“Homemade” or “handmade”? With knitting, it’s all in the details. Here, I’ll show how I finish a turned hem invisibly.


A while ago, I put up some pictures of this little stripy dress (still no pattern out, but it will eventually come!)

Dagmar wearing the stripy dress, with an antique grave in the background. The stripes are dyed with madder, indigo, and cochineal.

But I’m also working on a matching cardigan for boys. Both have turned hems, a very nice edge on knits in my humble opinion. In a turned hem, the knitting is doubled, and the turn is accomplished by knitting a row that has an inherent bend.

For girl edges, I use a picot (yarn over, knit 2 together) to make the bend:

Turned hem, this one turns around a row of picots.

For boy edges, I simply use a purl row to make the bend, that gives a neutral-looking hem that would fit most any project:

Turned hems, the girly picot hem and and neutral purled one for boys.

To make a turned hem at the beginning of a knitted piece, I use a provisional cast on. I knit a few rows, make the bend (picots or a purl row), then knit another few rows. After unraveling the provisional cast on, the hem is closed by a row of knit 2 together. It is also possible to use an ordinary, long-tail, cast on, and then sew the turn hem to the inside – some might find that easier, but it gives you a much lumpier hem.

But things are a bit different when finishing with a turned hem. The boy’s cardigan is knit bottom up, so it is finished with a turned hem at the neck. Just before closing the hem, this is what it looked like:

The boy’s cardigan, just before closing the neck hem.

In the picture above, I’ve knit 8 rows of stockinette, purled one row, then knit another 8 rows of stockinette. At that point, you can simply cast off all the stitches and sew the edge to the inside, but again, that gives you a lumpy hem. Instead, I do a kind of semi-kitchener stitch where I weave through the live stitches and the inside of the fabric.

These pictures were taken last summer, when I was finishing the dress (that’s why I have such terrible gardening hands). See the captions below for instructions:

The hem with the knitting finished. All stitches are sitting on the knitting needle, and the picot row gives the fabric a bend. Break the yarn with a sufficiently long tail, and thread a tapestry needle on to it.
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the knitting needle knitwise. Pull through, letting the stitch remain on the knitting needle.
Step 2: Sew into the first edge stitch that was initially knit. Follow along the yarn, and pull through.
Step 3: Follow the yarn, duplicating the stitch. You are actually sewing through the bump of the previous stripe. Pull through.
Step 4: Sew through the first stitch on the knitting needle from the back, letting the stitch fall off the knitting needle. Pull the yarn trough, and tighten the stitch to match you knitting gauge. This completes the treatment of the first stitch on the knitting needle.
Repeat steps 1-4 for each stitch on the knitting needle. The result is a completely invisible graft!

This is how I finish the hems. I find it easier than casting off and then seaming, because you have the bumps on the back side to guide your tapestry needle.

I almost cannot believe that I’ve been sitting on these photos for so long. Summer is just a distant memory around here, we had snow yesterday. This is the next picture on the camera roll, from a walk on the same days as the hem grafting above:

A summer walk. I almost can’t remember what sunlight on the face feels like…
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1 thought on “TURNED HEMS

  1. […] A while ago, I wrote about turned hems. […]

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