Hem facings are an age-old tool for saving fabric; in the days of long, full skirts, you needed a stiff, sturdy hem to make the skirt stand out for itself, but no one would see the fabric. The hem was sometimes 10" deep from the bottom of the skirt! (I know this because my family does civil war reenacting here in Oregon and I've been wearing 1860's clothes three weekends a summer since I was a kid). There's no reason to use 10" of the dress fabric when no one will see it, and the dress fabric may not be the best for stiffening, so dresses almost always had hem facings or "false hems"--that is, another fabric sewn to the dress fabric at the very bottom, and treated like an extension of the dress.
I'll show you how to do that with a modern dress here. I'm adding a hem facing to a dress I made recently, because after wearing it I've realized, it's not long enough! I don't have much extra fabric but I unpicked the hem and am going to add some fabric on the inside--it won't be seen, but it'll allow me to use all the fabric that was in the 1" or so hem. Here's the dress in its slightly-too-short state:
Here's the tutorial:
- You'll need a garment and a hem facing. I'm using my dress, and I took out the hem I originally had. I'm also using some white quilter's cotton that I bought oodles of for just this sort of use.
- Tear two widths of fabric 1" wider than you want your facing to be. I'm doing mine about 5", so my facing will be about 4" after I take out seam allowances. If you have a super full skirt (more than two panels wide itself), you'll need three or more panels 5" wide. Most modern dresses are less than two panels wide, although if you used 60" wide fabric for your dress and 45" wide fabric for the facing, obviously you'll need more than two widths then, too. Does that make sense?
- Sew the hem facing pieces together selvage-to-selvage and press the seam open flat.
- Go to the bottom of the skirt, top, dress, whatever. Right sides together, sew the hem facing to the skirt with a 1/2" seam allowance. Start 1/2" from the selvage, so you'll have room to close the loop when you come all the way around. I started at the center back on my dress, since there's a seam there.
- Once you get all the way around the hem, stop just millimeters shy of where you began your seam and tear the excess hem facing away, leaving 1/2" for your seam allowance. Sew the hem facing closed, selvage-to-torn end.
- Press that seam open.
- Press under 1/2" on the hem. Also press the skirt-to-facing seam allowance toward the hem facing. The pic is a little misleading--where my fingers are, you'll press the seam allowance there toward hem facing.
- Fold the hem facing back, leaving a teeny tiny space of fashion fabric at the very bottom, ensuring that the hem facing won't show. I leave a couple millimeters, but if you're not comfortable you can leave more like 1/8".
- Keeping everything nice and flat (and on the grain, if possible), press and pin your facing down onto the skirt, making sure it's even throughout--otherwise, you'll have bubbling! Unless the skirt is perfectly even panels, like with gathered skirt, you may have to make some little tucks in your facing. My skirt is tapered and is widest at the bottom, but the facing is rectangular, so I compensated by making my tuck and keeping it on the grain wherever possible.
- Sew the facing down. If you want to use a blind hem stitch, do it now. Knock yourself out. I was feeling simple on this skirt and I don't mind seeing the stitches on the front, so I'm using a normal straight stitch.
Now my dress is more than an inch longer. Not a whole lot, but it will make a difference!
I meant to tell you, thanks for the reminder in the comments--I used McCall's M5266 on this. I bought this fabric during a "must have everything bright yellow" phase, and didn't really know what to do with it. Then recently, when McCalls were 99 cents at JoAnn, I bought this pattern, and the two just sort of went together! I don't usually wear big, tent-like A-line dresses, but this one is beltable.
I modified the sleeves quite a bit, and I added some "smocking" at the front to keep things in place. The pattern is for a lined dress, but I didn't have any good lining fabric and didn't feel like waiting to buy some, so I just gave the neck a facing instead, cut out from the top 2" of the lining pattern.