Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Tutorial: How to take in a sweater

This is a short and simple tutorial, but contains some useful info nonetheless.  I wanted to show you all how I take in sweaters... so often, you have a cute sweater but it's shaped like a square instead of a human torso, and unless it's snug and you're relying on the knit to hug your curves, it may need a nipping in at the waist.  The problem is that knitting is soft, and thread does not give the way the sweater will, so when you sew on it you create a place that does not move and stretch naturally and it can look very off.  Also unlike taking in a blouse or woven garment, a knit sweater is not attached with thread at all!  There's no seam allowance, even, so you have to make your own by pressing carefully.  Okay, let's just go to the tutorial:
  • Take your sweater.  This is a cute cardi from the little girl's section of Old Navy, super clearance, that is shapeless like a kid's body.  Not flattering.
  • There is no true seam allowance, as I mentioned, but turn your sweater inside out and press it as if there were, folding it along the side seam.  You'll be taking in this seam, so it must be totally flat and symmetrical.  Add some pins to keep it in place.
  •  Now you can do your seam.  Starting below the armhole (if it's too big there, there's not much you can do about it so don't bother! ;)), slowly taper down toward the part that's too big.  I started taking in mine just below the bust.
Stop sewing before the ribbing or whatever hem substitute your sweater has at the bottom begins. That means you'll  have to taper it back and not take in too much; otherwise you'll have an odd-looking flip out at the bottom.  The ribbing makes it look smaller than the sweater, but it probably has the same number of stitches, so this technique gives you only a gradual dart to the sweater.
  •  Turn it right side out and take a look.  Should look pretty much the same at the ribbing.  
  • Take in the same amount on both sides, of course.
  • Try it on.  If that 1/2"-1" of take-in on each side was enough for you, yay!  Perfect.  But if not (mine was still baggy), read on.
  • You can continue your dart seam to the very bottom of the sweater, through the ribbing or hem finish, but you have to make sure you line up the bottom on both sides.  Depending on the cut, it could be longer or shorter in front and this can make the bottom look like a stair step if you sew it closer together and the bottoms don't match.  But with an even cardigan, you just need to pin carefully to make sure the front or back doesn't stretch more than the other, keeping both sides together all the way.
  • Both sides, baby!  I matched mine up and used a fabric pen to mark where one side's new seam was, to make both match.
  • Try it on again.  Does it fit better now?  Make sure you've pressed both sides flat.
  •  Ta-da!  See the more feminine hint of a waistline?


  1. Anonymous10/08/2010

    Great tutorial! Thanks! Too bad I didn't save FIVE baggy sweaters I had :( Next time I'll keep this in mind.

    Maria from:

  2. I've been wondering what I was going to do with a sweater that I was given that was a little too big for me. Thanks for your crafty expertise!

  3. Great tutorial! I have several sweaters I've done this to already - it's a great way to revamp hand-me-downs.

    I'm glad you're making this technique available to more people!

  4. Thanks- that is so useful!!!

  5. I had no idea you could alter knits! Thank you for opening up a whole other aisle in the thrift store!

  6. Great tutorial. I recently tried my first alteration - a stretchy knit - I way over tapered and it looked weird, but I finally got it. Thanks for the explanation.

  7. Hi... Your blog is wonderfull.
    Many great ideas and inspiration!!!


  8. Nice tutorial! Once you've gotten the shape how you want it, you could also remove the extra fabric and finish the seam with a serger so there isn't any extra bulk. (Or you could finish it by hand, if you have the patience to stitch around the seam. I'm pretty sure that I don't!)

  9. Hi Suzannah, nice to meet you.
    I came to your blog through a link from Craft Magazine and it looks amazing. I already following you.
    I'm a crafter as u can see in my blog but I don't sew. Yet. I intend to buy a sewing machine soon and I want to ask you about to sew cotton like t-shirts. I think it needs a special machine or specific supplies, am I wrong?

    Could you help me, pls?

    Thank you!


