Making a skirt or dress shorter should be easy, but if you don’t know how to sew, or don’t have access to a sewing machine, it may not seem simple at all.
Would you like to know how to hem a skirt or dress without sewing?
There are actually several methods of no sew hemming that you can use to make that perfect dress perfect for you.
Why Go Down the No-Sew Route?
Sewing your hem is a high quality, permanent solution to the problem. But there are times when you might not want to sew. And that’s okay.
Not everyone has a sewing machine at home. Hemming by hand isn’t difficult (in fact, our article on hemming by hand shows you how), but it can be a bit of an ordeal, especially if you’re short on time.
You Need a Quick Fix
Sewing a hem can be time consuming, whether you do it by hand, with a simple slip stitch, or with a sewing machine. If you need that skirt or dress in an hour’s time, sewing it may not be the best way.
Lack of Confidence in Your Sewing Skills
We all know someone who grew up sewing, and can whip up amazing things from scratch. Most of us are not that person.
Making a skirt or dress hem isn’t rocket science, but it does require some sewing skills, especially if you’re working with a stretchy, slippery, or delicate fabric.
If you’re not fully confident in your sewing abilities, don’t worry. There are other ways to shorten that hem, no sewing required.
You Only Want a Temporary Solution
Why might you want to temporarily shorten a garment? If you’re borrowing that skirt or dress from a taller friend, you don’t want to permanently alter it.
Also, you can get extra wear out of formal dresses (think bridesmaid dress or prom dress) or your maxi dress by changing up the length.
The great thing about a temporary fix is that it’s, well, temporary.
Before You Start
Before you launch into your alteration, there are a few things to consider.
Do you know what kind of hem your garment has?
A skirt or dress may have a squared hem or a circular hem. A maxi skirt or maxi dress more often than not has a circular hem.
A squared hem means that the entire hem is a straight line.
A circular hem means that it’s curved, as in this maxi dress.
Hemming a square hem is pretty straightforward, but hemming a circular hem requires an extra step.
To determine the shape of your hem, lay your garment flat. Now examine the edge. Is it a horizontal line, or is there a curve to it?
A round or curved hem may pleat if you try to hem it by simply turning up the edge.
Gathering the fabric before hemming can prevent this. Here’s how.
First, thread a needle. Baste along the bottom edge, one quarter inch (.63 centimeters). A basting stitch is a long stitch, rather than a tiny stitch. You can also machine baste if you prefer. Don’t worry about being tidy. You’ll be removing these stitches later.
Gently gather the fabric.
Fold the edge over to your desired hem length and distribute the gathers evenly. Your hem should now be a straight line.
Iron the crease of your hem.
Now you’re ready to shorten your item in one of the ways described below. Once you’ve shortened it, you can remove the basting stitches.
Garments come in a multitude of fabrics, and not every fabric is suited to every product or technique. Ask yourself:
- Can my garment withstand the heat of an iron?
- Will glue ruin the look, feel, or drape of my item?
- Will pins leave marks in the fabric?
When in doubt, try out your technique on an inconspicuous part of your garment.
Three Ways to Hem a Dress Without Sewing
There are three basic ways to hem a dress without sewing.
1. Hem Tape
Hem tape is one of the quickest and easiest ways to achieve that desired length. There are a couple of different products you can use, depending on how permanent a solution you’re looking for.
Iron-In Hem Tape
Fusible hem tape is a semi-permanent solution. It bonds two layers of fabric together using heat to melt a thin layer of plastic between them. In theory, you can pull the layers apart once the tape has cooled. In practice, however, you may risk damage to the garment.
- Strong hold
- Bond may be stronger in some places than in others
- May leave a sticky residue or stain on the fabric
- May be difficult to remove in some places
- Use caution with sheer and lightweight fabric, or stretchy material
How to Use Fusible Hem Tape
Hemming is always easier with a friend, but you can also do it alone, if you’re careful.
