lettuce hem by sewing machine

I recently wrote a detailed guest post for the nice folks at Janome about using a serger to make a lettuce hem on knits. I used this technique and a Janome 1100D serger (which they’ve generously lent to the Oliver + S studio) to make the pair of pajamas I blogged about earlier this month. If you’re interested in how to make a lettuce hem using a serger, go here for instructions.

Lettuce hem using a sewing machine

You don’t need a serger to make a lettuce hem, however. Here are some easy instructions for making a hem using an ordinary sewing machine. A machine-stitched lettuce hem requires one additional step that isn’t necessary with a serged hem, but the result is very similar.

First, mark the desired length of your hem and trim the fabric to be approximately 1″ longer than the finished length. Fold the excess fabric to the wrong side, press the fold, and pin the fabric in a few places to hold it temporarily.

Set your sewing machine to a short zigzag stitch. If you have a satin stitch setting, this works great. Otherwise, just set your zigzag stitch so the stitches will be very close together and create a smooth stitch. The stitches also should be at least 1/8″ wide so you have enough room to stitch over the folded edge of the fabric.

Once you’ve got everything set up, test a few knit scraps to check the settings and get comfortable with this stitch. You’ll need to stretch the hem as you stitch. The more you stretch, the wavier the edge. Keep the fabric stretched as evenly as possible while you work. It’s easiest to do this with a tube shape rather than a straight piece of fabric, since a tube gives you something to hold in front and behind the needle as you’re working. (Sleeves and pant legs work perfectly.)

As you stretch the fabric, stitch over the folded edge of the hem so the needle falls off the fabric on the right side of the stitch and stitches the fabric on the left side. Here is the stitched hem from the wrong side of the fabric.

Once you’ve finished stitching, turn to the wrong side of the hem, and trim the excess fabric. I’ve found that the easiest way to trim is to stretch the hem until it is straight, and trim as closely as you can to the stitches while holding the stretched fabric. (This is the step that isn’t required if you use a serger, since the serger trims the excess fabric as it folds and stitches the hem.)

You’ll notice, initially, that the hem is stretched and distorted. It won’t look very lettuce-y at first, but if you give it a few minutes to recover, you’ll see that, as the knit returns to its original shape, the hem will curl up to reveal a sweet little lettuce-y edge.

Easy, yes? We used the lettuce hem on the Hopscotch Dress and Nature Walk Pants pajama combination for S. How will you use it?

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  1. Oh thanks! I love the way you explained this and I must try it now!

  2. I love the simplicity of throwing a lettuce edge on personally. I use my serger for it and its super quick and easy peasy. I was thinking the hopscotch dress needs that hem on the next one I make for the girls. They love that dress, have 3 for each of them so far!

  3. Your a genious! Love this technique and can’t wait to use it. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    1. connie

      I have a simple machine no serger and have wanted to do this. Definitely going to try

  4. Thank you for explaining this! I’m excited to try it on a nightgown I’m planning to make using the Hopscotch pattern.

  5. Johanna O

    I’m known for making up things as I go along, and when I realized I had cut the nature walk pants too short for my daughter, I wanted, (and tried) a lettuce edge. However, I just took the raw edge of the pants, stretched it out and then started stitching with my zig zag. It worked, but I’m wondering if there is a reason for folding the hem in your technique? (I also used a different bobbin and top thread to give it a little bit different color when the bottom side flashed.) I’m all ears because I love to know if there is a better way!

    1. Mary Lynne

      What a great idea to use two thread colors!!

  6. Johanna, you can absolutely hem without folding. I’ve done a lettuce edge on the cut edge in a pinch, too. You run a couple of risks by doing it: the cut edge might start to run a bit (like stockings) because you’re pulling on it so much as you stitch, and the ends of the threads can poke out a bit from the satin stitch and give the hem a messier look. That’s not to say it won’t work, but ideally you have a little fold so those thread ends get wrapped to the wrong side of the fabric. Hope that helps!

  7. Angela

    Thank you! I have been waiting patiently for this tutorial:-) I can’t wait to try it.

  8. Please tell me you’ll show us how to do this in person at the Cloth and Bobbin class in December. Looking forward to sewing with you again! Take Care.

  9. Julia, your wish is my command. Can’t wait to see you again!

  10. Brilliant! Thanks so much, I never knew this could be done without a serger, now I can try on my machine- excellent!

  11. Great tutorial! I can’t believe it’s so easy! Thanks for posting this!

    Have a great day!

  12. Sarah Cameron

    Yay! I can’t wait to try this out! I have a hopscotch top waiting to go, and I want to try this out on it! Thanks.

  13. Thanks Julia, now I can learn it too.

  14. Teresa

    Liesl, thank you so very, very much for this tutorial! I love the idea of folding the fabric. It would be much more stable this way…I can’t wait to try this! Your tips are golden!….just like your patterns! You are always teaching and I am so grateful ‘cuz there’s always room for learning!

    Have a great day!

  15. I just tried this last night with a Hopscotch dress and I’ve found a serious advantage to folding it over- no “point” at the seam where the sides connect. Thanks so much! I love knowing the rationale for the techniques, it helps my brain so much.

  16. Jamie

    Is there a way to do this same edge on quilting cotton? I don’t have a serger.

    1. Jamie, this post describes how to do a lettuce hem without a serger using knits. It’s not possible to do a lettuce hem on quilting cottons because the fabric needs to stretch, but you certainly don’t need a serger to do the hem.

  17. pippi

    Wow! This is great! I have felt so many times like my sewing is lacking not having a serger (yet). I wanted to finish of a ruffle on a very thin jersey knit dress and this worked so perfectly! What a great technique! I think it would work great on a knit flutter sleeve too. I was able to do it by only folding over 1/2 inch (instead of a full 1 inch) too as I had limited fabric (but it was a little trickier to trim). This is how it came out if anyone wants to see another sample… http://www.flickr.com/photos/59555784@N02/8660475303/in/photostream

  18. Celestial

    I am so glad there is a tutorial for this! I need to make this costume http://img0.etsystatic.com/il_430xN.45850363.jpg for a renaissance faire and had NO IDEA what to do for the edges! This is fantastic thank you so much!

  19. Nice tutorial 🙂
    I’m pinning it for later 🙂

  20. Sarah

    Thank you for explaining this the way you did! I was changing my daughter’s long-sleeved shirt into a short sleeve shirt and this is the nicest edge I tried (on my scraps!). I was a little scared sewing it on the real sleeve, but it came out beautiful! Nice and neat like you mentioned in another comment. Thank you for saving my project and having it turn out quality looking, not just done!

  21. shara

    The links on the Janome website are not working to see how to do this on a serger. Can you post the technique?

  22. Thanks for pointing that out, Shara. We’ll re-publish the post on our blog soon!

  23. Carolyn collins

    I’m 76 and am making a flapper dress to do the Charleston with a friend for a church talent show. I’m using bright red tricot and will have three levels of skirts at graduating lengths. I plan to do the lettuce edge on the three layers. Wish me luck.

  24. Emily B

    Thanks for this! Turned may daughter’s leggings with a busted knee into some cute biking length shorts. Perfect for my active girl and the hem was easy. I had done a similar hem without the fold under and while it worked it was not the best – I don’t know why I’d never thought to fold and trim but it turned out beautifully.

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