Hem Weights

At the eleventh hour of my make on the V8548 coat, I decided I needed hem weights for the corners of my coat hem. There can be a slight tendency for these corners to curl, I think because of fabric bulk – several elements come together here.

By this stage, I was so close to the finish line that I could almost hear the champagne corks popping. I really didn’t want to hold things up for days by having to order in new supplies.

I knew immediately that I had two options. I could go to MacCulloch & Wallis in central London, but that would be a two-hour round trip. Or I could pop by my local favourite haberdashery shop in Walthamstow.

You can guess what I did…

This place is amazing. It just has so much stuff – and all at incredibly cheap prices. (Except a name. The shop doesn’t really have a name, which is frustrating for blog links!) It caters largely for people making saris, so has some really unusual braids and trims. I figured that people making saris probably care about the hang of their dresses, so I hoped they’d be able to help me with hem weights. They came up trumps.

I bought a metre of running weights for £1 and a bag of four penny weights for £1.20. I think they’re both lead. I was pretty confident the penny weights were what I needed, but bought both options just in case. I mean, at that price…

In the end, I only added a penny weight to the corner of the front overlapping hem. (When I added one to the hem fold sitting at the back, it dragged the corner down, making the hem peek and spoiling the line.) It was a simple job to open up the coat corner and tack the penny weight to my interlining. The difference it makes is small, but keeps me happy. Does anyone else have experience of working with hem weights or any advice to give on this topic? I was really just making this step up as I went along.

The penny weight in my coat should make airport security an interesting experience. I’ll let you know what happens on my trip up to Edinburgh for the Crafters Ceilidh!

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26 Responses to Hem Weights

  1. Sunni says:

    Gosh, lead weights can be a little hard to find here. I happened upon a vintage set in a thrift store and have found them in the home dec area in a sewing store – but they are usually contained in a tape of some sort. Still they are awfully neat and add just the right amount of pull to a wonky hem. I’ve read that you can also use nickels (or pocket change of some sort) but they are still not quite as heavy as the lead weights. Fabulous find!

    • Curious Gem says:

      Sunni I’m not sure about using coins in the same way here. If I’m not mistaken putting holes in them is treason and would land us in the Tower!

      • Sunni says:

        Oh you wouldn’t have to put holes in them. That would probably throw us in prison too! But you can put coins in the hem treatment before its stitched in place. Traditionally I’ve seen them sewn into a twill tape of some sort and then tacked into the hemline of the garment.

  2. Ah, clever! I’ve seen those weights before may even have some in the stash somewhere.

    Q: Do you have to remove the weights before cleaning (or dry-cleaning) a garment please?

    • LinB says:

      Yes. Even the heat of a home electric clothes dryer will melt them, and the tumbling action turns them into a lump that won’t lie flat. Laundered some draperies to deleterious effect one year. Ended up just dropping a steel washer into the little pocket sewn into the hem, to replace the weights.

  3. Elisalex says:

    I found some hem weights in an old wool cape I remade into a swing jacket a few months ago, and have kept them aside just in case I need them in the future. I love the idea of adding weight and drape to un-drapey fabrics and often find that even sewing a weighty trim of some sort into the hem of skirt can really lend some extra swingy interest!

  4. Reethi says:

    Interesting! I’ve never seen a metal hem weight actually applied to a sari – my mother will sew on a 6 inch strip of heavy cotton on the bottom border of a sari to get it to hang properly, but no metal.

  5. gingermakes says:

    Cool! I’ve never used hem weights, although a non-seamstress friend of mine used to sew pennies into the hems of floaty skirts to avoid any sort of unpleasant underwear sightings on windy days!

  6. MrsC says:

    Clever, I love your attention to the details. You must be a fantastic editor!
    I’ve never used them, never seen them for sale here, or I would have. They make so much sense!

  7. I haven’t but I’m sure I remember reading the Slapdash Sewer adding pennies to something a while back. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the big differences.

  8. Tamsin says:

    My only experience of hem weights is in making curtains. My M-i-L was teaching me, and I think I had to make little pockets for the weights to sit in, in the hem.

  9. Debi says:

    hehehe yes, the airport should be interesting! :) Great idea and I can’t wait to see the coat in person!!!

  10. Joanne says:

    Do you know I’ve never even heard of hem weights? But I think I have some of of those and I use them as lightweight fabric weights. I bought them in Kleins haberdashery in Soho. At least I think they’re the same as your hem weights… oooh so much to learn!

  11. Vicki Kate says:

    Am I weird in thinking the hem weights are actually quite pretty?! I love these little details and info that can make such a difference to how a make looks and how we feel about it!

  12. Sherry says:

    They can be great for weighting things like cowl necklines too. I made a chiffon dress once with a deep back cowl, and the cowl shifted around too much – a weight hanging inside really helped!

  13. Jane says:

    This is very interesting…. The lady who made my wedding dress told me she’d put weights along the hem so it would hang nicely, but I’ve never really thought about what they were until now. Just been to check and she’s added two sections of running weights (feels like heavy piping) sewn into the hem. What a lovely detail! x

  14. Molly says:

    Chanel and similar tailored jackets use chain to weight the hem, usually concealed under the lining fold but a pretty detail nonetheless I always think…

    Doesn’t that shop have a sign saying “The Wool Shop” or something? I love their selection of embroidered ribbon and braids, a lot of my costumes have benefited from that shop :) I really want to try some of their applique bodice fronts on a garment. I keep meaning to go in the ribbon shop the opposite direction (past Saeeds) by New Fabrics but by time I keep getting there too late and they’re closed.

    Is the first shop the only place to buy wool in Walthamstow?

    Talking of no name shops, there’s that strange but useful shop that sells the weirdest asst of fabrics from £1 (a few doors down from Saeeds). I got some lovely wool coating there before Christmas at £3 per metre. I also got a chunk of my panto fabric from there and struck the name problem when putting invoices through the budget. They are now known as “80 High Street, Walthamstow”. I’m very fond of them.

  15. LinB says:

    Hem weights are commonly used in draperies, usually at the corners, inside the hem. They look like belt buckles, but are made of lead, so they’re really soft. You should take them out when cleaning your garment. Or your draperies. It would probably be cheaper to use coins than to buy the weights. In the costume shop at college we sometimes sewed light chain (lightweight, yes, but it’s the metal chain that you use to pull on a lightbulb in ceiling lamps — buy it in hardware stores) around a hem to help hold it down. Again, remove the weight for cleaning.

  16. Clio says:

    Wow, this is great info. I’ve never thought about adding weights, but have occasionally grombled about vents or corners that want to curl. Now I have a solution!

  17. At our church we recently found some OLD ‘baptismal gowns’, I had no idea what they were – guess I’m not old! In the hemlines they had penny’s wrapped in calico and sewn to the inside of the hem. It was great treasure to find. We haven’t had penny’s here in Australia sine the ’60’s I think, certainly not in my memory. Some of them dated back to 1912, 1915, 1927 etc. I thought it was a great idea.

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