Lengthening or shortening a hemline

Lengthening or shortening a hemline

Altering the length of a garment can make it look completely different. It is easy to do – just follow these simple steps.

If you wish to lengthen a garment, check that there is enough hem allowance to do this and then unpick the old hemming stitches. Then press the hem (on the wrong side of the garment) to get rid of the old hemline crease and flatten the fabric. It is usually best to use steam or a damp cloth when doing this, if the fabric will take a hot heat setting.

  1. Try on the garment and pin the hem to the new length that you would like it to be (it is easiest if you can get someone to help with this).
  2. Ensure that the hem is level by standing up straight with the garment on, then get someone else to place a ruler on the floor and measure upwards. Garments that are cut on the bias or ones that have stretchy or loose woven fabric need to be checked carefully, as these fabrics can be quite unstable.
  3. If necessary, trim the hem allowance. As a guide: For hems sewn by hand on heavy fabric (for example, velvets or wools or winter trouser fabric) allow 5cm hem allowance. For hems sewn by machine (for example on thin/medium weight cottons or similar fabrics) allow a similar amount of hem allowance as the garment had originally (usually around 1.5cm).
  4. To sew the hem by hand (best for heavy fabrics or evening fabrics) refer to our How to hem guide.
  5. To sew the hem by machine: Press up 0.5 cm then press again 1cm up from the foldline you have just made – this will ensure that the raw edges are enclosed. Use a straight stitch on your machine using a matching thread.
  6. Press your hem on the wrong side to finish neatly. (Top tip: If you have hemmed your garment by hand and it is made from a heavy fabric, just press the foldline of the hem, not the actual stitching line. The prevents the line of the edge of the fabric showing through).