How To Shorten a Sweater Without a Sewing Machine (Tips and Techniques)

woman wearing sweater shortened without sewing

How To Shorten a Sweater Without a Sewing Machine

We all have our preferences for sweater lengths. Whether you are petite and need a better fit, or whether you just like the look of a shorter sweater, you may find yourself wondering if you can shorten your favorite sweater. The short answer is yes. But if you want to shorten the sweater without a sewing machine, the answer gets a little more complicated.

The reason shortening a sweater with a sewing machine is preferred is because of the stitching options it gives you that help keep the integrity of the sweater’s stretch. The zig zag stitch is best for hemming and an overlock or serging stitch is the best way to finish off the new seam you create when you shorten the sweater.

Both those stitches allow the fabric – in this case, your sweater – to maintain it’s stretch. Both stitches are also very difficult to make by hand in a consistent manner that provides stability for your alteration. But if you can live without keeping the original hem, there is a way you can shorten a sweater without sewing at all. It works best on sweaters with a tight weave. 

Related: Basic Sewing Skills Everyone Should Know!

Double-Sided Adhesive Hem Tape

To shorten your sweater with no sewing, you need

HeatnBond Soft Stretch Ultra
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  1. Try on the sweater to determine the length to which you want to shorten it. Pin to mark the determined length.
  2. Take the sweater off, turn it inside out, and smooth it out on a flat surface. Measure from the bottom of the sweater to the pin to see how much length needs to be trimmed from the sweater. You will need to add back the “seam” allowance for your hemming tape, which is ⅝ inches wide. Double that ⅝ to get 1.25 inches. Deduct 1.25 from your trimming measurement. For example, if you need the sweater to be 3 inches shorter, when  you account for the hem allowance, you will only need to trim 2.75 inches from it. Do not trim anything yet.
  3. Measure and mark the line at which you will eventually trim your sweater using the fabric chalk. Take your time and make sure the measurement is consistent all the way around the sweater. 
  4. Move your sweater to the ironing board and set the iron according to the instructions on the hem tape. While the iron heats, pull your sweater onto the ironing board (inside still out) so that the board separates the front from the back of the sweater. This will help prevent any fusible tape from adhering the two sides together.
  5. Use the chalk line as a placement for your hemming tape. Place the edge of the hem tape right against the inner side of the chalk line. (You may pin the tape in place all around the sweater or just work as you go, unrolling a little tape at a time.) Adhere the tape to the sweater using the directions provided by the hem tape. A pressing cloth can help protect your sweater from the heat.
  6. After pressing the hem tape to the sweater all the way around, trim the excess sweater away as close to the edge of the hem tape as possible without cutting into the tape.
  7. Remove the paper backing from the fusible tape and fold the sweater’s edge upward to create the no-sew hem. (You may pin the tape in place all around the sweater or just work as you go.)
  8. Use the pressing cloth and press the fusible tape into place.Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you go.
  9. Allow the heated hem tape to cool before wearing your shortened sweater!

Related: How To Alter a Hoodie To Make It Bigger

Tips & Tricks for Shortening a Sweater with Double-Sided Adhesive Hem Tape

  • Don’t trim the sweater until your double-sided fusible hem tape is applied. This helps avoid unraveling and gives you cleaner seams that won’t be bulky on your finished project.
  • Use caution when ironing sweaters. Heat can melt some fibers and discolor others. I highly recommend not skipping the pressing cloth here.
  • If your sweater has a looser weave, place a magazine on top of your ironing board under your sweater to keep the hem tape from sticking to the ironing board itself.
  • Make sure you get the Soft Stretch Ultra hem tape. The plain Soft Stretch hem tape will not be permanent unless you finish it by sewing the hem in place. Only the Ultra version is completely sew-free.
  • Make sure you have your sweater laundered before making any alterations. Even hand-wash sweaters can shrink.
  • Don’t alter sweaters that are still damp after being laundered – not even just a little damp. Your sweaters need to be completely dry before making any alterations.

Temporary Fixes for Sweaters That are Too Long

No time for measuring, ironing, and such? If you need your sweater to be shorter pronto, You can try these quick fixes for your problem.

Tuck It In

Tuck it in. If your sweater isn’t too bulky, tucking it in may be your quickest solution. If you’re wearing a blazer over it, this could end up being a really nice look for you. Another option: the “tuckle,” tucking just a portion of the sweater in behind your belt buckle (hence the mashup, tuckle).

Fold- In and Secure With Safety Pins

Lay the sweater on a flat surface, wrong side out. Fold the bottom of the sweater up to the desired length. Use small safety pins at no more than 2 inch intervals to secure the temporary hem in place all the way around (if you are trying to hide a substantial amount of sweater length, this will look bulky).

Create a Temporary Hem With Enamel Pins

Use decorative pins to create a temporary hem. Fold the sweater length you want to take up inward, and hold it in place all the way around by using enamel pins like these. You can change the pins to create different looks. (If you have a school-aged child, this is a great way to hem their pants, too. As they grow taller, just adjust the pins.)

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