How to Shorten your Sleeves

One of the most common alterations that I see are cuff and placket alterations. These can be one of the most challenging, yet so rewarding if you practice them and learn how they are properly done. You won't have to roll up your sleeves all of the time, and getting your sleeves the right length improves your bodies perception of proportion and makes your clothes look great! Follow along, and learn how to tackle sewing sleeve plackets and cuffs.

First things first, you need to get the proper tools for this alteration. You will need to use a see through ruler like the Omnigrid I have pictured. And the Dritz pen is important- you need to make a precise line and this is the best way to make sure you record the measurement on the cloth accurately. 

You should also keep some little trimmers nearby. The small stork scissors will help you trim off any stray threads and make your alteration nice and neat.

I did all of the seam ripping in advance, with a very sharp seam ripper. This can take a little bit of time, because you need to be really careful not to tear into the fabric. Go very slow removing the cuff and placket. 

And once you have them removed, be sure to pin the placket and cuff to the right or left sleeve. You don't want to mix them up and end up putting the right side placket and cuff on the left sleeve. 

When I safety pin a sleeve shortening alteration, I pin where the top of the cuff will be sewn. That way, I can easily determine how much of the sleeve I need to cut out. Your seam allowance on this alteration is 3/8 of an inch. You will measure from the bottom of the sleeve to 3/8 below the pin, all the way around. 

Make sure when you get to where the placket is that you measure the length of the placket cut where the placket is sewn to the sleeve. Measure up from your sleeve cutting line, and mark the placket line. 

Cut all the way around, and cut the placket line as well.

This is a little harder to see because its black. But you will first pin the inside placket back on the sleeve. This is actually easy because its already pressed and goes right back on. Pin it carefully, and sew it, right up against the edge of the placket.

Next, you are going to pin the exterior placket to the sleeve. Its the same process as the interior placket, except this time, you need to overlap the top square over the interior placket. Pin it just like I did above.

Now you are going to sew it. Sew starting at the bottom of the sleeve, the way you did for the interior placket. Then, as you make your way up, sew the square, turning at the corners. You want to end by sewing over that interior placket, which joins the two plackets together. Backstitch and trim.

Now you are going to put the cuff back on. Start with the corners, and pin both ends of the cuff to the placket first. Remember your seam allowance is only 3/8ths, so tuck it into the cuff that amount. Any more or any less will upset the sleeve line and make the cuff look wonky.

Pin pin pin. And then make sure you check the back to see if everything is tucked in and pinned properly.

Now sew the cuff, removing the pins as you go, and right up against the top edge of the cuff. Backstitch and trim. Button it up and test your new sleeve- it should lay nice and flat.

I hope this demonstration was helpful. I know that this is a challenging alteration, but so valuable once you know how. I recommend that you practice on an old shirt, or maybe go out and buy a thrift store button down that you can try out this alteration. Practicing this project will really help your precision and patience with sewing. Do you have more alterations that you want to know how to do? Let me know in the comments below!