If your kids outgrow their clothes as quickly as mine, then learning how to shorten sleeves will help you stretch their wardrobe. It seems that every time I find cute clothes for my daughters, they only last a few months before they are too small or the season is over. Luckily, shortening sleeves has added new life to my daughter's Winter dresses. Turning the sleeves from long to short allows winter dresses to last all summer -- or at least until they get too short. It's a toss-up which will happen first!
Easy Dress Refashion for Summer
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Even when they were elderly, they still lived the unofficial slogan of that time period: "Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I am far from living that slogan, but I do try. I really hate to get rid of things that I know are still good. (Hence, my pack rat problem.)
This winter, I bought two of the cutest dresses for my daughter. Usually, this style of dress is shorter than we like, but since the dresses were from the teen section and my kiddo was between the kid and teen sizes, the dresses went to her knees. Now that it's summer, it's too hot for long-sleeved dresses, and they'll be way too short by next winter.
I decided that shortening the sleeves would be the perfect solution. Enough small talk. Let me show you how to shorten sleeves the easy way.
- Sewing Machine (I used the Singer Simple Sewing Machine)
- Coordinating Thread
- Sewing Scissors
- Measuring Tape
Begin by deciding your new length. Once you decide how long you want the shorter sleeves, add an extra inch to that length. (The sleeves always end up shorter than you think, and you will be using the extra length for the hem.) I cut my sleeves too short, so I didn't have a full inch to use as the hem.
Cut off one sleeve.
Before you cut the other side, use the short sleeve as a pattern. If you just cut the other sleeve off by measuring the same length you did on the first sleeve, you may or may not end up with two sleeves of the same length. Measure the inside and outside length of the short sleeve you already cut, and transfer those measurements to the other side. Once you're sure you have the length right, go ahead and cut the other sleeve.
Turn the dress inside out, fold back about ½ inch of the sleeve edge, and pin it down.
Your sewing machine settings will depend on the type of fabric you are using. For a loosely knit fabric, set your machine like my settings below. (Use the overcasting stitch or the knit stitch. See this post to learn which is which.)
Most sewing machines have a snap-in storage compartment in front of the pressure foot. Remove it so that you can fit the sleeve over the arm of the machine.
Keep your stitch close to the cut edge of the fabric (not the folded edge). If your sleeve is narrower than the arm of the machine, then you are stretching the fabric around the arm. That means that the end of your sleeves will end up slightly wavy. That's what happened to ours, and I think it adds a cute edge to the sleeves. If you're with wider sleeves, your edge should end up smooth. If your sleeve is narrow, go slowly so that you can carefully move the sleeve around the machine arm as you sew.
Remove the sleeve, trim the threads, and you're done! Now you've got a fresh summer look, and you didn't break the bank buying a new dress. You're welcome!
Products I Used
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More Sewing Hacks You Might Like
What's your best trick to making clothes last longer? I've got a post coming about patching holes in jeans shorts. You know -- the kind that the kids love that are already worn out and already have rips and holes? They never seem to last very long before the little holes become big holes! I'd love to hear your best hack in the comments.
You might like these sewing hacks, too! The images below are linked to posts. Click on the images to check out the tutorials.