Hem tape is a very useful tool for quick hems and repairs, but it can be confusing for beginner sewists. I’m answering the most common questions about iron-on hem tape for you.
Here’s a common issue that sewists run into: you need to finish a home decor project or hem a garment but don’t have time to do an invisible hand stitch or don’t want to see the stitching. In these cases, there is a great alternative available: hem tape (also known as hemming tape or iron-on hem tape).
I prefer sewing a hem instead of taping, but it’s perfect for those times when you’re in a hurry or when you need to make an emergency quick repair but don’t have the ability to sew. Just pull out your roll of hem tape and press it in-between the layers of fabric for a quick, no-sew hem!
It also works well for quick repairs when you don’t have time to sew and in instances when you don’t want a hem to show.
But you also can use hem tape to hold a hem temporarily before you are ready to sew it.
Attention! If you like the video format, at the bottom of this post, look for a YouTube video version where there is a step-by-step tutorial on how to use hem tape. For a more complete picture, I recommend exploring both versions.
Hem Tape FAQs
Sewing involves many intricacies that can lead to questions. I have seen – and answered – many questions regarding hemming tape, so I know how confusing this topic can be at first.
I thought I would compile the most common questions and their answers into one easy-to-find guide that tells you everything you need to know about using hem tape.
Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself.
What Is Hemming Tape?
Hemming tape is an adhesive tape that’s designed to fuse two layers of fabric together without any stitching involved.
If you were to go to a store, you would likely find several different brands, types, and sizes of adhesive hemming tape available for purchase, but don’t let that concern you. They all work in generally the same way.
The most popular type of hem tape is double-sided iron-on hemming tape.
It’s non woven fusible tape which has adhesive material on both sides and glues two layers of fabric together.
It looks like a web, really, and sometimes it’s called FUSIBLE WEB. It melts from hot iron. Iron-on hem tape is intended to be permanent and can’t be removed from fabric.
Sometimes it has paper backing that you need to peel before using.
But there are other types of hem tapes, less known but still very useful.
For example, this tape LEONIS Polyester Iron-On Hem Clothing Tape is not fusible web and works differently. As you can see in the image below, you need to apply this type of hem tape over the area you want to be hemmed, which is different from regular iron-on hemming tapes. This iron-on tape is not double sided and applied on just ONE SIDE only and not between layers of fabric.
Another less known type of hem tape is Wonder-Under Stretch Seam Tape that can be used for hemming knit fabrics. This tape stretches with fabric and remains flexible after fusing. But for permanent results, you will need to sew the hem after using the tape. Further down you can find instructions for attaching this hem tape.
How Does Hem Tape Work?
Hem tape is designed to melt when heated with an iron. This causes an adhesion, similar to glue, to fuse together two pieces of fabric.
You can find it available in many different weights and widths to conveniently work with different types of fabrics and different size hems. It’s a really handy tool to have when you need to hold fabric in place, make a small repair, or create a quick or no-sew hem.
Common Uses for Iron-On Hem Tape
Here are some great uses for hem tape:
- Use it for hemming clothes, adjusting the size of curtains, tablecloths, bedspreads
- For certain fabrics, there’s no way to prevent the stitching from showing, so the only way to achieve an invisible hem is with hemming tape
- Use narrow hem tape to hold a turned edge (that keeps trying to twist) in place as you work on topstitching or sewing on decorative embellishments
- Use fusible hem tape as a small patch to repair a small tear in fabric when it’s not on a seam
- Use it for attaching lace and appliqués
I like to use double sided iron-on hem tape for attaching tricky trims made from plastic. Let me show you. So, this shiny silver ribbon is great for embellishment and the next is white plastic but how do you attach it to the fabric? Hem tape is a proper solution. The ribbon is flat on the wrong side so it’s easily glued with hem tape.
Just put the tape on the fabric, place the ribbon over it and press. But YOU NEED TO USE A PRESSING CLOTH!
How to Choose the Right Hem Tape?
When deciding on which hemming tape to use, consider these factors:
- How Well Does it Adhere to Your Fabric (the quality of your seal)?
You need to know what kind of seal you want – and what type of seal your chosen hem tape will offer. For example, you need to know whether the seal is temporary or permanent (it’s usually written on a package).
- How Suitable is it for the Fabric You’re Using?
One single type of hem tape is not suitable for hemming all kinds of fabrics.
When you purchase fusible tape, you will have the ability to choose between a variety of widths and weights. For your width, choose a size that’s smaller than your hem size so the tape stays out of sight.
