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alterations – finding how to’s

Ellen_McCurley | Posted in The Archives on

I buy a lot of items at thrift stores, garage stores, resell stores , etc. I have taught myself to do some alterations. Are there any directions available? I can not find anything.


  1. Chris_Haynes | | #1

    Many basic sewing books have instructions on how to alter clothes. Essentially, if you know how to fit and construct a garment, you can work on altering it.

    Several years ago I bought a book called the _Needleworkers Constant Companion_ which not only had basic instructions on how to sew, but how to modify clothes to fit. That book has been out of print for almost 20 years... but you should be able to find something in a bookstore or library.

    And, it seems to properly alter a garment, you have to take it apart and put it back together. Essentially it is like sewing a new garment, but using the thrift store item as a source of fabric (like removing the waistband from a skirt completely and then modifying the waistband larger or smaller, and then sewing the skirt back on).

    Past issues on Threads have had specific articles on changing clothes (I'm thinking of finding one on modifying a tailored jacket from a couple of years ago... from what I remember of the article, it involved undoing most of the seams, recutting and then reconstructing the jacket). Many times there are articles on the Threads website, like this one on tight jeans (http://www.taunton.com/th/features/fitandfabric/35tightjeans.htm)

    Good luck, Chris

    1. Julia_Fletcher | | #2

      *I have recently discovered a wonderful book: "Wardrobe Quick-Fixes" by Jan Saunders (publ. Krause). She goes through a wide range of alterations and repairs, in a slightly anecdotal way, but there is a lot of information there. I particularly like the ideas for restyling garments; that might be useful for the kind of stuff you mention. Sometimes just by little changes, e.g. to the lapels, length or buttons, you can really improve the look of a garment or make it work with something else you already have.

      1. Cea_Robbins | | #3

        *Chris, it is possible to do alterations on ready-made garments without completely deconstructing them.(Unless you are,for example,cutting an over-sized garment down to a smaller size.I think I remember the Threads article you mentioned, and it was re: cutting down a man's suit jacket to fit a small woman.) I run a small alterations business, and routinely do many types of quality alterations, quickly and efficiently.My pricing list covers over 300 specific alterations, so you can see that it is not something which can be taught in 10 minutes. Ellen, Julia recommended a good book.Most of us who do alterations learn by trial-and-error, which seems to be what you are doing. Thrift-shop clothing is an excellent choice for practice garments.When you attempt an alteration, always try to make the finished result look as good, or better, than it was when you began. BTW, I haunt the thrift shops for scads of items, among them: beaded sweaters to re-cut, fancy buttons, suede, leathers, metallics;anything to feed the fabraholic demon.

        1. A.J. | | #4

          *HI All,I just got into sewing about a year ago. I have made a couple of tailored outfits for myself, which was quite a challenge.For fitting/alterations there are a few excellent books out there: Thickett's "The Cutter's Practical Guide to Defects and REmedies in Fit and Style" ,Dellafera's "Defects and REmedies in Tailor Made Garments" , Wilson's "The ARt of Cutting and Fitting" and "The ARt of Fitting Ladies'Garments" by Withwort Green. Some of the newer books are: Carlin's "Alteration of Men's Clothing" and Johnson's "Guide to Altering and RE-Styling Ready-Made Clothes."However, these are out-of-print books, but not impossible to find. They are great, contain a wealth of info!A.J.

          1. Pat_Keenan | | #5

            *>I am a petite but always seem to need pants shortened to fit and because most if not all pants taper just a bit at the bottom, I've always taken them for a professional alteration. I'd really like to find out how they deal with a tapered leg or sleeve so that I can learn to do these myself and save that money. Thanks

          2. marie_bucuvalas | | #6

            *Mary Roehr - Altering Women's Ready to Wear, and Altering Men's Ready to Wear - she's top notch, and there may be a phone # to order from in the back of a Threads. Includes tapered pants hems.

          3. Linda_England | | #7

            *I need to shorten the sleeves on a lined wool blazer and don't know where to start. Is there anyone who can give me some advice? Thanks.

          4. Joyce_Murphy | | #8

            *Linda,here's how I shorten jacket sleeves with a mitered vent. Chalk mark the new hem line and remove the original hem. Replace interfacingif necessary. (I don't unless the original is all cut off or the fabric issoft. If it has the sewn in kind I move it into the new position.) Now you're ready to work on theupper sleeve miter for the new vent. The trick is to come up with a quickmethod that will always get you a smoothly mitered corner for the top (uppersleeve) part of the vent. Start by turning the sleeve inside out. Fold thehem allowance up to the inside. (See the illustration -Picture 1). Now fold the vent to the inside on top of the hem allowance (Picture 2). Where all thicknesses meet in the inside corner take alittle snip with your scissors. Then place a pin at the bottom point of thevent (Picture 3). Open up the vent and hem folds, now match up the snip marks rightsides together and sew from the snips to the pin at the point of the vent.This should give you a perfect miter. As you turn the fabric back to theinside open the seam allowance so that it fills the space in the corner. Ido not trim inside the vent. I find it isn't necessary and besides you neverknow if the sleeve length will need to change again and that fabric insidewill be needed. After that's done make the underside match up tothe mitered side, sew this in finished position and anchor the 2 parts ofthe vent together on the inside. Tack the sleeve hem up on the "insleeve seam" by machine. Then hand stitch the rest of the hem allowance in place if necessary. The last step is to hand stitch the lining back in place. (Be sure to leave extra length in the lining or it will create a pull on theoutside). Sorry I didn't answer right away. Got behind in my e-mail reading. Hope this helps.JoyceJSM Patternshttp://www.jsmpatterns.com

          5. bradford56 | | #9

            Hi Joyce,

            I was searching to find something on shortening Jacket sleeves -- with a miter -- and saw your email. It was the email only, without illustrations, and I must admit, I had a hard time following it, although I'm fairly familiar with sewing/machines/patterns/alterations.

            I've taken out the hem, loosened the previous miter (even "picking" out the fake buttonholes) and now I'm ready to shorten, but am unsure of the lining and/or how to measure/tuck under the placket.

            Am I making sense? Can you help? (With the jacket sleeve, not the making sense!)


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