Given all the events on your docket — weddings, holiday parties, work events — a trip to the tailor may seem inevitable for you or your loved one who needs a too-long dress hemmed. But all of those trips to the tailor can add up fast, especially considering that the average cost of a hem on a formal dress can run anywhere from $30 to $120, according to Alterations Express. Thankfully, there’s no need to head to the tailor or take a pricey sewing class to learn how to hem a dress. All you need to do is reach for a sewing needle, thread, scissors and follow the below simple steps to get a professional-looking hem on your dress at home!
Why learn how to hem a dress?
“Even if you don’t have an immediate need to do so, it is so worth it to learn how to hem,” says sewing pro Linda Prenzlow of the blog TheSewingGarden.com. “Hemming a dress at home is much more affordable than taking the dress to a tailor, since you don’t have to pay them to do the work for you.” What’s more? You don’t have to have a fancy sewing machine to achieve a tailor-worthy hem — just grab a needle, thread and scissors or a basic sewing machine, like Brother Sewing 14 Stitch Sewing Machine (Buy from Amazon, $99.99).
And once you nail hemming your own dresses, not only will it save you money, but you can even turn the skill into a lucrative business from home, notes Prenzlow, author of the e-book The Sewing Garden: A Jumpstart Guide To Starting Your Sewing And Alterations Business. “If you start by doing hems and you can sew a straight line, you can start your own business from home where you have the control to work your own hours and charge what you are worth.”
While there are many ways to hand-sew and machine-sew a hem, we covered two of the most popular, easy-to achieve methods below using a needle and thread or a standard sewing machine.
How to prepare a dress for a hem
To start, Prenzlow suggests pinning the dress at the point where you would like the hem to hit all the way around the garment. If you are hemming your own dress, try the dress on with the shoes you are planning to wear with it, then stand on a step stool or coffee table and have a friend or loved one insert ball-point pins, like Dritz 39 Ball Point Pins (Buy from Amazon, $2.79), horizontally into the fabric around the entire skirt of the dress at the exact point where you would like the hem to hit, spacing pins about 1 inch apart (as shown in the above image). If you are hemming someone else’s dress, have them try the dress on with their preferred shoes and follow the above steps.
Next, fold the bottom edge of the dress under along the pinned hemline, then remove pins and press from the inside of the garment with an iron to create a sharp crease in the fabric. Once pressed, cut the fabric about 1” below the crease to form a raw edge.
Follow the below steps for either hemming a dress with a needle and thread or hemming a dress with a sewing machine:
How to hem a dress with a needle and thread
After cutting away the excess fabric from 1″ below the crease in the instructions above fold the top ¼″ of the raw edge in toward the pressed crease, then press this new fold to create a second sharp crease. Fold fabric along the first crease you created, which will tuck the raw edge inside the double-folded hem. Thread a size 9 Dritz Sharps Hand Sewing Needle (Buy on Amazon, $4.69) with thread that matches the color of your garment, suggests Prenzlow.
See the below quick hack for effortlessly threading a needle from @withanxart on TikTok:
Next, attach the double-folded hem to the garment using the threaded needle and a blind hem stitch. The blind hem stitch got its namesake because the stitches blend so seamlessly into the garment that you can barely see them from the front of the dress once you are finished.
See the video from @Needlepointers for the easy blind hem stitch how-to, plus the above instructions for creating the double-folded hem.
How to hem a dress with a sewing machine
After cutting away the excess fabric from 1″ below the crease in the instructions above, fold up the hem on its pressed crease and working from the inside of the dress, use your sewing machine to stitch the folded fabric together in a straight line ⅛″ away from the crease. “Then, as carefully as you can, trim away the excess fabric close to the stitched edge, on the inside of the dress, taking great care not to cut the dress,” says Prenzlow. The hem should look like her below image:
Next, fold up the edge ⅛″ more on the inside of the dress and press to create a new crease. Then, flip the garment over to the outside and use the sewing machine to stitch a straight line along the hem, about ⅛″ away from the bottom edge of the fabric. The result? A reinforced, rolled hem that looks sharp and professional!
How to hem a dress without sewing
If you’re reall in a rush and don’t have the time to sew: “A quick repair for a hem on your dress, skirt or pants leg is double-sided hem tape,” says style expert Lilliana Vazquez (LillianaVazquez.com), author of The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style. Apply the tape, such as SINGER Instant Bond Double-Sided Fabric Tape (Buy from Walmart, $9.97) to the inside of the folded hem to hold the cloth together, then iron it to activate the glue and make it even more secure. Alternatively, you can sandwich a little fabric glue on the inside of the folded hem and let it dry.
The caveat: Prenzlow suggests avoiding hem tape or fabric glue if you plan to machine dry your dress, since the heat of the dryer can cause the gluey substances to get gummy and come apart. The residue also makes it harder to machine-hem the garment in the future, as it can gum up your machine’s needle.
Looking for more sewing tips? Click through these stories: