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How to Cut a Long Sleeve to Become a Short Sleeve

Bind sleeve edges with contrasting binding for a different look.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Cutting the sleeves of a long-sleeved garment to a shorter length is a simple but effective refashioning project, achievable by anyone with basic sewing skills. It transforms the look of the garment and makes it suitable for wearing when the weather is warm. Simply cutting off the lower sleeves with scissors is the obvious first step, but the cut fabric needs to be finished to achieve a professional look. With appropriate adaptations, the same methods work for any kind of long-sleeved garment.

Things You'll Need:

  • Fabric Marker Or Tailor'S Chalk
  • Straight Pins
  • Measuring Tape
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread
  • Double-Fold Bias Binding (Optional)
  • Ironing Board
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Iron

Hemming Method

Put on the long-sleeved garment and stand in front of a mirror. Mark a line on one of the sleeves with a fabric marker or tailor's chalk to indicate the new sleeve length.

Take off the garment, turn it inside out and press both sleeves with an iron, making sure the sleeve's seams are perfectly aligned.

Measure along the outer edge of the sleeve from the point at which it meets the shoulder of the garment to the marked line indicating the new length. Draw a line across the sleeve 1 inch beneath the mark. Do the same for the other sleeve.

Cut the bottom parts of the sleeves off along the marked lines with fabric scissors. Before you continue, hold the two sleeves together to make sure they are exactly the same length.

Fold and press the new lower edges of the sleeves over to the wrong side by 1/2 inch, then another 1/2 inch. Place pins along the folds.

Hem the sleeves by sewing along the inner edges of the folds, removing the pins as you sew.

Invisible-Binding Method

Measure, mark and cut the lower parts of the sleeves of the garment in the same manner as the hemming method.

Cut a 1 1/2-inch-deep band of fabric from the upper parts of the cut-off lower sleeves. These fabric bands will be the binding for the cut edges of the new sleeves. Alternatively, purchase 1 1/2-inch wide bias binding in a color that matches the garment. Seam the ends of a length of binding to form a loop that is equal to the circumference of the lower edges of the new sleeves.

Pin the loop of binding around the new sleeve edge, right sides together, with the lower edge of the binding loop and the lower edge of the sleeve aligned. Sew the binding loop to the sleeve, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

Turn the garment inside out. Fold the binding loop along the seam line so that it extends beyond the cut edge of the sleeve. Press the binding flat in this position.

Fold the upper edge of the binding toward the seam line on the inside of the sleeve and press.

Fold the binding to the inside of the sleeve once more, this time folding the sleeve fabric with the binding so that the seam line is just to the inside of the sleeve. The raw edge of the binding should be concealed within the fold. Place pins along the fold.

Sew the binding, stitching along the inner folded edge from the inside of the sleeve. When you turn the garment right side out, all that should be visible is the line of stitching parallel to the neatly folded lower edge of the new sleeve.


For knit fabrics, use a narrow zigzag stitch or fit your machine with a twin sewing needle.

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