The All-Embroidery Finishing Option

Hemstitched Coasters, DIY Embroidery Finishing, Funk & Weber Designs

Hemstitched coasters, plain and fancy.


I know. You’ve got a stack of stitched-but-not-finished embroideries in a drawer—or in a bag, tub, closet, or elsewhere. You want to finish them. You mean to finish them. But professional finishing, be it framing or having a pillow made or something else, is expensive. You could do it yourself, but . . . oh . . . you haven’t used your sewing machine in years. Does it even work? Do you remember how to use it? Did you ever really know?

And cutting mats is hard, even with that special D-I-Y mat-cutting tool, plus you’re never happy with the results of mats you cut yourself.

If only there were a way to finish embroidery that required

  • no special tools (sewing machine, mat cutters)
  • no special supplies (frames, mat, glass)

Good news: There is! It’s called hemstitching.

You already have the supplies supply: thread.

You already have the tools tool: needle.

You already have the skills skill: hand embroidery.


Hemstitched Frog Cross Stitch, DIY Embroidery Finishing, Funk & Weber Designs

Hemstitched cross stitch, ready to hang or simply lay out on a surface.


What is Hemstitching?

Hemstitching is an idea after my own heart: It is a simple idea that mushroomed into a giant blank-canvas of possibility. There are two branches of hemstitching: the practical branch where actual hemming is done and the decorative branch that involves no turning of fabric edges.

The Practical Branch of Hemstitching

At the core of hemstitching is the technique of hemming: turning the edges of fabric under to envelope and secure the raw edges, and then stitching the fold on the back side of the piece to secure it. That’s it. That’s hemming. The bottom of your pant legs are hemmed. The bottoms of t-shirts, skirts, shorts, sleeves . . . most are hemmed.


Hemstitching on Aida Fabric, DIY Embroidery Finishing, Funk & Weber Designs

Hemstitching on Aida fabric. No threads removed, just hemming.


We can hem any kind of fabric, so it works for any kind of embroidery: cross stitch, needlepoint, even surface embroidery. While the hemstitch is a counted-thread technique, the hem on your jeans isn’t counted. The stitch works whether you can count your ground threads or not.

I grew up sewing, and that means I hemmed in the non-counting way. Here, however, I live in counted-thread embroideryland, so I focus more on the counting way.

The Decorative Branch of Hemstitching

The other branch of hemstitching, the decorative branch, is worked not just on the edge of a piece, but anywhere at all within it—without any edges being folded and secured. That’s right: You can hemstitch without hemming.


Decorative Hemstitching, Funk & Weber Designs

Practical and decorative hemstitching.


“Then why is it called ‘hemstitch’?” you ask, because you’re smart and logical and this sounds . . . well, stupid, if we’re honest. But here’s why: Decorative hemstitching—or hemless hemstitching—uses the same stitch as hemming does. So why bother calling it something else?

Decorative hemstitching involves removing threads from the ground fabric to create open channels and holes that can then be filled with different kinds of openwork stitches. The hemstitch is used to secure the ground threads on the sides of an open channel to keep the remaining threads from wandering into the open space.

So hemstitching is used to secure folded hems and to secure ground threads bordering an open channel.


Hemstitched Cross Stitch, DIY Embroidery Finishing, Funk & Weber Designs

Another hemstitched embroidery. Snap, button, or sew to a jacket, pillow, tote, or something else.


Hemstitching for Finishing Embroidery

If you’re thinking that removing threads and openwork is out of your embroidery ken, I won’t argue with you. It is a technique unto itself: one I love and one you could certainly learn if you were so inclined. It’s fun; it’s beautiful!

But it’s not necessary if you just want to complete your stitched-but-not-finished embroidery!

You don’t have to learn a whole new kind of embroidery to finish your cross stitch or needlepoint or surface embroidery with hemstitching. You just need to learn one stitch. You can learn to miter the corners or not—it’s fine to just overlap them.

One embroidery stitch. That’s all you need to get those embroideries out of the drawer and displayed. Once the edges are hemmed, you can lay the piece flat on a table, drape it over a chair, or hang it from a rod with decorative clips or a few quick stitches. You don’t have to back the piece, but, of course, you can.


Dames of the Needle Hemstitched Embroidery

Elizabeth Talledo of Dames of the Needle and From the Cauldron hemstitches and float mounts many of her samplers.


If you’re looking for a quick, easy, beautiful, and inexpensive way to finish your embroidery, hemstitching is it.

Quit hemming and hawing, and just start hemming. I show you how in the DIY Embroidery Finishing class: Hemstitching.

What do you say? Are you game?


2 Responses to “The All-Embroidery Finishing Option”

  1. I think my wife is in that same situation you explained to begin your article. She went through a year-long phase of being obsessed with embroidery! It was fun to see how excited she was about it, then life got a little busier for us and she hasn’t finished a lot of her projects. I think she would be happy to hear about this hemstitching method you suggested. Thanks for the info!

    February 18, 2016 @ 4:11 am
  2. Jen

    It’s a common situation, Jack, to have finished-but-unfinished embroideries. I hope your wife will enjoy hemstitching as much as I do. A fun way to display a bunch of hemstitched pieces is on a clothesline with decorative pegs or clips. Or hang one at a time and swap them out monthly, seasonally, or on a whim.

    February 18, 2016 @ 5:01 am

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