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Herringbone stitch hems are mostly used for heavy weight fabrics like wool. It is also the most common type of stitch used to hem trousers. In this tutorial I will walk you through how to master a herringbone stitch and how to hem wool fabrics.
Herringbone Stitch Video
You can watch this video tutorial or scroll down for illustrated instructions.
Herringbone Stitch Tutorial
Preparing the hem
For this example I am using this twill checked wool. It does’t have a right or a wrong side, but if your fabric does make sure to be working from the WRONG side of the garment.
To begin fold the raw edge up ½ an inch and pin in place. Due to the thickness of this fabric it is essential to use pins as the fabric will not hold a crease.
Continue folding and pinning the length of the hem, making sure to leave enough room between pins to be able to press the hem.
Pressing the hem
Select the wool setting on your iron and carefully press the ½ inch fold in place avoiding the pins and removing them as you go.
Next fold the hem for a second time so that it is 1 inch wide. As this fabric is so thick having a narrower first fold reduces bulk in the hem meaning it will lie flat.
Pin this fold in place the entire length of the hem just like the previous fold.
Pressing the second fold
Then iron this fold in place, removing the pins as you go.
Thread the needle
For this example I am using a contrasting thread so that you can see what I am doing but I recommend that you use a thread that matches the colour of your fabric.
Remember to thread your needle before you cut the thread from the reel. You want your thread to be approximately the length from your wrist to your elbow. This will help stop the thread twisting and knotting.
A herringbone hem is different from most hand stitches in that it is worked from left to right.
And so starting from the left we begin the stitch my securing the thread only in the folded fabric of the hem not the main part of the garment. Take a small stitch leaving a small tail of thread.
Then work another stitch on top of the last one and use your thumbnail to hold the tail of thread whilst pulling the stitch tight.
Now work one more stitch on top of the previous two and the thread should be nice and secure. Then carefully trim the tail of thread so that it doesn’t get it the way.
Working the herringbone stitch
Although we are working from left to right, the stitches are still worked with the needle facing to the right.
Firstly, take a small stitch from the main fabric of the garment about a thumbs width from the starting point. Notice the long, diagonal stitch that joins the hem to the garment.
Then cross the thread over this diagonal stitch and work the next small stitch with the needle pointing back the way you have come in the folded fabric of the hem.
This is how we create the criss cross effect of the herringbone stitch.
Pull the threads taut but not too tight as you want there to still be a little bit of movement in the hem.
From the right side
From the right side all you should be able to see is a small stitch like this one.
Continue working the herringbone stitch.
Repeat this process for the next stitch. Crossing the thread over the long diagonal stitch back up to take a small stitch from the main garment with the needle pointing to the left.
And then take another small stitch from the fabric of the hem, crossing the thread over the diagonal of the previous stitch.
Continue working in this way until you have completed the length of your hem.
You can see how I use the width of my thumb as a guide for the distance between the stitches. That way I can keep my stitches relatively even.
Once I get to the end of my hem, I like to take one last stitch from the fabric of the garment before I finish off my thread as this helps to keep the hem secure.
Finish the thread in the same way you started off, by working three back stitches on top of each other in the folded fabric of the hem.
Then cut the thread, and the hem is complete.
The Completed Herringbone Stitch Hem
Here you can see the finished effect of the herringbone stitch from the wrong side. The effect of those crosses is to smooth out the thick bulk of the three layers of wool so that you don’t get a harsh line from the right side.
Even with my bright yellow thread it’s difficult to see this stitch from the right side as the stitches are so small.
The other benefit of the herringbone stitch is the amount of movement it gives to the hem. This is perfect for heavy fabrics as it distributes the weight of the hem more evenly preventing creases and puckers.
I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you are looking for a tutorial for how to hem dresses or skirts I have a slip stitch tutorial which you can find here.
If you’re interested in more sewing videos you can subscribe to my Youtube channel. I am hoping to make lots more videos this year so stay tuned.