Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Antique Hem: How To Turn Corners

“…half-past four at Manderley, and the table drawn before the library fire.  The door flung open, punctual  to the minute, and the performance, never- varying, of the laying of the tea, the silver tray, the kettle, the snowy cloth.”   from Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

I have 2 sets of napkins like the one I've photographed above.  One set is dinner size, and the other cocktail or luncheon size.  In each set, half of the napkins have a lady in one corner & the other half have men.  I can't find any information about when they were made - possibly in the 1930s.  I enjoy using them because they remind me of Renaissance period Reticello designs.  

The hem on the napkin is the same as that used on a 1610 linen collar (called a standing band) in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4.  The collar is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is available for viewing online : Acc 30.135.147.  The book gives a much clearer closeup of the hem, but there is a closeup photo of it on the museum site that shows a corner of the collar.  This hem is actually comprised of 2 steps, first the Antique Rolled Hem that is detailed in my tutorial of the same name.  The second step consists of a pulled-thread stitch, called a Four-sided stitch, that is added immediately below the hem.

This tutorial addresses how to turn corners when using the Antique Rolled Hem technique.  The Four-sided stitch will be addressed in another tutorial.

Turning corners when hemming in this manner is quite simple.  In this  photo, the last bundle of threads are being gathered, before turning the corner.  This technique is detailed in my tutorial Antique Rolled Hem.

Now the linen, along the next side to be hemmed, is rolled such that it abuts where the needle/thread are emerging from the linen, as shown.  The linen has been folded over once, and then again to conceal the raw edge within the fold.

Take a small compensating stitch to bring the needle to the starting position to turn the corner.  As shown the thread travels between the layers of linen in this compensating stitch, so that it's not visible from front or back.

Tack down the corner with a few tiny stitches.  Take care that they are not visible from the front of the linen....

On the last tack-down stitch, bring the needle up, as shown, to begin hem stitching along the new side.

Gather the first group of threads to begin hemming.

Proceed as usual along the new side.  In this photo, the corner has been completed.

 The last photo shows the hem from the front.  Notice that the area where threads have been pulled for the hem can be seen on each side of the corner.  That same area is noticeable on the vintage linens as well.  If this is not desirous, do not pull out any threads when preparing to hem.  The hem itself will not have the open, or pulled thread, look that this has.

On those 16th &17th century linens that I've seen, threads weren't pulled for the hem, even on very high count linens.  The exception to that is when there is an openwork area immediately below the hem.  I will go over that technique in a future post.


  1. Very clear, Kimberly. It does create a very neat hem, doesn't it!

    1. Hi Rachel - Yes, it creates a beautiful hem. Have you done hemming in this technique? I'd love to see pics!

  2. Oh, I just LOVE the world of Manderley!!=) Beautiful piece too.

    I discovered your blog through Hannah's selecting you as one her fave five. Looking forward to seeing more of your work. I too do a variety of techniques from cross stitch and hardanger through to stumpwork and small goldwork pieces/elements!

    Best wishes from the UK.=)

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you enjoy my blog.

      Each time I read Rebecca, I find my tea-drinking increases! Such lovely descriptions of afternoon teas. If I could live anywhere & anytime, it would be in 1920s or 30s England, excluding the war years, of course.

  3. Excellent, and timely! I was just looking at a large piece of linen, thinking about doing a set of napkins over the summer. Thank you for the pix and inspiration! Tthe lurking Kim, from breakfast at Winterthur. :)

  4. So, I attempted this rolled hem ( It turned out fairly well, but I had a hard time with the hem trying to fray into nothing while I was rolling it. Do you have any advice for preventing fraying? Is it me, my fabric, or did I need a larger edge to roll? Thanks so much :-)

    1. Hi Hannah,
      No, I don't have any problems with fraying while I'm hemming. It's probably your linen - I've never worked with 32 count, which would be a much looser linen and tend to fray more. I have hemmed with 35ct, 50ct and the Irish linen I used here, which is about 60 ct.
      When hemming with lower ct linens I make a wider hem. Try that. So my hem on the 60ct uses a total of 3/8" of fabric to make the double roll. Try 1/2", and if that doesn't solve it, go a little wider.

  5. Kimberly, your napkins might be what's known in Italy as "Punto Maglie", a form of needlelace born in the north but developed in the south. See here for more info:

  6. merci pour la publications de tous ces merveilles broderies


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