Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How to: shorten cuffed sleeves

So you have to shorten a mens business shirt and you have no idea where to even begin. Take a deep breath. It is not as difficult as you are thinking! If you need to shorten the sleeve by only a small amount of 1 or 2cm then you can unpick the cuff and resew it higher. If you have to shorten the sleeve by any more than this you run into the problem that the placket (the nice opening above the cuff) can become too short and this will simply look odd. Here I will explain step by step the easiest way to get around this. 
Instead of shortening the sleeve from the cuff you we will be shortening it from the sleeve head.

Step 1. Unpick the sleeve from the armhole. Most mens shirts are finished off with loverly tailored seams. This is nice until you have to unpick them. The armhole and side seems are quite often sewn with welt seams and have chain stitching.
Depending on in which order the seams have been sewn you may also have to unpick a small section of the side seam of the shirt.
Make sure to mark the shoulder seam on the sleeve head when you are unpicking. This is more than likely not the centre of the sleeve head as most mens business shirts have the shoulder seams towards the front.
Tip: do one sleeve at a time then you have a reference point to go back to if you get a little lost.

Step 2. Sew up the side seam if you had to unpick it.
Welt seams normally use a 1.5cm seam allowance. As I like to use 1cm seam allowance I trim of the extra .5cm seam allowance from the sleeve head and armhole.

Step 3. Measure from the top of the sleeve head down the amount you need to shorten the sleeve by. Mark this all the way around the sleeve head. Most sleeves will not be symmetrical so you will have to do this on both sides of the folded sleeve. 
I needed to shorten this sleeve by 8cm. As I already have a 1cm seam allowance at the sleeve head, by measuring 8cm from the top of the sleeve head I have included my 1cm seam allowance needed.
Transfer your shoulder seam maker to your new line.
Cut in a single layer (not folded) along your new measured line.

I had not yet trimmed the extra seam allowance off this sleeve yet!

Step 4. Pin the sleeve back into the armhole matching up the shoulder seam and the side seams. 
Depending on how much 'puff' your sleeve has and how much you cut off you may find that you have to ease the shirt slightly to fit the sleeve. This is backwards to what should normally happen. 
Keep in mind that if there is too much of a difference you may have to unpick half the side seam of the shirt and take the seam in slightly. This can be fiddly if they are welt seams.

Step 5. If you can, overlock the seam. With the seam allowance towards the shirt top stitch the seam flat. Press.

Thats it, your done.


  1. Thanks --- I'm a beginner. This seems rather difficult, but I'm going to try. It seems like a good explanation---for someone with a little more experience than I have!

  2. Wish there was a video but thanks for posting.

  3. Even if I have to fix the opening (via the side seam), this looks much easier than fixing the entire cuff and placket.