Is Your Cardigan Excessively Large? How to Reduce the Size of a Cardigan Update 05/2022

T-shirts, sweaters, and skirts can all be shortened, narrowed, let out, and even lengthened. What about cardigans, though? Is it possible to alter a cardigan?

It can be difficult to find a cardigan that fits well. The arms can be overly lengthy at times. It’s sometimes too boxy. It might also be an unflattering length. Not all cardigans have the same issue, but they all have one thing in common: they all change something that looks great on the hanger into something that looks terrible on the body.

Don’t give up on cardigans just yet if you have a closet full of ones that submerge you, constrict you, or make you feel frumpy rather than gorgeous.

Tailoring a cardigan isn’t as simple as tailoring a t-shirt, but it isn’t difficult.

Is it possible to alter a cardigan?

Altering a cardigan shouldn’t be too difficult if you have a sewing kit and the motivation to use it. Although it is usually beneficial to have a few tricks up your sleeve before you begin….

How to Alter a Cardigan That is Too Big


You don’t have to donate your cardigan because it’s two sizes too big for you. At least not until you’ve tried a few of these fast remedies.

Method 1 – Bring it to a boil –

Before we go into the steps of this procedure, a word of caution: don’t try it if the cardigan is extremely valuable to you or is made of a fragile fabric.

Cotton and wool are both good candidates for the treatment, although less durable fibers can be quickly destroyed by excessive heat. Try it if you’re willing to take a chance. If not, proceed to the next method.

Also, this method works best if the entire cardigan is too big — if the body fits nicely but the sleeves (or vice versa) are too big, try something else.

  • Step 1: Place the cardigan in the washing machine, making sure it doesn’t get mixed up with any other items. Increase the heat to its highest setting and let the boiling water do its work. After you’ve finished washing it, dry it on the highest setting.
  • Step 2: Try on the cardigan to see how it fits. If it’s still too big, go back to step 1 until it fits perfectly.

Method 2 – Compare and Contrast – Cardigans have a bad habit of fitting more like a box than a person. This approach solves that problem, making cardigans that are overly big and (dare we say it?) frumpy a thing of the past.

  • Step 1: Try on the cardigan from the inside out. Pinch the inside seam of the side until it fits comfortably. Secure with a pin. Repeat with the other seam.
  • Step 2: Lay the cardigan flat with the wrong side facing out. Mark where you pinned with a fabric marker, then draw a curved line from the underarm seam to where you want the alteration to terminate (if the cardigan is too big all the way down, take the line all the way down to the hem). Rep on the opposite side.
  • Step 3: Sew along the lines, making sure the stitches are small and even. To finish, trim the excess fabric between the old and new seams.

How to Shorten a Long Cardigan


Is your cardigan’s hem closer to your knees than to your hips? Then it’s time to get started. Even if your sewing skills are more amateur than expert, shortening a cardigan is surprisingly simple. In truth, a cardigan can be shortened without sewing a single stitch.

The No-Sew Procedure – You’ll need hemming tape, scissors, a ruler or yardstick, a fabric pen, pins, and an iron to complete this method.

Step 1: Try on the cardigan to see how it fits. This portion is easier if you stand in front of a full-length mirror. To see which looks best, try folding the hem to different lengths. With a pin, indicate where you’d like the new edge of the cardigan to sit once you’ve found the right length.
Step 2: Take the cardigan off and put it flat on a flat surface. Move the pin down at least 2 inches from where it was in the previous stage (always be conservative with your measurements – you can always cut more off later, but you can’t always add more back on). If the cardigan has buttons, make sure there is enough room between the last button and the new hem.
Step 3 – Measure from the hem of the cardigan to the pin using your ruler. Then, starting at the bottom hem, measure the same amount down the outer side seams. After you’ve marked both sides, connect them with a line drawn using the straight edge of the ruler.
Step 4 – Using the horizontal mark you drew in step 3 as a guide, cut a neat line from one side of the cardigan to the other.
Step 5: Fold the cardigan’s raw edge up by about an inch. Insert hemming tape into the fold and fasten with an iron… and there you have it: a new length for your cardigan without a stitch.

Tip: If the length of the cardigan only has to be adjusted slightly, skip steps 2–4 and just fold and tape the current hemline.

