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How to Shorten a Sweater (without a Serger!)

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Short roomy sweaters are a huge trend this fall.

Luckily for us thrifty fashionistas, this is an incredibly easy trend to refashion! Today you’re going to learn how to shorten a sweater!

When I found this men’s XL sweater on the $1 clearance rack at the thrift store, I fell in love with its potential!

how to shorten a sweater before
Great color, but not exactly on trend…

You’re looking at a soft & lovely (but too long) merino wool sweater.

I love merino wool! Unlike normal wool, it’s suuuuper soft. It’s also durable, washable, breathable, and doesn’t wrinkle easily (perfect for travel). A good merino sweater will last a long time and is a great wardrobe investment.

Turnbury label
Fancy!

I was unfamiliar with the Turnbury brand, so I looked it up. You guys…these sweaters sell for around $80! What a steal!

But how do you shorten a sweater without a serger?

That’s right friends! A humble sewing machine is all you need to shorten a sweater. No expensive additional machine required!

You’re probably thinking, “There’s no way that’ll work!”

But you’re wrong! Read on!

Step 1: Mark where you want your sweater to end.

sweater with pin mark where I'm about to cut
Riiiight about here.

Keep in mind you’re going to be removing that bottom band and adding it to the new bottom of your sweater.

Step 2: Make two cuts!

First, I made a dotted line with tailors chalk.

marking cut line with tailors chalk
Measure & mark!

Then I made my cuts!

cutting bottom off sweater
Chop & chop!

You’ll want to leave a little sweater fabric attached to the waistband as that’s what you’re going to sew the rest of the sweater to.

Step 3: Pin the bottom and top together.

pinning bottom band to top of sweater
Reunited and it feels so gooo-ood!

Make sure the right sides are facing each other when you do this, and that you align the side seams.

I like to do this type of pinning on my ironing board, as it makes it easier to handle the fabric.

Step 4: Sew the two pieces together.

You’ll only need a straight stitch for this part. And don’t worry! We’ll tackle that raw edge next!

straight stitch setting on screen
Just a plain old straight stitch!
sewing top and bottom of sweater together
Whirrrrr!

Try to sew as close to the bottom band as possible.

Step 5: If necessary, trim the fabric between the top and bottom a little more.

cutting fabric
Snnnnip!

You’ll want to make sure these are exactly even for the next step.

Step 6: Overlock (or Zigzag) that raw edge!

A lot of sewing machines come with an overlocking stitch.

overlock stitch on sewing machine screen
It looks like this!

If yours does, make sure to swap out your sewing machine foot to the overlocking foot.

overlocking foot
This is what my overlocking foot looks like.

Make sure to consult your manual on how this stitch works for your machine, then stitch along the edge. It takes a lot longer than a serger would, but it gets the job done.

overlocking raw edge
Lock it down!

This is what that edge will look like when you’re done:

overlocked sweater edge
Nice!

If your machine doesn’t have an overlock stitch, just use a zigzag stitch along the edge.

It won’t be quite as effective as an overlocking stitch, but it’ll suffice.

Step 7: Press it all down!

For your final trick, you’ll want to press your new seam down.

pressing seam with iron
It’s a most pressing issue.

That’s it! Now you have a perfect fall sweater in a length that’s on-trend!

how to shorten a sweater after
Noice!

I styled my sweater with distressed jeans, some casual open-toed TOMS, a ’90s mask necklace, and green chandelier earrings.

refashionista in cropped sweater
TA-DA!
refashionista in cozy sweater self-hug
So cozy!

Meet my new Wigsona, Tracy!

refashionista in red wig
She spends a fortune on those highlights, you guys.

She works in HR (she likes the job security), has two kids (who are very active in theatre), and makes the BEST chocolate chip cookies for their bake sales.

refashionista in cropped sweater
She won’t give up her recipe though.
refashionista in sweater refashion
She also makes hand-poured candles for her friends and family. They aren’t very good, but she enjoys it, so it’s okay.

Tracy enjoyed an afternoon at Hazelwood Brewing Company with friends. They have a great socially distant setup with spaced out outdoor tables and masks worn everywhere except when you’re at your table.

refashionista with friends
Tracy enjoys quality time with her friends.

