The first of these is how to sew a curved hem. I am not totally happy with the way the hem looks on my son's shirt in the last post (why don't those boys iron more?) but I saw that shirt before it was sent out and it wasn't wavy. The lesson here is that this pattern has a shaped side seam and for a casual shirt on this straight up and down guy I have to remove all curve. And in a casual camp collar style shirt like this one I will do a square shape with vents in the side next time.
Back on topic.
The curved shirt hem is a difficult one for most sewing folks. The straight parts at the front and back are easy, they are on grain, but once you get to the curved places at the side the grain moves off to something closer to bias and under the action of pressing and sewing it can so easily stretch and bow out.
There is a lot of good advice out there about stay-stitching etc. to avoid this, but my nerves are something I like to restore, not erode. So when I sew so this is what I do instead.
I hem the fronts and the back of the shirt before I sew the side seams.
The reasons for doing this are:
- It is easier to press and sew up one small hem at a time
- Any bias that exists, even if I elect to stay-stitch (I don't always do this in high thread count stable shirt fabrics) is pushed towards the side seam and I can trim it off before sewing those seams
- This is the way many ready-to-wear shirts are made - look for a little patch many RT
The process is simple:
- I press up the hem allowance, turning the raw edge under on both front and back pieces before I do anything else to them, like sew on the front bands. These pressing lines are good markers.
- I sew the bands onto the shirt, but before I topstitch them down I fold them back and sew along the bottom, just like you would at the bottom of a facing in a blouse. I turn and press this to the right side and then top stitch the bands in place.
- I then stitch the hems, following my previous pressing marks.
Now to the seams, sleeve and side.
I don't serge any of my seams in my shirts. Yes it is fast and easy but I feel it is part of the culture of shirt-making, all other construction is enclosed with yokes, bands etc. to have all raw edges, even those covered by serging, hidden.
Of course the standard is to make flat felled seams, and I have made a lot of those with a felling foot, but that kind of work, particularly when you get to the tricky step two of edge-stitching down a raw edge, is nerve-wracking.
And we are sewing stress free right?
So after much experimentation I have decided to use french seams for my shirts, two different ways, and to top stitch them to look like flat felled, mimicking the appearance of RTW shirt seams.
To set in the sleeves- a conventional french seam:
- Make a french seam, step one wrong sides together, step two and final stitching from the inside.
- Top stitch close to the folded edge of the encased seam, which will give the appearance of a single line of topstitching from the right side. Note how this eases in the extra bulk of the sleeve cap but keeps this hidden from the right side:
To sew the side seams- a french seam done in reverse with the encased seam in on the outside:
- Make a french seam, step one right sides together, step two and final stitching from the outside- this will catch the hem allowances.
- Press the encased seam allowance to the back of the shirt and top stitch close to the folded edge, giving the appearance of a flat felled seam.
Here is how this looks at hem level, from the wrong side.
First before the final top stitching is done:
And then after the final top stitching is done on the right side:
Done and not at all stressful.