How to Adjust a Sweater That’s Too Big or Too Small (Easy Tips) Update 05/2022

T-shirts and shirts are simple to change, but what about sweaters? There’s obviously a demand for it, especially because most off-the-hanger alternatives tend to cater to the type of ‘normal’ physique that is everything but average… Is it, however, feasible?

Is it possible to change the size of a sweater? Some folks refuse. However, do not believe them. You are not obligated to wear a sweater that is too big, too little, too long, or too wide.

If you know how to use a sewing machine (or can at least thread a needle), making some basic modifications at home shouldn’t be too difficult.

How to Take in a Sweater That is Too Big


Don’t worry if your sweater is many sizes too big for you. Depending on how much time you have (or how much effort you’re prepared to put in), you can change its size in a variety of ways, both temporary and permanent… Consider these two procedures as an example.

Method 1 – The Boil Wash – Check the sweater’s label for care recommendations. Then disregard them. You’ll have to disregard everything you’ve ever been taught about proper care practices if you want to try the boil wash method of shrinking an oversized sweater.

The process is straightforward: simply toss the sweater in the machine, wash on the highest heat setting possible, and then tumble dry on high heat. Fit it to your body. Great if it fits. If it’s still too big, run it through a second wash/dry cycle.

Just keep in mind that some textiles are sensitive to this treatment, so don’t try it on a very valuable clothing. If it’s a typical wool or cotton sweater, on the other hand, the easiest and simplest way to shrink it is to put it in the dryer.

Sew it Smaller – If you can thread a needle, this basic method of taking in a sweater will be a snap. Begin by calculating how much you need to shrink the sweater (it may help to find a well-fitting sweater and use that as a template). Turn the sweater inside out and use a fabric marker to indicate the places that need to be taken in. Use the mark as a guide to sew a new seam. Remove any leftover fabric, turn the sweater right side out, and you’re done!

Altering a Sweater That is Too Wide


Don’t toss your too-big sweater into the back of the closet just yet. If you have a serger, you may simply serge the sweater smaller to narrow it.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to buy) a serger, you can still narrow a sweater using the correct cutting, pinning, and sewing techniques. Only a little courage, a pair of scissors, a handful of pins, and a needle are required.

  • Step 1: Begin by chopping the sleeves off at the seam.
  • Step 2: Pin the sweater to the right size. Sew a new seam along the lengths using the pins as a guide. Remove the sleeves’ seams, then pin and sew them together.
  • Step 3: Right sides together, pin the sleeves back to the sweater and sew to finish.

How to Alter a Sweater That is Too Long

A sweater that is hip-length will suffice. One that is grazing your knees may require assistance. Give it a fighting shot to retake its closet spot with this simple hemming technique.

Step 1: Remove the original hem off the sweater and try it on for size. Measure the amount of material that needs to be removed, then pin to the desired length (if you can, grab a friend for this part).
Step 2: Remove the sweater and turn it inside out. Mark a dotted line all around the perimeter of the sweater with a fabric pin to indicate where the new hem should sit. Take out the pins.
Step 3: Bring the sweater’s hem up to the dotted line. Place the fold with an iron.
Step 4 – Take a measurement from the sweater’s edge to the fold’s crease. Trim a few centimeters off the bottom edge if you want a thinner edge, as this dimension dictates how thick the bottom edge will be.
Step 5: To keep the edge from unraveling, sew a straight line of stitches around the circumference. Sew along the hem edge with a capstitch after folding the hem to the crease. To close the sweater, tie the threads at the side seams.

How to Alter a Sweater That is Too Small

If your sweater is a touch too tight for your comfort, expanding it to fit should be simple if it’s knitted.

  • Wash the sweater in cold water first. Wrap it in a towel while it’s still wet and towel dry to eliminate any excess water — you want it damp but not soaked.
  • Step 2: Cover a flat surface with a dry towel. Place the sweater on top and pull it into place.
  • Step 3 – Gently pull the sweater out to the desired size by working your way along the sides.
  • Step 4: Pin the sweater to the towel (to keep it from snapping back to its original size) and air dry it. If done correctly, this procedure will allow you to increase the sweater by a whole dress size – don’t go bigger than that or the sweater will become deformed.

How to Shorten Sweater Sleeves

If you’re weary of repeatedly lifting up dangling sleeves, use the simple sleeve-shortening procedure to solve the problem once and for all.

  • Gather your tools in the first step. A perfectly fitting sweater, a twin needle, and some wooly nylon thread are required.
  • Step 2: Layer the perfectly fitting sweater on top of the less-than-ideal sweater. Mark the sleeves of the sweater you’re changing 1/2 inch below where the sleeves of the good sweater end using a fabric pen.
  • Step 3: Trim the sleeves to the desired length. Iron the crease in place by folding the sleeves in 12 inches.
  • Step 4 – To complete, sew a line of straight stitches about 14 inches up from the edge of the sleeves.

