Hemmer feet intimidate a lot of people. They certainly overwhelmed me when I first attempted to use one! I’d long admired the beautiful narrow hems on Jim’s dress shirts, and early on, bought all of Bernina’s hemmer feet. They come in straight and shell stitch versions. To my knowledge, vintage hemmer feet only do straight hems.
I was unsuccessful with my early attempts using my Bernina hemmer feet. During my Singer Featherweight brief period, I stumbled across a set of vintage Griest Hemmer feet that have adaptors for both high and low shank machines, and purchased them on a whim.
The coil in the Greist feet is quite different that any others I’ve come across. I found them amazingly intuitive to learn on. Even though I sold off my Featherweight collection, I kept these feet as they fit both my Singer 201-2 and 15-91.
And here’s a standard vintage Singer hemmer foot (slant shank) that comes standard with the machines.
And finally, a modern Bernina hemmer foot.
Once you master a hemmer foot, they are all relatively easy to use, despite how different they may look.
Here is a short video of me demonstrating a vintage Singer hemmer foot on my Singer 403a machine.
I don’t recommend using fabric with a pinked edge, that was simply a strip I grabbed for demonstration purposes. I haven’t found it necessary to starch the fabric when doing narrow hems.
Obviously this hem would need to go in a seam allowance, as the start is not clean. It is possible to do a clean start by pre-pressing the hem in the finished size ahead of time for about an inch, and sliding that portion into the hemmer, but that requires a bit more practice and unless you’re hemming a dress shirt, your hem will usually be in a seam allowance.