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Shortening a dress is normally a simple alteration, but when the dress fabric is adorned with sequins, it becomes a bit more complicated. Though you can shorten a dress made from sequin-covered fabric, it takes some care and special handling to avoid making a mess of the whole darn operation. Cut, prep and hem your skirt alteration appropriately, depending on the type of dress you've got.
Types of Sequin Fabric
When it comes to altering any sequined garments, the first thing to bear in mind is that not all sequin fabric is made the same way; different types of fabric need to be cut and altered in different ways. Take a look at how the sequins on your dress are attached. They may simply be glued in place, or they may be sewn. If they're glued, look to see if they're thick sewing sequins that easily fall off or if they're thin sequins that are securely fused to the fabric. If they're sewn on, look to see if each individual sequin is sewn to the fabric, or if the sequins are sewn to each other in a chain, with the chain secured in just a few places with tack stitches.
Ways to Cut
The best way to shorten your dress depends on how the sequins are attached. Fused, glued-on sequin fabric is usually as easy to cut as any other and you can cut right through the sequins. With thicker glued-on sequins, cut over a tray or table so that you can save any sequins that fall off and put them back on with fabric glue, if you think it's necessary. With sewn-on sequins, pay close attention to the threads that run through the sequins; if you cut a thread at the bottom, the entire row may unravel, so you'll need to secure the sequins with new hand stitching. Another thing to bear in mind: Most sequined garments will have an inner layer of lining fabric that you'll need to trim as well. Turn the dress inside-out and trim the lining fabric before you trim the outer layer.
Prepping the Hem
When prepping a new hemline for sewing, it's a good idea to iron the fold of the hem into place before sewing it. With a sequined fabric, ironing right on the sequins is a guaranteed bad idea, and you may not be able to iron the fabric at all. Do a test portion on a low heat setting to see if you can iron the fabric through a layer of scrap cotton fabric. If this causes discoloration or damage to the sequins, prep the hem fold by weighting down the fold overnight between some heavy books.
You can often sew the fused-sequin fabrics on your sewing machine as you would any other fabric, but with thick sequins and sewed-on types, you'll probably have to hand sew. This will allow you to direct your stitches between and beneath the sequins to keep them from being visible. You may also find that glued-on sequins leave a coat of glue on your needle as you go, which you'll periodically need to wipe off or scrape off with your fingernails.