How to Alter a Sweater Neckline

How-to-Alter a-Sweater-Neckline

If your sweater’s neckline is letting it down, a few minor adjustments should quickly improve it. To begin, determine whether you want to add to a too-low neckline or lower a too-high neckline, then select the proper changing procedure from the list below.

Adding to a Sweater Neckline

  • Cut a piece of elastic material in a color and material that matches your sweater. It should be twice the size of your sweater’s neckline and 12 inches wider than the amount you wish to add to the collar. Cut the material lengthwise in half.
  • Step 2 – To keep the cloth from unraveling, fold it in 14 inches on both sides. Sew to secure the pins.
  • Step 3: Turn the sweater inside out and lay it flat. Pin in position one half of your fabric to the front neckline. Repeat with the second piece of fabric in the sweater’s back.
  • Step 4: Sew your neckline in place, making a continuous collar by sewing both ends of the fabric together.

Reducing The Neckline

  • Step 1: Turn the sweatshirt inside out and sketch a new neckline about an inch above where you want the collar to go.
  • Step 2 – Cut the neck seam and separate the shoulder seams so they terminate about 1 inch below the drawn neckline. Measure the front and back of the line before cutting the fabric along the new neckline.
  • Step 3 – Cut a piece of semi-elastic fabric that is the length of the front and back of the neckline and about 2.5 inches wide. Sew a 14-inch fold on each side of the fabric to fasten it.
  • Step 4: Align the elastic fabric with the sweatshirt’s neckline so that the seams face inwards. Fold 1 inch of the sweatshirt’s neckline back, revealing 1 inch of elastic fabric on both the front and back of the neckline. To keep the fabric in place, sew along the bottom of the fabric line. Re-sew the shoulder seams to finish.

Alter a Turtleneck Sweater


Try this simple way of refashioning your old turtleneck sweater into a crew neck to give it a fresh new look.

  • First, turn the sweater inside out. Pull the yarn away from the threads that connect the turtleneck to the sweater. The turtleneck should now be free from the sweater; if the raw edge looks good to you, you can end here. If you want a cleaner finish, skip to step 2.
  • Step 2: Roll and pin a little portion of the neckline inside the sweater. To give your new neckline a tidy finish, hand sew the rolled edge to the inside of the sweater.

Alter knitted Sweater

Altering a knit sweater may appear to be a difficult task, but it’s actually much easier than it appears if you know how to use scissors. You’ll have to tread gently, though, since if you get too scissor happy, your sweater will be finished. Steeking is the process of cutting a sweater to make adjustments — here’s how to do it.

  • Step 1: Use pins to outline the area you want to cut (or steek).
  • Step 2: To keep the knit from unraveling, sew a line of small stitches around the steeked area.
  • Step 3 – Cut away the unwanted portion, being careful not to cut through the stitched line. Finish by rubbing the edges of the sliced portions together to help them ‘feel’ together.

Alter Wool Sweaters


Wool sweaters can be changed using the same’steeking’ procedure as explained in the preceding section. A wool sweater can be altered in a variety of ways, including:

Cutting the hem of a sweater can be done quickly and easily, changing an overly-long garment into a more desired length.

Cut a turtleneck into a crew neck, or a crew neck into a boat or v-neck, by cutting into the neckline of a wool sweater.

If you have a wool sweater but prefer a cardigan, you can quickly modify the style by cutting straight up the middle of it.

Can You Alter a Cashmere Sweater?

Making adjustments to a pricey fabric like cashmere can be nerve-wracking. But it doesn’t have to be. Adjusting a cashmere sweater is similar to adjusting any other knit, though you’ll be a lot more annoyed with yourself if you make a mistake with the scissors. Take things calm and steady, and don’t get carried away with the cutting.

  • Step 1: Turn the sweater inside out and use pins to mark where it needs to be taken in. Take the sweater off and use a fabric marker to note the adjustments.
  • Step 2 – Cut away the excess fabric, taking care to remove from the outside of the marked lines only. Work on one seam line at a time to stop any chance of the cashmere unraveling.
  • Step 3 – Seal the cut edges of the fabric on your sewing machine using a narrow zigzag stitch. Let the fabric glide through the machine – pulling it make cause the unfinished edges to rip.
  • Step 4 – Using a stretch stitch, sew the cut pieces together. For the raw hems and sleeves, you can either use a zigzag stich and let the edges roll or, if you’d rather a cleaner finish, fold, press, and hem them.

By now, you should know how to alter a sweater six ways to Sunday. If you know of anyone else in need of some handy tips, please feel free to share the post.

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