Monday, January 12, 2015

shortening sleeve length and taking in shoulder

Sode to kata wo tsumeru

I bought a blazer at Zara last winter, mostly because it was on sale. I bought a size Medium because the Small was too tight at the waist. The sleeves were too long, but this is a given for pretty much all off-the-rack jackets that I buy.

I wore the jacket to a work event, and during a bathroom break, I looked at myself in the mirror…and I looked like a normal 40-something year-old, except I was dressed like a girls' school student who'd inherited her uniform from an upperclassman she had a crush on, and the uniform was 2 sizes too big.

(I never actually did this, but I had a friend who did. She said it was normal for her junior high school.)

So I put the jacket away and vowed to shorten the sleeves and take in the shoulders, it and it hung in my closet for…about 8 months. (Yes, story of my life.)

It was part of my New Year Holiday to do list, and I finally got it done. Once I got going, it was pretty straightforward, if time-consuming. The procedure went like this:

1. Rip the lining from the jacket at the cuffs and bottom hem
2. Turn the jacket inside out
3. Rip the sleeves out at the armholes, remove batting and shoulder pads
4. Sketch new back side seams
5. Sketch new armhole seam on sleeve, apply interfacing where insufficient
6. Sew sleeves back at new armhole seams
7. Hand stitch batting and shoulder pads to new armhole
8. Shorten sleeve lining at (about) elbow)
9. Hand stitch lining to jacket at cuffs and bottom hem

To explain:

If you rip a sleeve away from the armhole and cut it open, it looks more or less like this. Depending on how loose or fitted the sleeve is, it might have darts or even an extra seam, but the basic premise is usually the same. For explanation purposes, I'm ignoring the darts and seams.
If you want to shorten the sleeve 4 cm, your new armhole seam needs to be 4 cm below the original armhole seam. So you sketch the new armhole seam with tailor's chalk. 

The new armhole seam needs to be parallel to the old seam. If you do this right, the new armhole seam will be a little bit shorter than the original seam.

I also wanted to take in the shoulders and sides. The new armhole seam would be 1 cm inside the old seam at the shoulder. The new side seam would be 1 cm inside the old seam at the bottom of the armhole, 2 cm inside at the waist, and meet the original side seam at the hem. I could only alter the back side seam, because the front side seam hit the vented flap pockets.

This adjustment would (in addition to improving the fit at the shoulder and sides) make the armhole a little smaller, and (hopefully) fit the new sleeve armhole seam. 
So here goes.

I ripped out the stitches holding the lining to the cuff and hem. Then, I ripped out the sleeve from the armhole.
I marked the new armhole seam with tailor's chalk. I also hand stitched along the new sew line (as thread marks), in case the chalk wore off, and also to let me see the new sew line even when I was working on the other side of the fabric. 
The new shoulder seam was only partially covered by interfacing. Curved seams like this need interfacing, to keep from stretching. 

So I added an interfacing "patch" to cover that part of the seam.

I trimmed the new seam allowance to about 1.5 cm (5/8 in. for my American friends) and sewed two rows of stitches by hand along the seam. I pulled the threads and pressed the sleeve shoulder to a shoulder shape, using a rolled-up towel to make the sleeve shape (because I'm too cheap to buy a sleeve ham.)

BTW, sleeve hams are called sleeve cakes (sode manjuu) in Japanese. 
I sketched a new armhole seam on the bodice. Taking in the shoulder of the blazer made the armhole lager, but taking in the sides of the blazer made the armhole a little bit smaller. I tried fitting the sleeve to the armhole, and it fit! (If it hadn't, I might have raised the side seam slightly, or re-sketched the armhole seam on the sleeve.) Then I re-stitched the armhole following the new seams, and trimmed the bodice armhole seam to match the sleeve armhole seam. 

This jacket had batting stitched to the sleeve side of the armhole. It was machine stitched to the seam allowance of just the sleeve piece, and there was no way I could recreate that. Still, the batting was adding a bit of needed shape to the shoulder. So I hand-stitched it to the sleeve seam allowance.
Then I hand-stitched the original shoulder pad just outside (seam allowance side) the shoulder seam. I stitched it so the edge of the shoulder pad was about 1 cm outside the shoulder seam. I made sure the stitching was slightly loose, because otherwise they would strain the shoulder pads when the jacket was turned right side out again.

I stitched the lining back to the cuffs and hem, and I was done!

The blazer fit a little more tightly around the armholes than it did before (obviously) and looked a little less boxy. The sleeves were finally the right length. I'm sure a professionally custom-tailored jacket would fit much better. I'm sure a professionally custom-altered jacket would fit much better too. But I look so much better than when everything was too large. I'm fairly pleased with the result. The work event I wore this to last year is coming up. Maybe I'll wear this jacket!


Annie Crow said...

Wow. I'm floored.

pumpkinmommy said...

Thank you! I'm really surprised at how well it turned out!