Most Common Garment Alterations

MiniPatterns Nancy Zieman

Most Common Garment Alterations

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MiniPatterns Nancy Zieman

What type of alterations do you consistently make to your wardrobe?  That’s the question I posed earlier this month, via this blog,  Facebook, and Pinterest.  It was no surprise to learn that many alterations involve a hemline, whether it be on shorts, pants, dresses, or skirts. Many other fantastic alterations ideas are helping readers look their best.

Enjoy the selected responses below, plus a spotlight on one featured reader.

*Featured image above is from my Solving The Pattern Fitting Puzzle on Sewing With Nancy. Catch Parts One and Two online today!

Here’s what you are saying:

Alter it All!

“I like to shorten sleeves from 3/4 to just above the elbow. Necklines: I have even bought two shirts and taken them apart and remade them because I like the print. I put two way zippers into jackets, I alter a lot of my wardrobe.”—Nancy Krueger, Smyrna, TN

Surgically Altered

“I just learned (at age 78) that one shoulder is higher than the other so I’ll be making adjustments for that on all future garments. It’s going to be interesting. Before I had a double mastectomy, I had to adjust every garment for a larger than size B bust. Now, I’m happily flat chested.”—Penny Hammack

Sleeves and Bustlines

“I am always adjusting sleeves (or adding them)! Everything is sleeveless and I am not a sleeveless fan. I also spend time adjusting the bodice/bustine. (I am a breast cancer survivor—with downsized breasts. I wonder if I am the only one learning to ‘fix’ my clothes…so thankful to have this great issue.) I am still a beginner so I look at darting my tops in the right places.”—Melissa Feuer, Covington, GA

Weight Loss Alterations

“Lately it has been taking in at the hips/thighs, taper legs, shortening the hems. A few of them I’ve had to shorten the seat depth. All of these are due to weight loss and recycling my wardrobe.”—Helene Hanada, Los Angeles, CA

Yokes and Pockets

“When I buy pants, they are consistently too low on my waist and accentuate my muffin top. Tearing them apart and adding a yoke or making a taller yoke is in order as well as making darts in the waistband of those that already sit on my waist. I also consistently end up with slacks and capris that have no pockets so I have to either insert them in a side seam or make patch pockets.”—Patricia  Rick, Foley, AL


“I always have to shorten sleeves and length of pants and jeans. I am just under 5′ tall, so it has become my mantra, shorten, shorten, shorten. Even petite size ready to wear has to be shortened. Once I had to shorten a suit jacket sleeve with a placket and buttons. I used the cut off section to recreate the vent placket and no one could tell I had shortened the sleeves!”—Brenda Foreman, Pittsboro, IN

Shortening Jeans

“I shorten jeans for me and my family, using your method from “Quick Stitch to Wear Again.”—Brenda McGhee, Texico, IL

Polo Shirt Vents

“I open the side seams about three inches or so from the bottom on polo shirts, to make for a looser fit over my wide hips.”—Sheila Dahm, Essexville, MI


“My favorite alteration to do is to make tunics out of dresses. I have done all kinds of fabrics and they turned out very nicely. My best friend in this operation is my duct tape mannequin along with a chalk air tube marker. I also have a large rectangular old bathroom mirror tacked up over a base board to see if everything is even. ”—Mary Young, Center Tuftonboro, NH

No More V-Necks

“I find I am always putting in back darts at the neckline or taking the shoulder seams in a little on tops with too low necklines or that are wider across shoulders. I have even added matching material across the V-neck to make it look like another shirt underneath.”—Judy Mackey, Beverly Hills, FL

T-shirts to Quilted Dresses

“I add fabric squares, about 12″ long, to the front of T-shirts to make them longer (about knee length) and make them into house dresses/night shirts for summertime use. It’s similar to adding a large appliqué to the T-shirts, like the store bought ones that you find four of on a yard of fabric. Sometimes I outline the fabric squares with rick-rack. I have also used some of the 12.5″ quilt blocks that I have made on some of the T-shirts, to give them a completely different look. I usually put a white backing on the fabric square quilt blocks before sewing them onto the T-shirts, so there are no raw edges to show up on the fabric squares/quilt blocks. ”—Peggy Cox, Whiting, NJ

Complete Alterations

“I usually have to lengthen sleeves and pant legs as I have long limbs, in addition to being taller than what is considered commercially average for women. Why can’t women’s shirts and pants come in different lengths like men’s do? Because I have developed a bit of a tummy (Age and surgery aren’t really very kind to women’s bodies!), the back waist has to be narrowed once I have a garment that fits in the front. Shoulder width, along with armhole placement and depth are another problem area that I usually need to address. Fortunately, moving sleeve caps inward isn’t usually too difficult. My skeleton frame didn’t change as I got a bit rounder. It’s too bad manufacturers and pattern makers don’t think of that when they grade for larger figures. On patterns, I have to lower the bust point in addition to making a full bust adjustment for a C-cup. I’ve been thrilled to find the newer patterns with pattern pieces for multiple cup sizes already included. I look for patterns with extra seams, like princess seams, that allow for more personalized fitting options and adjustments.”—Linda G, Philadelphia, PA

This Month’s Reader Spotlight:

Karen’s Answer

“I always have to let the hem out in pants I buy. I add seam lace to the bottom of the leg that becomes the hem. I use white vinegar with water to help release the permanent crease. I always do this when brand new before the hem edge begins to wear.”—Karen Knorr, Longview, WA

Would you be able to share a picture of lace hem to the garment bottom?

Most Common Garment Alterations - Reader Insights - Nancy Zieman - Sewing With Nancy

You mention altering pants with this lace technique. Have you applied it to other garment hems?

