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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Altering Sleeve Length

Today I have been asked to talk about shortening a sleeve that is lined and has a vent. I hate to say it, but this is the most time consuming alteration I do, with the exception, of course, of that Carhartt jacket from the previous post.
I always start by examining the existing sleeve. I have a rule of thumb to put a garment back the way I found it. This is easier when it comes to sleeves, because you can alter one while the other one stays in tact. These sleeves have a mitered edge, which is toughest to do, but once you get the hang of it, it is still the toughest to do!
First, I removed the buttons and ripped the lining from the fabric.

I now rip both sides of the sleeve vent, to open up the whole hem. Then I can mark the hem, fold it up, then press it into place.

The bottom side is easy enough to seam at the end. Just fold the new hem allowance back on itself (right sides together) and stitch the edge. The top edge is mitered, so I have to create a new miter using the iron. Here are some pictures to illustrate. The first picture is the bottom side, the next two are the top edge.

And if this seems to difficult to do by machine, you can sew that diagonal seam by hand, as shown here:

Using the lines that are now pressed into the vent, sew a diagonal seam that will line up with the vent bottom. Turn this right side out and you have a finished miter.

It's actually better to do the underside last, so you can adjust it to match the new length of the mitered side.
Once the two edges of the vent are complete, you need to shorten the lining by pressing it up, then handstitch it into place.
Attach the buttons and you are finished.
Tomorrow's post will be an easier alteration, maybe one that many of you find yourself doing. Leave a message in the comments below or write to me on my Contact Me page if you have something specific you'd like me to write about.


  1. AnonymousMay 19, 2010

    Hello Maripat
    My mother, all 4Ft 10 In tall, seamstress used a method by leaving the bottom part of the sleeve intact and altered the set-in portion of the sleeve to raise the hem. She would pin tuck the upper arm to determine how much excess there was. Some day I will need to sit beside her and watch this method. Of course if stripes or plaid are involved this wouldn't work

  2. Thanks for your comment. Either way, changing sleeve length in a tailored jacket is a lot of work. Doesn't she have to adjust the sleeve head, shoulder pads, lining, etc.? I can't picture that being easier, but I'm always open to new thoughts. Let me know when you watch her method. We can brainstorm together!

  3. hello.
    i am 5' 7" , a 32 arm length and have a 50" chest. i can't find many coats my size. any suggestions on how (or where) i can get an xxl size with a medium sleeve length? thanks.

  4. @Anonymous... I would suggest getting the coat to fit you in the chest. It would be easier to take up the sleeves than to adjust the chest area. If the sleeves are super long, you may run into a problem with the break in the elbow area being too far down your arm. Otherwise, you'd be fine.

  5. Thanks Maripat for taking the time to post these how-tos. It is much appreciated.

  6. how to shorten mens suit sleeves when shortening 1 inch? I find I have to eliminate the vent and slosed the seam and reattach the lining and sew the buttons on. please comment

  7. @Anonymous: Usually I don't have to close the vent when shortening 1". However, it depends on the garment and that's a great question. You are right, if there is not enough vent to redo, you have to stitch the vent closed, just the way you have said. Good call!

  8. Dear Maripat,
    I found your website and your blog some time ago and I enjoy them. So useful and encouraging for the inexperienced menders like myself!

    I wonder whether you could share some thoughts, whether is it possible to lengthen a previously shortened sleeve of a tweed jacket if the top fabric wasn’t cut off? I can sense other 3-4 cm of tweed inside, but nothing specific about the lining. The jacket does not seem to have been worn much after the shortening has been made. The hem is not heavily pressed and does not look napless, but the part near the vent is.

    The reason why I am asking this question is that I bought a jacket on the net as ‘new’ to discover to my surprise that it had its sleeves shortened for some previous owner. I would normally ask for a refund, as it is unfair to sell the used items as new. However, the tweed is exceptional, so if it is amendable I’d give it a chance. I imagine the shorter hemline can be visible if I amend it back, but are there other dangers apart from this?

    Best wishes,

  9. Thanks for your comments. Tweed is sometimes a forgiving fabric. It is easy to hide the crease marks. If you take apart the sleeve and you see dirt at the fold line, take it to a dry cleaner and see if they can get it out.
    All you can do is give it a try. If you take it apart and it looks awful, what have you lost, but a few moments of time?
    If you can't wear it as is, or you can't lengthen the sleeves, maybe you can shorten it to be a 3/4 length sleeve. If it has a flashy lining, you could fold the sleeves up to the 3/4 length and show off the lining. Sometimes we have to be creative and design a feature that hides a flaw. Have fun with it and let us know how it goes.

  10. Dear Maripat,

    I bought two siuts in the sales this week with the intention of having the sleeves lenghtened but was horrified when told because the sleeve dsign and cut was at a miter this was impossible. Is this true and what's the benifit in having sleeves designed this way?



  11. Dear Anonymous,
    I've never seen a miter that was cut in such a way that the sleeve could not be lengthened. Whoever told you this may be misinformed. What I have seen, is a sleeve that has buttonholes beneath the buttons and they are cut. That means you're stuck! If the sleeve has buttonholes that are not cut, you may have to remove that pretty stitching and go with just buttons, but it should still work. Take another look and let me know. If you want to take some pictures, you can email them to me at

  12. AnonymousJuly 09, 2012

    Hi Maripat,

    This is a great tutorial and i will soon embark on my own coat/vent alteration. Could you give more detailed instructions on mitering the sleeves? As well as this, do you rip the whole seam of the sleeve. I am also planning to shape the sleeve - should I do this first before altering the length of the sleeve?



  13. Hi
    I'm not sure what you mean by "the whole seam of the sleeve". If you mean hem, then yes I separate the whole lining from the coat. I don't normally touch the sleeve seam, except the bottom of the vent, where it needs to be shortened. I would definitely reshape the sleeve first. You may want to reshape the lining too, so there isn't a lot of bulk in there. However, I don't bother if it's just a small amount to be taken in. Let me try to put together a tutorial about mitering. It may take a few dys, so stay tuned :)