How to Add to Your Bottom Line

comments (5) April 10th, 2009     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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Add some detail to your hemlines when you sew skirts and pants or restyle existing garments.
Hem a skirt to the right side, exposing the selvage, or the wrong side of the fabric when it’s just as nice as the right side.
I liked the selvage on this linen fabric so much I didn’t want to hide it.
Add some detail to your hemlines when you sew skirts and pants or restyle existing garments.

Add some detail to your hemlines when you sew skirts and pants or restyle existing garments.

Photo: Mary Ray

Restyling a garment is all about updating the look and making it fit. When it comes to skirts and pants, getting the right length and width is key. But how do you add or subtract without making it look like you did? I’ll show you some ways that I’ve treated my hemlines and maybe it will inspire you to start at the bottom and work your way up.

1. First, here’s how you can hem to the right side instead of to the inside without the seam allowances showing on the outside of the skirt. Use this idea on a start-from-scratch garment with a fabric that’s different on each side—like a silk charmeuse or crepe-back satin. It works on sleeve hems as well, creating the look of a separate band. I used this technique on my tweedy linen skirt because I cut it on the cross-grain and I liked the look of the selvage and thought it would be a nice little detail on an otherwise plain skirt. So, here’s what you do: Sew the seams of the skirt right sides together as you normally would, stopping somewhere in the hem area of the skirt. Make a clip through the seam allowances almost to the stitching. Now finish sewing the seams wrong sides together from the clip to the bottom edge. When you turn up the hem, the seam allowances are hidden between the hem and the skirt!


Hem a skirt to the right side, exposing the selvage or the wrong side of the fabric when it’s just as nice as the right side.


I like the selvage on this linen fabric so much I didn’t want to hide it.


Sew right sides together from the top edge to somewhere near the hemline, clip through the seam allowances almost to the stitching, and sew wrong sides together from the clip to lower edge.

2. A-lines are great but can be a little boring. You can easily make an A-line narrower at the bottom without taking in the seams, giving it the illusion of being a straight skirt. Sew some soft elastic on the inside just above the hemline. Cut the elastic so it’s about one-half to three-quarters as long as the width of the skirt. Fold the skirt into quarters, and mark each quarter with a pin. Do the same with the elastic and pin the elastic to the skirt at each quarter mark. Sew the elastic directly to the skirt, stretching as you go so it fits in place. You can add a casing to the wrong—or right—side of the skirt as well and feed the elastic through. Since you’ve added stretch to the bottom line, you don’t have to worry about adding a vent.


Change the lower edge by creating a ruffle.


Sew some soft elastic to the inside above the hemline.


Use a zigzag stitch when you sew to prevent the stitches from popping when the elastic stretches as you walk.

3. Make a skirt narrower at the bottom, and give it a little style, by adding some narrow darts along the bottom. Just be careful that you don’t make the lower edge too narrow or you’ll be taking baby steps as you walk along.


Darts at the bottom of a soft, linen skirt add shape and style and make a dirndl skirt less dowdy.


These darts are narrow and about 5 to 6 inches long.

4. When a skirt with a straight bottom edge is too long and already has some interesting detail at the bottom that you don’t want to cut off, sew a couple of nice wide tucks perfectly parallel to the bottom edge to take up that extra length. Fold the fabric, press, and pin. Then stitch the tuck and press it down. Add one or two more to create a nice design detail.


Wide, even tucks are a great way to shorten a skirt that has some nice detail at the bottom—like this embroidered band—that you don’t want to cut off.


Tucks work best on a straight-edged skirt. Make them exactly parallel to the bottom edge.

5. Bands of pleats add embellishment to the lower edge of an A-line skirt. This was a start-from-scratch skirt, so I made self-fabric strips, but you could easily do the same thing with a coordinating fabric, trim, or ribbon. If you’re using fabric, as I did, you’ll want to be sure the fabric is stable enough to work without finishing the long edges. I tore the linen strips from my fabric to be sure they were on the grain. Then I pleated each strip separately before sewing it to the skirt by simply folding it as it went under the presser foot. You get into a rhythm as you do this, and it’s easy to keep the pleats even without pressing or marking before you stitch. And, if the pleats aren’t exactly all the same size, that’s OK. I think it makes them more interesting! After pleating the strips, I sewed them to the bottom of the skirt using a machine blanket stitch.


Pleated ruffles add interest to a simple A-line skirt.


Tear a long strip of fabric on the cross-grain and sew the pleats using a long straight stitch. Fold the fabric as it goes under the presser foot, then attach the strips to the skirt using a decorative stitch.

6. Pant hems can use some special attention, too. If you don’t have enough fabric when you’re sewing pants from scratch, add a band of fabric to the bottom of the leg. When I made a pair of pants from some fabric I had purchased to make a jacket and didn’t have enough length to cut the full pant legs, I cut two bands of the fabric from the scraps. Each band was long enough to go around the bottom edge of the leg and wide enough to fold in half to create a double band. My fabric is a "shot" four-ply silk—that means the warp and weft threads are different colors and there’s a definite direction to the fabric creating a sheen. So the band is pretty obvious and, again, adds a nice detail.


Add a double band to the lower edge of pant legs to add length.

7. Pant styles come and go, as you know. You can narrow the width of a pant leg by making some pin tucks all around the lower edge. This takes in just enough fullness to straighten a flared pant without having to take apart the seams to take in the pants.


Tiny pin tucks distributed around the flared legs of my linen pants straighten the legs and add detail.

posted in: fabric, sewstylish feature, skirt, pant, hemlines

Comments (5)

Unsupebupteni writes: Thanks for sharing ,it looks very nice.
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Posted: 3:09 am on October 5th
HaventSewnInYears writes: I'm letting hems OUT of some pants I purposely shrank in the dryer (lost some weight). Is there a trick to get rid of the telltale lines from the let down....other than ironing: that seems to underscore the darn line????
Posted: 10:24 pm on May 9th
TheArtfulDogger writes: Thanks for the ideas! I've been trying to think of ways to restyle and update the clothes I have, rather than buying more.
Posted: 10:59 am on April 10th
garnetnm writes: A lot of selvages are too nice to discard and make good trims. Thanks, too, for good ideas for adding interest to skirt hems.

Pintucks can beused at the top of skirt gores to reduce the top skirt width to the waistband size.

I began with one pintuck 3-4" long in the center of each gore. Then added another a little shorter on each side. And continued adding shorter ones until the skirt top width fit the waistband. Turned out to be a good design detail without having to reconstruct the skirt.
Posted: 9:53 am on April 10th
susanbrownknitting writes: I really appreciate posts like this because you can take the ideas into so many different applications and fabrics. It would have taken time think up and fabricate the samples and I thank you for your efforts. All the best Susan
Posted: 8:00 am on April 10th
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