Tutorial: How to Sew a Shirttail Hem Without Ripples

Yeah, sorry – my bad in the last post. I was writing late, after a long day, and DS and DH decided to stream “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Oooooh, shiny! I got distracted. BTW, that show is really creepy good. I love Winona Rider, and the soundtrack brings me back to my youth. But I digress.

Rippled shirttails make my eye twitch, whether it’s in RTW (which is inexcusable) or in something I’ve sewn (which is only slightly less so). The key to a professional, unrippled look is patience, grasshoppers. Here’s how I make a shirttail hem that doesn’t ripple. I did a mockup of half of the Simplicity 8166 hem for this demonstration.

1 – Sew your side seams and any other vertical seams as you normally would.

2 – Run a row of basting stitches along the hemline

I used white thread for contrast

3 – Fold the hem along the hemline and fold it again to form a narrow hem. Pin the bejeebers out of it. Seriously, I pin about every quarter inch, sometimes closer. Make sure you pin down the “stress points” – areas of sharp curves.

It’s a lot of pins, but it is worth the effort.

4  – And this is REALLY important. Before moving to the sewing machine, gently press or steam along the hem. I don’t even let the iron touch the fabric, I hover it about 1/16 of an inch above it and use light steam. But you can apply very light pressure if you wish.

Don’t worry about pin marks. They will come out. I’ve done this with everything from charmeuse to silk to wool and cotton, and I’ve never had an issue.

Post-pressing, the curve has “calmed”

5 – Sew your hem.

IRL I would remove the pins just before the needle reaches them, but here for speed’s sake I sewed over them.

6 – Remove the basting, press, and you are ready to go!

Look ma, no ripples!

It takes a little bit of time. Surprisingly not that much, and the results are SO worth it.

HTH and Happy Sewing!

16 thoughts on “Tutorial: How to Sew a Shirttail Hem Without Ripples”

  1. JLR says:

    I hate that rippled hem look, too. Here’s an alternative method, which for me is easier and faster (I hate to pin!): a narrow faced hem. I even do this method when I am making guys’ shirts, sometimes in a fun contrasting fabric for the facing strip, if I can get away with it. I make my own bias strips for the facing (the commercial stuff has, to me, a nasty plastic-y feel) at least a half-inch wider than is actually needed. This makes it easier to handle, when applying and sewing. On the inside, I don’t turn under the excess – just trim off the excess close to the line of stitching. It won’t ravel.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Yes, that’s a good alternative, too! I have done that, but my inner OCD-goddess likes the finish on the narrow hem better 😀

  2. Karen says:

    So that original line of stitching becomes the bottom of the hem then? Does it show?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      The original line of basting stitches does become the bottom of the hem. It gives a clear marker for where you fold the hem up. After you stitch the hem, you remove those basting stitches and press.

  3. Patsy Cuthrell says:

    I have had success using Wonder Tape for narrow shirt tail hems in washable fabrics. The double sided 1/4″ tape washes out in first washing and you can sew through it w/o fouling up your needle! I place the tape along the edge of the fabric on the right side, pull of the backing and roll the tape over twice to the wrong side. If you don ‘t get it like you want it , you can reposition the tape and try again. It works like a charm !

  4. Tany says:

    Excellent step-by-step, Ann!

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Thanks, Tany!

  5. Michele says:

    Thank you so much for the great tips and tutorial. I will have to use this next time I am sewing a fine hem.

  6. Corinne says:

    Thank you so much for this. I use a similar method but readily admit that I under-pin! Always in a rush. I will use more pins, press more and baste!

  7. Cherie says:

    Great little tutorial Anne! I don’t like the rippling either, on hems or neckline bindings!

  8. John Yingling says:

    This is the method I use to finish the hem of my disco shirts that are cut from poly charmeuse. Finish the raw edge with a tight three thread overlock. Using the firm serged edge, double roll the edge to a 1/4″ width with your fingers. Use a straight stitch foot, not a zigzag foot, for precise edge stitching on the hem. Keeping the rolled hem narrow will prevent any rippling. Once you get the hang of it, this technique is fast and neat.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      So John, I meant to ask – do you do disco for fun, or do you do it competitively? My son is a competitive ballroom dancer, and disco around here has undergone a Saturday night renaissance at many of the dance studios!

  9. Suzanne says:

    Very helpful Ann! And I like all the alternative methods proposed by your readers as well.

  10. jerilynn says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, very helpful. I just love learning new techniques to make my sewing easier and look more pleasing to the eye. I enjoyed reading the input from others as well, great sharing.

  11. JustGail says:

    I finally got back to read the tutorial….very nice! Both the tutorial and results. This looks so much nicer than using the serger to gather and folding up the hem once. It works, but doesn’t look the best. Especially if you pick the wrong color looper thread and get show-through.

    1. John Yingling says:

      Gail, try turning that serger hem twice as narrowly as you can. You should get ver good results.

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