Hemming A Wool Coat

It was a dark and stormy night…

No, I’m not talking about this week’s gales; I’m referring to my ongoing wrestles with the V8548 coat. Fear not, faithful band of patient readers! As Marie and Claire both suggested, the second sleeve went in a dream. I will now be for ever tormented by the knowledge that one sleeve head is performing better than the other, but hey – I think that’s called a learning curve. Thank you all SO much for your support.

Moving on! Last night I tackled my THIRD attempt to hem the coat. Each time I tried, the hem would end up looking bulky and unsightly. I had not put in this amount of work to tolerate an ugly hem! In desperation, I flung myself on the sofa and riffled through my Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide To Sewing. At last!

There it was, on page 345. Advice on hemming tailored items. The book talked of adding a strip of interfacing at the hem and my brain suddenly pinged into life. Hadn’t one of my readers suggested something similair? Yes, yes! The Hectic Eclectic had left a comment along the very same lines. Along with Roobeedoo‘s suggestion to use a lace trim to finish the hem, I was off!

This make has been a perfect storm of trial and error. I decided that on my third attempt at hemming, I would document the process for my readers. Why should you have nervous breakdowns, too?

Before starting work on the coat itself, I decided to do a trial run on a large swatch. This would also make it easier for me to show you what I was doing. So this is my method of hemming a wool coat. The method of an inexperienced, ham-fisted, traumatised tailor-in-making. So if you have – you know – expert, considered, wise advice to add in the comments, you know what to do!

Here are my swatches: the fashion fabric and the interlining. It’s a heavy weight, fusible interlining bought from Maccullough and Wallis. I bought far too much of this, but am glad I did – I know it will be so useful to have on hand.

Here they are fused together:

First, thread trace your hem line. Take a contrast thread and with a running basting stitch, go along the line that will be your hem:

Then finish your edge and press the fabric over at the hem line. I added a lace trim to finish my edge. It’s pulling in slightly, which will actually help with easing in fullness on the slight curve of my hem:

Now, use a relaxed catch stitch (aka herringbone stitch) to attach the edge of the hem to the interlining. Ensure that your needle doesn’t catch any of the fashion fabric! The whole point of adding the interlining is to avoid sewing into the fashion fabric and creating that dang ridge! I was lucky that my interlining had an obvious weave so that I could pick up tiny, individual stitches:

And your hem is finished! If you need to do any further pressing, press the edge of the hem only, to avoid pressing ridges into your coat.

Here’s the hem as it sits on the final coat:

And here it is on the inside:

You can just see the top of the interlining peeking out above the lace trim. Notice that I finished it with pinking scissors. That was a tip from Gertie that this prevents an obvious ridge on the fashion fabric. You might think that this glimpse of the interlining is unsightly, but it’s a bit of a moot point as this is all going to be covered by the free hanging lining of the coat:

One unexpected benefit of adding the interlining at the hem is that it gives a bit of weight to the hang of the skirt, which can only be a good thing. And it makes the hem line nice and crisp.

There we are! One last note on hand stitching. I bought some new needles a few months ago that have been a god send:

For scale, I’ve added a normal-sized needle to the side of the photo. Yep. They’re that small. When you open your package, you’ll burst out laughing. ‘Hey, Tom Thumb! Your needles have arrived!’ But these teeny needles with their teeny point allow you to pick up the tiniest of threads. They’re black gold needles quilting (no. 9) by Clover. Just don’t put one down and lose it!

Now, all I need to do is open up the rear of the bound button holes and sew on the buttons. And sort out some bulk at the corners of the hems. Then, I think I’m done.

Is there a doctor in the house?!!!

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45 Responses to Hemming A Wool Coat

  1. lazystitcher says:

    Yay! Thanks so much for posting this Karen. I’m rounding up the tutorials before starting a coat. I have this from you, backstays from sewaholic, padstitching from Gertie and Jen at Grainline is putting together a bagged lining one, hooray!

  2. pinqueen says:

    Great Job and the lace is a lovely touch. I can’t wait to see the finish result! I’m sure you will treasure this coat for years to come….

  3. CarmencitaB says:

    The suspense is killing me!

  4. Tamsin says:

    What a trial…. But the hem looks great, can’t wait to see the rest of it!

  5. Marie says:

    Beautifully executed Karen, your hem is looking seriously good…can’t wait for the big reveal! Thanks so much for sharing all this knowledge, I’ve actually bookmarked this post as I know it will be a lifesaver at a later date!

  6. Gemma says:

    Hi Karen. This is probably a daft question but how/where did you sew on the lace? Did you machine it on before folding up the hem?

