I had purchased a set of special stitch cams for it from a seller on eBay, and was trying out the number 101 cam, also known as the Turkish Hemstitch (you'll see an example at the end). All I got was a pile of messy stitches, since the machine was out of adjustment. I was able to make the necessary adjustments with a little help from my friends at the Yahoo! group, elnaheirloomsewing (thanks again Jim). When I saw the resulting stitch, I had no idea what such a stitch would ever have been used for.
Still not really fully understanding what hemstitching was for, I put it out of my mind for a while. However, after hearing the term in several other places, and since I absolutely have to know how things "work," I finally did some research. I did a Google search for images of hemstitching, and after a few pages of photos, I knew I had to learn to do it.
If you have never heard of hemstitching (as was the case for me), it sounds like a utilitarian term for garment making. However, it is a decorative embellishment that employs a wing needle, and certain stitch patterns to create a sort of lacy or eyelet effect. It certainly can (and is) used in garment making as an embellishment, but it can also be used to embellish any number of other sewing projects. There is very simple hemstitch on my store-bought pillow cases, for example. See those little holes in the fabric? That's hemstitching.
So what do you need to get started?
You need a wing needle. I bought two--in two different sizes.
The larger needle is on the right (in both photos). The large fins of the wing needle spread the fibers apart as the material is pierced.
You also need the capability to do decorative stitches (or utility stitches) in which the wing needle will return to the same spot more than once. The more often the wing needle enters a hole that it's already made, the more defined that hole becomes.
Here's what I have available on one of my machines.
Next come the materials. You need a natural fiber material, like cotton or linen, thread, and a lightweight, easy to tear stabilizer. I used Gutermann polyester embroidery thread--I like the added sheen for decorative stitching. I also like to use gift wrap tissue paper for stabilizer, among other things. It gives just enough support for this purpose, it's lint free, and it tears away easily.
For best results, pre-wash your chosen fabric, spray starch, and press.
Now that you have your materials gathered, let's get started. Install the wing needle in the needle clamp of your machine the same way you would any other needle. Choose the stitch you want to sample, but don't thread your needle yet.
Once you've established a "safe" width for the stitch, you can thread your needle, and attach the presser foot. I chose to use the satin stitch foot, which came with my machine.
The underside has a groove to discourage raised areas of stitching from catching on the underside of the foot.
The fabric and stitches do become a bit raised in hemstitching, and if the material were to catch on the bottom of the foot, the stitch length, and therefore the pattern, would be uneven.
Okay--so you've done all the prep work. Let's get stitching. Place your material under the presser foot, and away we go!
Stitch 21 (on the far right), didn't work as well as the others on a double layer of material. It's still pretty, but it looks better on a single layer, using the stabilizer. Experiment. Play. Find out which of your machine stitches work best, on what materials, and under what circumstances. From left to right: stitch 12, 23, 20, 21. Below: stitches 13, 14.
You can double up two rows of stitching to make a wider pattern. Watch your machine perform the stitch pattern, and determine the best place to stop the needle.
Repress your urge to guide the material, and let the machine do all the work. Your job, at this point, is to watch, and only make minor adjustments when necessary. If the weight of the material is preventing even feeding, you can make a little hump in the material just ahead of the presser foot. This works well with lighter fabrics, that bend easily.
Notice that it is just a slight hump--just enough to support the material, but not so much that you're "pushing" the material. Use a very light hand.
And once you've got it down, start embellishing your projects. I used hemstitching and a touch of lace to make a decorative edge on a plain, white pillow case. The stitches you see below are 04 and 14 on my machine.
And here it is--the stitch that started it all--the Turkish Hemstitch, on white, 100% Linen.
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Spend an afternoon or evening with your machine and give it a try. Once you've learned to do it, you'll be thinking of all kinds of projects you can embellish with hemstitching.