I really think this sweater is much improved and I can’t wait to shorten a few more I have laying around!

Pssst…Here’s how to shorten a sweater that doesn’t have a ribbed band like the one featured here. Shorten them all! Muahahaha!

Cheers!

refashionista how to shorten a sweater before and after
Yield: 1 Trendy Short Sweater

How To Shorten a Sweater (without a Serger!)

how to shorten a sweater without a serger

Learn how to shorten a too-long sweater! Short roomy sweaters are a huge trend this fall. Luckily this is an incredibly easy trend to refashion from thrift store sweaters. Learn this simple alteration technique with the Refashionis

Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour

Materials

  • 1 Roomy sweater
  • Thread matching sweater color

Tools

  • Sewing Machine
  • Sewing Shears
  • Stick Pins

Instructions

    1. Mark where you want your sweater to end. Keep in mind you’re going to be removing that bottom band and adding it to the new bottom of your sweater.
      sweater with pin mark where I'm about to cut
    2. Make two cuts across the bottom of your sweater. You’ll want to leave a little sweater fabric attached to the waistband as that’s what you’re going to sew the rest of the sweater to. cutting bottom off sweater
    3. Pin the bottom and top together. Make sure the right sides are facing each other when you do this, and that you align the side seams. I like to do this type of pinning on my ironing board, as it makes it easier to handle the fabric. pinning bottom band to top of sweater
    4. Sew the two pieces together. You’ll only need a straight stitch for this part. sewing top and bottom of sweater together
    5. Trim the fabric between the top and bottom a little more so they match up. cutting fabric
    6. Overlock (or Zigzag) that raw edge. If your sewing machine has an overlock stitch, make sure to consult your manual as you'll need to swap out your sewing machine foot. If you don't have an overlock stitch on your sewing machine, a Zigzag stitch along the edge will suffice. overlocking raw edge
    7. Press your new seam down with an iron. pressing seam with iron
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44 thoughts on “How to Shorten a Sweater (without a Serger!)”

  1. I loved all the wig personnas she wore… definitely a lady who’s likes we will never see again. I do hope she is refashioning clothes in Heaven and still has her amazing smile and positive attitude!

    Reply
  2. You said it – I completely agree with you, Pam. She IS a wonderfully necessary young woman and I’m mad, too! Jillian should be here and nothing is as bright without her.

    I can’t believe how much I miss her and I know I’m not the only one. Without the internet I would have missed out on knowing her entirely. It is amazing how much you can mourn someone you never actually met.

    CiM

    Reply
  3. Such a horribly unnecessary loss of a wonderfully necessary young woman. I’m mad, too. I miss her. She was, and still is through her posts, an inspiration. My thoughts are with her friends and family.

    Reply
  4. SAD!!!! And pissed off! What a loss to all her friends and family and fans and ME! Julian, such a lovely spirit of clever ideas and fun fun fun! I can not imagine what her close friends are going through.

    Reply
  5. ohh, I love that colour! And merino wool no less? What a find! Unfortunately I’m like a human giraffe, so shortening clothes isn’t something I ever have to do, but I will hunt for a sweater in a similar colour, and just… hibernate in it…

    Reply
  6. Been loving your ideas for a long time now, and now my HUSBAND has been enjoying your pics & comments about your different personas! He said that if you ever want to try MD Anderson, you and Mr. R should stay with us (just outside of Houston.)
    Peace,
    Ellen B

    Reply
  7. Tracy is super cute, as are you Jillian! You never cease to amaze me with you sewing skills! You are my inspiration!! God bless you!, sweet girl! ❤️

    Reply
  8. Love this! I’m going to try to shorten some sleeves using your tips. Thanks so much!
    And Tracy is super cute too. Looks like she might be a go to style that you will wear often.

    Reply
  9. Tracy looks adorable in her new sweater. It looks expensive and the color is lovely. I will now devote attention to the clearance rack of men’s sweaters when I’m in my favorite haunts – TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

    Reply
  10. Love the wigsona! What a great way to have some fun when all may not seem like it’s very much fun. I like the sweater hemming idea. It reminds me of hemming blue jeans without the stretch. I need to take a look at some of my stuff and see what I can refashion!

