Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sewing tip: straight trim around a gentle curve

I'm making a medieval tunic for my sweetie today, and I got to the part about putting on the trim around the bottom hem for a bit of pizazz. When I started sewing costumes I had a heck of a time figuring out the trick to making flat trim nicely bend around the gentle curve of the hem. So I figured I'd share my solution, in case anyone else is in the same boat.

The issue is: hems tend to flare outward on tunics, skirts, and gowns. That makes the outside edge slightly longer around than further up the fabric. Now, if you have trim that is slightly curved to match your hem line, you're all set to go. But all the trim I've come across is straight, not curved.

So, first thing I do is sew down the edge of the trim that is closest to the hem.

That gives a nice smooth edge by the hem, but there is excess trim buckling up on the other side. Now, you can deal with the excess fabric by folding that over, making tucks as you go around. However, somewhere along the line I learned a trick.

Fire up your iron, and set it to the steam setting. Hover the iron over your trim for a little bit, giving the trim a nice good steaming. Gently press the trim, steaming as you go. (Make sure to test your trim so you don't scorch it with your iron.)

Here you can see the result. The left side is the before, and the right side is the after. The steaming and pressing shrinks up the trim, sucking in that extra fabric. Since you already sewed down the outside edge, that stays the appropriate length. You've just made curved trim.

Pin down your edge, and sew that sucker down. You may still have to take some pleats and tucks, depending on the severity of your curve, but there won't be nearly as much fiddling needed as you might have had to do without the steam trick.

See? All stitched into place, nice and neat.


  1. Cool trick. Now I just have to remember it for the next time I am in this situation.

  2. What a great tip! It's easy to see how well it works in your photos. I'll have to share with my mother, as she is the talented sewer in our family.

  3. Glad I could help! I forget where I picked that one up, but it sure makes costuming easier.