How to Alter Knits and Sweaters

Thank you all for the incredible feedback on Monday’s post, Keeping a Focus When You Blog.  My heart is full!

This month marks TWO YEARS since Martin and I stopped buying new clothes.  Wowzers.  I don’t think we would have survived without my sewing machine.  There has been a lot of hole patching, sock darning, and repurposing.  (In case you’ve missed it, you can catch the whole crazy journey here.)

In the past, my preferred clothes were a little baggy.  It was all about hiding my shape. I did not have the same shape I saw in clothes advertisements or store mannequins.  It made me feel less.

But removing that pressure to be perfect has made me so excited to embrace ME.

That’s why I am soooo excited to introduce you to Suzannah from Adventures in Dressmaking.  She’s put together an awesome little tutorial for us on how to alter a sweater.  It’s still getting a little chilly right now, so this tutorial feels so perfect.

Let us know in the comments if you’re going to give alterations a shot.  Me?  I can’t wait!

Take it away, Suzannah…

Hello, Making This Home readers!  I am Suzannah from Adventures in Dressmaking, a blog about sewing and decorating with a DIY, on-the-cheap, eco-friendly twist.  I am so happy to be part of Katie’s wonderful blog.  I love checking out her posts about and ideas for her (two!) great homes!  I love the eco-friendly ideas she shares to help us all embrace a simpler, healthier, greener lifestyle.

One great thing Katie has done is the No New Clothes Challenge.  If any of you out there have undertaken, or are considering, a similar challenge, I encourage you to pull the ol’ sewing machine out of your closets and make some existing clothes work better for you!

I haven’t taken a No New Clothes Challenge, but I do spend very, very little money on new clothes and almost always shop at Goodwill or creatively on clearance and sale racks.  I love being able to alter things as I need in order to make them fit or look better, or be more like what I want!  You’ll find lots of tutorials on my blog on how to make old tees into something new and cute, how to mend jeans, how to make over an old top… etc.

Here’s a short and simple tutorial on how to take in a sweater so it fits you better and looks great!

So often, you have a cute sweater but it’s shaped like a square instead of a human torso, and unless it’s snug and you’re relying on the knit to hug your curves, it may need a nipping in at the waist.

The problem is that knitting is soft, and thread does not give the way the sweater will, so when you sew on it you create a place that does not move and stretch naturally and it can look very off.  Also unlike taking in a blouse or woven garment, a knit sweater is not attached with thread at all!  There’s no seam allowance, even, so you have to make your own by pressing carefully.

Okay, let’s just go to the tutorial:

  • Take your sweater.  This is a cute cardi from the little girl’s section of Old Navy, super clearance, that is shapeless like a kid’s body.  Not flattering.
  • There is no true seam allowance, as I mentioned, but turn your sweater inside out and press it as if there were, folding it along the side seam.  You’ll be taking in this seam, so it must be totally flat and symmetrical.  Add some pins to keep it in place.
  • Now you can do your seam.  Starting below the armhole (if it’s too big there, there’s not much you can do about it so don’t bother! ;)), slowly taper down toward the part that’s too big.  I started taking in mine just below the bust.
  • Stop sewing before the ribbing or whatever hem substitute your sweater has at the bottom begins. That means you’ll  have to taper it back and not take in too much; otherwise you’ll have an odd-looking flip out at the bottom.  The ribbing makes it look smaller than the sweater, but it probably has the same number of stitches, so this technique gives you only a gradual dart to the sweater.
  • Turn it right side out and take a look.  Should look pretty much the same at the ribbing.
  • Take in the same amount on both sides, of course.
  • Try it on.  If that 1/2″-1″ of take-in on each side was enough for you, yay!  Perfect.  But if not (mine was still baggy), read on.
  • You can continue your dart seam to the very bottom of the sweater, through the ribbing or hem finish, but you have to make sure you line up the bottom on both sides.  Depending on the cut, it could be longer or shorter in front and this can make the bottom look like a stair step if you sew it closer together and the bottoms don’t match.  But with an even cardigan, you just need to pin carefully to make sure the front or back doesn’t stretch more than the other, keeping both sides together all the way.
  • Both sides, baby!  I matched mine up and used a fabric pen to mark where one side’s new seam was, to make both match.
  • Try it on again.  Does it fit better now?  Make sure you’ve pressed both sides flat.
  • Ta-da!  See the more feminine hint of a waistline?

Thanks for reading!  I’d love to see you over on my blog sometime soon.  Nice sharing with you!