In the 1970’s, when polyester was new, my co-workers finally convinced our bank manager to let us wear pantsuits to work. He finally conceded with the requirement that “the tunic must cover the crotch”. (His words.) Several of us made our designated uniform outfits for our non-sewing coworkers.  One co-worker, in her 60s, asked me, in my 20s back then, to lengthen other pants she had in her wardrobe. She bought the matching color of lace hem tape for me and paid me $2 for each pair. It was then that I learned of the vinegar/water to release the permanent crease.

Do you collect lace or trims for future alterations?

I have a box of partial packages of hem tape that can hem several pairs of pants. I have even used a different color in each leg. Who would know? On nice slacks, I usually use my machine hem stitch. For casual pants, where the hem was straight stitched, I will straight stitch my lengthened hem while stitching on the former hemline crease to help hide it.

What are you going to sew next?

I recently made a lined jacket for myself with machine embroidery on the front and back yoke going over the shoulder. After it was finished, I decided I didn’t like it. I began quilting in 1976 which is my current passion. I imagine when, or if, I have grandchildren I will be busy with baby quilts and children’s clothes once again.

Next Month’s Share Your Insight Question

Next Month’s Question: Do you create/sew more gifts than you purchase?

Nancy Zieman Reader Insight November

 Submit your answer by Nov 10, 2017, using the form below, to be considered for our next month’s Reader Spotlight.

Disclaimer: We may contact you to verify your answer. Your contact information will not be used for any other reason. Your submission to Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC, including contact information, gives us the right to modify, use, distribute, reproduce, publish, and display the submission indefinitely in all media, means, and forms without any payment to you. You hereby represent that you haven’t copied the content from a book, magazine, newspaper, or other commercial source.  

With hems clocking in as easily the most-common alteration, I thought I’d share with you my Absolute Easiest Ways to Hem blog post. Nearly everything you sew has a hem—skirts, pants, sleeves, and home décor items such as curtains and table linens. By using a few simple hints, you can turn this time-consuming chore into a simple sewing task.

Absolute Easiest Hems Nancy Zieman Roundup

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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  • Jackie Weedon
    October 28, 2017

    I make many of my gifts. I live far away from most of the recipients, so make small things that can be shipped inexpensively. Last year, it was fancy Christmas ornaments that looked like trees, made with stuffed, embroidered stars in three sizes, stacked and stitched together, and then festooned with “ornaments” made from different beads and bangles. They were so pretty, I even made one to keep!

  • Margaret C.
    October 28, 2017

    We have a gift exchange with European friends the day after Thanksgiving. It has been going on for 15 years. I have hit the wall on ideas this year. The gifts have always been small. Over 50 pillowcases, bags, dish towels etc.
    I am constantly looking for ideas. Help.

  • Karen Poole
    October 28, 2017

    All my Christmas gifts are home made! I have many siblings and kids and grandkids, so economically it makes sense to make gifts, plus I know my gifts will not be duplicated!! My grandkids have even put in requests for certain items, like monogrammed towels or personalized pillow cases!

  • Noreen
    October 28, 2017

    I used to create almost all of my gifts, but I make fewer of them now. I’ve always enjoyed the creativity.

  • Kathryn Smotryski
    October 28, 2017

    I make most gifts these days. This year alone I’ve already made a Double Irish Chain quilt that I’ve hand quilted, a cross stitched angle ornament and soon I’ll be starting on a rustic snowman made with wool. I’ve even made an appliqued album quilt for myself that need the boarders added (I stopped working on it to work on my Christmas gifts).

  • Rosann McGuire
    October 28, 2017

    I bought my first sewing/embroidery machine in 1994 for the purpose of making personalized gifts for family and friends. Many years and machines later, I continue to enjoy creating such items. My techniques have improved, thanks to instructors at conferences, shows, and books, including you, Nancy. Thank you.

  • Mary Green
    October 28, 2017

    I make many of my gifts but do also buy things for our young Granddaughters. I make clothing, quilts and crafty items.

  • Mo L
    October 28, 2017

    I try to make at least one handmade gift for everyone, the males are much harder but there are many team logo fabric now. I used to enjoy cross stitch (before bifocals) and do purchase two small wooden Christmas ornaments ( the kind that allows you to insert a picture), and after they color and insert a photo, the 2 grand children give these to decorate the other Grandpa and Memere’s tree. I currently am making tissue holders and Mug rugs.

  • Beverly
    October 29, 2017

    I love to make gifts for family and friends, and that has been so much better than trying to shop for others, especially since I became a quilter 2 years ago. The smiles when I give a gift are like receiving a gift myself!

  • Judy P
    October 30, 2017

    I make small gifts for my siblings. Usually it is something I have invented for myself to make life easier. I figure if I need it, they will too. My goal is to find something small and easily mailed and spend $2 or less in materials, but it looks like it is worth much more. I give money to my adult children, so I use my embroidery machine to make felt candy cane/lollipop ornaments. They have button holes you slit to insert the candy. Instead of candy, I insert a tightly rolled bill. These are well received.

  • Carolyn Ashley
    October 31, 2017

    A resounding ‘yes’; I sew all of my gifts. My fabric stash is getting used and my budget hasn’t been damaged by following your advise and quilting ideas in the eleven baby quilts I made to distribute at our family reunion this year, each using a different simplified quilt pattern. Your programs continue to inspire and teach me and give confidence to my granddaughter’s fledgling sewing projects.

  • Connie Rogers
    November 6, 2017

    Yes! Recently a business locally went out and left a lot of store monogrammed aprons behind. I acquired those for free and I realized that I could use your fusible webbing for changing the front of the apron by fusing left-over material onto the name of the business and it made a cute apron for the grand-kids. I even made some for the adults, choosing matching materials for their individual tastes. What a fun project, just trying to make it look as natural as possible!

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