Tailor Your Own Clothes . Sewing 101

February 18, 2013 separator DIY Tutorial

Thanks to Valerie of Threads Thoughts Things and Dottie Adele for yet another amazing Sewing 101 installment. I have to say that (besides this), this might be my favorite of her tutorials yet. It’s just such a great, versatile, and practical skill, even if you never plan to sew anything from scratch. (shirt via Macy’s)

Have you ever found the perfect dress while thrift shopping, but a size too big?  Ever been handed down a fabulous top, but the fit isn’t quite right?  No more having to let those finds go!  Here is the quickest, simplest way to take in clothing to get a perfect fit–without paying high prices at a professional tailor!

Before we get started though, don’t forget about the rest of the Sewing 101 series!

  • Garment to be altered (shirt or dress for this tutorial)
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Straight pins
  • Matching thread
  • Full-length mirror
1.   Try on your garment and use the mirror to study the parts that you want to take in.  For my shirt, the main issues were that the area across my chest was too big and the armpit area was about an inch lower than it should have been.  The rest of the top fit just fine, but I wanted the top portion to be more fitted.
2.   Once you’ve identified what you would like to be altered, flip your garment inside out and put it on again.  Use your straight pins to pin along the sides seams, taking in your garment so that it fits the way you would like.  I pinned mine up the side of the bust and under the arms.  This might require some contortionism or the help of a friend!
If you have a dress, the basic idea is the same.  If your dress needs to be taken in along the hips or legs, pin the sides so that they fit, but be sure you still have enough room to walk!
3.   Very carefully take off your garment (those pins will get ya!) and lay it on a flat surface, inside out, with the pins still in place.
4.   Now we want to make sure that we have taken in everything evenly from both sides.  First, I laid my measuring tape in a straight line across the bottom of my pinning, to make sure I began at the same place on each side.  Make any adjustments necessary to make the starting points on each side the same.  If your garment needs to be taken in all the way to the bottom edge, move to the next step.
5.   Next, measure from outside edge of the seams in to where you have pinned on each side.  I had taken in approximately 1″ from the right side and slightly more on the left side, so I evened out the pinning and made them both 1″.  Symmetry is key!  Repeat all the way down your garment on both sides, making sure it is all even.
6.   If you are taking in sleeves or armholes, match up the seams exactly.  Make sure that the seam at the armpit is perfectly in line from both sides.  If your top has any other seams at the waist or attaching a skirt to a bodice, make sure they are lined up as well.
7.   At your sewing machine, change your stitch length setting to a long basting straight stitch (4.5mm-6mm).  Sew along the sides seams you pinned in, just inside the pins.  Basting is not meant to be a permanent stitch – we’ll use it now as a quick way to test if our alterations are correct before sewing the final seams.

8.   Be sure that your new seam merges gradually into the original seam.  Sharp corners or crooked stitching will not look as neat from the outside.  The new seam should join the old seam in one nice, smooth line.

9.   When you have basted both sides, turn your garment right side out and try it on.  It should now fit you the way that you would like.  If there is any area that still needs adjusting, flip it inside out again and repeat the previous steps.  If it does fit well, move on to the next step!
10.   Turn your garment inside out again and take it back to the sewing machine.  If your garment is a knit (stretchy) fabric, use a zigzag stitch to sew directly back over your basting stitches.  If your garment was a woven (non-stretchy) fabric, use a straight, shorter stitch (2.5mm) to sew directly back over your basting stitches.
11.   Cut off the excess fabric to the outside of your new seams.  Cut very close to the stitches you just made.
12.   Flip it right outside one last time, try it on, and enjoy your new fit!

Dottie Adele on Etsy
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  1. Glad to hear that you found the information useful. Sharing with friends is always a great way to spread knowledge and help others learn. Thank you for your positive feedback

  2. It’s too bad to check your article late. I wonder what it would be if we met a little faster. I want to exchange a little more, but please visit my site bitcoincasino and leave a message!!

    1. It should work; you’ll just need to carefully line up the bottom of the arm hole so that it’s straight across rather than jagged, if that makes sense. Happy sewing! 🙂

  3. Thanks for being so thorough in your instructions. Some experienced sewing bloggers take for granted that we all know how to do the simple stuff!! Thank you!

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