitch. To solve this problem, pin a small piece of tear-away stabilizer under the fabric (3). The stabilizer allows you to grip the fabric while aiding the feed dogs during the first 1" or so of stitching.

    Mitered Rolled-hem Corners

    At the first corner, turn under the point diagonally ¼" and stitch close to the fold (4). Trim the corner hem area close to the stitching (5). Start the rolled hem as described above, using a piece of tearaway stabilizer to begin (6). Stitch all the way to the end of the first side. Start the next side the same way as the first, sewing each side separately. To finish off the thread ends, tie the threads and weave them back into the hem.


    The rolled hemmer's scroll and the underside groove are excellent guides for couching decorative threads (7).

  • Use regular sewing thread in the bobbin and monofilarnent thread in the needle.
  • Select a narrow- to medium-width zigzag, wide enough to catch and stitch down the couched thread. Feed the decorative thread into the scroll and stitch.

  • To couch several smaller threads, twist them together before they enter the scroll. Use your left hand to guide the fabric and your right hand to keep the couching threads feeding straight into the scroll.

  • To create a meandering pattern, first stitch from fabric edge to fabric edge moving the fabric from side to side. Stop with the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric and stitch across the fabric again. Keep stitching in this manner to create the desired look.

    Carola Russell is an independent sewing, embroidery and serger educator. She teaches at sewing shows, sewing machine dealerships, retreats and private parties. For more information, visit www.carola.ca.

    Copyright © 2003
    All rights reserved
    Sew News
    Edited 11/11/2015 Debbie Colgrove

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