Shortening a Sweater Dress: Hemming and Hawing Part 3

I FINALLY dove into the pile of items in my “mend and alter” bin. Three items were in need of some basic hemming; that I thought others might be interested in my approach or be looking to follow a tutorial on. I am working on three part post, one for each hem. Segments are 1) invisible hem for dress pants 2) preserving original hem on jeans and 3) shortening a sweater dress into just a sweater. Today is all about shortening sweaters, either dresses, tunics or just too long. I am not a professional, but the results are good enough for me, and I am pretty picky (with some things). This is my third sewing tutorial, so feedback welcome. In reading it I can see how to do future ones better.

General approach – know what your goal of the alteration is going to be and don’t be afraid to do it… and be ok if it goes wrong….

Key point – Measure twice (or twelve), cut once. You must finish the edges once cut to prevent unraveling. I use a Serger in this tutorial

Shortening those just too short Sweater Dresses

Background: Boden striped sweater tunic dress, but is scandalous short (for me, not flattering) as a dress and too long to wear with skinny jeans. BUT it’s comfy and I love stripes, so decide to shorten it to make it more wearable.

  1. Try on and mark with pins where you want the FINAL length to be. I will be shortening it by about 6 inches when all done.
  2. Add a second row of pins marking where you will actually cut and serger/finish the seam at. In this case I am giving myself about 2 inches WHICH conveniently puts me right on the red line. I plan to just follow this. Right or wrong, it’s close enough if not better than me eying it. That means I am cutting off about 4 inches

  1. Now you are ready to cut. I cut a perpendicular line in to where I want to start the serger.
  2. Serge away. I would imagine if you didn’t have a Serger you could first stitch a zig-zag plus straight stitch and THEN cut just below. Finish off raw edge with Fray Check.

  1. Now that you are serged off the extra fabric you are ready to turn it up to the inside and make the final hem. In this case I removed about 4 inches and the fold up about an inch to the inside for the final seam.
  2. I decided to use a twin needle for the final hem, but not necessary. A single needle would look just fine. I just wanted to try it out. I also used a little bit longer stitch length than 2.5.
  3. I lined up my needs to stich just below the red stripe catching both layers in the stitches. Using Navy thread makes it basically unnoticeable. Since there is a taper there is some extra material that needs to be “worked it”. Putting the layer that needs to be eased in on the bottom (which you are doing) helps but you probably need to pin and make a small tuck on the INSIDE in a place or two. Message me if this makes no sense. Remember, this is on the inside, so no one but you knows if it is pretty or ugly or somewhere in between.

  1. Now you are ready to sew. Sew around the diameter of the sweater.

  1. Viola! All done and looks great! If you are looking to finish dress pants, here is a link to the invisible hem tutorial and the original jeans hem tutorial.
  2. I used the the 4 inch wide scrap to make a dapper ascot for Mr. Mason Peabody McPhearson. Check out this photo shoot! Work it. Work it!

9 thoughts on “Shortening a Sweater Dress: Hemming and Hawing Part 3

  1. I just bought two fairly thin sweater dresses. They are petites but I’m below the standard petite range in inches. The sweater on the model hits just below the knee; on me it hits about mid calf. I’m a bit worried about cutting these two dresses because I think the “give” you mention is going to be significant. The material is fall/spring weight, a bit stretchy. What do you think? Thanks! Terry R.

  2. I just found your post because I need to hem a sweater skirt (cashmere knit). Would hand hemming work just as well? I feel I have more control with hand needle and thread.

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