How to Sew Beautiful Knit Hems

Smooth hems on knits can be tricky to achieve; with Jade we felt like we finally landed on a technique that REALLY worked (no curling; looks smooth, not stretched out or puckery, stitches that won’t pop with wear, and works with both CURVED and STRAIGHT hem edges).

Since most of us don’t have coverstitch machines to sew the hems we’re used to seeing on our ready-to-wear tees, this method uses a regular home sewing machine. The key elements to success: a wider (1″) hem, and stabilizing the edges using knit interfacing. Adding the interfacing adds a bit of extra time, but it’s totally worth it!

How to: Below, we’ll demonstrate the technique that is incorporated into our Jade Tee pattern. You can use these steps for hems on any knit tee you make!

Step 1. Cut interfacing

Using a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and ruler, cut 1″ strips of knit interfacing, estimating how much you’ll need for your sleeves, front, and back hems.

(PS. Check out my favorite source for interfacing here).

Step 2. Attach interfacing to hems

Use an iron to fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the hems of your pattern pieces. Jade’s hems are a little curved, and the interfacing is flexible enough to follow those curves easily, but this works just as well with a straight hem (like the one on the Flashback Tee).

Step 3. Press hem allowances

I like to press my hems before I sew the shirt together — it’s not technically necessary to do now, but I find it’s a little easier to press flat pieces than 3D pieces, and I always thank myself later. Just fold the hem up along the edge of the interfacing, and press.

Step 4. Construct your tee

Sew your shoulder seams, attach sleeves, and sew side seams from the end of each sleeve to the hem. (Make sure the hems are unfolded if you pressed them in the last step). In the sample below, I used a serger for one side and a narrow zigzag stitch for the other side — was just experimenting!

Step 5. Pin or clip hems

With the shirt still inside out, fold the hems up and press (skip this if you already pressed in Step 3). Use clips or pins to hold your hems in place before sewing. It’s important not to skip this step; failure to secure the hem before you sew it can cause it to twist while you’re stitching it in place.

If you use pins and plan to use a twin needle, turn shirt right side out first, pinning from the outside and making sure you catch the edge of the hem underneath.

Step 6. Sew the hem

Now that you’ve stabilized and also pressed and secured the hem, you’re ready to stitch. Note that what you did *before* you even did any stitching is the key to getting the hem to lay flat. However, the stitches you choose are also important because they will determine how long the garment will last. There are various stitches to choose from for this step:

  • narrow zig zag: A narrow zigzag is the fastest and simplest. At a very narrow setting of 1.25 mm and stitch length of 3 mm, it barely looks like a zigazag, but it provides a bit of added stretch. It’s not the most durable, though, and those stitches sometimes break while taking the tee off and on.

  • twin needle: Using a twin needle makes for a professional-looking finish, and holds up quite well to wear. You can get twin needles in different widths, and our favorite is 4mm. To use a twin needle, simply replace the regular needle on your machine with the twin needle, and hold two strands of thread together to thread the machine, only separating the strands when you reach the separate needles. (Pro tip: if you don’t have two spools of the same color thread, wind an extra bobbin and use that!).
  • To sew, place your hem right side up (this means you’ll have to use the throat plate to make sure you are at the correct hem allowance; in the case of Jade this is 1″), set your machine to a straight stitch, and sew a quick test on a scrap of fabric to check tension and determine the stitch length you’d like to use. When you sew the hem, make sure both needles catch the folded-under hem. If one goes off the edge, the seam will sometimes pucker. On the other wrong side of the fabric, you’ll see that the bobbin thread automatically makes a zigzag pattern, which provides the stretch for this hem.
  • triple straight stitch: For an easy and very durable, utilitarian hem, I use the “triple straight stitch” setting on my machine (which is a Bernina – circled below, in case your machine has a different name for it). With the stitch width set to zero, this creates a straight stitch that goes back and forth repeatedly as you sew, making a straight line that appears a bit wider than a regular stitch. I love this stitch for knits because it’s super strong and won’t stretch and pop, so it works particularly well on super stretchy knits (like the bamboo knit used in the photo below).

Once you’ve sewn your hem, give it one last press and voila!! You’ve got yourself a beautiful knit hem!

PS. All of the Jade tutorials and mods can be found on the Jade page, and you can buy the Jade tee sewing pattern in my shop!