- Your hem tape
- Tailor’s chalk
- Measuring tape
- Sewing pins
Step by Step:
- Preheat your iron. Follow the tape manufacturer’s directions with regard to temperature.
- Put on the shoes that you’ll be wearing with the dress, skirt, or maxi skirt. This will ensure that you’re hemming the garment to the right height.
- Put the garment on. Stand with your feet flat on a flat surface.
- Use the chalk to mark the bottom edge of your new hem.
- Take the garment off and lay it on a flat surface.
- Decision point: If your garment has a rounded edge, follow the instructions in the previous section to deal with the excess fabric. Otherwise, continue to step 7.
- Fold the edge of your garment up to the desired length and secure with sewing pins.
- Use a measuring tape to make sure that your hem is the same all the way around the bottom. [image 7]
- Press the altered hem with your iron.
- Now, try the garment on to make sure the altered hem is exactly how you want it.
- Decision point: If you have a lot of extra length at the hem, you may want to carefully cut it away. Do this half an inch (1.2 centimetres) above the fold line, securing the alteration with pins before cutting. Fold the raw edge under for a double fold, and press. Now continue to the next step.
- Cut a length of hem tape equal to the length of the hem, and insert it beneath the folded edge on the dress inside.
- Press with the iron. You may want to use a pressing cloth to keep stray plastic off of the surface of your iron.
Double Sided Sticky Tape
You can also use double sided sticky tape to make a dress shorter. Double sided sticky tape is a better solution if you know you’ll be taking your hems down again, and don’t want to damage the fabric.
This is a great way to give that bridesmaid dress a makeover for a less formal event.
- Super easy
- Won’t damage most fabrics
- Holds reasonably well
- Truly temporary solution
- Not suitable for sheer material
How to Use Double Sided Sticky Tape
Follow steps 2 through 10 as above.
Remove the covering from one side of the sticky tape, and place it on the wrong side of the fabric, sticky side down, lining the bottom edge of the tape up with the crease of the new hem. Press it down with your fingers.
Remove the covering from the top of the sticky tape. Lay the folded edge over the sticky tape and press it down with your fingers.
Finished! No sewing required.
Everything you ever wanted to know about hem tape and more can be found in this helpful video.
2. Safety Pins
Yes, you can pin your hem up with safety pins! Just be careful that:
- The pins won’t leave holes in the fabric (as they will with, for example, a satin bridesmaid dress)
- Your alteration doesn’t show on the right side of the garment
- You’re using safety pins, which lock, as opposed to straight pins, which may fall out, ruin the alteration, and poke you.
- Super easy
- Very temporary
- Pins may damage some fabrics
- Pins may show through the fabric
How to Alter a Hem with Safety Pins
First, complete steps 2 through 10 in the first section.
Next, pin your new hem in place. It may take a bit of practice to secure the shorter hem without the pins showing through on the right side.
Remember that a safety pin has a locking mechanism that will protect both you and your alteration.
3. Fabric Glue
There are two kinds of fabric glue you can use for a no-sew hem. As with hemming tape, the one to choose depends on how permanently you want to alter your garment. You can also use it to secure a raw edge.
Fabric glue creates a permanent or semi-permanent bond that can stand up to machine laundering.
Basting glue washes out, so this is the better choice for a temporary alteration.
- As temporary or as permanent as you want it to be
- Easy to apply
- Not all products may be suitable for all fabrics. Check the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
How to Use Fabric Glue
Follow steps 2 through 10 in the first section.
Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply glue to the crease of your new hem. Press it down gently with your fingers, and allow to dry.
Which No-Sew Method is Best for Hemming a Dress?
That really depends on how permanent you want the bond to be.
For a quick, temporary alteration that you plan to remove later, double sided sticky tape would be our choice. It’s fast, it’s super easy, and it won’t harm most fabrics.
For a more permanent solution, iron-in hem tape works a treat. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, check to see that the product you use is suitable for the fabric of your garment, and use a press cloth to protect your iron.
There you go: no sewing required!
Did you find our tutorial helpful? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!