Maybe you have an existing shirt, tunic or dress (or are about to make one) and want a stylish high/low rounded hem, or a shirt tail hem, like on a man’s shirt. This is how to do it!
It’s possible to make a pattern for you all to download, and get “the perfect high-low shirt tail hem”! But I want to teach you how to shape the hem yourself, as you like it! As all shirts and dresses are unique, this tutorial makes it possible to create this style on any item you make or already own.
(I use a separate, contrasting facing here, but a folded hem is possible too, of course!)
First of all, make sure you have enough fabric when you cut your dress/tunic/shirt. You decide how deep you want the rounded part to be, but it’s of course limited by the amount of fabric you have! Here I just cut the fabric roughly rounded with 20 cm/9 in extra in the back, and 15 cm/6 in in the front.
The hem is the last stage of the sewing, so finish the rest of the dress first!
Start with putting your dress/shirt on, and check how high you want the opening on the side. This shirt reaches the fingertips at the side seam, so it’s pretty long for a shirt. Mark this point on both sides, and also mark center back and front at the bottom edge.
If you made it using a pattern, mark this point on the pattern too!
This is a shirt, and open in the front, but the same method applies if it’s without a front opening!
Next, use a big piece of paper to decide the look and shape of your shirt tail. Start with the backside , and make sure you have enough paper to get the whole backside covered.
Here I’m folding the paper down the center back ( I work on half the paper, but need the whole width to see the end result )
I also mark a line perpendicular to the center back fold ( Use an L square, or fold)
This line goes from side seam to side seam, through the points you marked earlier. Measure the pattern, or the dress/shirt, to mark the exact width on this line. Or simply put your paper on top of the pattern, and trace it.
You now have two lines crossing, one horizontal between the side seams, and one vertical, forming the center back. Here I work on half the back, with the paper folded along center back. Looks like this when opened:
So, fold the paper along center back.
With the folded line across the back aligned with the points at the side seams, I decide I want my shirt tail to go down 18 cm at center back.
I marked 18cm/7 1/4in down at center back, and made sure I had a bottom line at a right angle to the center back, for at least 10 cm/4/in. You probably don’t want the center back to be too pointy, but to have a smooth rounded look.
Now it’s time to join the two ends, from the center back up to the side seams. Try to create a smooth rounded line that looks pleasing. Draw and redraw until you’re pleased.
(Too wide, your bum looks enormous, to pointy, you look like a penguin…)
For this you can use a french ruler, or french curve, but it’s not necessary. Free hand works too!
You can also use an existing shirt/dress you like and copy the curve.
Here’ my sketching:
Fill in the best line with a colored pencil, and trace it over to the other half of the paper.
( Just don’t cut anything yet!)
Open up the paper, and look at it from a distance. Does it look good? Mine looked a bit odd, so I had to redraw a few times.
The first try was “too wide in the middle”, the central part that needs to be at right angle to the center back line. I wanter a slightly more pointy look. I also wanted it deeper.Time to remake!
Draw new colored lines ( best use a new color) and open up again. This try was much better for me, but you may need to re-do a couple of times. No worries, keep on trying!
In this tutorial I use a separate facing to edge the shirt. This is an easy and elegant way to manage the curved hems. If you do the same, add only a tiny seam allowance, a wide one would need to be trimmed off anyway. If you want to make a classic men’s shirt hem, you fold it twice and stitch it down. ( separate tutorial for that!) and in that case you might need a seam allowance of 2 1/2cm/1 in.
For the facing, I add 5 cm/2in UP from the hemline (for the facing )and 6 mm/ 1/4 in DOWN, for the seam allowance.
To shape the side seam I put it on top of my backpiece pattern, or existing dress or shirt. The side seam needs to follow the garments side seam perfectly. And still don’t cut it out!
Now you repeat the process for the frontside, and finally you have two uncut patterns, that meet at the side seam!
(I use see-through tissue paper, this is more tricky if you cant see through, but it’s totally possible! )
Pin them on top of each other, side seam on side seam. Now it’s time to shape the meeting! As you can see, I have made a small “tent” on top. It can be cut ( and sewn) straight across, or very high and pointy. Just as you please. No seam allowance along outer edges, only along the side seam, and bottom edge, on both front and back.
Now you can cut it out!
Pin your brand new pattern piece on the back and front respectively , and cut the hem along the lower line.
Nest step: cut the facings.
Sew the facings side seams together, and pin the facings right side to right side of the shirt, all the way around!
It’s important to match the side seams exactly.
If you’re making a shirt, open at the front, make sure you pin the facings at the same height, so the fronts end up the same length.
When it all looks good, sew around.
Make a clip in the seam allowances at the side seam pivot points, all the way in to the stitches. Press apart and grade the side seams a bit if necessary. Finally press the facing to the back side.
Edge the facings in a pleasing way, or fold the edges in and pin.
At center front, if it’s a shirt, fold all edges under and pin carefully. ( Here the button placket is also made from the contrasting fabric, as a separate facing.)
On the right side, I started with a narrow top stitch along the outer edge. But you need to sew down the upper edge of the facing too, Turn to the right side and mark a seam line.
Measure your facing, and make sure your seam ends up at the edge, to hold it down. Mark your seamline!
Finally, mark the seam at the sides, again make sure you sew at the edge of the facings all around. Use your fingers to feel it, and mark with a disappearing pen or chalk.
Top stitch all the way around!
If you make a shirt, make sure the front edge looks good too, no fraying edges peeking out!
(To get a retro feeling , or a work wear look, you can make several parallel rows of top stitching!)
Congratulations, and well done!!