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An overcast hem uses a slant hemming stitch. The words used to describe this type of stitch are all kinds of confusing. But whatever you choose to call it this is a really quick, easy and secure way to hem a garment.
Slant Hemming Stitch Video
This tutorial is also available in video form on my YouTube channel. If you prefer a written guide scroll down for the illustrated tutorial.
Overcast Hem – Slant Hemming Stitch Tutorial
Preparing the Hem
I am using a linen for this sample as its loose weave means it frays easily and so is perfect for an overcast hem. The way that the thread is worked over the edge of the hem with the slant hemming stitch helps to stop fraying.
I like to use this stitch for narrow hems that need to be held firmly in place and so I am making my first hem fold only ¼ of an inch wide.
I use my fingernail to press the fold in place as linen holds creases REALLY well. I make the ¼ inch fold all along my hem creasing it in place as I go.
Once I reach the end of my hem I go back and crease the hem again with my thumbnails to make sure it stays in place.
For my second fold I am turning the hem up another ¼ of an inch, using my existing fold as a guide.
I then pin the double fold in place and continue along the length of my hem.
Make sure to fold the hem precisely and tightly so that the second fold is exactly the same width as the first one. Keep finger pressing the hem to make sure it is nice and secure as well as pinning it in place.
Pressing the hem
Then carefully press the hem in place with the iron, removing the pins as I go.
Threading the needle
I am using this bright ‘Flame’ colour so that you can see what I am doing but I recommend using a thread that matches your fabric.
Make sure to thread your needle before cutting the thread. You want your thread to be no longer than the distance from your wrist to your elbow. Both these things should help to stop your thread getting tangled.
To begin sewing we work three small back stitches on top of each other being careful to only catch the fabric of the hem and not the actual garment. Work a small stitch and pull the thread through almost to the end, leaving a small tail of thread.
Then, work another stitch in exactly the same place, I use my thumbnail to stop the thread from the previous stitch being pulled out.
Work another stitch in exactly the same place and this secures the thread without the need for a knot.
Working the stitch
To begin, catch a few threads of the fabric of the main garment. Then with this stitch still on the needle bring the needle out towards you through the fold of the hem, keeping the needle at a slight angle and then pull the thread tight.
For the next stitch, move along the hem about ½ a cm and repeat the previous steps.
Take a few threads from the main fabric of the garment and then bring the needle down through the folded fabric of the hem at a slight diagonal angle.
From the right side
This should produce tiny, almost invisible stitch on the right side.
Continue working the stitch
Keep working the stitch in the same way. Take a few threads from the main fabric, and keeping the needle on the diagonal bring the needle out through the edge of the hem.
Notice how we are moving along the hem about ½ a cm each time? This is how you create those long diagonal stitches on the wrong side that help to keep the hem flat.
It may also help to think about this stitch as being worked in a downwards motion with the needle pointing towards you.
Make sure to pull your thread tight as you work to keep the hem held firmly in place.
You can see how those diagonal stitches pass over the folded hem edge keeping it nice and flat.
Once I reach the end of my hem I finish off my thread in the same way that I started off; by working three small back stitches on top of each other.
The Finished Overcast Hem
And there we have our completed overcast hem. You can see just how tight and secure this stitch is. And it is barely visible from the right side of the fabric.
This type of hem is great for historical sewing projects. I have seen lots of examples of linen shifts that use this stitch as a hem and a seam finish. It can also be used in place of a slip stitch to hand finish cuffs and waistbands.
I am really enjoy making this little sewing basics series. If you have any request for tutorials you would like to see let me know in the comments.
If you missed my last post about herringbone hems you can find that here.