Sunday, July 29, 2012

DIY | Oversized Sweater Reconstruction

This tutorial is to show you how I took an XL sweater and turned it into a more fitted sweater/sweater dress that's perfect for autumn!

Before: As you can see the shoulders were too wide, the sleeves were too long and the bottom was too baggy! (I thrifted this sweater for $5!)

After: much cuter!

What you'll need:

- basic sewing skills
- scissors
- measuring tape
- dress makers chalk (optional)
- pins
- sewing machine OR needle and thread
- serger (optional)

Let's begin!

Step 1: Find a fitted shirt you already own that you like the fit of. Lay it down flat, backside up and measure the distance between the shoulder seams. Make sure you measure right at the top. If you don't have a shirt like that then have a friend help measure where you'd like your seams to be on your shoulders. My measurements were 15"

Step 2: Flip your sweater inside out and cut the sleeves off. Make sure you're cutting right along the stitching. As you can see in the photo above I have the back facing up. I will have it facing this way throughout the tutorial so you should do the same! Put the sleeves aside keeping note of which side they came from.

Step 3: Measure the distance between the top shoulder seams, subtract the measurement you got when you measured your fitted shirt and mark off the difference. For example: When I measured the sweater I got 17" and when I measured my fitted shirt I got 15" so the difference is 2" making the amount I take off each side 1" (half of 2"). I marked the inch in on each side with dress makers chalk (where the purple arrows are). If you don't have chalk use a pin.

Step 4: Pin the inside out sleeve to where you made your new markings (at the purple arrow) and pin the rest of the sleeve the same distance in (for me that was 1"). As you can see there's a spot at the bottom (at the measuring tape) that won't line up with the sleeve. This is fine, we'll fix this later. Repeat with the other sleeve.

Step 5: Using the sleeve as a guide cut the sweater until you reach the bottom of the sleeve (the purple arrow). Mark the bottom with chalk or a pin and un-pin the sleeves and trim off the excess fabric.

Step 6: You should now have something similar to the left side of this. Put a couple pins between the sleeve holes to prevent the fabric from shifting.

Step 7: Measure the distance from the edge of the sweater to where you made your mark in the previous step and add a pin, pointing the pin towards the bottom of the sweater.

Step 8: Continue the last step all along the edge of the sweater so you have a rough line marked out with pins. Repeat on the other side.

Step 9: Cut along the edge of the pins. You'll end up with a similar shape to the picture above. Feel free to carefully flip the sweater right side out and try it on to see if everything is fitting properly so far. Make sure you flip it inside out again for the next step.

Step 10: Flip the pins so they're facing towards the inside of the sweater. Sew up to the bottom of the sleeve holes!

Step 11: Here's where it starts getting a little harder. Take one of your sleeves and flip it so it's right side out. Notice with the arrows above that the body of the sweater is inside out and the sleeves are right side out. Click the photo to zoom!

Step 12: Now put one of your right side out sleeves into the sweater making sure the sleeve seam is facing towards the bottom of the sweater.

Step 13: Pin the sleeve to the sleeve opening on the sweater starting at the sweater's shoulder seam and the top of the sleeve. As pictured above my thumb is pointing to the top shoulder seam of the sweater and the arrow is pointing to the first pin I added.

Step 14: Pin all along the sleeve opening until you get to the bottom seam of the sleeve (arrow closest to my thumb). Notice that there is a little extra fabric that won't be able to be pinned to the sleeve opening. The arrow to the right is pointing to the top of the seam you made on the side of the sweater.

Step 15: Keep pinning on either side of the sleeve seam until the sleeve is fully closed. Make sure you're lining up the sleeve seam (left arrow) with the side sweater seam (right arrow). Notice how you now have a sort of sideways 'Y' shape? Pin the sweater together at the bottom of the 'Y' so that the sweater will sit flush to the sleeve. This will be your marker pin for the next step.

Step 16: Remove all the pins except for your marker pin and lay your sweater flat again, inside out and backside up. Start at your marker pin (top arrow) and sew down the sweater about 1/4-1/2 way (along the dotted line) down to the edge sweater. If you have a serger, serge along the edge of your sweater and along this new seam.

Step 17: Repeat steps 11 to 13 except when you start pinning start your first pin at the bottom seam of the sleeve and the newly altered side seam of the sweater, the armpit (pictured above). Pin all around the sleeve opening. With your new alterations your sleeve opening should match up perfectly and there won't be any extra fabric like in step 14.

Step 18: Sew all along the sleeve opening, starting your new seam where the other seams match up at the armpit. If you have a serger, serge this part as well!

And you're done!

Hope you enjoyed my first DIY tutorial! It might be a little confusing, but I basically just documented exactly how I did it. I'm sure there are professional tailors out there cringing at my terrible alteration skills ha ha ha!

Until next time Dolls and Cats,

PS if you like my nail art there is a tutorial here: Rainbow Pop Art Nails!


  1. I love this! Thank you for posting. Did you take the sweather sleeves?

    1. I'm glad you like it ^_^ When I took the shoulders in it also shortens the sleeves. You can shorten the sleeves even more by cutting off a little bit of the sleeve where it'll connect to the shoulder. Just cut along the edge a little bit!

  2. Hi, I'm gonna also attempt this on an oversized cardigan. Do you have any suggestions on how to add length to sleeves. The sleeves are short and I wouldn't want them getting shorter. Great stuff btw :)

    1. I'm glad you're going to attempt it! Unfortunately this method will shorten the sleeves as well. The only thing I can think of is adding a decorative cuff in a different fabric or with the left over fabric from taking it in. I hope that helps!


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