Summer cropped tops

These four tops have been my most-worn this summer, not just with the high-waisted jeans shown here (eco toothpick from JCrew… it really has been quite a cool summer) but also other high-waisted handmades such as Rose shorts and my white silk noil Cleo skirt, not shown. First up: a cropped Gemma tank.

fabric: Double gauze Atelier Brunette, purchased Oak Fabrics
pattern: Gemma tank (see also:tutorial for cropping Gemma)

Next up, three cropped Emerald tops, turns out this is the boxy cropped top of my dreams. The first one I just cut the pattern horizontally about 10 inches below the armhole, then hemmed it up:

cropped Emerald top / made by rae

Fabric: Alexia Abegg’s Sienna rayon, purchased from Imagine Gnats
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

This one was the first Emerald top I made out of green double gauze, not cut on the bias as the pattern indicates, just on grain. This one gets rumply and wrinkled when it’s washed which is how I wear it. I curved the hem which got a bit tricky to turn so for the next one one, I drafted a curved hem facing piece.

Fabric: Kobayashi double gauze, purchased at Pink Castle Fabrics
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

cropped Emerald top / made by rae

Fabric: Avery slub viscose-linen, purchased from Shop La Mercerie
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

The top version will definitely be included in the pattern when release it in the pattern shop; since it released as a dress pattern this past spring in Making, it’s been quite popular and we’ve had a bunch of requests to release it as a standalone pattern. Once we’ve satisfied the Making contract period we would be happy to release this on its own. For now, you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine to get the pattern!

PS. Read more tips and info about that slub linen blend (one of our faves!) in this post!

Our summer, in numbers

I think this summer might be trying to swallow me up, whole. Trying to describe it feels too big, words fail me.

Here is our summer so far, in numbers. In no particular order.

(3) pools
(6) lakes
(1) sprinkler park
(2) camping weekends
(2) camping weekends with rain
(1) trip to Mackinaw island
(8) miles biked around Mackinaw
(1) house painted
(1) new car (traded in our 12-year old car!)
(7) nights for Elliot and Clementine at sleepaway camp
(3) nights in Traverse City with Mr Rae
(3) “Grandma Camps”
(10) years old (happy birthday, Clementine!)
(2) board game nights with family friends
(1) West coast road trip planned, yet to come
(?) cousins played with (too many to count)

a few more:

(3) fevers
(1) Lyme Disease scare
(1) case of Pertussis
(1) case of pneumonia
(7) prescriptions for antibiotics
(1) chipped tooth
(5) missed days of sleepaway camp, b/c sickness

Ah, this full life. It certainly feels like too much sometimes. Amidst all of it, though, I feel so, so grateful.

And also I’d kinda like a medal.

Posted in at home
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Rose pants for Cassie

One of the best things about my job is getting to work with so many amazing women. Cassie worked for me as a studio assistant over the past couple of years while she was studying at the University of Michigan. My studio is on central campus, so it has been really convenient for students just to pop over for a few hours here and there between classes; you may remember Cassie’s sister Melissa, who worked for me before Cassie (in addition to working in the studio, she modeled for the Gemma and Luna shoots), and Tashina before that.

Cassie graduated in May with her degree in public health (congrats!!) and is headed off to DC this fall to start a fellowship (waaah!!). I was way behind schedule on this project, but we managed to squeeze in a Rose photo shoot before she leaves Ann Arbor. It was so fun to custom-fit and then photograph Cassie in her Rose pants. I love how they turned out, and so does she!

I made her Rose pants with inverted front pleats; this is one of the pleating options offered in the pattern instructions.

As far as adjustments: I added 1/2″ to both front and back rise, and 2″ to the length, based on comparing her inseam, outseam and rise measurements to the finished measurement chart in the pattern (note: there is an “adjusting fit” section included in the pattern which goes into detail on how to add length to both rise and length in the pattern instructions if you’re interested in how to do this). For reference, Cassie is 5’9.5″ – though I want to be careful to point out that height is really not the best indicator of whether you need to add length or rise.

I also graded sizes between Cassie’s waist and hip size since they fell into two different sizes on the sizing chart. I want to discuss this briefly because I know that many of you have a smaller waist size than hip size and may be interested in some tips for making this easy adjustment on your own Rose pants.

