What is Hem Tape?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Hem tape is a type of fusible adhesive that is designed to be used to hem and take in garments. Using it is relatively easy, and it requires much less work than creating a traditional hem, making it appealing to some crafters and costume makers. Many fabric and sewing supply stores carry this product, and it can also be ordered through specialty retailers.

Hem tape will hold fabric in place for a crisp hem.
Hem tape will hold fabric in place for a crisp hem.

To use hem tape, a sewer prepares a garment for hemming as he or she would normally, testing the length, cutting off excess length, marking it, and pinning it. Before the hem is folded over and pinned, hem tape is slipped inside. Instead of sewing the hem, the hem is pressed with a warm iron which activates the adhesive in the tape, holding the fabric together and creating a neat, crisp hem.

Hem tape is activated by a hot iron.
Hem tape is activated by a hot iron.

For people in a hurry to make a hem, hem tape can be very convenient, allowing them to quickly hem a garment. It can also be used to make a temporary hem, where durability is not as important, which is why it appeals to some costumers. Some companies even design this tape to be removable, typically by being heated or steamed, so that hems can be reset if they are not satisfactory.

In addition to being used to make a new hem, this product can also be used to repair a loose hem. Many hems start to lose stitches in high stress areas over time, and hem tape can be used for a quick repair to ensure that the loose stitches don't keep unraveling, potentially causing the whole hem to fall apart. Some people also use it to take garments in, creating quick darts in the fabric.

Hem tape can also be used to hold a hem until someone has a chance to sew it. This allows crafters to test a hem before finalizing it by sewing it in place. It can be helpful with slippery or heavy fabrics that tend to pull out of place while they are sewn, as the hem will be firmly held while the material is sewn together.

There are various widths available, suitable for hems of different sizes. It also comes in different strengths, and using the right type of hem tape for a particular fabric is important, as lightweight tapes designed for fabrics like cotton or silk will not hold heavyweight fabrics like corduroy or brocade well. Width is also an important consideration, as the tape should not stick out, potentially scratching the wearer of a garment.

Hem tape is commonly used to make costumes.
Hem tape is commonly used to make costumes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Is hem tape made of fabric?


I have some dress pants that are just a bit too long for me to wear with flats but I still want to keep the option of being able to wear them with a heel sometimes. Would removable hem tape work for this?


@ankara-- I'm not sure, I've never tried removing it. It might be difficult but you can try.

Re-ironing it might be a good idea. Perhaps it will soften and loosen the tape and you can peel it off.

You might be able to dissolve the tape with a small cloth and some alcohol as well.


@BelugaWhale-- Can hem tape be removed after it has been applied?


Hem tape is awesome. I made a homemade curtain from some fabric last week. I've never been good at stitching and I had to hem the ends of the fabric after I cut it. I applied the hem tape, ironed it and it was ready to go! It looks perfect!


Hem tape is the secret that most designers on reality TV shows use. Fashion and Interior Designers swear by it - especially for shows that need to be filmed or completed in one day. Hem tape can be either permanent or temporary, depending on your desire to use it. The temporary use is more for holding a spot or making the crease in order to sew the hem in later.


Hem tape can also be used if you are having problems with your sewing machine. Instructions on how to use hem tape can be found on most packages of the item. In addition to that, it can make complicated patterns seem much easier and you can work more quickly through projects with it. Hems can take time and eventually thread can unravel, but most types of hem tape will be a permanent fuse.


Hem tape is awesome and can be used on more than just clothing! Iron on hem tape is quite possible the best thing I have run into, especially when first beginning my business. Often times, if you need curtains or fabric to have a nice, finished edge but are under time constraints, temporary hem tape can be a blessing.

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