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.
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.
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.