How to Down-Size a Sweatshirt for a Better Fit

Updated on January 24, 2019
LADS Family profile image

Loretta learned to sew on her Grandma's treadle sewing machine. She began sewing her own clothes in 7th grade and still enjoys fabric work.

Souvenir (white) sweatshirt is too big!! My other one fits well.
Souvenir (white) sweatshirt is too big!! My other one fits well.

I've had this TRUCKEE sweatshirt for many years. I never wear it because it fits like a sack. I want to narrow the body and the arms and shorten the overall length so that it's something to enjoy wearing.

Decide the Final Size

There are a couple of ways to do this.

  • One way is to take your various torso measurements, mark the shirt accordingly, cut it up, and re-sew.
  • A second way is to use a shirt that already fits well as your guide/pattern.
  • So, my final size is my existing shirt that fits well.

Let's Get Started

  1. Turn your target shirt inside out. (This will make it ready to sew.)
  2. Lay your guide shirt over the top of it and pin together. I want to keep the shoulders and tops of the sleeves the same, so I line them up.
  3. I'm also going to cut off the hem and cuffs to make them shorter—you may like your length.

If you are using a regular sewing machine you have a couple of options:

  1. Cut the excess fabric now and leave a 1/2" seam allowance. Remove the guide shirt and go seam it up!
  2. Leave the guide shirt in place and seam 1/2" from its edges. Afterward, unpin the guide shirt, cut away the excess fabric then sew a second seam or do a zigzag stitch.

I am going to go straight to my serger, follow the guide shirt, and cut off the extra fabric at the same time. See below.

Here I am following the edge of the guide shirt. The serger blade will cut away the excess while also nicely finishing the edge. Be aware of your pins! The blade does not forgive!
Here I am following the edge of the guide shirt. The serger blade will cut away the excess while also nicely finishing the edge. Be aware of your pins! The blade does not forgive!
My edges are finished, the excess fabric is gone, and it's the size as the shirt I like.
My edges are finished, the excess fabric is gone, and it's the size as the shirt I like.

Reattach the Cuffs and Hem

  1. Turn your sleeve right side out.
  2. Turn your cuff right side in, and nest them.
  3. Pin to keep from shifting.
  4. Sew or serge for the amount of ribbing you want to keep.
  5. Repeat for the other cuff and the bottom.

With a serger, you cannot backstitch to secure your seam. Use a seam sealant like Fray Check instead. A couple of drops will dry to a permanent waterproof closure. Cut off the extra "tail" after it dries. AFTER it dries.

You're done! Enjoy!

You now have a shirt that was sitting around doing nothing that you can wear often. This technique can be used for a variety of situations:

  • Hand-me-downs that are great, but too big.
  • A super-sale in a store for a garment that is too large.
  • Make matching Father/Son, or Mother/Daughter tops when only the larger size is available.

Have fun making something new and useful.

Finished!  Like having a new shirt that fits well.
Finished! Like having a new shirt that fits well.

Questions & Answers

  • Will down-sizing methods work with t-shirts?

    Yes. Any knit, and many woven materials, should be fine.

© 2018 The Sampsons

Comments

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    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      6 months ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      I hear you! I don't make as many clothes as I used to, but now and again.... I still like doing "stuff", however.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      6 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      You make this seem so easy, that even I could do it.

      Nope. I'm going to live vicariously through you. I made my kids matching clothes for many years, but I've lost the knack in my old age!

      Thanks for writing.

      Namaste

    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      6 months ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      congratulations on your weight loss.

    • profile image

      Lost Weight 

      6 months ago

      This is great. I can use this.

    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      7 months ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      Have you tried this? Did you use a serger or a sewing machine?

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