A blouse that’s too big, too small, too wide, or too narrow is no friend to man nor beast. But providing you have a few hours to spare and know your way around a sewing needle (or better still, have a sewing machine to call on), you shouldn’t have too many problems in transforming it from ‘eww’ to ‘wow’.
Can you alter a blouse? Of course, you could always just call on the help of a professional tailor, but where’s the fun in that? At-home alterations are quick, easy, and best of all, won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
So, before you consign that badly fitting blouse to the naughty box, why not try giving it a new lease of life with some sneaky little alterations? You might be surprised at just how big a difference a few stitches can make.
A sewing machine can make certain alterations easier, but it’s by no means a necessity. Providing you know how to thread a needle and aren’t afraid to wield it when the time comes, most things that can be done on a sewing machine can be done by hand.. just be mindful that it may take a little longer. (related: dress won't zip around bust)
Regardless of the type of alteration needed, it pays to bear a few things in mind:
Use the right needle for the fabric - Different fabrics require different needles. Use the wrong one, and you’ll not only make the job harder than it needs to be, but you’ll also risk damaging the material.
Use the right thread - Using a cotton thread on a man-made fabric is asking for trouble. Using a synthetic thread on a natural fabric risks the same. Be sure to always match the thread to the fabric.
Run the thread through wax - Before you start sewing, run the thread through wax; it’ll make your job a lot easier.
Iron the garment beforehand - A smooth garment is far easier to deal with than a wrinkled one. Give the blouse a quick press before you start sewing to ensure the most professional finish.
Sometimes, a blouse can fit perfectly at the bust and hips but still be too large at the shoulders. If your shoulders are narrower than your blouse, a few little alterations should soon have it fitting like a glove.
Step 1 - Try the blouse on and mark where the new shoulder seam line should sit on both sides.
Step 2 - Remove the blouse and use a seam ripper to carefully detach the sleeves from the shoulders. Pin the sleeves to the new seam line, taking care that the seam is smooth.
Step 3 - Sew the sleeve in place along the original seam line. Cut away the excess seam allowance and finish with a serger or a zigzag stitch.
Is your blouse being let down by its neckline? Whether it’s gaping, clinging, or just plain boring, a bad neckline can ruin the look of an otherwise perfect blouse. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to modify. Try it yourself with this easy tutorial.
Step 1 - Try the blouse on in front of a mirror to check what kind of neckline suits you best. Use a fabric pen to mark the neckline, then take the blouse off.
Step 2 - Fold the blouse lengthwise and use a ruler and fabric pen to draw a neat, even neckline, allowing a ½ inch seam allowance. If you’re planning on a curved neckline, trace around the edge of a bowl to keep things tidy.
Step 3 - Use a sharp pair of fabric scissors to cut along the new neckline. To help the new neckline retain its shape, cut a piece of spare fabric measuring around 2 inches wide that matches the curve of the neckline. Pin the fabric to the neckline, right sides together, and sew it in place.
Step 4 - Trim the corners of the facing, flip it so it faces the inside of the blouse, and iron so it lies flats.
Step 5 - Stich around the new neckline (you can either hand stitch or use a machine). Press to finish.
One of the beauties of knowing your way around a sewing kit is the ability to take a basic, off the hanger garment and give it a customized fit. If your blouse isn’t doing your curves any favors, a few little tweaks should soon put it right.
A tiny little dart can make a huge difference to the look and fit of the garment, and isn't too difficult to add either.
Step 1 - Try the blouse on to determine how much fullness needs to be taken out. Pinch the fabric in on either side of the blouse, just above the waist. The pinches should be around 2 inches from both side seams. Pin the pinched fabric in place.
Step 2 - Take the blouse off, being careful not to prick yourself on the pins. Lay the blouse on a flat working surface and mark either side of the pins with a fabric pen. Remove the pins.
Step 3 - Take a ruler and measure the point between the two marks you made in step 2 and place a mark at the center. Draw a 6-inch vertical line at the mark, with 3 inches above the waist and 3 below. Create a diamond shape by connecting the width marks to the top and bottom of the 6-inch line.
Step 4 - Fold along the 6-inch line and pin both sides of the diamond shape together.
Step 5 - Try the blouse on for size. Make sure the darts haven’t puckered or pulled the fabric (it might be an idea to have someone check the back view for you). If you’re happy with the fit, remove the blouse and sew the darts along the seam line from the bottom up, removing the pins as you go.
Step 6 - To finish, iron the darts flat.
Tailoring a silk blouse is no different from tailoring any other blouse. Certain alterations are possible, some are out of the realms of possibility (if you want to transform a size 2 silk blouse into a size 18, it ain’t gonna happen).
