There are several ways for hemming a dress or skirt both temporarily and permanently. But if you want a lasting, high quality dress hem, a sewing machine is the fastest, easiest way to get it.
Can You Hem Dresses at Home?
Absolutely you can — whatever your sewing skills. And there are plenty of ways to do it, depending on your needs.
This article will discuss altering dress and skirt hems with a sewing machine, but for other ideas, please check out our articles on temporary vs. permanent hem alterations and no-sew hemming techniques.
What You’ll Need to Hem Your Dress
Of course you’ll need a few things, first.
- Measuring Tape, yardstick, or sewing ruler
- Tailor Chalk
- Sewing Pins
- Sewing Machine
- Hemming foot (optional)
- Bias tape (optional)
A hemming foot isn’t strictly necessary, but it can make the job quicker and easier. A hemming foot turns the raw edge under while you sew, saving you a step. You can see how it works in this video.
Likewise, bias tape is an extra that can give your finished garment a more professional finish, but you can certainly hem your dress without it.
You can simply turn your hem under and secure it. But there are a few techniques that can give your new hem edge a more professional finish.
Blind Hem Stitch
A blind hem stitch combines a straight stitch with a zigzag stitch to invisibly secure the folded edge of a hem to the skirt or dress inside. An intermittent tiny stitch is practically invisible on the right side of the garment. Here’s how it works.
Twin Needle Hems
A twin needle sews parallel rows of stitches. This can provide a professional-looking hem edge, though you may have to practice your technique a bit first. A twin needle can also be a good choice for hemming knit and stretch fabrics. You can see how it works in the video below.
You can use double folded fabric tape for a more professional finish for your skirt or dress.
It can also help you to avoid puckering when you’re hemming a skirt or dress with a circular hem. We’ll discuss circular hems in a bit, but you can get a sneak peek in this video.
Here’s How to Hem a Dress With a Sewing Machine
If you can follow a recipe, you can follow these easy steps to hem your dress or skirt.
Resist the temptation to skip steps and cut corners. Organization and preparation can mean the difference between a great hem and a ruined project.
Step 1: Determine What Type of Hem You Have
Some garments have a square, or straight hem. Others, such as a prom dress, maxi dress, or circle skirt, have a round, or curved hem.
Hemming a square hem is straightforward, but hemming a curved hem requires an extra step to avoid puckering, creasing, and uneven hems.
Step 2: Choose Your New Hem Length
Put on the shoes you’re most likely to wear with your dress or skirt, and put the garment on.
Stand on a flat, even surface. Measure from the top of the waistband to where you want your new hem to sit. Take the item off and mark the new line on the fabric with tailor chalk.
Decision Point: Square the Hem Edge or No?
Lay your garment out flat, and examine the hem. Does it lay straight? Or does the hem have a curve?
If you’re working with a curved hem, mark your new hemline on the wrong side of your garment. Baste a line of stitches one half inch (1.27 centimetres) below that line.
This will give you a quarter inch (.63 centimetres) seam allowance, plus another quarter inch to turn the rawn edge under.
Gently tug on the basting stitches in that area to gather the excess fabric. See how it’s done in the video below.
Step 3: Press and Pin Up the Bottom Edge
Turn your hem up along the fold line that you’ve marked with chalk. Measure around the entire hem to make sure that it’s even. Now use a sewing pin or two to pin the hem into place.
Press the new hem with your iron.
Decision Point: To Trim or Not to Trim?
If your raw edge is fairly small, turn it under and press, then fold it over again, pin, and press with your iron.
However, if there’s a lot of extra fabric after you’ve secured your new hem, you might want to trim it off.
First, press the new hem edge. It should still be pinned in place.
Next, use a measuring tape and tailor chalk to mark the wrong side of the fabric, one half inch (1.27 centimetres) above the new hem edge.
Now, carefully cut along the chalk line.
Turn the new raw edge under, press, and pin.
Decision Point: Bias Tape or No?
You can skip this extra step, but if you want a smooth, professional finish inside your garment, this is how to do it.
Open your double folded tape, and lay it along the bottom edge of your dress, right side to right side. Stitch parallel to the hem, one quarter inch (.63 centimetres) from the bottom edge.
Now, fold the tape over side hem. Fold the hem up to the desired length, and secure with pins.
Stitch along the top edge of the tape to form a new hem, which is covered by the tape. This will also cover the side seams, which gives them extra stability.
Watch the entire process here.
Step 4: Stitch Your New Hem Into Place
Now it’s time to stitch your new skirt or dress hem. Sew along the folded edge on the wrong side of your fabric. You can sew with a simple straight stitch, or you can use the two alternate techniques described above.
Dress hemming FAQs
Still have questions? We have answers!
How Hard is it to Hem a Dress Yourself?
Have you heard the expression ‘measure twice, cut once’? It’s true. Preparation is key.
The truth is, it’s easy to hem a dress badly if you cut corners and skip steps. But if you work patiently and methodically, hemming a dress well isn’t that hard at all.
Here are a few hints.
- Lay out your fabric and materials, so you’ll have everything to hand
- Consider the fabric you’re working with and possible issues it may present
- Make a plan
- Pin, baste, and press to get everything the way you want it before cutting and sewing
- Double check everything before making any permanent changes to the fabric
The extra steps may take time, but they’ll save you frustration, and possibly a ruined garment, in the end.
Which Type of Stitch is Best for Hemming Dresses?
90 percent of all sewing can be accomplished with a straight stitch, and that includes hems. A straight stitch works great for stable, medium weight fabrics. But some types of fabric work better with different techniques.
If your garment is made from a knit or stretch fabric, for example, a zigzag stitch is often the best choice. Unlike a straight stitch, zigzag stitching allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the threads. 
Stitching a blind hem is a good technique when you want to minimize the appearance of stitching on the right side of the fabric.
Using a double needle creates a professional looking double row of parallel stitching on the right side of the fabric.
How Do You Hem a Dress by Hand?
Hemming a dress by hand is very similar to making hems with a sewing machine. The fabric and garment preparation are the same. 
- Measure and mark your new hemline
- Square your round dress edge if necessary
- Pin and press the hem along the new hemline, on the wrong side of the fabric
- Cut if desired
- Fold the raw edge of the fabric under once, or twice, as desired
- Press and pin
Now here’s where the hemming process differs.
It’s pretty easy to hand sew blind hems using a slip stitch. The secret is sewing inside the fold.
First, thread your needle with a single thread and knot it. Start with the needle inside the hem allowance fold.
Bring the needle out. Pick up just a few fibres from your fabric. If you do this carefully, your stitches will be practically invisible on the right side of the fabric.
Now bring the needle back inside the fold. Repeat the process until finished. It doesn’t take long. Depending on your garment, it could take less than half an hour.
This video makes the process crystal clear.
Where Should a Dress Hem Fall?
The best thing about doing your own hemming is that the length is totally up to you.
Where would you like your skirt hem to fall? Do you like a higher hemline or a lower line?
Experiment with different skirt lengths by pinning the hem in different places. Which length looks best on you?
That’s How to Hem a Dress at Home!
Hemming a skirt or dress at home may sound complicated, but if you make a plan, prepare your materials, and proceed step by step, it may be easier than you think. And it may not take very long at all.
Did you find our skirt hemming tutorial helpful? Tell us about it!
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- Craftsy | Stretch Your Skills: How to Hem Knit Fabric Five Different Ways | https://www.craftsy.com/post/how-to-hem-knit-fabric/
- WikiHow | How to Hem a Dress by Hand | https://www.wikihow.com/Hem-a-Dress-by-Hand