T-shirt, sweaters, skirts… all of these can be easily shortened, narrowed, let out or even lengthened. But what about cardigans? Can you tailor a cardigan?
Finding a cardigan that fits like a dream can be tricky. Sometimes the arms are too long. Sometimes its too boxy. Sometimes it's an unflattering length. Not all cardigans have the same problem, but all the problems have one thing in common… they all turn what looks perfection on the hanger into something that looks dreadful on the body.
If you’ve got a closet full of cardigans that drown you, squeeze you, or make you feel more frumpy than fabulous, don’t give up on them just yet.
While tailoring a cardigan isn't quite so easy as tailoring a t-shirt, it’s not an impossible task.
Can you tailor a cardigan? Providing you have a sewing kit and the will to use it, altering a cardigan shouldn’t make you break out in a sweat. Although it always helps to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve before you start….
If your cardigan is 2 sizes bigger than you are, it doesn’t mean you have to put it in the charity dropbox. Not until you’ve tried a few of these quick fixes, in any case.
Method 1 – Boil It - A slight disclaimer before we move onto the steps of this method: don’t even think of trying it if the cardigan is particularly precious to you or if it’s made from a delicate fabric.
Cotton and wool both respond well to the treatment, but less robust fabrics can be easily ruined under too high a heat. If you’re happy to take a slight risk, try it. If not, move onto our second method.
Also, note that this method works best if the entire cardigan is too big – if it fits perfectly at the body but is too big at the sleeves (or vice versa), try something else.
Method 2 – Compare and Contrast - Cardigans have a terrible habit of being shaped in a way that’s more suitable for a box than a person. This next method addresses just that problem, providing a great solution for cardigans that are too wide and (dare we say it?) frumpy.
Is the hem of your cardigan closer to your knees than your hips? Then it’s time to take action. shortening a cardigan is surprisingly easy, even if your sewing skills are more amateur than professional. In fact, it’s possible to shorten a cardigan without sewing a single stitch.
The No-Sew Method - For this method, you’re going to need some hemming tape, a pair of scissors, a ruler or yardstick, a fabric pen, some pins, and an iron.
Tip: If you only need to make a minor adjustment to the length of the cardigan, you can skip steps 2 – 4 and simply fold and tape the existing hemline.
The Sewing Method -
Making any kind of alteration to a knitted cardigan can be a little frustrating. The reason? The stretch in the knit.
Even the most advanced seamstress can be challenged by stretchy fabric, so it’s little wonder the task can seem daunting to amateurs. Of course, you could always take the easy route and ask a professional to deal with any alterations you need, but where’s the fun in that?
If you’ve got an adventurous spirit (or maybe just a tight budget), try the alterations yourself. While no-one’s going to claim it’s not going to test your sewing skills, it’ll probably be easier than you think.
The trick lies in knowing how knit fabrics are different from woven fabrics, and in understanding how best to manage that difference. Sometimes, it can be as simple as knowing what thread to use, and how you should always avoid working with straight pins... and how you should never, ever pull the knit as you run it through a sewing machine.
To get you started, here are a few golden rules.
Work out the direction of the knit - Some knits stretch in one direction. Others stretch in the opposite direction. Some stretch every which way to heaven.
Work out if the knit stretches horizontally, vertically, or both. Once you know, you’ll have an easier time working out the right type of stitch to use.
Use the right thread - A knit fabric is no place for a cotton thread. Unless you want the thread to snap when it stretches, stick to polyester thread.
Use ballpoint needles - If you want to damage your knit, use a universal needle. If you’d rather not, stick to ballpoint needles.
Use ballpoint pins - In the same way you should always use a ballpoint needle when you’re working with knit fabric, don’t be tempted to use anything other than ballpoint pins. Other pins risk tearing the knit.
Never stretch the fabric - When you’re working with knit fabric, be careful as you run it through your sewing machine. Let the fabric glide through the machine: if you pull it, not only could the stitches end up crooked, you could even damage the fabric.
Use a zig-zag stitch - When you’re sewing with knit fabric, it’s vital to choose the right stitch. A zig-zag stitch will let the knit fabric stretch in the way it’s designed to do, so always chose a zig-zag over a straight stitch.
Can you shorten a knitted cardigan? Sure. Working with knit fabrics can be more challenging than working with woven fabrics, but it's still possible. Taking up the hem of a cardigan is actually one of the easiest alterations you can make.
Providing you remember the golden rules of working with knit fabrics, both you, and your cardigan, should emerge unscathed from the experience.
A cardigan that’s too long can be just as unflattering as one that’s too short. But don’t rip it up for dusters just yet. If the cardigan’s made from a knit fabric, shortening is a little trickier than on other kinds of fabrics, but by no means impossible… as we demonstrate in the following method.
Before you start, grab your supplies. You’re going to need a handful of ballpoint pins, thread (choose one 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. The method can be done by hand, but it’ll be less time-consuming and far easier with a sewing machine.
Pin the hem in place, then use a zig-zag stitch (or a stretch stitch if the knit fabric has a stretchy fiber like spandex in its blend) to sew along the entire breadth of the new hem.
Keep the hem as flat as possible as you sew, and be careful not to pull the fabric as it goes through the machine.