Easily Fix Shirts with Too-Large Sleeves or Too-Long Shoulder Seams

People are built in different ways but clothing is manufactured with certain dimensions in mind – whether they fit everyone or not. If you seem to be one of those people who finds themselves with short sleeves that look like 3/4 sleeves, or with sleeves that are simply too big around for your arms, you can take a few snips and stitches to fix the problem.

You don’t have to be an expert with a sewing machine to fix shirts that are too big, but sleeves are slightly more complicated than, say, hemming a too-long shirt. When it comes to hems and widths, most people who sew even a little can handle the challenge, but sleeves are slightly more bother.

A quick way to take sleeves up in the length is to sew in elastic. Lay the shirt out flat, while it’s inside-out, and make sure the sleeve is not wrinkled or twisted. Draw a line down the fold on the top part of the sleeve. Disappearing ink markers, found in fabric stores, are perfect for this task, but you can also use chalk. The line should go from the sleeve hem to the shoulder seam.

Position the sleeve under the presser foot to where the back of the foot is butted up against the shoulder seam. Stitch an inch or so, back-stitch, then begin stitching eighth-inch elastic down the drawn line. Stop at the bottom edge of the hem and backstitch. The elastic will cause the sleeve to draw up and give a unique look to the shirt.

For sleeves that are just too big around, or for ones where the shoulder seam is too big, you can cut the sleeve out and start anew. Lay the shirt, right-side out, on a table. Draw a mark that goes from the shoulder seam, onto the sleeve a few inches. Draw two more marks: one on each side of the underarm seam. The marks should go from the actual garment over onto the sleeve a few inches. Cut the sleeve off, leaving the original seam attached to the shirt itself.

Now prepare to cut the seam off of the shirt, at the armhole opening. If the shirt’s shoulder seam is too large, you’ll be able to fix that problem as well. If the arm hole is just too large you’ll need to work on the side seam to make it fit more appropriately. From the hem, stitch towards the armhole opening, tapering towards the armhole. Continue past where the original armhole was cut, and stitch slightly further up, depending upon how large the sleeve is. If it’s way to large, come up a couple of inches or so from the original opening.

If the shirt fits you well everywhere, and you don’t want it to be any smaller across the belly or chest, follow the original seam until you get to the armhole area, then proceed past the original cut of the armhole.

Stitch the sleeve, to make it smaller, by starting with the hem and tapering off towards the armhole. If you took the armhole in by two inches on the actual shirt, take in two inches from the under seam of the sleeve.

With shirt inside-out and sleeve right-side out, align the sleeve into the armhole, matching up the marks you drew. Sew the sleeve back into the garment, starting and ending at the underarm junction.

It’s difficult to find shirts that fit perfectly, but with a sewing machine and a half-hour or so, your clothes will look like they’re tailored just for you.

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