When picking out your tape weight, base your choice on the weight of the fabric you’re fusing. For example, use a lightweight or ultra-lightweight (thin) tape with lightweight fabrics such as silk cotton, and rayon.
Likewise, use heavyweight (thick) fusible tape for heavyweight fabrics such as heavy cotton, denim, suede, wool and corduroy.
It’s important to use the correct tape weight with your fabric because using a heavyweight hem tape with lightweight fabric could result in the glue seeping through the fabric and creating a messy, visible hem.
There are also different colors of hem tapes so it makes sense to choose a color that’s matching your fabric. It’s especially important for lightweight fabrics like chiffon. Use white for light colored fabrics and black for dark colored fabrics.
- How Easy is it to Use?
It’s very easy to use if you have chosen the right type of hem tape. It creates a clean hem in minutes.
Take a little time to identify what you need to do in order to make your hem tape work. Do you need to use heat or just manually press the layers of fabric together against the tape?
How to Use Double Sided Iron-on Hem Tape
Double sided iron-on hemming tapes are the most popular type of hem tape.
Now that you know how fusible hemming tape works, I want to walk you through the process of using it. If you’ve never used hem tape before, follow these steps on how to apply it properly.
I mostly use this type of hem tape for curtains.
Prepare your fabric by making sure it’s clean (wash it if necessary). Avoid using fabric softener if possible as it might negatively impact the bonding capability of the adhesive. Iron the fabric, getting rid of all wrinkles. Make sure that the fabric you want to fuse is safe for ironing.
Measure your desired hem width while building in additional fabric allowance to prevent your tape from being exposed (that extra material can be trimmed off later if necessary ). But it’s better if the additional fabric allowance is less than ⅛ “ (just a few millimeters).
Cut your hem tape to the same length (or better slightly more, ½”) as the hem or tear you’re using it for. Be sure to measure and cut to the correct length.
Create a hem in the material by folding it to the desired width and press the hem with a hot iron.
Insert the double sided iron-on tape into the hem area. You want it in-between the layers of fabric without any tape poking out from above the hem.
Avoid having your tape come in direct contact with your iron because it will melt on your iron and make a huge mess.
Press and follow the instructions provided on the package of your hem tape. You’ll likely need your iron on a medium to medium high setting so it’s hot enough. If you’re pressing a delicate fabric, use a pressing cloth between your fabric and the iron to prevent burning.
Also, if you’re hemming a large area with your fusible tape, work in small sections. That will make it easier to keep everything straight.
If you ever run into a situation where you want to fuse the tape to one layer of fabric at a time, simply use parchment paper on the uncovered side of the tape as you press.
Allow the fabric to cool and check the seal. The tape fuses as it cools, so if you check your seal immediately after ironing while the fabric is still hot, it may not seem like it worked even if it did.
Also, when checking before the tape cools, you have the potential for sliding or shifting the hem and messing it up.
How to use hem tape for knit fabric and curved hems
I like to use knits for my projects. Let me show you how I use Wonder-Under Stretch Seam tape by Pellon.
Do you know how to hem a circle skirt? A flared dress? Well, it can be hard to figure out at first glance but is actually really easy after you get used to it!
So, here I have a curved edge. The fabric is a knit fabric. If you want a really nice curved hem without any pleats in the hem you should gather the curved edge first. Set your machine like this: stitch length between 4 and 5, tension 0. Make a stitch all around your hem edge ¼ “ from the cut edge.
Fold the curved hem to the wrong side keeping the necessary distance and fix folding with iron. At the same time pull up the bobbin thread to gather the fabric and distribute gathers evenly so the hem stays flat. Don’t overtighten.
Next take the Wonder-Under tape, cut strips from it, insert them under the hem and press.
Peel off paper and press the hem again for 10 seconds. The adhesive from the tape will fuse the hem in place.
You will see that the hem stays flexible.
After this, you can sew the hem to make it permanent.
Tips and Reminders for Using Hem Tape
To ensure success when using fusible tape, follow these tips and tricks.
- Hemming tape will not work with materials that are highly elastic, waterproof, have a raised fabric or a rough surface (or with materials that can’t be ironed)
- Practice on a piece of scrap fabric – especially the first time you use it. While not hard to use, there’s a slight learning curve to getting the tape placement and iron temperature correct.
- Do not leave your hem tape exposed as it will melt on the iron and can be difficult or impossible to remove.
- Press down firmly with the iron. Hold briefly to let the tape get hot, then release and remove the iron. Let the tape cool then test the adhesion.
