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You can’t beat the sewing ease and fashion versatility of a classic scarf. There are really only two steps: pick a fancy fabric, finish the edge. Plus, scarves are always a lovely gift idea and it’s so easy to personalize them to fit a favorite color, celebrate a special holiday, or simply brighten someone’s day.

As a wardrobe accessory, the humble scarf can instantly update an outfit with a burst of diaphanous color. One of best things is how many ways you can wear it. In fact, one of the most popular search terms on social media is, “How to Tie a Scarf.” Who knew there were so many options?!

At its most basic, a scarf starts as a single layer of a lightweight substrate such as rayon, batiste, chiffon or gauze. For our samples, we chose two gorgeous rayon crepe prints. Yardage prices can be on the high side, but you don’t need much. And, be sure to shop the clearance section. That’s were we found bolt ends in a wide variety of colors and patterns at just a little over $5.00 a yard! 

We turned to our Janome studio machines to bring you three ways to hem a traditional square and a long rectangle. All three options are excellent for sheer fabrics. You can learn them to make a stack of scarves, and then use the techniques down the road for fancy dresses, elegant table linens, and more. 

The first hemming technique is what we call a Manual Narrow Hem. It involves a stitch-fold-trim-stitch method that can be done with a standard presser foot. It’s a lovely finish that also stabilizes the hem so there’s no twisting or rolling along the sides. The key is to use one of our outlined options to start your seam (thread tails, dressmaker’s needle and thread or starter piece). This will help prevent any possibility of the sewing machine “eating” the fabric as you start sewing!

A second hemming option uses the Janome Rolled Hem presser foot. This specialty foot has a curved front guide into which you insert the raw edge of the fabric. The foot does the work for you, rolling the fold and dropping in the needle at the very edge. Ask your dealer about the Rolled Hem Foot that is right for your model. But, don’t forget to break open that little bag o’ feet that came with your machine; it could be a standard foot you’ve yet to discover!

Finally, if you have a serger living in your sewing space, it can provide another great option for finishing the edge of lightweight fabrics: a 2-thread or 3-thread rolled hem. You’ll set up your machine with one needle, and with thread in both loopers. The stitch length is shortened and the lower looper tension is tightened. The fabric is rolled around the serger’s pin and encased in thread. You’ll have a beautiful hem in minutes.

Pick your favorite hemming method or try all three. They are all easy, and they all create a gorgeous edge all around. A tiny hem, in combination with the inherent feel of the fabric, is what creates the beautiful drape of your finished scarf. When working with our model to creating all the tying options shown here, the scarves were like holding water – they effortlessly flowed into each and every shape.

Do keep in mind that fancy, sheer fabrics are a bit trickier than traditional quilting cotton. You’ll need to go through a few more steps when cutting and stitching. Pattern weights are a good idea for holding a slippery fabric in place for marking and cutting. And when cutting, a good pair of sharp shears are your best choice. The fabric can wobble and wiggle under a rotary cutter and produce a less-than-desirable wavy edge. But, do read on to see where within the steps below we DO recommend using a rotary cutter. 

As you go through the steps below, you’ll find links to additional S4H tutorials on working with specialty fabrics, making rolled hems, and more. These are always helpful to read before starting if you are new to sewing. 

The cuts listed below are based on the most popular scarf sizes we found at retail. For the long rectangular option, we also took into account common yardages. The rayons we shopped for were all 49” in width, so the dimension shown below, with careful cutting and hemming, could yield two panels from a single two yard cut. Of course, a 24” square is easy to cut – even from a beautiful scrap that might be hiding in your stash!

Our thanks to Janome America for sponsoring this beginner-friendly project. It allows us to show you how fun it can be to experiment with a variety of ways to achieve success. Plus, the more techniques you have in your sewing toolbox, the easier it is to tackle a new challenge. As your skills increase, you may want to see what the next level of machine can offer in terms of features and accessories. Our recommendation is always to visit your local Janome dealer for an in-person test stitch on number of different models. That is the very best way to tell what is going to be right for your sewing journey. To find out more before you go, visit the Janome America website, and follow them on social media for lots of great info and inspiration.  

Our two scarf samples finished at approximately 24” x 71” and 24” x 24”. Of course, it’s easy to enlarge or reduce either option.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: For both scarves, we give you the measurements we chose for our samples, but one of the great things about a scarf is how easy it is to make your starting panel smaller or larger. The hemming techniques shown below reduce your initial cut very minimally – from just ¾” to 1½ “. Adjust our measurements to best fit your chosen fabric as well as how you want to wear your beautiful new scarf.

