Friday, September 26, 2008

Tutorial: Tablecloth Hemming

Well, it's unanimous ... everyone adores this gorgeous fabric!  It was bought to cover the serving tables at a baby shower.  What a cute idea, right?

When I was asked to make them I thought, "Super-cake!"  Then, when the ginormous 57-inch by 240-inch piece of fabric was delivered I thought, "Holy crap!"  Working large-scale has it's own unique challenges just like working in teeny-tiny-scale.  But I figured out a great way to easily do the hemming, so even though it wasn't super-cake, it was still cake.  And who doesn't love cake?!

Once I trimmed the huge-o piece of fabric into two tablecloth-sized pieces (thank goodness for the rotary cutter!), it was time to figure out how-in-the-world to hem the edges.  I sat there staring at the edge ... I knew I couldn't be fussy and do my normal "fold over the edge measuring as I go, iron, fold the edge again, iron, and then sew it" thing.

Then, as I stuck the fabric in the sewing machine to just "do something" I had an idea ... why not just sew a line half-an-inch in and use that as the fold guide.  So smart!  I'm so glad I thought of that before I started sewing a bunch of stuff I'd just have to rip out.

Here's the scoop with pictures:

(1) Sew along the edge half an inch in from the edge.

(2) Use the sewing line to fold the fabric over half an inch.  Then fold that over again another half an inch.

(3) Pin! The fabric should be wrong side up with the bulk of it away from you, like in the picture.  But your pins should be in the other way.  When they are in the right way, they'll be easy to pull out from underneath of your hem as you sew.

(4) See?  When you're pins are in right you can pull them out.  Or forget like I did a couple of times.  My sewing machine went right through the plastic heads like they were butter.  I love my sewing machine!  Sew a 3/8-inch seam.

(5) Here's the back side of the sewn hem.  All the raw edges are contained in the hem.  You can see the edge of my initial sewing line, but it doesn't look bad.

(6) And, finally, here's the front side of the seam.  Yay!

This system made quick work of this project, and that's saying a lot when you figure that I sewed almost 56 feet of hems.  That's almost nine yards!  Wow.  And the best part of this project is that they will have all this amazing fabric left over after the baby shower.  Imagine all the fun stuff you could make with it!  I keep imagining the cutest set of reusable grocery bags.  Shopping in style!

I tried to find it online so I could link to it, but I had no luck.  The edge says P/Kaufman, but that's it.  If anyone knows what fabric it is, let me know because I'm sure people are going to email me and ask.  It's a heavier weight cotton that has a stain resistant finish on it.
45 Comments (comments are disabled)

Maria in Iowa said ...
Sort of a sailcloth fabric, right? Really reminds me of the heavyweight cotton printed cloths of the 1940s-50s.

Say... When the hostess calls to express her undying gratitude to you for your invaluable assistance, casually mention that a suitable gesture of thanks would be to let you have the tablecloths.
9/26/2008 8:32 AM

Aimee said ...
I'm so impressed - this is a common approach to hemming (Mom taught me years ago, and I'd completely forgotten until reading your post - I doubt it would have occurred to me under the same circumstances), but I'm *constantly* amazed with how you come up with these solutions. You have a great talent for all of this!
9/26/2008 9:42 AM

Sonya said ...
56 feet!?!? Yowza!
9/26/2008 10:48 AM

Katie said ...
Beautiful fabric and beautiful sewing. Inspires me to work on my sewing.
9/26/2008 11:16 AM

Kerstin said ...
I think I found the fabric. The pattern is called "Foxtrot" and it seems to be available at this shop:
9/26/2008 2:19 PM

You always think outside the square!!
Great idea! :))

9/26/2008 3:42 PM

lil' d said ...
I was thinking what a great idea this was - then I realised that my first line would be just as wobbly as all other lines I sew, but still... I'll try it.
9/26/2008 4:14 PM

AndreaLea said ...
I love that you included which direction to put the pins! Every time I do a quick hem, I put the pins in the wrong direction and end up swearing at them as the heads get caught in the foot! :)
9/26/2008 5:40 PM

jodie said ...
ingenius - How simple !! How awesome!
9/26/2008 5:51 PM

Lynn in Tucson said ...
That is brilliant. Brilliant! And do you realize that I now have not excuse for finishing off material that I bought for a table cloth, years ago?

Maybe I'll finish my kid's "baby" quilt while I'm at it.

