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Learning how to hem curtains can make the difference between panels that drag and those that elegantly pool. You’re looking for a length that lightly brushes the floor or hovers just above it. And it just so happens that Domino’s style director, Naomi deMañana, and interior designer Stephanie Purzycki, cofounder and CEO of The Finish, gave us a step-by-step guide on adjusting the fabric’s length, including how to execute the perfect hem.

Common Curtain Hemming Mistakes

Using a Sewing Machine

Delicate and sheer fabrics like silk and voile are harder to keep taught and straight as you sew and can be prone to bunching and snagging on the needle, Purzycki points out. Heavier ones such as velvet tend to show every single machine stitch. So if you’re working with these materials, deMañana and Purzycki agree that hand-stitching is the way to go for a more polished look.  

Making the Hem Too Short

The only thing worse than curtains that are too long are those that run short, warns Purzycki: “If they hang more than an eighth or quarter of an inch off the floor, they tend to look like pants that are too short.” 

Not Measuring First 

If you’re wondering how you got here, it might have something to do with wonky measurements. Skip the guesswork and go for accuracy. Purzycki recommends measuring from the center point of the hardware at the top of the curtains all the way to the floor.

How to Hem Curtains

The Supplies

  • Curtains
  • Tape measure
  • Ladder or step stool
  • Needle
  • Thread that matches the fabric
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Stick pins
  • Removable fabric tape
  • Iron or steamer
  • Ironing board
  • Pressing cloth

Step 1: Mark the Hem

With the curtains hanging on the rod, measure from the top of the fabric all the way down to the floor. From there, subtract 3 inches. This measurement is the industry standard, Purzycki notes, but feel free to adjust the hem length based on your preference or the amount of fabric you are working with. (Ideally you want the hem to be proportionate to the length, so a 2-inch hem would work on shorter curtains, for example.) Mark the new hem spots in a straight line along the bottom edge with the tailor’s chalk.

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Step 2: Pin or Tape the Fabric in Place

Fold the curtain along the chalk line to form your hem. Temporarily secure the edges to the back of the panel using stick pins or fabric tape. Repeat these steps on the other panel.

Step 3: Remove the Panels From the Rod

Use your step stool or ladder to take curtains off the rod. Place the fabric on a table or clean, well-lit workspace.

Step 4: Prepare to Sew

Cut a piece of thread between 10 and 12 inches (longer strands tend to knot and tangle) and dampen one end so that it passes through the eye of the needle smoothly. Push this end of the thread through the needle eye, leaving three-quarters of the thread hanging out the other side of the opening. Loop the shorter end over the longer portion and tie a knot, pulling it taut around the needle eye. Make another knot so the needle is extra secure.

Step 5: Now It’s Time to Hem

DeMañana recommends an invisible stitch (also called a ladder stitch), which can be time-consuming but creates the most polished look. Follow your markings carefully so that the threading isn’t crooked.

Step 6: Gently Iron the Hem

Position one curtain panel on an ironing board or flat, heat-resistant surface. Cover the material with the pressing cloth and iron it along the fold line so that the edge lays flat. Be sure to use the appropriate heat settings to avoid burning your fabric (you don’t want to have to start again with new panels!). Follow the same steps on the other curtain. Rehang your curtains and prepare to proudly debut your work on all forms of social media.