  • For the long, rectangular scarf: 2 yards of 44”+ wide lightweight fabric, such as rayon, voile or batiste; we used a 49” rayon crepe
    NOTE: Depending on the width of your fabric and the chosen width of your scarf, you could create TWO scarves from this yardage.
  • For the smaller square scarf: ¾ – 1 yard of 44”+ wide lightweight fabric, such as rayon, voile or batiste; we used a 49” rayon crepe
    NOTE: Our recommended starting cut is a 25½” square – if your fabric’s motif is random you could certainly get away with ¾ of a yard, but if more fussy cutting is required, get a full yard for the best result. 
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Serger thread should you wish to use your serger to hem
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Yardstick; a wood or metal ruler at least 36” in length will help with measuring and cutting
  • Measuring tape
  • Pattern weights or similar; we used unopened pop cans
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Large, sharp shears for main cutting
  • Small, sharp scissors or duckbill appliqué scissors for trimming
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pressing cloth
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

NOTE: For general background on working with fancy fabrics, such as the rayon crepe we are using for our scarves, you can also look at our Sewing with Sheers article as well as our Sewing Tips for Specialty Fabrics article.

Long, Rectangular Scarf

  1. Our long, rectangular scarf will show a rolled hem using the Janome Rolled Hem Foot. Our chosen finished measurement is approximately 24” wide x 71” long. We say approximately because we simply worked with the actual cut length received from our local fabric retailer. As we all know, when requesting 2 yards, you usually get a few inches extra. In addition, especially with sheer/fancy fabrics, sometimes the cut edge can have a bit of a wobble, depending on the experience of the person cutting your fabric. The key is the width, we’ll concentrate on that first. For a rolled hem, you need about ¾” to create the final hem. So our cut width should be 24¾” 
  2. Place your fabric right side up on your cutting mat, aligning the selvedge along a horizontal grid line on the cutting mat. This is a long piece of fabric that will likely extend beyond a standard cutting mat. That is okay, we’re dealing with one section at a time. The fabric is slippery and wiggly; simply do the best you can to align the selvedge and then secure it with pattern weights – we use a row of pop cans.
  3. Align your yardstick or long metal ruler with a lower, parallel grid line on the cutting mat.
  4. Measure up, across the selvedge to a point that is a good 2” – 3” beyond your cut width (as mentioned above, our final cut width should be 24¾”). We measured up to 27” on our ruler.
  5. Repeat these steps moving across the panel every 6” – 8”.
  6. When done, use your rule to connect your marks as a continuous horizontal line.
    NOTE: As mentioned, we are dealing with as much length as possible on the cutting mat. Don’t worry, you’ll shift in just a minute to finish the rest of the panel.
  7. You now have ONE straight upper line from which you can create a parallel base line. Starting at your upper line, you now measure down the true cut width (once again, our cut width should be 24¾”). Start at this mark…
  8. …and measure down. Make a mark at this base line.
  9. Then, as you did with the upper line, repeat to make a series of marks – every 6” – 8” across the panel.
  10. Connect your marks to create your straight and parallel base line. 
  11. Remove your pattern weights and shift the panel so the unmarked end of the panel now fits on the cutting mat. Make sure you are using the same grid lines on the mat to align this second section.
    NOTE: In the photo below, we have added black highlights so you can more clearly see where our previous upper and base lines end. You would, of course, use the same thin lines are shown in all the other photos. And, as always, anytime you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
  12. Repeat the steps to create identical upper and base lines on this section of the panel.Your new horizontal parallel lines should connect and line-up beautifully with your first set of lines.
  13. Using your sharp shears, cut along both drawn lines. Again, don’t worry about the overall length at this point. You’ve simply created your proper width.

    NOTE: So – are you already exhausted just by the measuring, marking, and cutting?! Instead, you should be patting yourself on the back! Working with slippery, stretchy fabric like the rayon crepe we chose is definitely a challenge, but it’s worth it for the beautiful, liquid drape you’ll end up with as a finished scarf. The steps we show here are necessary to help combat the shifting of the fabric and will allow you to end up with a long, lovely panel with two straight, parallel edges. 
  14. You’re done with prep on the long panel at this point. You’ll create the rolled hem along each long, side edge first before squaring up and hemming the ends. Why? Because we said so. Well, actually, because of the length with which we are working and the slipperiness of of the fabric, you want/need the stabilization the edge hemming will provide in order to more easily and accurately square up the ends.

