Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Easy Shirt Alteration - A Tutorial

I am notorious for buying and wearing v-neck t-shirts. My hubby and friends tease me about this. So in an effort to branch out, I have been working hard to find shirts I like that are not simple v-necks. That is what led me to ordering the "Swiss Dot Boho Top" from Old Navy. (Yes, I know it has a v-neck... I'm taking baby steps, folks.)

Once I received it and tried it on, I realized something just wasn't right. Eventually I decided the sleeves were too baggy and needed to be altered. Thus, this post was born.

In this photo, you can see the difference, though it is subtle. The shirt is meant to be a little loose, but to me, the sleeves felt puffy. I took them in about 1.5 inches and think it made a big difference. If you would like to try something similar, here is a step-by-step tutorial on how I did it:

Step 1: Put the shirt on inside out so you can see the seams. Determine how much you need to take the sleeve in. Since I was doing this by myself and only have two hands, I stood in front of the mirror with the shirt on inside out, held my arm out horizontally, then pulled the seam running down the sleeve down so I could see how much excess fabric I had to work with. I estimated that I needed to take off a little more than an inch.

Please note: This shirt is woven, so it does not stretch. If you're working with knit, be very careful not to stretch the shirt as you pin and sew, because the results will not be pretty.

Remove the shirt and lay the sleeve flat, lining up the seams. Then, pin along the line you plan to sew. I didn't want to worry about altering the armpit or the cuff, so I started in the armpit where the seams all came together, brought the line up to narrow the sleeve through the middle, then brought the line back down to the cuff. The result is a much straighter line from armpit to cuff.

Step 2: Sew the line. I used big stitches so that it would be easy to pick out if I messed up. With one sleeve sewn, turn the shirt right side out and try it on in front of the mirror again. If it looks right, move on. If not, go back and change your sewn line as needed.

Step 3: Turn your shirt back to wrong side out. Zig-zag right along your sewn line to prevent fraying. Then, trim off the excess fabric.

Step 4: Now you're ready to move on to the other sleeve. You want the sleeve to match, so lay your unaltered sleeve flat on your work surface. Then fold your shirt, laying the altered sleeve over the top, lining up your edges. Then, pin your unaltered sleeve right along the new seam on your altered sleeve.

Follow the same steps as above for the second sleeve. I skip trying it on this time around, though. Once you've zig-zagged and trimmed your excess fabric, you're done!

This same technique can be used for altering all sorts of clothing. If you have a similar item that fits well, use that as a template to help you get a good fit.

{Linked on Upcycled Treasures, And Sew We Craft, VMG 206, Lil Mrs. Tori, Nap-Time Creations, New Nostalgia, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Hope Studios, Ladybug Blessings, Coastal Charm, My Pinterventures}


  1. Such a small change but it really does make a difference. I'm v-nkc girl too.

    1. I was surprised how big of a difference it made, actually. And I am glad to hear I'm not the only one who loves v-necks. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Any thoughts on altering old t-shirts to have v-necks? Necklines are always a pain for me. I buy a great shirt but the neckline is too low a v-neck or too wide and I am forever tugging it this way and that.

  3. I've never done a neckline, but I'm sure you could find tutorials online somewhere. The problem with t-shirts is if you cut before you sew, the edges curl up, which makes it really hard to sew. Sorry... no advice here!

  4. It's amazing what a little alteration can do for a piece of clothing--this looks great! Thanks for sharing at the Do Tell Tuesday party!

  5. Great tutorial and I can totally see the difference. Thanks for sharing this tip on Merry Monday.


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