Sew a Shell Hem by Machine


Jeannie’s baby set

A sweet shell hem is the perfect finish for delicate baby clothes. The hand stitched shell hem has long been popular, but, by adapting this technique to a sewing machine and applying it to a bias fabric strip, you can create an equally unique embellishment. This trim is suitable for edging collars, hems, sleeves and more, and is shown here on the collar, cuffs and bonnet brim of a baby set designed by Jeannie Downs Baumeister using the pattern “Sweet & Simple Bubbles and Bonnets” from The Old Fashioned Baby.

Below, follow Jeannie’s how-to from our Sew Beautiful: Heirloom Sewing Favorites for Summer special edition to machine stitch a shell trim on your next project:

How to stitch it:
• Stitch – Blind hem stitch
• Presser Foot – All-purpose presser foot
• Stitch Width: 3.7
• Stitch Length: 1.8
• Tension: 7 or 8
• NOTE: Each machine will give slightly different results so a little time spent playing with the stitch settings and tension is necessary.


Machine shell trim edging the collar

1. Cut a bias strip 1 inch wide x length desired. Spray starch very lightly and press (too much starch will yield poor results). Fold fabric in half lengthwise and press again.

2. Place fabric under presser foot with fabric fold to left. Position fabric so needle will stitch just off fabric on the left (this is what makes the shells.) The right swing will stitch on fabric.

3. After stitching, press gently. Little stitches on fabric should not show after it is used to trim a collar or cuff.

4. Trim seam allowance to 1/4 inch or needed width.

5. Trim can be used just like piping!

Jeannie Downs Baumeister is an internationally known designer, teacher and needle artist. She is the designer of the popular pattern line, The Old Fashioned Baby; visit her at, or at her blog,

For more heirloom sewing inspiration, don’t miss our Sew Beautiful: Heirloom Sewing Favorites for Summer special edition. Plus, check out these great resources for more projects and ideas:

Happy Sewing,