Smaller Square Scarf

  1. Most of the cutting steps are the same as the long scarf above, but because of this scarf’s smaller size and the fact that it will be our showcase for a Manual Narrow Hem, you will cut all four sides in preparation. 
  2. Following the same steps as above, first mark your upper and lower horizontal cut lines, followed by connecting them with vertical cut lines.
  3. For a manual rolled hem, you need a bit more width with which to start because you will be folding as well as trimming as your hem. We added 1½” all around, which meant measuring for a cut panel 25½” x 25½”.
  4. As above, cut out your square panel using shears not a rotary cutter

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Smaller Square Scarf with a Manual Narrow Hem

  1. Yes, we have flipped our order and are starting the sewing instructions with the Manual Narrow Hem on the smaller square scarf. This is because you will stitch all four sides without interruption whereas there is an additional cutting step required during hemming for the Presser Foot Rolled Hem.
    NOTE: We are using a standard Universal needle (#19) and 60-weight all purpose thread. The traditional rule of thumb is: the finer the fabric, the finer the needle and the thread. You could (and should) experiment with your needle and thread sizing. Testing first on scraps is never a bad idea to insure the very best outcome.
  2. If possible, we recommend switching to a straight stitch needle plate. This type of plate adds stability for our thin fabric. We are using a standard presser foot. Our straight stitch length was also the standard/default on our Janome Continental M8: 2.40mm.
  3. Place your cut square wrong side up under the presser foot. 
  4. You will stitch each side of the square independently.
  5. Set up for a ½” seam allowance. This stitch will facilitate the fold that is coming and stabilize the edge of our sheer fabric. 
  6. Start at the very edge of the fabric. Do not lock or backstitch; simply start stitching. YAY for the amazing feeding system on our Janome machines. Starting at the very edge of our panel was not a problem.
  7. Stitch the length of this first side at the ½” seam allowance.
  8. At the end, simply sew off – again, do not lock or backstitch.
  9. Remove the scarf square and take it to your ironing surface. Fold back the stitched edge. You are folding over just a scant bit beyond the stitching itself so that stitch line will be hidden within your final fold. Press well.
  10. Using small, sharp scissors or duckbill appliqué scissors, trim as close as possible to your stitching.
  11. Here is the first step of your pretty hem.
  12. Return to your machine. We are showing three different ways to get a clean start to the final hem stitching. 

Machine thread tails

  1. The first option simply uses the thread tails coming from the machine itself. Pull through both the top and bobbin thread should you have a good 4” – 5” to hold on to.
  2. Roll over your hem, concealing the first trimmed fold within this second fold. This is a very tiny roll – just about ¼”.  You’ll notice in the photos below that we are not using pins. This is really the easiest option. The original line of stitching you made is, as mentioned, stabilizing the edge and is allowing you to roll over the narrow hem and hold it with just your fingers. You can actually feel this original stitching as you fold, which is what is helping to keep it so even.
  3. Slip the corner under the presser foot. Starting right at the edge, drop the needle to secure, then drop the presser foot. Grab onto the long thread tails.
  4. Holding securely to the thread tails, start stitching. You are very gently pulling the fabric just to start. Once you are past the first 1”, let go and let the machine do the feeding. Your job is to simply continuing to roll over the fabric in front of the foot.
  5. Stitch right off the end. Do not worry about locking your stitch.

Dressmaker’s needle and thread

  1. Another option for starting at the edge or corner of a narrow hem is a dressmaker’s technique using a long needle and thread. 
  2. The preparation of the edge is the same as above. Here we are showing the technique starting at a corner with one side already hemmed. 
  3. Thread your needle with standard thread and pull through as a double length, but do not tie a knot.
  4. Roll the hem at the corner. This is a simple square overlapping corner. 
  5. Pierce the corner with the thread.
  6. Pull it through, giving you similar long thread tails as the option above plus the additional “grip” of the needle to hold onto and keep the fabric taut as you start stitching.

    NOTE: Another benefit of the ½” starter seam you did is that it takes away the inherent stretch of the fabric. Our rayon crepe was quite stretchy – especially on the cross-grain, but with that initial seam, the stretch was eliminated and it was much easier to stitch all sides.
  7. Let go of the needle and thread once you are just past your starting point and continue rolling and stitching. When done, you have a lovely corner… after clipping away those thread tails.

Starter piece

  1. A third option is to use a small folded scrap of fabric as a starter piece for your seam. It’s like giving your seam a running start onto the narrow edge. Simply butt the starter piece right up against the edge of the fabric. 
  2. Drop your needle into the starter piece and begin sewing, running from the starter piece right onto your narrow hem.
  3. As you go, the start piece is left behind and you will trim it away when cutting your thread tails.