    • No, that’s a very good question! I sewed the lace onto the raw edge of the hem to finish it. I did this at my machine using a matching cream thread. Lace is a marvellous way of finishing hems. It’s pretty and it’s not time consuming to add it to the raw hem.

  7. Suze says:

    Wow, this coat is going to be beautiful, I can tell just from the sneak peeks! You’ve got such patience to have kept going and to have done everything so perfectly. Can’t wait to see the final result!

  8. rachel sew-n-sew says:

    Nearly there – congratulations! Can’t wait to see the final result.

  9. Kerry says:

    This looks really lovely, your coat is going to look amazingly professional. I find neat hem finishes tricky, my favourite is using bias tape so it’s not too bulky but I love the idea of a lace-trimmed edge too.

  10. Great job – the hem looks really good Karen 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    Holy crap – you’re doing it! I’m feeling so proud of you right now, and I hope you’re starting to feel mightily chuffed!

  12. Sarah says:

    I adore that lace finish – looks so glorious. Everything about this make is so inspiring.

  13. Amy says:

    Wow, so gorgeous. Great attention to detail. Bet you’ll feel amazing wearing this coat!

  14. Roobeedoo says:

    Wow-ee girl – such patience! Can’t wait to see the finished item!

  15. Wendy says:

    Some great tips, especially as I am about to cut out my first coat. Procrastinating because it seems such a daunting project, but with so many great tutorials and support I should just make that first cut 🙂

  16. LinB says:

    Love love love love love how this garment is going to look! I adore Clover quilting needles, which I use for hand-quilting (used to do a lot, not so much anymore.) Amazing how the right tool makes a job easy. And, as for your sleeve struggles: On every sleeved garment I have ever sewn, in 40+ years of sewing, one sleeve goes in like a dream, and the other sleeve takes 4-5 attempts to come together in even a passable state. It matters not which side of the garment. It matters not whether it is the first sleeve I set or the second sleeve. It’s not you, dear friend, it’s the sleeve.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    The hem looks amazing inside and out. Well done!

  18. oonaballoona says:


    will it be too warm for you to wear this in may? i am SO there!!!

  19. Abby says:

    That hem looks so gorgeous. This coat is going to be so satisfying to wear, knowing how much work you put into making it perfect inside and out!

  20. LLADYBIRD says:

    Oh, I love that lace! I hope you bought extra yardage because it deserves to be on the outside of something, too!

    So excited about your coat! Reaching the finish line!

  21. Lynne says:

    It’s looking fantastic! I’m really looking forward to the big reveal now! 🙂

  22. Those tantalising glimpses are looking pretty amazing Karen! I think me and Amy are going for drinkies next week if you’d like to join (day not set) , and we can coo over it in the flesh! x

  23. Montana says:

    How lovely! You have obviously put so much work into the coat! Can’t wait to see it in all its glory! Thank-you so much for the photos and suggestion, I’m hoping to someday soon make myself a coat, and I will definitely have to keep this in mind!

  24. So, so gorgeous! It’s going to be amazing!

  25. Lisa says:

    The hem is looking great , I can’t wait to see the finished coat.

  26. MrsC says:

    Yay!! She gets there in the end! 😉 You see, I am always right. It’s taking time for the world to know what those in my immediate vicinity have put up with er I mean known for years, but you will all get there 😉
    Excellent combo of techniques and so easy n’est-ce pas? Actually yesterday I used a similar technique except with ribbon to extend the seam allowance on the back of a dress to put the zip in. No interfacing but it looks fine i.e. it doesn’t look anything as you can’t see it.
    I’m going to do a tutorial on how to do a faced hem as soon as I get this show over with (costuming out the wazoo for another week) as this is another fab tecnhique that kicks horsehair for dust and can work with bulky items too. But your hem is beautiful, and you have done that cashmere proud!

  27. Judith says:

    This fab hemline was well worth the learning curve – a curve that you (any many others) won’t forget either. Thanks for sharing – and many a future coat will be thanking you as well!!!

  28. Jill says:

    You know that lace hem is making everyone in the sewing community drool, right? So, so lovely!!

  29. kbenco says:

    Ah yes, drool here too, what a lovely hem.

  30. Suzy says:

    Gorgeous hem, I can’t wait to see it in its glory 🙂

  31. Sophia says:

    This is beautiful! Thanks for the tips, they’ve been saved for future reference!

  32. redsilvia says:

    What a sexy little hem you’ve got there! Nice work and can’t wait for the reveal 😉

  33. Jody Wagner says:

    Hi Karen,

    I think you are doing an amazing job, but then, I love all your work! Thanks for taking time out of your busy life to share your adventures with the rest of us.


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  35. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for these tips! I like the idea of basting along the seamline. That could definitely improve things and make the hemming moe accurate

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