That said, working with silk can send some people into a tizzy. And understandably so. Silk isn't like cotton – make a mistake, and that mistake will show. And making a mistake on a blouse that you've just spent a small fortune on is no one’s idea of fun. But providing you know what you’re doing (or are at least prepared to learn), sewing silk and making alterations to a silk blouse isn't impossible - it just needs time, patience, and a few little hints and tips…
Handle with care - Silk threads are delicate and can fray easily. Regardless of the type of alteration you’re making, do it with care.
Clean your equipment - Silk soaks up stains and dirt quicker than most materials, and once the marks are there, they’re there for the long haul. Make sure your sewing machine is completely free of any dust, dirt, and grime before letting your silk blouse anywhere near it.
Test before you start - Silk handles differently from other fabrics. If you have a small scrap of silk going spare, run it through the machine before you start on the final project to make sure the tension, needles, and everything else is just right.
Use silk pins - If you’re making alterations, there’s a very good chance you’re going to need to pin the material. Which is usually fine, but not when you’re working with silk. Pins holes can stand out from silk like a sore thumb. To prevent your blouse from running to ruin, only use very sharp, fine-tipped silk pins.
Boxy blouses can look great in some scenarios… and less great in others. If the boxy fit is a style choice, then run with it. If it's less a choice and more a question of poor fit, grab your supplies and get ready to give that boxy nightmare a re-fashion.
Step 1 - Try the blouse on. Pinch together the fabric at the bust, waist, and hips. Measure the excess pinched fabric.
Step 2 - Take the blouse off, turn it inside out, and press. Place a pin to mark your measurements, starting from the inside of the seam. Pin all the way up both seams (the pins will act as your guide when you come to sew).
Step 3 - Run the shirt through your sewing machine, starting from the sleeve hem and working your way down to the edge. Trim any excess fabric to finish.
If you’ve lost some weight or accidentally bought a blouse several sizes too big, it doesn’t have to spell the end for the blouse. Taking in a blouse on all sides isn’t too complicated, but the type of alteration required will depend on where the blouse needs to be taken in. If it’s too big all over, the method outlined previously for altering a boxy blouse will work a treat.
If the blouse fits at the bust but lacks the desired fit at the wait, adding a few darts should do the trick.
A blouse that’s too long can swamp you, even if the width is right. Depending on the style of the blouse in question, altering the length shouldn’t be too challenging. Check out how to shorten a straight blouse hem with this easy tutorial.
Step 1 - Try the blouse on and fold the existing hem over until you reach the desired length. Use a pin to mark where the new hem should sit.
Step 2 - Remove the blouse and lay it on a flat working surface. Take a fabric pen and mark ½ inch beneath the pin. Continue the line around the circumference of the blouse (you might want to use a ruler or yardstick to keep things straight). Cut along the line with sharp fabric scissors.
Step 3 - Reduce any unnecessary bulk by finishing the edge with pinking shears. Fold the hem and pin in place.
Step 4 - Feed the pinked edge of the blouse through your sewing machine, using a long zig-zag stitch to sew all around the circumference just below the pinked edge. Press to finish.
Altering a straight-edged hem is one thing. Altering a curved one is quite another. But it's not impossible. Providing you can pin, measure, and darn a needle, you can shorten a blouse with a curved hem. Here’s how.
Step 1 - Measure up from the hem by how much it needs to be shortened.
Step 2 - Stitch a line of basting ¼ inch down from where you want the new hemline to sit.
Step 3 - Flip the blouse inside out, turn the hem along the basted line, and press to make a firm crease. Turn the hem again by the same amount and press again.
Step 4 - Edgestitch along the fold on the inside of the blouse to secure. Press to finish.
Altering a pattern is one of life's necessary evils – at least for home tailors. No two bodies are the same, and yet pattern manufacturers seem to think we all have the exact same measurements. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Although the actual process to be followed will depend on the type of adjustment to be made (upsizing will require a very different process to downsizing, for example), there’s a few tips that can make any adjustment a heck of a lot simpler.
Check Your Measurements - Before you make any kind of adjustment to a pattern, take your measurements, and then take them again. There’s no point in going to the effort of changing a pattern if the end garment doesn’t fit like a glove.
Understand Pattern Grading - Before you start making any alterations, google ‘pattern grading’. Once you have the basics of this system of measurements down, taking a pattern up or down a size or two will be a breeze.
Take it Easy with the Seam Method of Alteration. - If you want to make life easier for yourself, try the seam method of alteration. Involving little more than making some minor adjustment to the seam lines of a pattern, it lets you adjust a pattern to suit your exact measurements with no fuss, no pain, and no problem.