(Ha! I just typed "guilt" instead. How Freudian!)
9/26/2008 9:26 PM

gleek said ...
great idea! i already use this technique on hemming skirts with a curved hem. makes it INFINITELY easier! i should use it on straight hems too :)
9/26/2008 10:46 PM

esther said ...
fantastico!!!you are so einstein!anything that can substitued ironing is pure genious!!!:)
9/27/2008 12:30 AM

Teresa said ...
Very clever idea! And this fabric is amazing!
9/27/2008 7:21 AM

Nicole said ...
I have no idea what the fabric is called, but I got some in a yellow at Joanns. They have it quite often. I bought the fabric 3 years ago, but saw some at my local joanns less than a month ago. I used it to make a pouch style baby sling. It is AWESOME!! Hands free parenting at its best! :)
9/27/2008 5:07 PM

beautiful fabric, and great job, Super duper woman
9/27/2008 6:20 PM

Ann said ...
great tutorial. i never find table clothes i like, but i always see fabric i like.

thank you!
9/27/2008 10:54 PM

Lisa said ...
GENIOUS!!!!! I have avoided big projects because of being totally intimidated. You have shared the awesomest tip ever! Woo-hoo!

Now where can I use a tablecloth so I can try that...?
9/28/2008 4:23 PM

Meg said ...
you have the BEST tutorials on your site- and I am constantly inspired by all your projects. : )
9/28/2008 7:55 PM

April Mohler said ...
I just love your blog! Now I have so many more projects I want to start.
9/28/2008 8:03 PM

terry said ...
Beautifull fabric! I agree with comment 1 Tell her you fell in love with the fabric and were dreaming of a million great ideas for it while working on it for HER (hint- hint):)
9/30/2008 4:00 AM

Lindsay said ...
great idea! I'm trying to put together some curtains for my bedroom from this really great sheer that I got on clearance :). Problem is I can't even get it cut out correctly because it's so big and it moves around too much because of the sheer-ness. Any tips on that?
10/8/2008 1:47 PM

The fabric is supercute and the idea with sewing a line for the fold is pretty neat. I plan to sew some skirts for winter, so that trick might come in handy.
10/30/2008 9:46 AM

seamstressatheart said ...
It would be so much easier for you if you hem the item with the wrong side and hem facing up! The stitches would be straight and close to the edge. You can use a piece of tape on your machine bed to help you feed the fabric straight into the needle and foot as it stitches. To determine how wide you need to stitch the hem, measure the width and subtract 1/8 of an inch or so. Then, put your measuring device to the RIGHT of the machine needle; with a pencil, mark the measurement on the machine bed. Tear off a piece of blue painters tape the depth of your machine bed plus 2 inches. Align the tape vertically to where you made the pencil mark. This also acts as a guide for the edge of the fabric as it enters the needle and foot. Happy sewing!
7/14/2009 11:35 AM

seamstressatheart said ...
For Linday and the sheer curtains. So that the curtains hang straight, be sure to find the correct grain on the width of the fabric. Do not depend on the store fabric cut to be on the "staight grain". The correct grain would be absolutely horizontal, thus producing a straight hem. An off grain cut will produce an item that will have a crooked hem (and so much harder when you hem it). If you take a pin and lift up a thread and pull it all across the width of the fabric, you will make a new edge. Trim off the crooked fabric. It may take a few minutes and patience, but trust me, the curtains will hang better! Align the new top edge. Now fold the fabric in half and smooth it out; be careful and gentle as too much hand pressure can cause the grain to be thrown off and will create a crooked hem. To help secure the fabric and prevent it from shifting, use anything heavy, such as pots and pans, phone book. I purchased a box of large, heavy washers, (any home center) which work well. With this method, you should have a straight hanging pair of curtains. If possible, use a rotary cutter and mat to give you a perfect edge to hem. Be sure to use a lightweight
needle and polyester blend thread. Let me know!
7/14/2009 12:14 PM

futuregirl said ...
seamstressatheart ... Great tip for the curtains! As for your all-at-once hemming, I don't understand how you're doing it all at the same time without pre-pinning. It would be really hard to fold as you go and not weave all over the place, especially when you can't see the part of the fabric you've folded into the middle of the hem. I'd also want the stitching that shows on the outside to be the top side of the stitching. I think it always looks better. Maybe I'm missing something? :)
7/19/2009 6:48 PM

