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Shortening Tee Shirt Sleeves

Kriya | Posted in Fitting on

I bought a tee shirt through the mail.  I’m a 5′ tall woman, the shirt is probably meant for a tall man.  The all-cotton shirt is comfortable in the body circumference, but the “short sleeves” are elbow length on me!  The shirt doesn’t come in “women’s sizes”, so even a smaller shirt would have the same sleeve-length problem. 

I’ll wash the shirt once before trying to do an alteration. 

Does anybody have any recommendations for shortening the sleeves?  If I totally remove them the arm hole will be too low and I think fiddling with that would alter the appearance of the decorated portion of the shirt. 

The sleeves are at least twice the length I need them to be.  Right now I have the sleeves simply tucked up into themselves, forming a slight shoulder pad and leaving the original sleeve hem exposed.  Is there any way to stitch this and have it look neat?  Has anybody had a good experience using snaps to keep tee shirt sleeves tucked up?  


  1. starzoe | | #1

    One of the things you can do is to put straps on your sleeves; attach a tape (or decorative finished strips) at the shoulder seam on the inside. Make it long enough to go down, next to your body and up over the sleeve where you sew either snaps, or buttonhole on the strap and button on the sleeve. Practice with different lengths to find an attractive one.

    The sleeve will be gathered at the top edge and drawn up on the underarm. The great thing is that you can try this without sewing a thing and dump the idea if you don't care for the look. To add a girly touch you could cut off the sleeve somewhat and apply a lettuce edge with a zigzag stitch. For a lettuce edge, use a small zigzag and stretch the fabric as much as you can while sewing. Try it first on a scrap piece.

  2. LindaG | | #2

    Here are a few suggestions on how to hem knits. Don't use a straight stitch along the hem edge - it will stretch and look bumpy. And hand sewing on knits is somehow not quite the right look.

    1. Turn up and press the new hem. Sew the hem from the right side with a double needle. This gives the look of a cover stitch (two parallel rows of stitching). I like the 3.0 stretch twin (smaller numbers mean that the needles are closer together).

    2. If you have a serger, use the blind hem foot. This will create a mock band.

    3. Use a piece of the trimmed off sleeve to create a self binding (sort of a Hong Kong finish).

    4. Blind hem with a regular sewing machine.

    Good luck!

    1. rekha | | #7

      >> serger, use the blind hem foot

      I haven't got the foot and have been trying to do this as suggested in the highly recommended book Serger Secrets, but am getting a lot of stitches in the front.

      I am using the longest stitch available on the machine.

      Guidance needed

      1. Teaf5 | | #8

        Sorry, can't help with serger problems, but I shorten tee shirt sleeves by cutting them off, pressing the hem, and then running two rows of topstitching (with a conventional machine) at the top end of the hem.  It looks exactly like a readymade sleeve and takes about five minutes to do both sleeves.

      2. Ralphetta | | #9

        If you haven't used a double needle you might not be aware that the reason it was recommended for hemming T-shirts/sleeves is that not only does it give two perfect parallel rows of stitching but equally important, the bobbin thread zigzags which allows it to stretch and then return to shape much better than two rows of straight stitches. It takes a few more minutes to set up and thread, but the results always make me glad I took the time.

  3. Ralphetta | | #3

    Be really careful because if you only shorten the sleeve without making some other adjustments you will find yourself or your underwear exposed to everyone through the sleeve holes.  be sure to check the side view when you raise your arms.

  4. woodruff | | #4

    You might want to try Pamela's patterns #103, T-shirt makeover. I haven't tried the pattern personally, but it has gotten excellent reviews at http://www.patternreview.com


    1. Evie | | #6

      Dear Kruya-- "Pamela's Patterns"  T-shirt Makeover  #103  pattern is great. I have made several shirts over and they look really nice. If the sleeve is long enough you could cut a new one and fold it double so that you won't need a hem. Good luck.                         Evie

  5. stitchintime | | #5

    I don't know where the decorated part of the shirt is, so this might not work.  Instead of cutting off the bottom of the sleeve and rehemming, could you remove the sleeves, cut off the amount you need from the sleeve cap (following the shape of the sleeve cap so it will fit back in) and then resew the sleeve back into the armhole?

  6. Betakin | | #10

    I would just mark the sleeve length needed and serge off the sleeve but leave enough for a seam allowance to turn up the serged edge then just top stitch the hem with a sewing machine maybe even using a deco stitch. I like to do my deco stitches in nice contrasting colors and I would probably use the same stitch around the neckline or even at the bottom hem of the shirt if I felt fancy.

    You could also use the serger to do a blind hem or a flatlock hem. Many store bought Tee's have flatlocked hems and seams for a nice look.

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