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Altering a Sweater

trubey | Posted in Fitting on

I just found this forum this morning when looking for sewing information. I want to do something which is probably impossible, but I thought maybe someone could at least tell me what doesn’t work.

I own two new sweaters which are quite tight around the abdomen. I am considering opening up the seams and adding a gusset of a stretch fabric in a constrasting or matching fabric.

I know I should probably just lose weight, but somehow I never seem to succeed in that department. And somehow, I bought these two too-tight sweaters because I loved them.



  1. stitchmd | | #1

    This year's style is very snug below the bust, with shirts and sweaters too tight around the abdomen and hips on a lot of women. At least you recognize the problem, while a lot of women are walking around in very unflattering tops.

    This can definitely be done. Do you have experience with sewing? It's definitely not a beginner project. You will need inserts that are similar in weight and stretch and can be washed or cleaned the same way as the rest of the sweater.

    The side seams may have been serged together and might ravel if you cut away the stitches. You would need to do something to stabilize those edges before you disassembled the seams.

    1. trubey | | #2

      Thanks for responding. I just hate to be one of "THOSE" women.

      I am quite comfortable with most types of sewing: machine and hand work. I've made quite a number of garments, but I am not really used to doing much in the way of alterations. I do not have a serger and thought that after I open the seams of the sweater, I would refinish them by hand.

      As far as fabric goes, I have been looking through my wardrobe for something that I own that I can cut apart and use. Perhaps a heavy jersey or sweatshirt? I live in the Azores, so my choice of fabric is very limited. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

      Do you think it would be better—from a style or fit perspective—if the inserts started at the underarm seam or near the bust?

      I've posted pictures in my yahoo album, if you can take a look. I'm hoping my link posts correctly as I've never done it on these boards. There are two sweaters I am referring to. The blue is in a soft fuzzy yarn. The white is in a sharper, cotton. And I’ve just noticed that after storing them for a few months, they really need washing and ironing.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. susan.


      Edited 9/17/2005 8:15 am ET by trubey

      1. stitchmd | | #3

        I'm guessing the inserts will be long, narrow wedge shapes starting as a point under the arm and widening gradually. What angle the sides form will depend on how much you need to add at what level. The darker one looks hand knit, or maybe crocheted, hard to see. The collar is definitely knitted but the body is either knitted in garter stitch or crocheted in single crochet. It is definitely made of hand knitting yarn or something equivalent. Is there such a thing as a yarn store where you live? This might be a good time to learn to knit or crochet to make the gussets. They wouldn't use much yarn and could be done with basic skills. If this sweater has a side seam it will probably be fine to take it out as the front and back should have been done as finished pieces, not cut from yardage. The gussets can be added with whip stitch by hand, or kitchener stitch, which is an invisible grafting stitch for seaming hand knits.The white one looks definitely machine knit and might come apart the same way or might be from cut pieces, so approach the disassembly more carefully. It looks thick enough that you'd need similar fabric, not something cut from a top or dress weight knit fabric. Maybe a double layer of fabric would work, it's worth trying. They are nice sweaters and I can see why you want to tackle this project and wish you success.

      2. Teaf | | #4

        Another option might be to make cardigans out of them, with grosgrain or knitted panels in the front rather than on the side, where they most likely would look as though they'd been gusseted for width.

        I've successfully zigzag stitched down both sides of the center front, then sliced open the pullover between the two lines of stitching, then faced or bound the edges with something beautiful but contrasting, and added buttons or tabs.  The long, vertical lines in the front are slimming, and the contrast looks intentional rather than accidental, as a near-but-not-perfect match would.  You can still get a nice effect even if you wear it buttoned for warmth.

        1. trubey | | #5

          This is incredible. I've been mulling over my choices for at least a few weeks, now. And just yesterday, I said to myself, couldn't I make them into cardigans. I was still in the ruminating stage and wondering about the technique when I saw your post.I think I'll be trying something like that. It will be my project for next week. Thanks loads. susan.

          1. mem | | #6

            I was thinking the smae thing I think you could use a lovely grograin ribbon or braid and then you would have something that didnt look let out . What about making a coordinating top to go underneath??

          2. trubey | | #7

            I'm still taking the sweater's out every few days and staring at them. You guys have given me some good suggestions. I'm still a bit nervous about cutting into them. s.

          3. sueb | | #8

            Well look at it this way, unless you cut into them you can't wear them right?  Everytime I get nervous about cutting into a piece of my handwoven fabric or something that I am altering I think to myself, well unless I cut into it, I can't move onto the second step.  I actually just cut up a beautiful wool cape that I bought years ago but never wore.  I finally decided that the wool was too beautiful to let sit in the closet unworn so I laid it out on the cutting table and started cutting !  I am working on embelishing the jacket that I made out of it.   It was scary sure, but hey I figured it wasn't doing me any good hanging in the back of the closet not getting worn anyway.

            Go for it !


          4. mem | | #9

            Yes I know what you mean I alwys hasten slowley. Why dont you go an d get a sweater from an op shop and practise your proposed method . I have seen cardigans done like this with grograin ribbon but without button or any fastening . You could also include some hooks in the front You know that tape with hooks in it , you could sandwich it between the two pieces of ribbon  and leave it done up most of the time and just pop it over you head.

          5. starzoe | | #10

            This technique is called steeking.  Look into Google for more information.  You can make a lovely cardigan this way.  The idea to buy a sweater at a thrift store and practice is a very good one.....one that knitters use if they don't want to freak out by cutting their own knitwear.

          6. Alexandra | | #11

            Bit daunting to cut up your beautiful sweaters.  Practising on a cheap on is a very good idea.  Be sure to run to lines of stitching up the front and cut between them.  We want pictures when your done.

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