Tip: Stitch a neat circular hem

I am having a fit fit fit trying to hem chiffon…I’m doing a rolled  circle hem and it looks pitiful. Any ideas on how I can hem that fine stuff?!

Answer: Hemming a chiffon circle skirt, circle veil, or circle ruffle is a little tricky.

circle_edge_hrzntlBecause the shape has a pronounced curve, the raw edge is necessarily several inches larger than the hemline itself (left). The extra fullness must be “eased” in (very slightly gathered) to fit.

If the hem is stitched clumsily, the result is an unattractive hem that is twisted sideways, with the fabric bunched up in spots. Below (“How to stitch a smooth circular hem” ) I’ve explained how to avoid that common mistake, with illustrations.

But first, a few other considerations:
WIDTH OF HEM – A tiny curved hem is easier to sew than than a wider one, because there is less extra fullness to ease in. So a circle skirt always has a narrow hem: one-eighth to one-quarter inch of twice-folded fabric. This requires one-quarter to one-half inch of hem allowance.

FABRIC – Synthetic (poly) chiffon is slick and slippery. That makes it difficult to manipulate and it tends to slide while under the foot, so adjust for maximum foot pressure. Real silk chiffon (or cotton gauze) has more friction and is easier to handle.

HEM OPTIONS for a curved skirt hem:

1. Rolled-hem foot: If your machine has a “rolled hem” presser foot, with a scroll-shaped gadget on it, that completes the hem in one step.
I’ve found this works best on straight edges. On a curved edge, there is still the problem of extra fabric that must be “eased in,” and this requires skill by the operator so it doesn’t get bunched up.
Experiment with scraps to learn how this foot works on your skirt fabric.
Mark the hem as described below below, then trim a quarter inch from hemline and stitch the skirt edge through the rolled hem foot.

2. Folded two-step narrow-hem: If you don’t have a rolled hem foot, a straight stitch and a regular presser foot (preferably used with a straight stitch plate with a tiny hole, rather than a zigzag foot) will do fine. Mark, press and stitch as described and illustrated below.

3. Advanced one-step narrow-hem:
The edge can be folded twice and stiched in one operation. This is faster, but requires more skill and practice.

4. Serged hem: Your serging machine, if you have one, may have a option for making a tiny, tight serged edge that is smaller than any folded hem.
The serged edge looks very nice, but is not as sturdy as a folded narrow-hem. That’s because it’s only one layer of sheer fabric (or two, if you fold it). The raw edge is wrapped d with overlocking threads. With normal wear & tear on a dance skirt, the edge may weaken and begin to ravel. Then the skirt must be shortened slightly in order to repair that spot.
A serged hem might work better if you fold the hem edge once, serge the edge of the fold, then closely trim off any raw edge extending from the serging. That way, at least the edge has two layers of chiffon under the serging, rather than one.

5. Zigzag edge: If you don’t have a serger, a tiny, tight zigzag stitch, less than one-eighth inch wide, would work almost as well. Sew slowly on the fold – don’t rush. Make sure the zigzag goes to the very edge of the fold. Then trim any raw edge extending from the stitching.

6. Bias Binding: A half-inch double-folded ready-made bias binding finishes a circular raw edge neatly. But consider the type of fabric you’re using: a cotton binding is appropriate for a gypsy-style skirt. A satiny acetate bias binding might work with a chiffon or silky fabric. The extra stiffness will make it appear wider. Either way, a bound finish emphasizes the skirt edge.
You can make ready-made binding narrower than a half-inch by refolding, pressing and trimming it.
To apply a binding, mark the hemline as described below, then trim to a quarter-inch or so. The binding is folded over the raw edge to enclose it, with the slightly wider edge placed underneath. That way, as you edge-stitch the top side, it will also stitch through the underside of the binding. As illustrated below, do not let the binding twist.

7. Cover with trim: the hem can be covered with a flexible trim, such a narrow sequined braid. This will add firmness and sparkle to the hemline. But since the hem is very wide, this method can run into quite a few extra dollars in trim yardage.
Mark the skirt hem as above. Trim the hem to a quarter-inch or so, then press to the OUTSIDE of the skirt. Stitch trim over the edge. Now the hem looks finished on both sides.


First, allow the circle skirt to hang several days so the bias (diagonal) areas stretch. They may stretch several inches longer than the areas on the straight grain.

Then, wearing the skirt (and shoes, if they’re part of your costume) have a friend mark the hemline about one inch from the floor with pins or chalk. Or, stand on a stool and use a ruler to mark an inch higher than the surface of the stool (easier on the person doing the marking). Mark about every 6-8 inches – a wide distance between marks may result in an uneven circular hem.

TIP: Mark the inside center front of the hipband with a letter F or a tiny safety pin, so that you always wear the skirt the same way, not rotated. If it’s rotated (so the front is now at side or back) the hem may not hang evenly.

PRESS: Fold the skirt edge under an eighth-inch below the marked hemline and press. This is helpful, because then the hemline is clear, even if the pins slip out, or the chalkmarks rub off.

STITCH: Use one of two methods below. Both result in a tiny double-folded hem:


METHOD 1. (double-stitched on outside) Stitch your pressed-in fold close to the edge. Trim excess fabric close to the stitching with small sharp scissors. Then turn under again an eighth of an inch, and stitch close to fold again, on top of first stitching. You will have a double row of stitching on the inside.
METHOD 2. (single-stitched on outside) Staystitch (on a single thickness) slightly below the marked hemline, directly on the pressed-in fold. Trim about an eighth-inch from stitching line. Fold again on the hemline, then stitch close to fold.You will have one row of stitching visible on the inside.With either method, you can pull the bobbin thread on the first line of stitching, to ease in fullness.

2circlehem  Either way, do not let the hem layer “twist” toward you as it goes under the presser foot (far left). It starts as a slight twist and continues progressively more noticeable, becoming tiny slanted pleats along the edge. It looks bad on both sides, and pressing will not correct it.To avoid a twisty hem, gently pull the skirt fabric away toward you (left side of the presser foot) as you use fingers or a small tool to push the hem fabric away from you. That will ease in the extra fullness and will keep the hem perpendicular to the skirt.FINAL PRESS: Press gently with steam to flatten. ~ Dina Lydia