seamstressatheart said ...
Those comments were for obtaining the correct grain so the curtains would hang straight. When hemming, precise measurements and frequent pinning with silk pins is essential. Generally the "top" stitch does look better, however if the tension is set correctly,the bottom stitch as the top stitch will still look good. I think it's more important to be sure a staight line is sewn for the finished appearance of the item. And besides, no one is going to get that close. If they go, the comment will be "Wow, you did a great job sewing a staight hem!"
8/27/2009 6:02 PM

futuregirl said ...
seamstressatheart ... I understood the grain comment, and it's great! I didn't understand your set up with the tape and folding and stuff in the first comment. I know it's difficult to explain things like that with just words, but if you have some cool secret for hemming, I don't want to miss out. :)
8/28/2009 8:01 PM

Zohar said ...
Wow you saved my life. I am staring for more then a week in a huge fabric that i promised a frient to turn to a table cloth for her new table - and couldn't decide how to!!!! Now i know!!! THXXXXXXX
11/27/2009 7:27 AM

tugsrus said ...
Love this tablecloth tutorial--fabric, pics, commentary and all. I agree with Maria and hope the hostess or guest-of-honor let you take the tablecloths home. Here's another cute tablecloth tutorial:
Cheers for sewing machines that sew right through pin heads!
2/21/2010 12:29 PM

Pam said ...
beautiful, job!!! thank you for the great tips
3/1/2011 6:25 AM

Lee said ...
Love this idea! You are a wonderful genius!! :)
4/14/2012 9:53 AM

Sue said ...
Just a simple suggestion - put your pins in perpendicular, and then you don't have to worry about which direction they are going, and don't have to pull them out until you are all done.
4/15/2012 6:57 PM

THANK YOU! Found this via google. I have super-super-super-cake table cloths to hem for wedding. This is a great idea! No more need for iron =) xo
5/27/2012 12:00 PM

Anne said ...
please teach me to sew...
I can sew by hand, buttons, hems, I even do Super patching work on jeans, shirts, skirts etc.
But, my husband bought me the "top-of-the-line" Brother Sewing machine about 4 years ago, because it was what I asked for as a Mother's Day Gift...but I just wanted a sewing machine, I didn't want to fly to the moon in a mini computer...

Other than me hitch-hiking to your home, is there any good on-line sewing classes or tutorials that will help me to be less TERRIFIED of learning to sew on this machine?

6/18/2012 10:11 PM

Joshua said ...
With 40 yards of hemming to do this is very helpful...
4/24/2013 12:50 PM

Claire said ...
Learned this trick years ago by reading the patterns and sewing books. I used to make table clothes for my mother's 90 in round dining table that were impossible to find to fit it. Lots of stitching, but always works like a charm--also helpful when doing any type of curved sewing to make the curve smooth and even.
9/3/2013 10:40 PM

I've used this method and it also has the advantage the it stabilizes the hem so that it's less inclined to stretch as you sew.
9/22/2013 8:53 AM

Maria said ...
Simple and yet genius. Thanks for this tip it's going to make life so much easier.
1/9/2014 8:17 PM

Abby said ...
That's a lot of awesomeness. Thanks for the great idea for hemming.
8/15/2014 11:16 AM

Jocelyn said ...
I'll try this on cloth napkins for starters. Thanks for sharing!
11/12/2014 6:28 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Jocelyn ... I made cloth napkins, too: and handkerchiefs: Totally worth the effort and time.
11/16/2014 12:26 AM

Linda Towers said ...
If you use a very long stitch to mark your fold line, you can remove it easily without too much trouble.
11/13/2014 8:21 AM

Maree said ...
Great tip! Just saved me so much time on tablecloths and napkins for Christmas. Thank you!
12/21/2014 1:18 AM

Julie said ...
Great idea - I have to buy "too large" tablecloths as my dining room table is both an odd size and oval. I just bought a $5 tablecloth from Ikea with pears on it - yes, too large but I'm going to use your trick. Thank you.
8/11/2015 7:50 AM
Elena said ...
What fun to read all this! I googled for another problem and was directed to your site. I have a leather poof my dog owns. I bought some vinyl material as I want to cover the top. Like a tablecloth. I made a round piece. But it is too short. I need more drop. But I do not know how to figure out cutting the curved section . I can buy some more vinyl or use other material
8/19/2015 3:22 AM