spot bronson

I hate hemming. I generally hem my kitchen towels on the sewing maching and they come out OK, though the edges never seem quite perfectly right. I have a set of 6 linen napkins in a barleycorn pattern. They’ve been off the loom for months now, with the edges zig-zagged by machine, waiting for a hem. I’m planning on putting them in the sale, so I needed to hem them.
I started hemming the first on the other night in front of the TV. I have never tried to make a very nice hem before, so this has been a learning experience. I believe that if I can (in the future) weave to produce nice hems, it will make my life so much easier. Here are the steps that I’m taking right now, along with the recommendations for changes in the future to make it easier.
1. Press the hem. I fold up twice to my desired hem line so I’ll have a neatly encased raw edge. I’m going to re-press this later, so perfection isn’t required, but some amount of pressing is because linen is so floppy and wiry I’d never get it hemmed without this step. I had to eyeball my press lines based on the space between the raw edge and the pattern start (I had done 2.5″ of plain weave for the hems). In the future, it would be best to lay in a single strand of contrasting color sewing thread along with the pick of linen at each fold line, and at the line where I want the hem to be, immediately before starting the pattern. I can easily pull out the sewing thread out, and my weave structure is maintained since I added the sewing thread in the same shed as one of the weft threads.
2. Add a sewing thread to the line where I want the hem to be. If I had done this during the weaving process it would have been a heckuva lot faster and easier, but I didn’t. I’m just using a needle and thread to go alongside a pick of the weft clear across the napkin.
3. Baste the hem. I tried pinning on the first one and pins end up everywhere, poking me, the cats, my husband, everyone. If you’re better at keeping track of your pins, that might work fine for you. I was just a whole lot more comfortable and confident in the hemming process with a quick basting of the edge.
4. Very carefully hem by catching a weft thread along the hem line (use the sewing thread to find the spot) and along the folded edge. Now if, in step 1, I had put sewing threads on my fold lines, this would be even easier to keep the hem perfectly even, but that was a bit fussy for me at this point, so I just eyeball it. It’s working very nicely. I’m doing every single thread for the hem because I like how it looks, but I think every other or even every 3rd thread might work. In the photos here I’m using a nice big blue contrasting yarn, but in my actual hems, I used the weft yarn (a 40/1 linen).

Match up weft to weft thread as you work across.
Pull the stitches until just snug
5. I also use an overcast stitch to sew up the side edges in the hem space, but I forgot to take a picture of that.
6. Pull out the sewing thread from the basting and the guide lines, and you have a very handsome, nearly invisible seam!