To hem a piece of cloth,
the cut edges are folded up, folded up again,
and then sewed down. The cut edges are thus
completely enclosed in cloth, so that they
A hem is also the edge of the cloth treated in this manner.
The hem may be sewn down with a line of invisible
blind-stitch or sewn down by a
sewing machine, usually
leaving a visible line of sewing. Modern sewing machines
can make many decorative or functional stitches, so the
number of possible hem treatments is large. Machines can
also sew a reasonable facsimile of a hem-stitch, though
the stitches will usually be larger and more visible. Most
haute couture hems are
sewn by hand for this reason.
Heavy material with deep hems may be hemmed with what
is called a dress-maker's hem -- an extra line
of loose running stitch is added in the middle of the hem,
so that all the weight of the cloth does not hang from one
line of stitching.
The term hem is also extended to other cloth treatments
that prevent raveling. Hems can be serged (see
serger), hand rolled and then sewn down with tiny stitches
(still seen as a high-class finish to handkerchiefs), pinked
pinking shears, piped (see
piping), covered with
binding, and many other inventive treatments.