Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Tailor a Sweatshirt at Home

sweatshirt before tailoring
Let me start off by saying that I am not much of a sewing expert, despite owning a nifty little sewing machine. And yet, I was able to learn how to tailor a sweatshirt at home and save an old and ill-fitting piece of clothing from the dump. It was quick, it was easy, and now the sweatshirt fits!

This was in large part thanks to careful advice from my mom, who *is* a sewing expert. She was able to explain to me how to tailor a sweatshirt in the simplest way possible so that it would fit me correctly. And since most of us have some piece of clothing that doesn't fit right, I thought I'd share her tips on tailoring a sweatshirt with the greater public.
vintage sears travel sewing machine
It is also worth noting that this really is just about the simplest approach you can take to tailoring a sweatshirt. There is no sophisticated stitchery happening here . . . just the most basic tailoring you could imagine. After all, my mom *did* have to be able to explain it over the phone without any visuals, and it had to be done by *me* on a super-basic sewing machine. So I'm not expecting to win any fashion awards here . . . I'm just trying to help others in a similar situation learn how to tailor a sweatshirt or hoodie of their own.  (Super-basic indeed. My vintage compact Sears sewing machine has a minimum of settings, but was a great garage sale find: $5 for 30 pounds of almost entirely solid metal. When I flew home with it, the TSA did investigate it carefully.)

As a novice seamstress, I often reserve some of my unwanted clothing for such learning moments. In lieu of never wearing a piece of clothing again, I'll try to to custom tailor it, or I'll try to make it into something else. And if I mess it up, well, no big deal: I probably wasn't going to wear it again anyway, and now I have cleaning rags.

The sweatshirt in question fell into this category. And the tailoring process, described below, was a success.

How to Tailor a Sweatshirt Quickly and Easily

I spoke with my mom for advice on a simple fix. She's a sewing genius who runs a custom sewing and upholstery business. Did she know how to tailor a sweatshirt? Of course she knew how to tailor a sweatshirt. "How complicated of a job do you want to do?" she asked me. I'm pretty sure she knows I don't have a custom sew shop full of specialty machines, but, if I wanted, she was ready to give me all the details on how to do a true professional job.  I told her that simpler was better, and I'd settle for a less-than-runway look if I could just learn how to tailor a sweatshirt on my own. I don't think she was offended -- she's my mom, so she has to love me, right? :)

She suggested taking it in at the sides and possibly at the arms. And with that, learning how to tailor a sweatshirt had begun! A small complication: the hoodie had *two* seams on each side, shown below. Luckily, this doesn't complicate the job, and doesn't change how to tailor a sweatshirt that has only one seam per side.
how to tailor a sweatshirt
The extra seam made tailoring my sweatshirt more complicated, but most sweatshirts have only one.

To tailor a sweatshirt, first try on the shirt inside out. Grab the extra fabric on each side and carefully add pins where you'd like to tighten the fit. Turn it carefully right side out and try it on again (But carefully! There are pins!) to test your preliminary adjustments. Re-pin if you need to.

Once you get it right, turn it inside out again and sew along the line you created with your pins, removing the pins before sewing over them. Again turn it right side out and try it on. If it looks right, cut off the excess fabric. If it doesn't look right, don't worry: you can use a seam ripper to remove the stitches, and you can re-sew a new seam.

Based on this approach, I decided to take in the far seam on each side by 1.5 inches. After pinning these seams and trying on the modified hoodie to confirm the fit, I used my sewing machine to make the changes permanent. I tapered the side seams as I approached the sleeve armpits, and I cut away the excess fabric, shown below.
how to tailor a sweatshirt
After sewing the seams, cut away the excess fabric.
I repeated this process with the arms of the sweatshirt, taking them each in by 1 inch at the seam.  Important note: For added reinforcement, it's helpful to make two parallel lines of stitching along any new seams you sew. You'll notice I didn't do this above: there's only one seam. After 3 years of good service, my single seam did break on the sleeve of the shirt. So DO make a double seam, even if you think you have the strongest thread on the planet.

I'd call the sweatshirt tailoring project a success! The resulting hoodie fits again, and I finally put it back to good use. I have another red hoodie just like the grey one, and I think I will make the same modifications to it as soon as possible. How to tailor a sweatshirt? Check and check.

I used this approach on another sweatshirt as well, if you'd like one more example:



Zak said...

Sweatshirt Version 2.0 looks great!

Baker Gal said...

Thanks! I just finished the second one, too! Hope to line the hoods soon as well...

Sue said...

you mean that little sewing machine was all you needed?

Anonymous said...

Ordered a $30 sweat shirt online and it ended up being too big. But I didn't want to wait another two weeks to get the right size, plus I love learning new things! This post was super helpful. Thanks!

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