Long, Rectangular Scarf using a Rolled Hem Presser Foot

  1. The Rolled Hem Foot is standard on many of Janome top-end and mid-range models. It is a standard snap-on foot that is easy to attach.
  2. We are still using a straight stitching needle plate with a Universal #19 needle and 60-weight all purpose thread in the top and bobbin. Do try to get your thread as close a match as possible to your fabric for the most invisible finish. 
  3. The Rolled Hem Foot is at its very best when hemming long, long, long sides, which is why owe chose it to hem our long, rectangular scarf. We had nearly 73” to finish and it was the perfect foot for the job. 
  4. The there are two main things to remember when using a Rolled Hem Foot: 1) you need to start your hem about 2” in from the raw edge. It simply won’t work to start right on the edge… but no worries, you will finish that small section after the main hem is done; and 2) to begin, you need to carefully feed the raw edge of the fabric into the front roll of the foot. 
  5. Slip your fabric under the presser foot, sliding it forward that 2”, then drop the foot. Gently lift up the raw edge of the fabric and feed it into the front of the foot.
  6. Drop the needle, and off you go – do not lock or backstitch. 
  7. Sew at a slow to moderate speed and continue to “help” feed the edge of the fabric into the roll of the foot. The foot completes the
  8. At the end, simply stitch off. Again, no need to lock your seam.
  9. This Janome foot does an absolutely beautiful teeny tiny hem.
  10. But what about that 2” at the beginning? Simply pop off the Rolled Hem Foot and replace it with the standard foot.
  11. Manually roll the starting 2” to match the machine sewn hem. This is easier than it sounds. Since the main hem is already done, the fabric kind of “wants” to roll in a similar manner to match. 
  12. No need for pins, instead, secure at the corner by dropping the needle first, then drop the presser foot. 
  13. You can use any of the three “starter methods” outlined above for the square scarf.
  14. Stitch from the edge in line with the existing hem, overlapping by about ½”.
  15. Repeat to stitch the opposite long side in the same manner.
  16. Then remove the panel and return to your cutting surface. 
  17. Fold the scarf panel in half, aligning the pretty hemmed edges. The ends will still be raw and a bit ragged. Slice off just enough to even things out.
  18. Now that the sides of the panel are hemmed, they are stabilized, which means you can use a ruler and rotary cutter to make this final cut. 
  19. Return to the machine to finish the ends in the same manner as you did the long sides. Bear in mind that when stitching these ends, you are sewing cross-grain, so the fabric will want to stretch. Go slowly and carefully.
  20. Start 2” in, rolling the raw edge into the Rolled Hem Foot.
  21. As before, stitch right off the end with stopping.
  22. Trim the tails and admire your beautiful rolled hem and its pretty corner.
  23. Return to the top of the hem, switch to standard presser foot and finish as you did above with the side hems.

    NOTE: We’ve gone into quite a bit of detail here, but if you’d like more information, take a look at our stand-along tutorial on How to Make a Rolled Hem on a Sewing Machine. 

Long, Rectangular Scarf using a Serger with a 3-Thread Rolled Hem 

  1. We know not everyone has a serger in their sewing space, but we did want to highlight it here because a pretty rolled hem is one of the reasons to add a serger to your machine family. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our article: The Top Five Reasons to Own a Serger.
  2. Set up the serger for a 3-thread rolled hem. Our thread choice was three spools of standard serger thread. We adjusted the stitch length to 1.7mm.
    NOTE:  Serger thread does not come in as wide a range of colors as standard thread. If necessary, all purpose thread can be used, such as Madeira Cotona. When using spools of thread rather than cones, be sure to place a thread cap over the spool to facilitate smooth feeding of the thread.
    Starting at a corner, start stitching, trimming just ” – ¼” from the fabric as you stitch.
  3. The serger trims and finishes in one pass.
  4. Stitch right off the end.
  5. Continue stitching to create a small length of thread called a “chain.” Remove the fabric and trim the chain close to the fabric.
  6. Start the next side by placing the fabric under the foot. If you are practiced at making corners for something like cloth napkins, you can probably just start, forming a short starter “chain,” then allowing the feed dogs to catch the fabric and feed it into the rolled hem. However, with soft, slippery fabric such as rayon crepe or rayon challis, it is better to stop, lift the foot and place the fabric just under the foot. This will prevent the fabric from bunching.
  7. Here you can see the starting chain and the second stitched side.
  8. Trim the excess chain from the corner to finish. A drop of seam sealant can help secure the thread ends.

Contributors

Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation and Hem Testing: Michele Mishler

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Rochelle @ eSheep Designs
Rochelle @ eSheep Designs
30 days ago

Love these and the opportunities to learn. I’ve made several scarves out of chiffon and while the cutting part was a bit tricky, the sewing part was unexpectedly easy. In my humble opinion, everyone needs a flowy scarf!

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