How to Use a Sewing Gauge for Hems

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Look at this cute, little ruler. It’s considered an essential sewing tool but do you know what you can do with it?”

sewing gauge a cute tool

I frequently use my sewing gauge for hems. Hems aren’t just finished edges on clothing. Hems are any fabric edge that is turned and sewn.

hems
The top two hems are on doll blankets. The hem on the clover fabric is a vintage apron my grandmother made.

What is a sewing gauge?

A sewing gauge is a 6″ ruler with a nifty slider in the middle for accurate measuring. (It is cute, isn’t it!) One side of the sewing gauge measures inches and the other side measures centimeters.

sewing gauges

How does a sewing gauge work?

The slider in the middle of the sewing gauge allows you to measure from an 1/8 of an inch up to 6 inches. The slider is wider than the width of the sewing gauge. It rests right on the edge of the fabric and helps stabilize the sewing gauge while you’re measuring.

Hemming with a Sewing Gauge

The sewing gauge allows you to get an accurate hem measurement when you’re turning the edge of the fabric before sewing it.There are a couple of different ways I use the sewing gauge to measure hems.

One Way to Hem with a Sewing Gauge

Lay the fabric with the wrong side up. Determine the width of the hem and move the slider to that measurement.

Take the edge of the fabric and fold it over to about the width you want. The wrong sides of the fabric will be together.

Line up the sewing gauge slider with the folded edge of the fabric. I like putting the slider against the fold because the two layers of fabric provide a thicker edge.

hem with raw edge visible
See how the sewing gauge slide is resting on the folded edge? I can be sure I’m measuring exactly 1/2 an inch.

Make adjustments to the turned edge so the raw edge of the fabric is lined up with the end of the sewing gauge. This will give you the desired width of the hem.

Finger press (push down firmly and move your fingers along the folded edge to crease it) or use an iron to press the hem in place.

Move the sewing gauge down the turned edge, measuring and pressing until the entire hem has been prepared.

Another Way to Hem with a Sewing Gauge

If you don’t want the raw edge visible on the back of the hem, you’ll want to turn the edge of the fabric and measure it twice. Once to get a narrow bit and then again to hide the raw edge and achieve the desired hem width.

You’ll use the same directions as above, just do it twice:

  1. Make the first turn. This will be the narrow bit. It’s usually between 1/4 to 1/2 an inch. Use the sewing gauge to get an accurate measurement and press it.
  2. Make the second turn. This will hide the narrow bit and the raw edge of the fabric. Use the sewing gauge to get an accurate measurement and press.
hem with raw edge hidden
The first turn was 1/2 an inch. The second turn was 1 inch. The raw edge is now hidden.

The second turn can have a different width than the first turn. However, both turns could be the same especially if the hem is very narrow. The width of both turns really depends on the project you’re sewing and the width of the finished hem.

When you sew a hem that has been turned twice, make sure to sew along the edge of the narrow bit close to the fold. This will ensure the raw edge stays hidden and won’t unfold later.

Hemming Tip – Pinning

Pins can be used to hold the hem in place after you press and before you sew.

If I’m only turning and pressing a short distance and the fabric isn’t slippery, I usually don’t pin the hem. However, if I’ve turned and pressed quite a bit, I’ll add a little more security by pinning the hem to hold it in place when I sew.

Also, when I’m working with a wider hem (2 inches or more), I’ll pin it down because the fabric tends to shift more easily.

There are a couple of different ways you can pin the hem. You’ll need to try them both out and see what works best for you.

Two ways to pin hems
Top picture: The pins are perpendicular to the fabric’s edge. Bottom picture: Pins are parallel to the edge of the fabric. They are also holding the narrow bit in place.

Other Sewing Gauge Uses

In addition to hemming, check out other sewing tasks you can do with the cute little sewing gauge.

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