If there’s one thing that can take a special occasion dress to show-stopper status, it is adding horsehair braid to the hem.
Hemming with horsehair braid is fairly simple, but the effect is incredible! Today I will be showing you how I used this hemming method to make Winterberry with an extra special double skirt.
What is Horsehair Braid?
Horsehair braid (HHB) is a crinoline netting used to add volume and shape to hems. It can also be used in sleeves, hats, and more. Historically, it was originally made from horse mane/tail hair, giving it its name, but now it is primarily made from polyester or sometimes nylon. It is a woven material but has some stretch so it’s important not to stretch it as you sew or it will warp your desired shape. HHB comes in a variety of widths, so you can choose the one that is right for your project. You can buy it at most fabric stores, and also online. I purchased mine from Amazon.
In this post I will be walking you through how to use HHB in a double skirt on Winterberry. You can use this method of hemming with horsehair braid for any skirt, by just following the directions for the HHB and ignoring the part about doing a second skirt!
1. To begin, cut the two skirts. The first will be using the dimensions on the cut chart for the dress length skirt. The second will be using the dimensions for the vintage length skirt. You should end up with two dress length pieces, and two vintage length pieces.
2. Follow all pattern tutorial steps for completing the dress bodice.
3. As directed in the tutorial, sew the two dress length skirt pieces along the short sides, right sides together. After that, finish the seams with a serger or zigzag stitch. Repeat with the two vintage length skirt pieces. Set one skirt aside. The rest of the HHB instructions will be for one skirt, when you finish you will go back and repeat with the second skirt.
4. Measure the width of the skirt, front and back, all the way around the entire skirt. Starting at one side seam, measure around the skirt until you get back to where you started. Add 2-4 inches. This is the length of HHB you need to cut. You need enough HHB to sew onto the hem of the skirt, plus an overlap of a couple inches.
5. Cut two pieces of double fold bias tape, each piece should be one inch longer than the width of your HHB. I am using 2″ HHB so I need each bias tape strip to be 3″ long. (You can use store bought; or you can make your own from scraps. If you make your own bias tape, it should be 1″ wide to start, so it is 1/4″ wide when fully folded.)
Finishing the Ends of the HHB
Note- HHB is a woven material, and when cut it will fray and leave sharp poky points. After cutting to size, but before hemming with horsehair braid, you will need to enclose the short raw edges of the HHB in the bias tape to prevent this. There are many methods of doing this, and the following method is my favorite. It might look tricky at first but it’s easy once you get the hang of it and leaves a beautiful fully enclosed edge!
6. Open one of the bias tape pieces and lay it so that one long raw edge of the bias tape is along one short raw edge of the HHB, right sides together, aligning the centers. Sew using a 1/4″ seam allowance. For this tutorial, I am using contrasting thread, because it is easier to see in the photos.
7. Fold the bottom raw edge of the bias tape up on the first crease line. Then, pinching the bottom fold of bias tape, fold up along the original seam line. You are skipping the center crease line at this point, NOT folding on it. From here, still pinching that fold, fold the bias tape BACK on itself, matching the that fold with the original seam line. Clip or pin. The bias tape will be folded on itself fully on one side of the HHB- at this point, none of the bias tape should be on the opposite side of the HHB.
8. Next, sew along the SHORT ends of the bias tape, stitching 1/8″ away from the edge of the HHB. At this point you will NOT sew the bias tape to the HHB; you are just stitching the folded bias tape. Once sewn, trim your seam allowance.
9. Next, pinching the bottom folded edge of the bias tape, flip it up and over the short raw edge of the HHB. Poke out the corners to give a clean finish, then topstitch along the long edge of the bias tape, securing it to the HHB.
10. The short raw edge of your HHB is now fully enclosed! Repeat for other short raw edge of HHB.
Hemming the Skirt with the HHB
11. Lay the HHB down on the RIGHT side of your skirt, aligning the long raw edge of the HHB with the raw edge of the skirt. The enclosed short edge of the HHB will be roughly aligned with the side seam of the skirt. I like to place the short edge of my HHB just to the side of the skirt side seam, so that they are not directly overlapping. This helps to reduce bulk.
12. Sew the HHB all the way around the bottom of the skirt (again your skirt should be RIGHT side up), using a 1/4″ seam allowance. When you near the end of your HHB, overlap it with where you started, and finish sewing to the end. Be very careful not to stretch the HHB as you sew, as it will warp the shape of the skirt!
13. Flip the HHB away from the skirt. Turn the skirt over so it is wrong side up. Fold the HHB to the wrong side of the skirt. Gently press, using the tip of your iron to press just where the hem is enclosed, rather than using your iron directly against the HHB. (A hot iron can melt HHB.) Pin/clip in place. Your skirt hem raw edge is now fully enclosed.
14. Finally, complete the hem by sewing your HHB to the skirt. Your stitch line will be 1/8″ away from the unenclosed long edge of the HHB, not from the edge of the skirt!
15. To give the hem a crisp finish, press from right side of skirt. This is to avoid touching the iron directly to the HHB, as you want to be careful not to melt the HHB with a hot iron. Your HHB hem is now complete! Repeat all steps for your second skirt if you are making a double skirt. For a single skirt you are done and can now follow all pattern directions for attaching the skirt to your bodice.
Completing the Double Skirt
16. Place your dress length skirt inside your vintage length skirt, with the right side of the dress skirt facing the wrong side of the vintage skirt. Align the side seams of the two skirts, and pin to secure. Pin/Clip all the way around the top of the two skirts. Baste together. (For mine, I serged the two skirts together without cutting any, because my fabric was fraying a lot.)
17. From here, you can follow your tutorial directions to attach the skirt to the bodice, treating the double skirt as one. I sewed my gathering stitches through both skirts. If you do this, just be sure to pull your gathering threads gently and use a very long stitch length, to be sure not to break the threads.
Your Winterberry dress is complete! Making a double skirt and hemming it with horsehair braid adds a show-stopping finish to an already gorgeous special occasion dress!
For a video on this method of hemming with horsehair braid, visit the Boo and Lu YouTube channel here. Be sure to subscribe while you’re there so you don’t miss out on any videos!
If you make a dress with a double skirt or horsehair braid, we’d love to see! Tag us in photos of your sews, and make sure you’re following us @booandlupatterns on Instagram, or share it in our Facebook group!