Curtains often come in standard lengths that don’t perfectly fit every window. Luckily, there are easy no-sew methods to hem curtains to the ideal length for your space. This article covers three popular techniques for hemming curtains without sewing – using iron-on hem tape, curtain rings, and heat-activated bonding tape. With just a few supplies and tools, you can easily shorten your curtains to create the perfect draped look.
Preparing Your Curtains
Before hemming, there are a couple of steps you should take to prep your curtains:
Wash the curtains first. Fabrics often shrink after washing, so pre-wash your curtains before hemming to prevent them from becoming too short later. Hang the curtains in their final position. Hemming is easiest when the curtains are hanging in place.
This allows you to mark and measure precisely where the hem needs to fall. Consider the hem depth. The depth of your hem will depend on how much length you need to remove. For 1-3 inches, a single 1-2 inch fold should suffice. For more length, make a deeper first fold of 3-4 inches, then a second fold.
Method 1: Iron-On Hem Tape
Iron-on hem tape, also called fusible web, is a quick, easy way to hem curtains without sewing. The tape bonds to fabric when heated with an iron.
- Iron-on hem tape, also called fusible web
- Fabric scissors
- Pressing cloth
1. With the curtain hanging, fold up the bottom edge to the desired length and use pins to temporarily hold the fold in place.
2. Lay the curtain over an ironing board with the wrong side facing up. Iron over the folded edge to create a crease.
3. Cut the curtain about 2 inches below the folded edge, removing excess length. Unfold the hem.
4. Place a strip of iron-on hem tape (or several parallel strips for heavy fabric) just above the crease line on the wrong side of the fabric.
5. Fold the hem back up over the tape and cover with a cloth. With the iron on a wool setting, press firmly for 10-15 seconds to activate the adhesive.
6. Flip the curtain over and iron the other side of the fold as well. Allow to fully cool before use. Test the bond by gently pulling on the hem.
Method 2: Curtain Rings
Another no-sew technique is using clip-on curtain rings to shorten your curtains. The rings gather and hold the excess fabric.
- Curtain rings with clips, available in various colors
- Fabric scissors
1. With the curtain hanging, determine the ideal finished length. Mark a line across the width of the curtain using a removable fabric pen.
2. Take the curtain down. Cut through the fabric on your marked line.
3. Finish the cut edge by folding it under 1/4 inch and pressing with an iron. This prevents fraying.
4. Refold the bottom edge of the curtain up to the cut line and press with an iron to create a crisp fold.
5. Space clip rings evenly across the back of the folded hem, clipping them in place. For fullness, place rings about 1 inch apart.
6. Hang the shortened curtain back up. The rings will gather the excess fabric into neat pleats.
Method 3: Heat-Activated Hem Tape
For a secure no-sew hem, use heat-activated hem tape. This double-sided bonding tape fuses fabric when heated.
- Heat-activated hem tape, such as Heat n’ Bon
- Fabric pen or chalk
1. With the curtain hanging, mark the ideal finished length with a fabric pen. Mark across the width of the curtain.
2. Raise the bottom edge of the curtain to your marks. Finger press or iron a fold along the marked line.
3. Open the fold. Place a strip of heat tape on the wrong side of the fabric, just above the crease.
4. Fold the hem back down over the tape. Place pins across the width to temporarily hold the fold.
5. Cover the pins with scrap cloth. Run an iron at medium heat over the fabric to activate the tape’s adhesive.
6. Remove the pins once cooled. The hem will now be fused in place.
Hemming Floor-Length Curtains
For very long curtains, hemming while hanging can be tricky. Here are some tips:
- Use a fabric measuring tape to measure from the top of the curtain to the floor. Mark the length on the curtain.
- For safer handling, use an ironing board placed horizontally on the floor. Lay the curtain flat to work on the hem.
- Enlist a helper! One person can hold the curtain in place and smooth the fabric while the other operates the iron.
No-Sew Hem Finishes
- Raw edge – For casual curtains, simply leaving the cut edge raw can work, however, it may fray over time.
- Pinked edge – Using pinking shears leaves a zigzag edge that resists fraying.
- Liquid seam sealant – Products like Fray Check can be brushed on raw edges to prevent unraveling.
Tips for Measuring and Hanging
- Allow curtains to puddle slightly on the floor for optimal drape. Leave an extra 1-2 inches in length.
- Factor in the depth of any curtain header or hem when measuring.
- Hang curtain rods a few inches above the window frame so curtains can stack neatly when open.
- For floor-length curtains, install the rod higher and wider than the window to allow space for the fabric to puddle.
No-Sew Hem Techniques for Other Items
The no-sew methods described here can be used to shorten many fabric items besides curtains:
- Fabric shower curtains
- Sheets used as curtain panels
With some simple supplies and easy techniques, you can customize the length of your curtains and other items to perfectly fit your space. Experiment with iron-on hem tape, curtain rings, or heat-activated tape to create beautiful floor-skimming curtains in no time.
How much length should I add when measuring curtains to hem them?
You’ll want to add at least 2 inches to the finished length when measuring for hemming. This allows for the hem fold(s). If you’re unsure, add 2-3 inches to be safe.
Can I use iron-on hem tape on lined curtains?
Yes, iron-on hem tape will work on lined curtains. Just be sure to apply the tape to the lining side. The heat of the iron will fuse it through both the lining and outer fabric.
What’s the benefit of using curtain rings to shorten curtains?
Curtain rings create a cute gathered effect while holding up the excess fabric. It’s also completely reversible – you can easily remove the rings later if needed.
Is heat-activated hem tape permanent?
The heavy-duty, ultra-hold heat-activated tapes create a permanent bond. The standard strength tapes can be removed with ironing but may damage delicate fabrics.
How do I get crisp folds when hemming curtains by hand?
Use a yardstick and fabric marking pencil to draw straight guidelines. Fold along the lines and press with an iron-on cotton setting to get crisp, straight folds.
Can I use a sewing machine for parts of the no-sew curtain hemming process?
Yes, you can still use a sewing machine for some steps, even when doing a no-sew hem. For example, you may want to run a basting stitch along the fold line before applying the hem tape or rings. Or you could sew a narrow hem and then use tape on the raw edge. The sewing machine helps create straight lines and folds.
What should I do with the excess curtain material I trim off?
Save the excess material! You may be able to use it for craft projects, curtain tie-backs, or pillow covers. Or if you ever want to return the curtains to their original length, having the material makes it easier. Fold the excess and store it with the original packaging or certain tags.