  10. I just found your blog and I am so happy I did. I actually found it through another blog that had it featured (The Last Stitch). I have very much enjoyed going through some of your old posts--I still have more to go through. Your blog is exactly what I have been looking for. I love to try and knock off pieces from anthropologie and kate spade and you have covered a couple of things already that I have been wondering how to do. I am beyond thrilled that I have found this treasure!!!! I have put you on my blogroll.

  11. Anonymous10/10/2010

    Cool!!! I've done this several times with all kinds of sweaters and tops after losing weight. Yours gives me a few details I didn't take in to consideration so I'd have a better fit...thanks!!!!

  12. Excellent tutorial! Knits can be tricky & you took into consideration many of the things we don't always think about when working with them. Thank you!
    I found you through Craft Magazine & I love your informative (& cute) site. I just became a follower...

  13. Great idea thanks for sharing with us. Love the colour of the cardi as well.

  14. Thank you!! I really needed this.

  15. I love this, but have a bunch of thicker sweaters that have lost their shape over time. I'm talking heavy cotton and wool sweaters... Is there any way I can take these in, too?

  16. So glad you all have found the tutorial helpful!!
    @j_glover, thicker sweaters are much tougher to take in gracefully since they can easily look bulky and add thickness inside the seam. I recommend a dry run with really big stitches on the machine so you can take it out if it looks bad--if the shape works for you, go over the basting stitches with normal ones and depending on the sweater, (eek) trim off the excess seam allowance. Carefully!

  17. I have a serger - would it be feasible to use that?

  18. @Crazy bird--yes, you could serge it, but sew with a regular machine first just in case, to make sure the size fits!

  19. I was in a hurry one day at Old Navy and accidentally bought a maternity cardigan! Since I live pretty far away from the store, it wasn't feasible for me to return it, and this looks like a great solution! Thank you for saving me thirty bucks!

  20. Thanks for this! I used your instructions here


  21. yay! i was recently given an isaac mizrahi sweater 2 sizes too big! now i can wear it all thanks to your tutorial! woo! glad i didn't give it away yet.

    :) *smiles all round*

  22. phyllis grossman6/06/2011

    i knitted myself a sweater dress lovely , on asking how to desize it it came out to wide no one could help me. taking it apart would be the worst!
    seeing your instructions made me the happiest, for now i would be able to wear it this winter. also i cut the hem on my new pants one inch to short.
    how can i remedy this? do i also have to get the same sort of fabrick to adjust the length. thank you phyllis

  23. Anonymous8/03/2011

    could you take in the sleeves?

  24. Yes, sure, you can use the same technique on the sleeves if you're careful around the armseye.

  25. Anonymous12/26/2011

    Oh my gosh! This is SO PERFECT! I bought a sweater from a store I love where even the smalls are baggy on me! I've been wearing it like that! :P Definitely will try this out!

  26. This is great! I have a sweater I really love from last winter, but I lost a lot of weight and now I want to re-size it; trying it NOW... wish me luck!

  27. You mention that stitches can be tight when sewing knit, but don't tell us what length and type of stitch you used. It's helpful with a sewing tutorial to explain how your machine is set up. :)

  28. Fanny, I have taken in sweaters like this for my daughter. If it is a fine knit that is fitted and you are afraid of putting stress on the seam and the stitches popping, due to to straight stitches not having any give, you can do a very small zig zag or a stretch stitch. If you have the one that looks like a lightening strike it would work very well. Other wise just may the width of the stitch very narrow. If it is a really fine knit top yo might need a stretch or knit needle as well to avoid skipped stitches.

  29. A slight zig-zag stitch will give stretch.

  30. Could you explain a bit more about how you match the seam up to the other side?

  31. You mean how you make them the same size? It's a little tricky, but fold the sweater in half once you've done one side and use a fabric pen or poke pins through the seam to the un-sewn side. Then take the pins out and reproduce the shape/holes with just the un-sewn side. Wish I had better pictures on here but I don't think I do--but there are some in my upcoming book, out in June!



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