As with all pant patterns, you should choose your starting size using your hip or largest circumference (size charts for Rose can be found on the Rose page). Normally when blending two pant sizes, you would simply trace from the larger size line at the hip to the smaller size line at the waist. However, because of the way that the pattern pieces are designed for Rose, it can be a bit tricky to grade between waist and hip because that’s where the slash pockets are positioned on the front pattern piece.

Instead, I’d recommend grading between sizes on the back pant ONLY, and using the smaller size for both the waistbands (front and back). Then for the front pant, use the larger size, but pleat the front pants down to the size of the smaller waistband during Step 5 (this means making the pleats a bit bigger, which is quite easy to do; just remember to check the front widths carefully after pleating as the instructions remind you). I hope it goes without saying that tracing your pattern pieces is a key part of all of this — NEVER cut into your pattern printout unless you are absolutely sure!

If you don’t like the idea of larger pleats in front, one other option is to gradually shave off a small bit of width from the top corners of the front pant pieces from just above where the pocket meets the side seam to the waist. This will effectively grade between sizes without having to mess with the pocket.

No matter what you do, remember that since Rose is a pull-on pant (or short), you do have to be careful when grading down to a smaller waist size since you risk not being able to pull them on over your hip if the waist is too small.

Making pattern adjustments to custom-fit a pattern to your body is something that takes some patience. I started work on a pant-fitting guide for Rose this spring, and I’ll be honest, I got a little overwhelmed trying to put it together before the pattern launched, but I still hope to finish it once I have a bit more work time (summer, y’all!) and make that available soon.

In the meantime, hopefully this gives you an idea of some basic adjustments that are pretty straightforward to execute. It was really fun to experiment with this cute pink pair.

And seeing how excited Cassie was about her new pants was seriously the absolute best. Can’t wait to see what she does next (in her fabulous pants. of course)!!

PS. For fabric, I used the same favorite viscose-linen blend we’ve been posting repeatedly about — read more in this post!

Posted in Rose
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Fanciful Rose Pants

made by rae - rose pants in fanciful fabric

When I’m experimenting with a new pattern I often make samples using a basting stitch; it makes the sewing go faster and allows me to adjust the fit really easily as I go. I baste the seams and pin the hems, and often I don’t finish one sample before I move on to the next one to experiment with some new variable.

This pair of cropped Rose pants was one of those samples. I cut and basted them together one day last fall when we were working on some aspect of the pattern. I used this gold quilting cotton print from my recent line for Cloud9, Fanciful, and as the weather got colder, I lost the motivation to finish them. However, when the weather started to warm up a couple months ago, I pulled them out and sewed them up properly.

made by rae - rose pants in fanciful fabric

I’m happy to report that I think quilting cotton actually works quite well for Rose if you want a pair of lightweight pants or shorts for warmer weather. I’ve discussed some of the issues you should consider when sewing garments with quilting cotton before, so check out this post (also Fanciful garment, interestingly!) for that discussion.

The print itself is really fun and I got a “Wow. I like your pants! They’re so….FLORAL!” from the checkout guy at Kroger when I was buying groceries the other day (me: “Thanks! I made them myself!”).

made by rae - rose pants in fanciful fabric

The “fit-as-you-go” technique is something you can also do when making a muslin or sewing a pattern for the first time. Jess discussed the virtues of basting your seams to “fit as you go” in this post, and I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re unfamiliar with that technique.

Meanwhile, I’m wearing these babies with the bounty of other gold things in my closet — it seems to be my color of choice lately (here, here). One recent make is this this cropped top version of the Emerald dress that I made with leftover fabric from the sample I made for Making magazine (see it here).

made by rae - rose pants in fanciful fabric

We do intend to release an expanded version of the Emerald dress later this year as a standalone pattern (currently it’s available as a dress in Making magazine); it will include all 11 sizes in our new range in addition to this cropped top option, which I totally adore. My top versions of Emerald have definitely been in heavy rotation this summer. Not sure I will wear it with these pants — it’s a LOT of gold, even for me — but it’s kindof fun, right?

made by rae - rose pants in fanciful fabric

For more about Rose, check out the Rose page, get inspired by all the amazing Rose pants and shorts on Instagram, or buy the Rose pattern in my shop!

Posted in Rose
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