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How to shorten a curtain without a sewing machine

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have old curtains, or have purchased used curtains, you can save money by shortening them to fit a window. Shorter curtains are often desirable on windows that are small or in rooms where long curtains are in the way. This project does not require a sewing machine. Only a few standard materials and basic hand-sewing skills are needed to make curtains that fit a window and look attractive.

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  1. Hang your curtains on the window. Mark the new length of the curtains by inserting straight pins in a line across the width. You do not need to use a lot of straight pins, just enough to gauge the new length.

  2. Remove the curtain and pick out the current hem at the bottom. Do this using a stitch picker. Insert the stitch picker in-between each stitch and the fabric. Push the stitch picker up so the thread is cut at the base of the stitch picker. Save time by cutting every three or four stitches and pulling the thread out.

  3. Iron the old hem flat using an iron on a low setting.

  4. Fold the new hem so that the pins are at the fold and good side of the fabric is on the outside and the rough sides are touching each other. You only need about an inch of fabric for the hem so if you are shortening them considerably, trim the excess fabric away.

  5. Pin the hem using straight pins. Use a measuring tape to ensure that the hem is straight. Measure it at several points across the bottom of the curtain. The hem should be the same width all the way across.

  6. Sew the hem along the pin line using a basic slip-stitch. Thread a needle and tie a knot at the end. Insert the needle at the end of the fabric on the outside (the side that will face the window). Pull the thread through and reinsert it at angle to create a stitch that is about 1/4-inch long. Continue doing this along the length of the fabric, making the stitches about a 1/4-inch apart. At the end, tie a knot in the thread on the outside of the fabric.

  7. Tip

    If your curtains have a liner, shorten it in the same way as the original curtains and then sew the liner to the curtain using a slip stitch.

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Things You'll Need

  • Straight pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Thread (matches curtain)
  • Needle

About the Author

Shara JJ Cooper

Shara JJ Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000, and has worked professionally ever since. She has a passion for community journalism, but likes to mix it up by writing for a variety of publications. Cooper is the owner/editor of the Boundary Sentinel, a web-based newspaper.

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