- If the adhesion isn’t strong, your iron wasn’t hot enough (or you didn’t hold it on long enough to let the tape get hot).
- Use a pressing cloth when working with delicate fabrics.
- If you are working on a large area, work in sections to keep your tape smooth and straight and prevent your hem from becoming uneven or wrinkled.
- Make sure to iron both sides of your fabric to ensure that your hem is straight, and free of wrinkles.
Does Hem Tape Work on Polyester?
Yes, it works on polyester and polyester blends. Just make sure your polyester fabric can be ironed and set the correct temperature for your fabric. If you set the iron temperature too hot the polyester garment (and polyester threads) might be damaged by ironing.
Does Hem Tape Work On Jeans?
Yes, you can use hemming tape on jeans. Just be sure to use heavyweight (thick) tape to ensure that it’s sticky enough to create a good seal.
Does Hem Tape Work On Chiffon?
Yes, with great care. Because chiffon is such a sheer fabric, make sure you choose an ultra-lightweight (thin) hemming tape and use a pressing cloth when ironing to avoid burning the fabric.
Does Hem Tape Work On Curtains?
Yes. It’s a great option for curtains.
For heavier drapes, use heavyweight (thick) tape. For sheer curtains, use ultra-lightweight (thin) tape.
How To Hem Tape Pants
The process for hemming pants is practically the same as the general process listed above.
Take care to use the correct type of hemming tape for the type of pant fabric you are working with. Cotton or rayon pants will require thinner tape than thicker jeans or wool pant fabric.
Make sure that your iron heat setting is appropriate for both the tape and the thickness of your fabric (the thicker the fabric, the hotter the iron setting).
I am going to use black hem tape for my pants.
If a part of the pants’ hem got unstitched, wash your pants and iron them. Don’t use fabric softener. Make sure that the fabric is smooth without any wrinkles and is safe for ironing.
Measure the length of the tear in the hem that needs to be repaired.
Cut your hem tape to the same length (or better slightly more, ½”). Be sure to measure and cut to the correct length.
Insert the double sided iron-on tape into the hem area between the layers of fabric without any tape poking out from above the hem.
Set your iron on wool temperature with steam. Press for 10 seconds. If your fabric is delicate, use a pressing cloth between your fabric and the iron to prevent burning.
Allow the fabric to cool and check the seal.
How To Hem Tape A Dress
Use the same basic process outlined above while taking care to work in small segments at a time, choose the right tape, and use the correct heat setting on your iron.
Is Hem Tape Permanent?
If you’re wondering whether hem tape can be removed, the answer is probably no. Iron-on hem tape is designed to permanently adhere to pieces (or layers) of fabric together. It’s meant to replace sewing, stay in place securely, and withstand a number of washings.
But you should have in mind that sometimes hem tape might not stay glued or fall apart after washing. There are many reasons it can happen: for example, the fabric was not suitable for the hem tape (too heavy fabric but a regular weight tape), the fabric wasn’t clean or smooth enough for the glue to stick, the hem tape was not good quality tape, you didn’t hold the iron long enough, the iron wasn’t hot enough for the tape, etc.
If you need something temporary that you can remove later (to adjust a hem length for flats or high heels without commitment, for example), there are a few temporary basting-type options you can use, such as Scotch Removable Fabric Tape. It holds fabric securely but is able to be removed and repositioned.
Is Hem Tape Removable?
If you make a mistake, how can you remove hem tape from fabric? Unfortunately you can’t. If you are trying to use a stitching alternative for your fabric, be aware that hemming tape is permanent. Even if you manage to separate the layers of fabric the glue from the hem tape will stay on fabric and the fabric itself might be destroyed if you pull too hard.
I heard that there is a trick to remove the adhesive from your fabric (left by hem tape) but for this you will need to destroy your iron so I don’t think it’s worth it: you just press over the glue with a hot iron and the glue will stick to the iron. I have never tried it though.
Can Hem Tape Be Washed?
So, is hem tape washable? Yes, it is. As it’s designed to be a permanent replacement for sewing, it’s also able to withstand many washings.
How Long Does Hem Tape Last?
True hemming tape (not the temporary kind) is designed to truly replace stitching, so it’s meant to last a long time.
So here is my YouTube video. Check this out if you want to see how to use hem tape instead of reading…
Final Thoughts On Hemming Tape
Hemming tape is a unique and useful tool every sewist should have on hand. It can take some practice to learn how to use it, but once you have mastered it, you’ll be glad you did.
Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this tutorial later when you are ready to use hem tape, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!