How to shorten sleeves using elastic

Sometimes it is very small things that stop us wearing items of clothing. Take this jumper for example. It sits in my wardrobe, I pull it out to wear it and every time I put it back as I remember that it annoys me. The arms get too long and baggy. I’m forever pulling up the sleeves for them to fall down seconds later.

There are many ways to shorten sleeves of tops and shirts but it is a bit trickier when it comes to jumpers. No problem if you can knit, but sadly I lack this skill. Knitwear and jersey (fabrics that have a knitted, stretchy construction rather than woven), can unravel if you cut them. Useful on a T-shirt as the fabric doesn’t fray. But on knitwear, the knitting would come undone and my jumper would be ruined.

This jumper had a little secret on the side seams that gave me an idea. A length of elastic at the bottom of the sides of the jumper are stitched with elastic. This creates a ruching effect.

In this video I demonstrate how to create the same effect on the sleeves to make them shorter.

This trick can be used on woven fabrics too. I’ve added elastic to shoulder seams to created a ruched cap sleeve. Or one of our workshop participants added elastic to the side seams of a mini dress to turn it into a long top.

Where to buy sustainable elastic

Generally elastic isn’t good for the environment. Made from rubber and plastic it takes years to biodegrade. There are some sustainable alternatives. Buying second hand is sustainable as we are using materials that are already available. We are not using the earth’s resources to make new products. They will not biodegrade but they have been produced so it makes sense to use them rather than throw them away unused. Charity shops are an excellent source of unused haberdashery. Usually stored in baskets amongst the homewares. I often collect elastic and darning yarn whenever I see any in a charity shop.

James Tailoring sells sustainable haberdashery including organic elastic that will biodegrade. Along with sustainable thread, fabric (including denim) and buttons. All available online.