Hem Stays

For a long time, I used a six strand cord of embroidery floss to make my hem stays.

Is that what they are called?

Hem stays?

I couldn’t think of a better term for them.

They are the cords that keep the hem of dress pants and its lining from straying too far from each other.

They look like this:

Once I realized that the embroidery floss wasn’t holding up well to everyday wear, I began to use Perle Cotton.

I buy it at quilting shops and it comes on a spool that looks like this:

As you can tell, it is a little thinner than the original cord that is put in by the manufacturer.

But, about a year ago, it dawned on me that I could use a strip of satin ribbon just as easily and it would hold up well.

I like that I don’t have to thread a needle with any cording.

That, in itself, was an encouragement to me.

I cut two pieces of ribbon (one for each pant leg) into about three inch pieces:

I don’t measure; I just eyeball it.

Then, I fold under one edge of the ribbon and machine stitch it to the seam allowance just above the hemline on the pant:

Then, I take the other end of that same strip and fold under the edge and attach it to the lining seam allowance:

It takes a little bit of manipulating to get it sewn on the seam allowance without catching other parts of the lining.

But, I patiently work on it until I get it just right.

And, it occurred to me today, that I don’t have to work so hard to get the ribbon sewn onto only the seam allowance!

I can stitch right through the lining.


Yes, the stitches show through the lining, but they won’t be seen as they are up the hem of the lining a few inches:

I can hear some of you out there saying, “Duh!”

I love it when I get a new idea that saves me time and makes things a little easier.

How about you?

Have you been doing this trick for years?

What do you make your hem stays out of?


8 Responses

  1. COOL idea, thanks! Question..what rule of thumb do you use for the difference in teh hem lines of the lining and the pant leg? Don’t know If I worded this correctly, but is the lining usually an INCH higher? OR ??

  2. Great question! You’re right…I like an inch difference. I do that because that way the lining is high enough that it doesn’t show from underneath, and it isn’t too high so that the hem edges show.
    Most of the time, if the hem and lining are in a good proportion like that, I can raise the lining the same amount that I raised the hem. For instance, this morning, I had to raise a pair of pants 1 1/2″. When I raised the lining 1 1/2″, it was perfect. That isn’t always the outcome, but it does work in most cases.

  3. I am going to be one of the “DUH” people. I used to use 4-6 strands of sewing thread, then buttonhole stitch around the length of thread (so that it looked like RTW). How dumb can I be.

    Thanks for this simple and probably longer lasting answer.

    I shorten pants for 4 daughters and have always made them sit down to make sure the lining didn’t show. Then I made the pant leg stays.

  4. I have a 4 thread serger. I run the machine without fabric and use a length of the “braid” it produces as the stay thread. Not as sturdy as cording but readily available to me!

  5. This is a great idea. I currently use buttonhold twist but this looks more appealing and sturdy.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. My “duh” moment – realising I didn’t have to tie off and finish perfectly every single seam, because most of the time when I overlocked my fabric at a later stage of sewing, I’d be cutting that off.

    Millions of minutes of fiddling saved! Now I can actually understand how people can sew dresses in two hours or less.

    Now, to find the fast way of cutting out fabric. That ALWAYS takes hours. I’m too much of a perfectionist.

  7. I call them wacky tacky”s . I make mine out of waxed horse hair. I crochet a 3″ line and tack (1) end to pants and (1) to lining. If you do much hand sewing, you must try waxed horsehair thread ( it never knots up). I buy mine from a supply house (Wawak sewing supplies, i use online store). I press up my hems and cut pants off 1 1/2 ” below press line and cut off lining at press line and then turn lining hem up and hem.

  8. I love to laugh along with your steps to learning new things.

    Seems many people get “tunnel vision” and forget to look for other ways to do things.

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