How to Sew a Rolled Hem by Hand – Rolled Hem Tutorial

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Rolled hems are so delicate and neat and I adore the way they look. However, I don’t think I have ever been 100% happy with how they turn out on a sewing machine. Sewing a rolled hem by hand is surprisingly simple and gives such a chic finish. It is perfect for finishing those special, slippery fabrics like silk and chiffon. This tutorial will show you how to master this couture sewing technique.

Rolled Hem by Hand Video Tutorial

If you would rather watch than read I have a tutorial over on my Youtube channel. Or you can watch the video below.

Hand Rolled Hem Tutorial

To begin the rolled hem

I am using this lightweight cotton lawn for this sample. When preparing to sew make sure that the edge you want to hem is at the top of your work, facing away from your body, with the wrong side facing up.

Square of white striped cotton lawn

Thread the Needle

Cue my usual advice about needle threading. Remember to cut your thread after you have threaded the needle, and making sure the thread is no longer than the distance from your wrist to your elbow.

Threading the needle with cream thread

Prepare the hem edge

Working from right to left, begin rolling the hem between your fingers so that you get a single fold as narrow as possible. Crease it in place with your fingers and fasten on your thread. 

Rolling the hem edge between fingers

Starting off the thread

This is the only type of hem where I start my thread in the main body of the garment and NOT the folded fabric of the hem as I find it produces a neater less bulky hem. As usual I work three back stitches on top of each other securing my thread without a knot. 

Starting off the thread

Feel free to start off your thread using your preferred method.

Begin working the stitch

The action of working this stitch will complete the second hem fold as we go creating a narrow double fold. 

To achieve this we make our first stitch through the very edge of the hem fold from front to back and pull the thread loosely through.

First stitch through the folded hem edge


We then bring the thread back to the side of the fabric facing us passing the thread over the folded edge.

We take our next very small stitch horizontally from the fabric of the garment. 

Second stitch horizontally from the fabric of the garment

At this point you don’t want to pull your thread tight, you want to be able to see the zig zag of the stitches as you work them.

The visible zig zag of the stitch

Continuing working in this way

Repeat these steps again. Push the needle through the hem fold from front to back, bring the needle and thread back to the front of the fabric and take a small horizontal stitch from the garment and pull the thread loosely though.

Repeating the steps for the second time

Continue to roll the edge of the hem with your thumb as you move along the hem.

Work another stitch in this way. Push the needle through the edge of the hem from front to back, bring the needle back to the front and take a small horizontal stitch from the fabric of the garment. 

Rolling the edge with thumb for third stitch

At this point your stitches should look like this; three small zig zags. You can see how the thread is worked over the very edge of the fold with each stitch.

The three zig zag stitches

Rolling the hem

And now the magic moment happens. 

Rolling the hem by pulling the thread

We pull our thread tight and the hem folds over on itself creating a very neat narrow rolled hem. I crease the hem in place with my thumbnail to create a crisp edge.

Creasing the rolled edge in place

Keep stitching

We then carry on with our stitches in the same way, pushing the needle through the single fold of the part of the hem we haven’t stitched yet, bringing the needle over and forward to take a horizontal stitch from the garment and pulling the thread loosely through. 

Repeating the steps again

I suggest working the stitches in batches of approximately three to five before pulling the thread tight to create the rolled hem. You don’t want to work too many stitches before pulling the thread as this may result in uneven tension across the hem.

Batches of 3 to 5 stitches

Pull the thread nice and tight for a neat and even roll.

Pulling the thread tight for a neat hem

Finishing off

And now I finish off my thread in the same way I started, by working three back stitches on top of each other.

Finish off the thread


The Finished Rolled Hem

From the right side you should only see the very small horizontal stitches, and the folded part of the hem should be very neat and narrow.

I really love the way this hem looks. Although it can take a long time to complete the full width of a skirt hem, this couture technique really adds something special to a garment.

Rolled hem from the right side

If you are looking for a different type of hem I have slip stitch, herringbone stitch and slant hemming stitch tutorials elsewhere on my blog. Just click the links to be taken to those!

In this series of sewing tutorials I am thinking of moving away from hems and on to other areas. Is there anything that you would like to see a tutorial on? Let me know in the comments.

Claude x