How to shorten curtains with a sewing machine is one of a series of posts where I share projects from my multifunctional room makeover. I'm transforming a bedroom into a multipurpose workspace which includes an office, craft room and a photography studio. As you can see, this room has to work hard for its money! Today, I need to make alterations to some IKEA linen curtains that I bought for this workspace. This sewing tutorial is suitable for beginners, so if you are looking for a quick and simple way to shorten curtains with a sewing machine, this post is for you!
Don't let the sewing machine method of shortening curtains daunt you. Believe me, anyone can hem curtains with a sewing machine. Read on for why I don't recommend using iron-on tape for this.
Here are the other posts in the multifunctional workspace series if you are interested:
IKEA Linen Curtains
It's no surprise that these linen curtains from IKEA are very popular with savvy interior shoppers. They are such great value for money! I've already used them in my hallway 'Beige' with tabs for hanging.
Recently, I bought two sets of these linen curtains in 'off white' for my multifunctional room makeover. I love the look and feel of them although, the curtains are far too long for my windows - I'm going to have to shorten them.
I thought I'd make a tutorial showing you how I shorten curtains with a sewing machine.
Why I don't hem curtains using the no-sew method
I've seen various tutorials on Pinterest where people use iron-on hemming tape or fabric glue to hem curtains. If you don't own a sewing machine, it's probably the easiest way to hem curtains. However, if you use these methods, be prepared to have to re-hem your curtains again in a couple of years.
Hems made with hemming tape and fabric glue won't last forever. After a couple of washes, you will find your hem coming undone. Even strong sunshine or daily use can weaken the tape/glue so that it no longer sticks, leaving your hems looking undone, saggy and awful!
In my opinion, hemming curtains with a sewing machine is a fool-proof way to shorten curtains that are too long – it's just as easy as any of the no-sew methods!
If you are going to shorten your curtains, you might as well hem them once and not have to bother with them again!
Can you hem curtains by hand?
Of course, you could adjust the hem of your curtains by hand. Just remember that hand sewing curtain hems will take a lot longer. You will need to be a very neat sewer for this method to look good.
Should you wash curtains before hemming?
Although you can wash linen curtains in a washing machine, some fabrics shrink when washed. The last thing you want is curtains that are too short after washing.
I recommend washing your curtains before hemming to get the shrinkage out of the way before you start.
Should I hang my curtains before hemming?
Definitely! If you haven't already put up your curtain rods, I recommend you read my post on how to hang curtains properly before you start. It will help you decide how long your curtains should be and prevent you from making some very common curtain hanging mistakes.
Only once you have your curtain rods in the correct position (see above) will you be able to find the correct length for your curtains.
A QUICK REMINDER: When attempting any DIY project, please take care to undertake the necessary safety precautions. You should always follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations when using any product or tool. When following my instructions for a DIY project, you are doing so at your own risk.
How to shorten curtains with a sewing machine
Materials needed to shorten curtains with a sewing machine
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- Sewing machine
- Thread to match your curtains
- Tailor's chalk or disappearing ink fabric marker
- Tailor's pins
- Measuring tape
- Ironing board (or alternative surface)
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Shorten curtains with a sewing machine - Find the curtain length
Now that your curtains are hanging from the curtain rod, it's time to pin them from the bottom. Fold your curtains under and add a pin exactly where you want your curtains to end. In my case, I'm going for the 'Kissing the floor' alternative. (Read 'How to hang curtains properly').
Remove the curtains
Remove the curtains from the rod and lay them out on a table or the floor.
Measure and mark
Measure from the bottom of the curtain to where you have inserted the pin. Make a note of the measurement.
Use a ruler or metal edge to join up the marks of the tailor's chalk into one complete line. This line is where your curtains will fall to once they are back up on the curtain rod.
Calculate the seam allowance
Before you cut the curtains, you need to add your seam allowance.
How deep should curtain hems be?
You can go for a wide seam or a small narrow seam. I'm adding small seams to these linen curtains because that's how the original seams are.
The seam will be one inch wide but we will be turning the fabric over twice, creating a double folded hem so that the total seam allowance will be two inches.
Measure two inches down from the first line you made and insert a pin there.
Draw a line across the curtain, as you did when measuring the curtain length. That line will be your cut line.
Important! Before cutting the fabric
You know the saying, "you can take away, but you can't add"? Well, that's the case when shortening curtains. Before you make the final cut, I recommend that you iron along the edge where you want your curtains to end. Then, hang your curtains on the rod again and double-check that your measurements were correct. When I did this, I realised that my hem wasn't completely straight. I needed to let the fabric down a little in some places. It doesn't have to be perfect but, you don't want any obvious height differences either.
Once you're positive that your measurements are correct, we can use a sharp tailor's shears to cut along the cut line.
Before you shorten curtains with a sewing machine
Before we can shorten the curtains with our sewing machine, we need to iron the hem. Ironing the hem will make it much easier for us to sew the fabric and create a straight hem.
First, fold the fabric up from the bottom so that it's halfway to your hemline and iron across the fold. It should be folder up about one inch.
Then, fold the fabric over again and iron again. Finally, pin the hem across the length of the curtain. Now that you have your final hemline, you can take the curtains to the sewing machine.
Hemming curtains with a sewing machine
I decided to sew my curtains whilst they were hanging on the curtain rod. That way, I didn't have the weight of the curtains getting in my way and pulling the fabric to the floor. I can position my sewing table next to the window. There is a socket next to the window where I can plug in the sewing machine too. Don't worry if you can't do this. Maybe instead, you can fold up the fabric and place it on your table so that it's not hanging down onto the floor.
It's a good idea to strengthen the start of the hem before you start straight stitching along the hemline. All you need to do for this is sew around in a rectangle until you get back to the seam sewing line (see photo).
Then, it's simply a case of sewing down the length of the seam as close to the edge as you can get. Don't forget to pull out the pins as you go!
When you get to the end of the seam, sew around in a rectangle again.
Now, you only need to shorten the second curtain in the same way - that's it!
That's how to shorten curtains with a sewing machine
Now that you've seen how easy it is to shorten curtains with a sewing machine, perhaps I can inspire you to give it a go yourself. Sewing the seams on your curtains will make them stronger and longer-lasting. Your curtains will look more professional than if you use any other method of hemming.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that I've inspired you a little today – that's always my aim!
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. I'll be happy to help if I can.
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