How To Alter Tulle On a Dress Easily (Shorten and Hem Tulle)

Tulle is a light, airy netting fabric that's a popular choice for wedding dresses, bridal veils, and anyone who wants to re-discover their inner Carrie Bradshaw. Although working with tulle can present certain challenges, a bit of know-how can take you a long way. If you have an otherwise perfect tulle dress that's just a little long, here's everything you need to know about shortening and hemming tulle.

Can You Alter Tulle?


Tulle... it's a gorgeous, ethereal fabric that makes the perfect tutu, wedding dress, or skirt. Whether you dress it up or dress it down, it's fun, it's frivolous, and it's 100% fabulous. But can it be altered? It can, indeed.

Tulle is a special fabric and it needs to be treated in a special way. But providing you handle it with care and have an understanding of some basic techniques, you shouldn't experience too many problems in making tulle alterations at home.

How to Alter Tulle On a Dress

Altering a tulle dress isn't the huge challenge it's sometimes made out to be. We'll look at some of the most common ways to hem and shorten various types of tulle dresses shortly. In the meantime, here are a few helpful ideas for working with tulle. Once you master these tips, any alterations will be much easier.

  • Static electricity is drawn to tulle like a moth to a flame. Fight the attraction by spraying the tulle with a light mist of water before you begin working.
  • If you're using a base fabric, secure the tulle to it with safety pins before you start sewing. This will help prevent any unsightly bunching. Remove the pins as you sew.
  • ​Tulle is as slippery as a fish to work with. To stop the fabric shifting or snagging as you sew, lay a small piece of transparent tape on the bottom of the presser foot of your machine.
  • ​To stop the fabric from getting caught in the feeddogs of your sewing machine, add a length of seam binding under the fabric to lend extra support.
  • Make light work of hand sewing by choosing a thick thread and a large needle.
  • Regardless of whether you're sewing by hand or by machine, avoid short, straight stitches and use wide zigzag stitches instead. Set your machine to the longest stitch length setting possible for the best results.

How to Shorten a Tulle Wedding Dress

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of shortening and hemming a tulle wedding dress, it's understandable. All those layers of springy, gathered material can look mind-bogglingly difficult to work with. But take heart - this is more than doable.

Here's how to do it.

  • Step 1 - Start by preparing the layers. Steam the dress if possible, or simply press with a press cloth. You want the layers to be as smooth and unwrinkled as possible before you begin.
  • Step 2 - Now, you have one of two options. You can either hand baste the layers together from the waist to the edge using stitches set 12 inches apart, or you can use pins. Hand basting offers the most secure result but will take longer. If you choose to pin instead, use long, flat-headed pins.
  • Step 3 - Mark the hem with a tailor's chalk. Make it slightly longer than where you want the final hem to lie. Tulle tends to spring up, so it's always better to go a little longer than you think necessary. You can always trim a little off afterward if needed.
  • Step 4 - For the cleanest result, use a rotary cutter or serger blade to cut the marked hem. If neither is available, use a pair of shears instead. As the shears are likely to leave a few jagged edges at the start and end points, use a small pair of scissors to even things up.
  • Step 5 - Now to the final stage. Restitch the bottom few inches of seams. Once you reach the edge of the hem, backstitch to secure. And that's it!

How to Cut a Tulle Dress


To cut tulle, you've got two options (well, three, but the third won't give you the same clean lines as the first two).

Rotary Cutter - A rotary cutter will give you a crisp, clean edge. Start by installing a fresh rotary blade (if it's already been used and blunted, it won't work quite so well). Pin or baste all the layers of your tulle together so you can make just one, clean cut. Mark the cutting line with a tailor's chalk. Lay the tulle on a cutting mat and slice along the marked line with a smooth, sweeping motion.

Serger - Prepare the layers and mark the cutting line as per above. Unthread the serger and run the tulle through it, letting the knife slice through the tulle just above the marked line.

The Alternative - If you've got neither a rotary cutter nor a serger to hand, you can use a sharp pair of shears to cut the hem. However, the line won't be quite so clean and straight as the other methods. Cut the tulle with the shears using smooth, even strokes. Once you've finished, use a small pair of scissors to tidy up the jagged bits of fabric leftover.

Do You Need to Hem Tulle?


If you don't want to hem your tulle dress or skirt, don't.

While hemming can give a neat edge, a raw edge works just as well. Tulle is a light, airy fabric that's perfectly complemented by an unfinished hem.

As for the functional point of hemming (i.e. to stop an edge unraveling), don't sweat it. Tulle won't fray or unravel like most other materials, making hemming very much an optional step.

How to Hem Tulle by Hand

Machine sewing is fast, easy, and convenient. But for those of you who prefer that almost invisible finish that hand sewing gives, tulle is easy enough to master. Here's how to create an easy rolled hem by hand.

  • Step 1 - Fold over the edge of the fabric by around 1/8 inch. Iron the fold in place.
  • Step 2 - Insert a threaded needle into the fabric just beneath the raw edge. Bring the needle up and over the folded edge before inserting it near the bottom of the raw edge. Now, insert the needle near the top edge of the fold. Once you go through the top, bring the needle back through the bottom. Repeat this same stitching pattern every 1/4 inch for three to five stitches.
  • Step 3 - After 3 - 5 stitches, gently pull the thread to roll the hem.
  • Step 4 - Repeat steps 2 -3 until the entire hem is finished.

