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How to Shorten a Sweater

Learn how to shorten a sweater or a jumper that is too long with a sewing machine. This sewing tutorial keeps the ribbing intact for a professional finished hem.

It can be very frustrating when a sweater is too long, and it just doesn’t look right. It’s hard to wear or the proportions are off.

I love having cropped sweaters, and with this simple sewing tutorial you can make a sweater the right length! Let’s learn how to shorten a sweater with a sewing machine and keep the ribbing at the bottom.

You can also shorten the sweater from the bottom with hem tape which is a completely different technique.

how to shorten a sweater

This sewing technique also works for sleeves, but I don’t show it in this tutorial. It would be a little bit trickier to make it work, but it is possible. This is one of the sewing and alterations you can do yourself!

The thing to consider when deciding to shorten a sweater or shorten the sleeves is that the shape can be changed more than you like. Also, there will be a seam created inside that wasn’t there previously. Depending on the fabric is could be itchy or irritating.

Do you want to learn how to alter? Try one of these:

shorten sweater from the bottom

What is a sweater?

A sweater is an item of clothing with long sleeves that is made from wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers. It’s knitted or crocheted yarns or threads.

I’ve done this sewing technique on a sweater with yarns that were tightly knitted, and it worked well. I’ve done this on a cardigan, and it worked well. I’ve also done this on a sweater with yarns that were loosely knitted, and it worked well.

How to Fix a Hole in a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

I have the best success when the sweater fabric has good return. That is when the fabric is stretched out and then returns to it’s natural shape.

I test the returnability of the sweater by measuring a 4 inch section at the hem. Stretch it out as far as it goes. Let it go and see if that f inch section returns to 4 inches.

diy love applique tutorial

Make sure that the sweater has ribbing at the hem that you can reuse as the new hem. If it doesn’t have ribbing then you cannot use this tutorial and will have to shorten the sweater another way.

This technique for shortening a sweater will also work to shorten sweater sleeves, but I did not show it in the example.

shorten sweater

At the end of the post I also give tips for shortening a cardigan since you have to worry about the button placement and buttonholes.

It’s also good to know how to fix a hole in a sweater, because it might get ripped! You can always save that sweater!

Glitter Sweater Sleeve Refashion // heatherhandmade.com

Why do I have to reattach the ribbing when shortening a sweater?

The knitted yarns of the sweater will come undone and start to run if it’s not finished in some way. Sometimes a sweater is hemmed just like a t-shirt to finish the edge. Sometimes a ribbing is knitted on to finish the edge.

By cutting the ribbing off and sewing it on higher (to shorten the sweater) you are creating a nice looking edge and finishing the yarns of the sweater so that it’s doesn’t run.

Yield: 1 shortened sweater

How to Shorten a Sweater

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

With this simple sewing tutorial you can make a sweater the right length! You can shorten the hem of a sweater, the hem of a cardigan, or you can shorten the sleeves of a sweater.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Difficulty Confident Beginner
Estimated Cost Free

Materials

  • One sweater that is too long, the sleeves are too long, or a cardigan that is too long

Instructions

Put the sweater on and figure out how much shorter you want it to be.

Mark it with a safety pin and then take the sweater off.


How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Measure the amount you want your sweater shortened.


How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Divide this measurement in half.

Mark the half measurement up from the top of the ribbing all the way around the sweater. This is the FOLD LINE.


How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Fold along the fold line all the way around the sweater and pin right above the ribbing.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Sew with a zigzag stitch right next to the top of the ribbing.

Don't sew on the ribbing just right next to it.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Trim the excess seam allowance down to 3/8 inch.

Press the seam allowance up towards the body of the sweater. Make sure the setting of the iron isn't too hot for the fabric.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Finish the edge cut edge by either serging or zigzagging.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Topstitch the seam allowance up towards the body.

The outside of the sweater should face you so you will need to feel the seam allowance with your fingers to see if it's in the right place.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

It'll look a little wavy when you're done, so press it again. Use a lot of steam to help the fibers return back to their normal place, but don't make the setting higher than what the fabric can handle.

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

Notes

If you still have a problem with the seam being wavy, I find that washing helps the fibers return to normal. 

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How much did you LOVE this project?

Follow me on Pinterest for more and use the little pin button at the top of the post!

How to Shorten a Cardigan

Use the same technique as above but make sure the fold line is in between two buttons and buttonholes.

Tutorial: Shorten a Sweater

I still do the same topstitching right above the ribbing, but you also want to make sure there is no button or buttonhole in this line of stitching.

Tutorial: Shorten a Sweater

If you make shorten a sweater using this tutorial, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!

How to Shorten a Sweater // heatherhandmade.com

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I bought a sweater last year, the sleeves were way too long and had a deep cuff with 3 buttons up the side which I wanted to retain. It has been stuck in a cupboard until now when thanks to finding your site I have been able to follow your instructions and finalise the shortening. I am really pleased with the result. – Thank you.

Just finished cropping a cardigan for my daughter using your instructions. No serger so I zig zagged to finish. Came out beautifully!

Hello Heather, Can this be done on a heavier knitted sweater? And if so, can I send my sweater to you and pay you for your services? I don’t want to Ruin it..its new. Or maybe show a tutorial on a bigger knit sweater.

Thanks

Pam

I love this hack! I’ll keep this in mind for next time I have this problem!

Hi
I’m wondering about how you do the cardigan. More specifically, do you sew the band with the buttons the same way? Surely, it would be quite visible with sewing across it. Or is there a different way to do it that I just didn’t catch from the post?

How can you shorten a sweater that doesn’t have ribbing, only a small knitted-in hem?

I have this problem too….I'm so nervous to change my clothes, though, because I always make some tiny ditzy mistake that can't be fixed. lol

Adorable! I found your blog a while ago and I'm so impressed with all of your projects. If I could get my sewing machine to behave, I'd try a lot of them for myself. Thanks for the inspiration!