Fashion Advice: Can you Shorten Sweater Sleeves?

Dear TBF,

I wanted to ask if it’s possible to have sweaters altered. I have really short, T-Rex-esque arms, so it’s quite difficult to find long-sleeve sweaters (even in the Petites department) that don’t hang down over my knuckles. Is it possible to have the sleeves shortened, or should I simply resign myself to a life of rolled-up knit bracelets?

Can You Shorten Sweater Sleeves

Answer: Yes, sweaters can be altered, but unless you are handy with a knitting needle, it’ll cost you between $40 to $80 bucks. If the sweater sleeve isn’t too long (1 to 2 inches over the desired length) and if the sweater material is fairly thin (merino wool, acrylic, light cashmere, etc) then you can shorten it yourself. Just fold the sweater under to the desired sleeve length,  take a needle and thread that matches the color of the sweater and do a very simple stitch to hold the sleeves in place. Also, look for sweaters with sleeves that 3/4 length (which would be full length on you).

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    Catherine Brock

    As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine,, Refinery29, and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.

    Blog Comments

    Both labor and the skill needed to alter knits raises the price.. Remember sweater knits tend to have a looser weave than say tighter knit fabrics like jersey knits, therefore you can’t just simply cut off the access and hem it with a traditional needle and thread. If you do, you run the risk of the entire sweater unraveling.

    The person doing the alternations would have to actually rib (create a finish to the sleeve or waist) to hem the garment and one would need to know how to sew or have access to a knitting machine to do this.

    To be perfectly honest, most of your standard dry cleaning tailors will not be able to perform this type of alteration

    $40? why does it cost that much to shorten sleeves? seriously? i can get jeans hemmed for $10. is it the fabric or the labor?

    I successfully shortened the sleeves on a cardigan that my brother purchased in Norway.  He intended it for my sister, but it was too small for her, but a little too long in the sleeves for me.  Since it was a drop shoulder, I turned it inside out and created a new seam that was about 1/2”  , more into the body and the sleeve.  I checked the fit by pinning first and then sewed using the overlock stitch on my machine. I haven’t had the guts to cut away the excess fabric but it doesn’t bother me when I’m wearing it since it is a little roomy as a cardigan.
    I couldn’t consider changing the length at the wrist because of a decorative stitch at the end of the sleeve.
    It worked great for me.

    My grandmother would shorten the sleeves on everyday sweaters by taking a length of matching ribbon, the silky kind, and gently hand stitching the ribbon all the way around the sleeve on both edges. Then, she would go around her hand stitching with the sewing maching. Only then, she would gently cut the sweater sleeve off. Now, she would go back to her machine and zig zag the outside edge . (remember, she already sewed it down. this just cleans up the raw edges)

    Now, she folds under the ribbon and hand hems the edge. I have never had the guts to do it myself, but I have worn many sweaters she fixed for me.

    I have used this method a number of times. On heavier sweaters a light faux suede works very well.

    excellent directions

    simple and sensible…thanks SO much!

    Thanks, that sounds like a good solution.

    Thanks for the comments. But I did see on TV a bit ago about a women teaching you how to take up sleves on a hand knit sweater. The program was on during the day time , she was a Japanese lady or Chinese lady and she was teaching different stuff on knitting. Does anyone know the program that I am talking about ?????? Would love to know it and then I could write to the station/program, whatever.

    if the tailor at the drycleaners cant do it what type of tailor do i need

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