How to make a basic hem:
Step 1: Measure where you want to cut the edge of the embroidery. Using a pin, pull up a vertical thread so it starts pulling out of the fabric (see close up). Tip: smaller embroideries have narrower hems, larger embroideries have larger hems, but this is somewhat personal preference-sometimes you want a tiny little hem so all you see is embroidery, but other times, you might want a deep hem to really show off a beautiful border design. If you're not sure or this is your first time hemming, measure out 2 inches for any embroideries 18" and larger, and 1-1/2" for small embroideries. Once you learn this hem technique, you can easily vary the amount you hem anything by adjusting these measurements.
Basic Hem Step 1 Close up:
Step 2: Pull thread all the way out of fabric. You'll need to do this by pulling the thread taut and gently easing it out of the fabric. The fabric will gather up slightly as you do this. Do this on all sides of the embroidery. Tip: if you have trouble doing this with your fingers, use tweezers.
Pulling thread, top view
Pulling thread, side view
Step 3:Pulling the thread will leave a channel around the embroidery. Cut along this channel. Why are we doing this? You will usually have 1-3 inches of excess fabric around your embroidery; this is so that you can fit your entire working area in your embroidery hoop as you're embroidering so that it is more comfortable to work on. This excess fabric needs to be trimmed in order to begin with a crisp edge for hemming.
Step 4: Now, take your trimmed embroidery to the ironing board and press down the first part of the hem. The easiest way to do this is to use the finished edge of your embroidery as a guide and press to that line (this means that you press the raw edge of the fabric to the finished line of embroidery stitches). Do this on all sides. Don't worry about the corners yet, we'll get to them in a moment. Why are we doing this? In order to end up with a finished embroidery that has no raw edges, we have to make what's called a double-fold hem, which just means that we press down one part of the fabric and then we press it again to enclose the raw edge entirely so no threads can come undone.
Step 5: Press the second part of the hem in place by tucking the raw edge into the fold of the previous pressed section. Do this on all four sides (see overview photo). Why are we doing this? You can make a double-fold hem by pressing a section of fabric and then pressing it over again, but it tends to come out looking a bit wiggly. We get a much sharper hem finish by pressing the first edge of the hem and then tucking the raw edge into it. This is a professional sewing method that takes the fuss and bother out of getting a clean, crisp hem edge.
Hem overview showing all sides pressed in
Step 6: Open out the corner and you'll see a bunch of criss-crossed pressing lines. Fold the opened out corner of the fabric and put the tip of it at the corner of your embroidery stitches. Press this in place and you'll notice that your final pressed edges (the second pressing line from the edge as you're looking at the back side of the embroidery) now meet.
Step 7: The corner you've just pressed down is the miter. Trim the excess fabric, leaving a 3/8" seam allowance.
Step 8:Press your final pressed edge back in place and, voila!, your miter now pops into place. Make sure this press is crisp and that the miter edges almost touch.
Step 9: Press the raw edge back under and your miter is now ready to sew by either hand or machine. Good job!
Now, if you want a more historical or precise hem finish, let's continue onto the Drawn Thread Hem Technique. This is my all-time favorite hem technique and really quite easy to learn. Once you get the hang of it, it has a lovely rhythm--wrap, snug up, secure, wrap, snug up, secure. Tip: when you're working this, it's helpful to sit at a table or put the embroidery on a pillow on your lap since you need to get it a little closer in order to see the little "bars".