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The Catch Stitch

I'm going to be selling sewing patterns at the Vintage Experience fashion expo in Cape Town at the end of the month, which got me thinking about all those second hand gems that get regaled to the bottom of the closet for various fit issues.

It's really worth reworking that thrift shop find so it can truly be the unique, beautiful piece you imagined. There is nothing quite like those vintage colours, prints and fabrics, and you can be guaranteed you won't catch someone else in the same frock.

I dug out this pure wool beauty last weekend and set about shortening the hem. A simple fix that immediately lifts (literally) the look of a dowdy piece. Here I will take you through how to sew an invisible hem with a catch stitch your grandmother would be proud of.

Finished hemmed skirt

Fold up your hem allowance toward the inside of the garment. Overall, we will be working our stitches from left to right. To begin, tie a small knot to anchor your thread.

Insert your needle into the garment fabric towards the left using a small stitch. This stitch will be visible from the right side of the garment, so make it very tiny. (The stitch in the picture is big for demonstration purposes, but ideally you want to catch just a few garment threads.)

Step 1

Next, stitch into the hem allowance towards the left again. This stitch can be bigger, as it won't be visible on the finished item.

Step 2

Repeat these steps at equal intervals along the hem to complete your catch stitch.

Repeat steps 1 and 2

Hand sewing gives me a kind of zen buzz, so if you just take it slow, the final product will be neat and tidy, and you'll feel super relaxed and accomplished. The picture on the left is the stitching inside of the garment, and the one on the right is what it looks like from the outside. With a bit of a press and some wear, those stitching dimples will fade away.

Catch stitch from inside

Finished hem from right side

So next time you're in a secondhand shop, sniff past the mothballs and envision yourself in glorious, self-tailored vintage technicolour.