Shirtdress Sew-Along: Hems

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blog

We are almost done with our shirtdresses! Let’s get them hemmed so we can start wearing them.

There are generally two types of hems for shirtdresses: a traditional, wide hem and a narrow hem. Wide hems work best for shirtdresses with skirts that have a straight edge. The hem edge is turned up anywhere from 1.5″ to 2.5″ and then sewn in place. Narrow hems work best for shirtdresses that look like shirts and may have a curved or handkerchief hem.


Traditional (wide) hems: Call me crazy, but I think a substantial hem is a thing of beauty. I like to turn up my hems about two inches, and I like to finish the raw edge with a piece of lace hem tape or any flat lace I have in my stash. You often see this kind of finishing done on better RTW dresses. Or, you can turn under the raw edge about 1/4″, press and stitch the fold in place; this will give you a clean finished edge as well. Serging the raw edge is another option, though it’s not as elegant.

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blogPress your hem in place, using your iron to steam out any fullness. If you have a lot of fullness in your hem, baste it in place and evenly distribute the fullness. I prefer to then hand-sew the hem, because hand stitches are less visible, but you can blindstitch your hem in place if you like.

And even though I’m a big proponent of hand-stitched hems, there are cases where machine-stitching your wide hem in place looks just fine:

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blog
A shirtdress made by our dressmaking department features a one-inch, machine-stitched hem.

Narrow hems: The narrower, the better! A narrow hem works best for curves and lightweight fabrics. To make a narrow hem, stitch 1/4″ (or less) from hem edge. Turn in on stitching line and press; turn again and press so the raw edge is now encased. Here comes the important part: Baste narrow hem in place. Narrow hems get wavy when the hem shifts and is pulled by the feed dogs as you machine-stitch. Basting will keep your hem in place and prevent shifting.

While I’m pretty happy with this shirtdress I made, I admit I did a lousy job on the narrow hem:

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blog

I wish I had stitched narrower than 1/4″; you can see my hem looks sloppy and bulky and that’s due to too much width. If you’ve never sewn a narrow hem before, you might want to practice first. Below is a narrow hem on a shirtdress as sewn by our dressmaking department:

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blog

For narrow hems, sometimes our dressmaking team will stitch two rows—1/4″ and 5/8″ from the raw edge. Turn and press on the 1/4″ line, then turn again. Stitch hem in place. You’ll end up with this nice double row of stitches, and the 5/8 line of stitching helps ease some of the fullness. In the photo above the left arrow points to the hem stitching line, which shows on the front of the garment. The right arrow shows the stitching line made 5/8″ from the raw edge before it was turned up.

A third type of hem for curved edges is the bias-faced hem. This involves a little more work but it’s a beautiful finish for a curved hem and it resists the waving you can sometimes get with a narrow hem. Check out Amanda’s shirt made with a bias-faced hem.

Coming up: I’ll show you my finished Shirtdress #2. Here’s a sneak peek:

Shirtdress Sew-Along on the McCall Pattern Company blog

You can still join our Shirtdress Sew-Along Facebook Group; plus, don’t forget we’re having a random drawing for an Oliso iron and other sewing goodies. Details here. Have a great weekend! #shirtdresssewalong [8/22/16 update: This group is now closed as the sew-along is officially over. All shirtdress construction information and tips are located on this blog.]



We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. One thought–When making a narrow shirttail hem, I use a short basting stitch when stitching the first line 1/4″ from the edge. I can then ease in the fullness from the first stitching line so that the hem lies flat when doing the final stitching.

    Your dress is beautiful. I think I’m inspired!

  2. What? No faced, dagged or scalloped hems? I love them, and try to incorporate them on sleeve hems and blouse bottoms and skirt hems at least twice a year. This year, Dear Mother gets a scalloped hem on a skirt for her birthday.

    And, on a lawn blouse or dress for summer, using the scallop embroidery stitch on your sewing machine, then trimming close to the edge of the scallop, is a fast way to finish an edge without the need to turn up a hem.

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