How to Hem Tulle Without Sewing

If you don't want to hem tulle at all, you don't have to. It won't unravel and the raw edge can actually look lovely in many projects.

But what if you want to hem but don't want to faff around with a sewing needle? Is it possible to hem tulle without threading a single needle? It is, indeed...

Hemming With Fusible Tape


A fusible tape can be used to successfully hem tulle without involving a single stitch.

Avoid using a heavyweight fusible tape, as this will show through the material and look messy. Stick to ultra-lightweight versions only.

To use, simply fold and iron the hemline in place. Place a length of tape between the folds and press until the fusible tape melts, adhering the two layers of the fabric together in the process.

Let the garment cool completely before moving to ensure the fusing sets properly.

Hemming With Fusible Adhesive


Fusible adhesive is a two-sided bond that can be used to easily secure two pieces of fabric together.

It's available in two varieties - "sewable" and "non-sewable." Never use a non-sewable adhesive if you ever intend to run the fabric through a sewing machine - the adhesive will stick to the needle and create a mess.

When you're using the adhesive, you'll notice that the front and back are different. The paper side is where the iron will need to be pressed; the adhesive side should be laid against the fabric. Be careful to lay the adhesive correctly - if you press the adhesive side in error, the glue will stick to your iron.

Hemming a Tulle Prom Dress

A tulle prom dress is a beautiful thing. But what if it's a little too long or a little too raw at the edges? Fortunately, hemming a prom dress is no big deal.

As some hems might be a little too visible or bulky for a prom dress, use a rolled hem for a discreet, clean finish. Here's what you need to know.

  • Step 1 - Get the person who will be wearing the dress to try it on. They should be wearing the same shoes they'll be wearing on the day. Fold the hem to the desired length, with the excess fabric on the underside of the dress. Use a seam gauge to measure the hem - this will determine how much need to be shortened. Pin the hem in place with large, flathead pins.
  • Step 2 - Use a rotary cutter or serger to trim the excess fabric. Leave around 1/4 inch between the new hem and the raw edge of the dress. If you find it difficult to cut the tulle while the pins are still in place, use a tailor's chalk to mark the new hemline before removing the pins and proceeding with the cutting. If you don't have a rotary cutter or serger, cut the fabric with a sharp pair of shears. You'll then need to tidy up any jagged bits of tulle with a small pair of sharp-tipped scissors.
  • Step 3 - Use a seam ripper to carefully remove around 1 inch of the stitches from the side seams of the dress. This will stop the fabric from jamming your machine when you come to sew.
  • Step 4 - Roll a small hem along the raw edge of the dress with your fingertips. The rolled hem should measure around 1/8 inch thick.
  • Step 5 - Attach a hemmer foot to the sewing machine. Lower the needle into the edge of the tulle before lowering the hemmer foot. Create three to four straight stitches.
  • Step 6 - Lower the needle onto the tulle and raise the hemmer foot. Gently feed the folded piece of tulle into the curled slot of the hemmer foot, before lowing the hemmer foot. Feed the tulle smoothly into the hemmer's foot slot as you continue stitching.
  • Step 6 - Lower the needle onto the tulle and raise the hemmer foot. Gently feed the folded piece of tulle into the curled slot of the hemmer foot, before lowing the hemmer foot. Feed the tulle smoothly into the hemmer's foot slot as you continue stitching.

How to Hem Embroidered Tulle

To hem embroidered tulle, use bias tape to enclose the edge of the tulle.

  • Step 1 - Start by pressing the bias tape. If the tape is made of cotton, make sure to use either a low temperature or turn the setting to 'Cotton'.
  • Step 2 - Pin the bias tape to the edge of the tulle. Hand baste the bias tape to set in place.
  • Step 3 - Place the tape and fabric over the needle plate of your machine. Carefully lower the pressure foot onto the bias tape. To stop the machine jamming, hold the bobbin and needle threads towards the back of the machine.
  • Step 4 - Set your machine to a narrow zig-zag stitch. Stitch along the edge of the bias tape. Once you reach the seam, backstitch a few stitches to secure the thread ends. Trim the threads.
  • Step 5 - Remove the hand-basted thread to finish.

Hemming Tulle With Ribbon

Hemming tulle with ribbon can give a gorgeous finish to a tulle dress or skirt. You can choose either a contrasting or matching ribbon, depending on the final style you'd like to achieve.

  • Step 1 - Press the ribbon using a low heat.
  • Step 2 - Use large, flathead pins to secure the ribbon to the edge of the tulle. If the ribbon is very narrow, you might want to hand baste it in place for extra security.
  • Step 3 - Lay the ribbon and tulle over your sewing machine’s needle plate. Lower the presser foot on the ribbon. Keep the needle and bobbin thread towards the back of the machine.
  • Step 4 - Use a zig-zag stitch to machine stitch along the edge of the ribbon.

Once you reach the seam, backstitch a few stitches to secure the thread ends before trimming the threads.

  • Step 5 - If the ribbon is wide enough to require two rows of stitching, stitch a second row of stitches parallel to the first line. Remove the hand-basted thread to finish.

Leave a Comment:

Add Your Reply