    Reply
  11. as always, very helpful tute! but did you post something similar a few years ago?? some blogger [i thought it was you] shortened sweaters much like this, but using a very narrow zigzag stitch right along the ribbing edge, w/o overlocking. being 5’2″, i’ve done this several times–works like a charm.

    also, *love* the brown hair on you! with or without highlights, that color really works.
    i’m glad to see you out having fun too!

    Reply
  12. The color on this one is perfect for you (Tracy), and thrilled to see how I can make this happen with my old school machine. Rock on, lovely one!

    Reply
  13. Being of the petite persuasion myself, I love this refashion! And Tracy too – you seem to have a face that suits a lotta hairstyles, they all suit you do much. Take care xx

    Reply
  14. Brilliant! I don’t have a serger either and get so disappointed when I get excited about a project only to find out I can’t pull it off with what I have. Thank you for sharing your creative thrift with us!

    Reply
  15. Another great refashion. You will have better results with the hem on a sewing machine if you use a slight zigzag.
    Nancy Zieman called it a wobble stitch. The the zigzag has a slight stretch so the stitches on the knit are less likely to pop.

    Reply
  16. Love your Tracy wig! And your refashion. I too love merino wool for its softness. You wear this green shade well . Wishing you well going
    forward.

    Reply
  17. Great idea. Now I am going to look for that yummy cashmere sweater that is down to my knees so I can chop it off and wear with jeans! Like you!! Thanks for what you do.
    You are bringing so much into the homes of many women.So keep on keeping on!
    Take care of yourself and know that many care!
    Nancy from Asheville

    Reply
  18. I do all my sweater sleeves this way! I’m 4’10” so most sleeves are too long. I never considered doing the length until now!

    Reply
  19. What a great post! In my very small sewing room (just thankful I have one!) there is no room for a serger — or much else. Having the ironing board up makes for a rather challenging obstacle course! I’m long-waisted but with legs that fit into petites so if I wear tops that are too long….let’s just call it disastrous LOL. I’ll be using your very clear instructions to shorten purchased sweaters/knit tops in the future — with my heavy duty Singer sewing machine. Thanks much! And I love Tracy and all your alter egos. And, much love and prayers continue <3

    Reply
  20. Great idea! I am going thrifting this weekend to find a sweater I can do that to. Love the Tracy story lol… You made my day, thanks!
    Keep strong your an inspiration!

    Reply
  21. Really cute job on that sweater! The color is great on you, too. This is off topic but… I think if you got some heavy duty fake eyelashes, styled one of your wigs with bangs and a flip and dressed in a 60’s outfit, you could pull off being Ann Marie (That Girl) for a costume. You’re just that cute! Hope you’re feeling well today. Hang in there, Sweetie!

    Reply
    • Thank you! It’s so wild that you say that, because I’ve DONE that as a costume when I was in High School! I love that show! My friends used to come over to shop my closet (heck…they still do) for their Halloween costumes too. 🙂

      Reply
  22. What a great refashion! Being 5’2” most sweaters are too long, and I really like cropped tops anyway. I can’t wait to try this! Love Tracy and all of your other wigs and their different personalities.

    Reply
  23. Great “new” sweater, and thanks for the fashion tip, “Tracy”! Hey, ever thought of writing novels? I bet you would be good at it!

    Reply
  24. This Tracey loves Tracy! Woman, you crack me up, and it feels soo good! Ha! Clever and interesting how you’ve turned the instructions into a recipe at the end of your blog in recent posts. Keep being amazing and innovative!

    Reply
  25. I follow your blog although I don’t have your talents. I love seeing what you do with 2nd hand clothing! But I have to admit – I love TRACY! Your sparkling personality shines with this wigsona!

    Reply
  26. So cute! And looks fantastic on you. I couldn’t wear that length. I need length to cover my sins, but on you, it’s adorable.

    And Tracy is so sweet!

    Where do you score all these awesome wiggy-tresses?

    Reply
    • Thank you! 🙂 Most of my wigs are from Wigs.com and their outlet site, Wigoutlet.com! Wigs are pricey, buuuut I’ve scored most of them by buying during sales or discontinued colors at a discount. 🙂

      Reply
  27. I never would of thought of shortening … well duh 🙂
    Love hearing about different personalities of your wigs— you’re inspiring. Thank you

    Reply

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