Tutorial: Invisible elbow patches to protect sweaters

I present to you... a new super handy tutorial! So often I with lightweight sweaters I find the elbows get stretched out when I bend my arms in them, so I actually hesitate to wear some of my sweaters too much. When I wash them they normally bounce back, but you can't wash sweaters too often, either, and I don't wash the wool ones! I like to make my clothes last, so it occurred to me to add something like a patch on them, the way preppy professor-ey blazers and Irish fisherman's sweaters have leather patches on them--and while I like that look sometimes, I don't want them on all my sweaters!



So I recently developed and made official this technique to protect the elbows of delicate and lightweight sweaters with an invisible elbow patch. It's reinforced from the inside, so if you use a perfect thread color, nothing has to show! Dang lightweight sweaters...

Know what I mean? Look how soft and thin this thing is. I'm like, afraid to wear it too much!!

This weekend I had an extra few hours for crafting and computer time, and I settled in with these lightweight sweaters and made them safer to wear! ;)


Invisible Elbow Patch Tutorial


1. Try on the sweater and bend your elbow. Insert a pin at the center of the point of your elbow. Do this on both sides.

2. Take off the sweater carefully. Hopefully your pins will be mostly symmetrical. I split the difference on this one and moved both pins a little.

3. With some scrap paper, cut an oval the approximate size you want your elbow patches to be. I just eyeballed it, but if you're wondering, this one's about 4 3/8" by 3". You can see where I folded it in half twice to make sure it was symmetrical top-bottom and left-right!

Cut out two of the pattern piece out of fusible knit interfacing like this Pellon stuff I used (found some online here as well). Pellon Ek 130 Easy-Knit.

4. Carefully turn the sweater inside out, keeping the pins in place. Center the pin under the interfacing oval.

5. Press down the patch, on both sides. Again try to make them symmetrical (in relation to the side seams and to the cuffs--that is, horizontally and vertically).

6. (This part is super awkward.) With the sweater still inside out, wrestle with your sleeve so you get can sew through the interfacing around the edges of the entire oval.

I used a straight stitch, but you could do a little zigzag if you wanted. If you use a straight stitch, stretch the sweater a little as you sew--both the sweater and interfacing are knit so they have some give, but the straight stitch won't stretch with them and you risk ripping a stitch if you sew it too tight.

(Note: it's most important for your BOBBIN thread to match the sweater on this because you're sewing on the inside, and the bobbin thread will show on the outside!)

7. Turn right side out and give another press if you need to. Done!

Here they are!

I highly recommend doing this to your delicate sweaters some Saturday. Put on some good Netflix and settle in. It doesn't take much concentration once you get the hang of it, but if you're like me, you'll need a couple episodes of The Mindy Project to keep you company.

4 comments

  1. For a really invisible solution I like to underline the elbows with a piece of silk organza, stitched only to the side seams. Works for lightweight sweaters or wovens like bouclé. If you need more stretch a well placed piece of pantyhose works as well!

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  2. Such terrific ideas for protecting the elbows of sweaters! I wear lightweght sweaters most of the time during the chilly weather, and I'm So tired of the elbows going wonky on me. These tips should to the trick! Thanks so much for posting. :)

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  3. Love this idea, will bookmark it for the future!---Lea

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