can i alter a sweater?
December 21, 2006 3:50 PM   Subscribe

can i get a sweater altered? it's a beautiful piece of clothing, but bunches a bit under the arms. otherwise it fits fine. would a tailor be able to take it in or does this call for a specialist?
posted by thinkingwoman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Commercial sweaters are either knit piece by piece and then sewn together, or cut from larger pieces of knitted cloth.

If you examine the seams of your sweater, you should be able to tell the difference. Are the edges kind of raveled, or finished with some kind of overlock stitch? They're almost certainly cut from a larger piece. If the edges look "clean" (I'm not quite sure how to describe the look of a knit edge, alas), it's knit piece by piece.

I personally would be okay with cutting a machine-knit sweater that's already cut from larger pieces (or having a professional do it, anyway), especially if it's at a fairly fine gauge, but I think cutting into a chunky knit and/or something knit piece by piece would make me nervous. It would really depend on the sweater, though.

Do you know anyone who knits? They might be able to look at the sweater and give you an idea of what you're looking at.

It might also be possible to unravel and reknit the sleeves (if that's where the problem lies) for better fit, but that would probably get very, very spendy.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2006

Is it a knitted sweater? If so, there are professionals who specialize in repair and alteration of knits. Here's one such place...
posted by amyms at 4:10 PM on December 21, 2006

As the hmsbeagle noted, whether the sweater is cut or full fashioned makes a huge difference. If it's cut, then, by all means, take it to someone who does alterations, and they should be able to alter it for you.

If it's full fashioned, though, you can still have it cut, but it should be properly stabilized for steeking first, and I suspect that most alterations people wouldn't know how to do that, at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2006

You will also need to take in consideration the type of sweater it is. If you have a drop-shoulder sweater where the sleeves are not set in at all, the sweater is intended to bunch under the arms and there isn't much you can do about it. The same goes for saddle shoulder. Place your sweater flat on your bed with the sleeves out in a T shape. Do the sleeves look as if they are tacked onto a tube (drop-shoulder) or do they look set into the main body of the sweater (set-in)? Is there a seam running at an angle from the armpit all the way to the neckine on the front and the back of the shoulder (raglan)?

A set in sleeve can be cut and sewn in just like fabric. The finer the gauge, the more likely this is to be the case. Most modern, store-bought sweaters will be set-in sleeves that have been sewn. Turn your sweater inside out. Do the seams sport an overlock stitched edge or do they look like a solid braid of yarn? The solid braid looking seam will indicate that your sleeves are at least partially full-fashioned. If it is full-fashioned, I would not alter it, especially if it is anything but a set-in sleeve.

If you choose to alter it, you are going to have to steek it. This means running a stitch up the knitted fabric to keep it from unravelling before your sew it together. Really, an overlock machine is your best bet as it steeks, sews, and cuts all in one. If your sweater is of a bulky yarn, the new seams you create may be so bulky that it may create a problem greater than the one seek to solve. Reknitting the sleeves would be a pain, even if you are a knitter as you have to unravel and straighten the yarn, then knit new sleeves using the same gauge and amount of yarn as before so it's best not to get into that. If the sleeves are sewn, then the yarn is cut anyway and knitting is not an option.

All in all, altering a sweater in anything heavier than a t-shirt weight will be a task best left to someone who knows sweaters and knits very well. Maybe a post with more details about your problem sweater could help.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:09 PM on December 21, 2006

I am not sure if by sweater you mean a jumper or a cardigan (UK terminology). If it is a jumper I would try and shrink wash it but only if it was huge to start with. If it is a cardie I would make a feature of the size and just wear it with a wide belt to cinch it in.

I am not a seamstress but I imagine wool is one of the hardest materials to work with as far as altering and I have had a lot altered in my time bar wool.
posted by mycapaciousbottega at 7:02 AM on December 22, 2006

wool actually is pretty easy to alter. silk, satin and velvet are much more difficult fabrics.

That said, foam pants is dead on. if you do get it altered, make sure that the tailor overlocks any cut seams, or you may have a ravelly mess on your hands, especially if the sweater is cotton or another smooth fiber
posted by kumquatmay at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2006

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