With the new year, new resolutions and goals, and many out there who received new sewing machines for Christmas, I thought it might be a good time to post some tutorials for sewing basics. (And, of course, the huge pile of sewing projects sitting on my sewing table might have had something to do with the decision, too!) The list will include hemming curtains, hemming pants, and even the super-basic, sewing a button (but I’ll show you how to do it on the machine, too). These are the things I most get asked about, and are great skills for someone new to sewing to learn.
Today we have: How to Hem Curtains.
As many of you know, we recently moved into a new house. And although window coverings came with the house, none of them had been hemmed, which means that they went right down to the floor, covering the baseboard heaters. And although aesthetically I like them that way, it’s not worth the fire hazard! So, a-hemming we will go!
- curtains to be hemmed (washed and dried. If they are going to shrink, you want them to do it BEFORE you hem them.)
- a sewing machine
- a long measuring tape
- thread to match your curtains
- sharp scissors
- marking pencil (fancy fabric ones are nice, but chalk will work on dark colours, and a regular pencil will work on lights, you won’t see the markings once you are done sewing)
- optional (but helpful): sewing gauge, rotary cutter and mat
Step 1: Measure
The first thing you need to figure out is how long your curtains should be. Using the measuring tape, measure from the top of your curtain rod to where you would like your curtains to hang. (For me, that was a couple of inches above the heater, which ended up being 75 inches.) Write that number down.
Then, add the amount you will need for seams. This is really completely up to you, but you can use the original curtain hems as a guide. The original hems on my curtain were quite narrow, so I decided to go with 1″ hems. Then, because the seam will be folded twice before being sewn, I doubled this number, giving me 2.” (If your number is different mine, just double whatever you came up with and you’re all set)
Add these two numbers together – finished length + seam allowance (75 + 2 in my case) and you will have the length you will be cutting your curtains.
Step 2: Cut
Lay your first curtain panel out flat on the floor. (Or a table if you have one long enough.) To make things easier, I like to fold mine in half for this step. Just make sure that you keep the tops if the curtains lined up after folding, to avoid crooked seams later on.
Using your measuring tape, measure from the top of the curtain and make a mark at your target number. (Remember Step 1? My number was 77 inches) Use a marking pencil to mark a line on the curtains.
Do this several times across the width of the curtain until you have 4 or 5 marks.
Use a ruler to join the marks you have made into a solid line.
I don’t know what yours will be like, but my curtains did not originally have straight hems – about 1″ off in places! This is why it is important to measure from the top, and not from the bottom, of the curtain. (Sometimes when you do things yourself you end up with something better than what you started with!)
Okay, now cut across the line you just made. You now have a perfectly straight curtains ready to hem! Repeat this step with the other curtain panel(s).
What do I do if my cutting line runs into the original hem?
If you are lucky, you will be shortening your curtains enough that you will be able to just cut off the original hem entirely. However, this is not always the case. If your cutting line runs down into the original hem, you will have to sit and unpick the original stitching. It’s a bit tedious, but I find putting on some of my favourite music or sitting down and watching a movie while I work my way through makes the time pass quickly.
Step 3: Press and Pin
We’re halfway there! Now you are going to lay your newly-cut curtain bottoms across your ironing board and press the hem. Using a ruler or sewing gauge to stay consistent, press up your hem the full amount of the seam allowance (that second number you chose in Step 1) In my case, that number was 2″.
Then unfold this newly pressed hem, and fold the fabric again, but this time only until it meets the line you just pressed. In my case, it meant folding it up 1″. Press on the fold.
Now fold the hem up on your original fold line again and pin. This tucks all the raw edges neatly away and leaves you with a nice straight edge, ready to sew!
Step 4: Sew
Now the fun part! Load up your machine with matching thread, and sew a straight stitch close to the folded edge of your hem, removing the pins as you go. Be sure to backstitch when you start and when you stop to lock the stitches.
Trim your threads and admire your beautifully sewn hem! These curtains are ready to hang.
That’s all there is to it! Now you are ready to hang your curtains and enjoy your handiwork! Well done!