Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Renovating My Sheer 1795 Morning Dress: Rolled Hem on the Sleeves

Rolled hem on the sheer dress sleeve
It took only a moment's thought to realize that only a rolled hem would give me as delicate a look as I wanted on the sleeves. A folded and stitched hem couldn't help but be 1/4" inch wide...I wanted something lighter, floatier.

Then too, the idea of pinning such fray-prone, distortion-prone fabric as this voile and hemming it gave me the ultra-willies.

So a rolled hem it was, and I am very pleased indeed with the results. They are not ultra-perfectio, for I note a few spots where the hem is a little heavier than others, but in general...happy!

For those of you who shy away from them, I cannot claim them to be streaky fast to create, but they are faster than stroked gathers. Rolled hems are great for gauzy fabric because the needle passes through so easily, with almost no effort. Ah, kind to sore fingers. Plus, you don't need to fiddle with setting a hem, with pins, or any other such time-stealing nonsense.

Another view. See how translucent the fabric is,
and how the hem is delicate?
Here is how I managed them, with some tips that may help those of you who have attempted them before but became disgusted by them.

First, the tips:
  • Before hemming, starch the fabric heavily. This sets the raw edge so it resists fraying beautifully, and it's easy to finger press a 1/16" to 1/8" single-turned hem...once you press the fabric between thumb and forefinger, the hem holds at least halfway. I love starch. In fact, I dote on it. Except with silk, when in doubt, starch it, that's my motto.
  • Use thread less than an arm's length long...so it's less apt to tangle. My standard length for ordinary plain sewing is to unroll the thread, as in traditional fashion, from shoulder to fingertips, but here, maybe 6 inches shorter, or even more.
  • Use fine thread, all-cotton of course, and at least Gutermann, if not an Italian brand. No quilting thread here.
  • Wax your thread with beeswax to help keep it from tangling and to help it slide through the fabric.
  • Pin your fabric to a fabric-covered block to anchor it or anchor it with a sewing bird, or as a last resort, to your knee. Sew with the fabric stretched into a decent tension. It speeds sewing.
  • Use a thimble on the hand holding the fabric so your needle doesn't catch in your skin as you pick up threads to hem them.
Now, how to do them. My directions may not be clear as day, so consult a period sewing book if you need to.

Here you see the completed portion of the hem to the
right. I have already taken two threads below the hem
and have just pushed the needle into the two threads just
below the top of the hem.

  1. Turn down about 9 inches of fabric about 1/16" to 1/8", from right to left. Finger press it well.
  2. Knot the end of your thread and bury it under the hem, draw up through the top. Then, you're ready to sew.
  3. Just below the bottom of the hem, catch one or two threads with your needle and immediately pick up one or two threads almost at the very top of the hem.
  4. Pull the thread almost but not all the way through, and certainly don't tighten it.
  5. Repeat number two once or twice more.
  6. Now you have three stitches almost in. At this point, gently tighten the thread. Magically, the top of hte hem will roll over the bottom and enclose it. Voila!
  7. Repeat until you're out of thread. Take a few stitches over each other, tying a little half knot in the last one, to end the thread.
Do this until you've completed your hem.

Golly, I've made it sound complex, but cross my heart, really it's straightforward and can be done in time to your heartbeat. Meditation!

In the picture above, I show myself holding the hem uppermost. In actuality, I hold it vertical such that the hem fold is on the right, and sew up vertically. I am left-handed and this manner gives me most control. I see each set of three stitches neatly stacked, pull gently, watch the hem appear, and keep going, all in smooth motions.

This is actually a nice activity for talking with friends, because it's gentle and repetitive.

It's evening now, and in the Episcopal Church, Holy Week is just beginning, so I leave you with a small remembrance of the season. Today the boys and I dyed Easter eggs.

I am not sure, but Noah may be telling the eggs to "ssshhh."
Happy evening, everyone!


MrsC said...

Oh you are a leftie like me, no wonder you are so very clever and creative. I had a meeting of quilting friends here the other night and 60% of those present were lefties, amazing given the population average is about 15% :)

ZipZip said...

Dear Mrs. C.,
No kidding! I knew the average number of "sinister"-handed people was low, but that is most impressive. Go lefties! Lucky you, to be quilting. I've had more than one quilt project, but all went bad, very bad indeed. There is something about the process of assembling a quilt top that makes me multiply errors until I have a sorry, sad mess.

Very best,