Sewing Techniques –

Step 1: Begin by cutting the cardigan’s hem away. In front of a mirror, try on the cardigan and fold the edge until it’s the proper length. Place a pin where you want the edge of the cardigan to sit, and continue pinning all the way around the cardigan (it might help to drag a friend in for this part).
Step 2: Remove the cardigan and put it flat on a level surface, inside out. Dot a line around where the new hem should be with a fabric pen or tailor’s chalk. Remove the pins once you’ve completed.
Step 3: Before ironing the fold, fold the hem of the sweater up to the line you marked in the previous step.
Step 4: Sew along the hem edge with a capstitch. To close the seam, tie the threads at the side seams.

How do You Alter a Knitted Cardigan?


Making any kind of change to a knitted cardigan can be time-consuming. Why is that? The knit’s flexibility.

Stretchy fabric may be difficult for even the most experienced seamstresses, so it’s no surprise that beginners find the work intimidating. Of course, you could take the simple path and hire a professional to make any necessary changes, but where’s the fun in that?

If you’re feeling brave (or have a limited budget), try making the changes yourself. While no one can say it won’t put your sewing skills to the test, it’ll probably be easier than you think.

The key is to understand how knit materials differ from woven fabrics, as well as how to best manage that difference. It can often be as basic as knowing what thread to use, how to avoid using straight pins when working with knits, and how to never, ever drag the knit through a sewing machine.

Here are a few guidelines to get you started.

Determine the knit’s direction of stretch – some knits only stretch in one way. Others extend their arms in the opposite direction. Some reach for the sky in every direction.

Determine whether the knit stretches horizontally, vertically, or both directions. You’ll have an easier time deciding the sort of stitch to use once you know.

Use the proper thread – Cotton thread is not appropriate for knitting. Stick to polyester thread unless you want the thread to shatter when stretched.

Use ballpoint needles instead of universal needles if you want to ruin your knit. Stick to ballpoint needles if you don’t want to.

Use ballpoint pins – Just as you should always use a ballpoint needle when dealing with knit fabric, don’t use anything other than ballpoint pins when working with knit fabric. Other pins could rip the knit.

Never strain the fabric – When sewing with knit fabric, be careful not to stretch it. Allow the cloth to glide through the machine; if you yank it, you risk damaging the fabric as well as the stitches.

Use a zig-zag stitch – When sewing with knit fabric, the stitch cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval Always choose a zig-zag stitch over a straight stitch to allow the knit fabric to stretch in the way it was supposed to.

Can you Shorten a Knitted Cardigan?

Is it possible to shorten a knitted cardigan? Sure. Knit textiles can be more difficult to deal with than woven fabrics, but it is still achievable. One of the simplest changes you can make to a cardigan is to raise the hem.

Both you and your cardigan should come out of the encounter undamaged if you recall the golden guidelines of working with knit textiles.

How to Shorten a Knitted Cardigan


A cardigan that is too long or too short might be equally unattractive. But don’t tear it up quite yet for dusters. Shortening a cardigan made of knit fabric is a little more difficult than shortening a cardigan made of other fabrics, but not impossible… as we illustrate in the way below.

Gather your materials before you begin. A number of ballpoint pins, thread (in a color that matches the existing thread), a sharp pair of fabric scissors, a ruler or yardstick, and a tailor’s chalk or fabric pen are all you’ll need. The process can be done by hand, but a sewing machine will save you time and make it much easier.

The Approach

  • First, try on the cardigan in front of a mirror. Check the length from all sides, then use a pin to mark where you want the cardigan’s new edge to sit.
  • Step 2: Remove the cardigan from your body and lay it flat. Remove the pin from the location you marked previously and transfer it 2 inches down the length of the cardigan. Make sure there’s enough space between the previous button and the new hem’s position. Move the pin down a little further if there isn’t enough wriggle room.
  • Step 3 – Using your ruler or yardstick, measure from the cardigan’s current edge to the pin. Make a note of the measurement, and then measure up the outer side seams from the bottom hem to the top hem. If the pin is 4 inches up from the bottom of the hem, for example, measure 4 inches up the side seams. Connect the marks on both side seams with a horizontal line.
  • Step 4 – Cut along the horizontal line as sharply and cleanly as possible.
  • Step 5: Finish the raw edge with a serger if you have one. If not, simply zig-zag stitch the bottom to keep the hem from unraveling. Fold the hem by about an inch for a neater finish, making sure there’s still enough gap between the bottom button and the edge.

Pin the hem in place, then sew the entire length of the new hem using a zig-zag stitch (or a stretch stitch if the knit fabric contains a stretchy fiber like spandex in its blend).

As you sew, keep the hem as flat as possible and avoid pulling the fabric as it passes through the machine.

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