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How to Do Sweater Sleeve Alterations

Some people prefer sweaters with shorter sleeves.
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Sweaters tend to stretch out with age, giving them a frumpy appearance that's not form flattering. Whether your favorite sweater has succumbed to this unsightly stretching or you have been given a potentially attractive vintage sweater that needs some work before you'll wear it, modify or modernize a sweater by making some basic alterations. One possible alteration is narrowing the sleeves. You can also shorten the sleeves if you prefer to have 3/4-length sleeves instead of full-length ones.

Things You'll Need

  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors
  • Hand Needle
  • Tape Measure
  • Pushpins
  • Thread
  • Iron

Turn the sweater inside out and try it on. Examine the sleeves and carefully insert a pushpin horizontally through the material on the left sleeve to mark your desired sleeve length.

Grip the width of the left sleeve that you want to reduce to make the sleeves tighter, if necessary. Insert a pin in the fabric to keep the extra fabric apart from the rest of the sleeve. Do this along the full length of your left sleeve, starting under the armhole and ending at the horizontal pushpin you inserted in Step 1.

Take your sweater off. Measure the length between your horizontally placed pushpin for the new sleeve cuff and the existing cuff. Measure this length on your right sleeve and insert a pushpin horizontally through the fabric.

Adjust the pins that you have placed along the sides of the sleeves until they make a soft, even curve under the armhole grading down slightly to the desired cuff location. There should be no bumps or sharp angles in your pinned line from the armhole to the cuff.

Measure the width between your pins and the existing edge of the sleeve. Replicate the placement of the pins on the right sleeve using these measurements. Try the sweater on again and adjust the placement of the pins to enhance the fit, as needed.

Baste stitch along the pins and remove them as you sew. Try the sweater on again and lift your arms up to ensure that the sweater fits properly and that there are no sagging areas. Machine stitch over the basting and leave a 3/4-inch seam allowance.

Fold the cuffs over 1/4 inch and iron. Fold the cuffs over 1/4 inch again and iron. Machine stitch around the cuffs of the sleeve. Trim off any excess fabric from the sides of the sleeves. Sew a wide zigzag stitch along the outer edge of the seam. Press the seams with an iron.

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