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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

UFO · Re-Styling a Sweater

Guess what?  I have thrilling news!  I just did this project TODAY, and I'm posting it already!  This is so exciting. ;-)

One of my "somedays" is to finally complete all of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects).  Thankfully, in my favor, my mother is a great hater of UFOs and has not allowed me indulge my procrastination tendencies! ;-)  But having said that- I've been sewing for a long time, and UFOs are inevitable.  My collection of them is not too extreme, but never-the-less, it's still existent.  They range from sweaters I've been hoarding for years, to my newly-started-but-sorely-neglected-since-the-workshop riding habit, to my first-ever-yet-never-completed sewing project (a lap quilt), and even to my first-and-only foray into crocheting and beyond.  They've taken up storage space and produced more than their fair share of guilt- it's time to conquer them. :-)

My list currently shows 13 UFOs not including minor alterations and repairs, so I'm setting monthly goals to get them completed.  Most will take lots of time, but some can be cranked out in a day. :-)

Today's UFO is a cashmere sweater that I inherited from Mom a year or so ago.  It is a size or 2 too large, but fits well through the shoulders, so it's an ideal candidate for re-styling!  This is the 5th sweater that I've altered, and I'm becoming much more confident in the process. :-)  This alteration took less than 2 hours including picture-taking, so it's a perfect "instant pick-me-up" on an afternoon that I was feeling less than inspired. :-) 

Before- Sadly baggy and longer than I like  After- Taken in, shortened, new buttons added, and better lighting located! ;-)

To start off, I put on the sweater and start safety-pinning the sides until I'm happy with the fit.  This sweater was a bit full in the sleeves and armhole, so I took those in as well.

Transfer the safety-pin markings to the inside with straight pins, and even up any inconsistencies from both sides.

When sewing the sweater, be sure to use a ball-point needle and a walking foot on your machine!  Sew along the line indicated by the pins with a straight stitch, going all the way from the hem up to the armhole and down the sleeve seam.  At this point, I like to try it on quick to make sure I'm happy with the fit- I ended up taking this one in a bit more.

Once you're happy with it, serge the seam close to your stitching (zig-zagging works if you don't have a serger).
(I was so happy that we had serger thread that exactly matched! :-))

If you want to shorten your sweater, I recommend shortening in relation to the existing buttonholes.  In my case, that meant just shortening it up to the next buttonhole (2 3/4").  You'll be sewing along the top edge of the lower binding, using that as your guide.

Make sure your binding is the same size or smaller than the body of the sweater- you don't want the sweater stretched out!  I haven't run into any issues with the knit stretching out of shape while sewing on the binding, but I take my time and the walking foot is a MUST! :-)  Then serge close to the stitching.

To finish up, I like to slip-stitch the seam allowances in potentially-visible parts so they don't peek out or shift, like the center placket and the bottom of the side seams.  

I replaced the dark grey buttons with light shell buttons, as I think that will be more versatile in my wardrobe (And because I currently have a distrust for most greys... Ironic considering I'm wearing a GREY skirt today, but hey!  I'm in the recovery process.  It'll take a while before I can cope with grey buttons, too.).

I'm currently debating over whether or not I want to embellish this sweater, and if so- what to do.  But that'll be another project for another day.  For now, this has moved from the Land of Unloved and Unwearable Garments to the Drawer of Favor. ;-)


  1. Much better! The "after" is definitely more retro & less hand-me-down. :)

  2. The sweater is lovely! Beautiful work, and the addition of the lighter colored buttons certainly helped to refresh the look of the garment.

    the Middle Sister and Singer

  3. How did you do the bottom band of ribbing? Did you cut it off and reattach it, or did you just fold it up to where you wanted, sew, then cut and serge? And is it with a straight stitch again?

    I'm pretty incompetent when it comes to sewing knits of any kind, but I could HUGELY benefit from figuring out how to re-size sweaters!

    1. Hi Emileigh! Thanks for asking- I always wonder how intelligible my tutorials are... ;-)

      Personally, I cut off the ribbing (make sure you leave a seam allowance, though!) and re-sew it since usually I have to make the ribbing smaller. If it was a straight-cut sweater, you could just fold it up and sew. :-)

      Yes, I use a straight stitch. Make sure there's a *slight* give in the stitching when it's complete. If necessary with your particular knit, you could also do a narrow zig-zag, but I haven't needed to. Cardigans are super forgiving, because they don't need to stretch to get over heads/shoulders! ;-)

      Let me know if you have more questions! It's much easier than I always expected, and makes for MUCH more affordable knit options!! Thrift stores are now limitless in their potential.... ;-)



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