Altering sleeves on a lined coat isn’t as difficult as you may think it is. Even if you have a home sewing machine, you can easily alter any kind of garment. I want to mention, though, that lined garments such as coats, are a lot more involved. However, I learned some quick alterations tricks that make the process so much easier and smoother. If you’re curious about the process, stick around because I will share step-by-step how to do one sleeve (which you’ll do the same to the other) and you’ll see, it’s not that difficult. I photographed every step so you can get a clear picture of how to shorten a sleeve on a coat (a very expensive coat, by the way). Without further ado, here are some sewing secrets and a glimpse of what it’s like being a seamstress! Follow along and take notes (or screenshots if you can) and use my directions as reference.
Measure the sleeve while the coat is on your client. Double-check to make sure you take off the amount they want you to take off. In sewing, you want to measure twice and cut once. And then, with a fabric marker, (which disappears after twenty-four hours) draw a mark. (Note: You will not cut on this mark, you will fold and crease it later). This mark you will need to rely on for the entire process because it will be the new edge of the cuff.
Cut off the buttons before starting the alteration (I almost forgot to do that) and put them in a bag or container. With a seam ripper, simply rip the threads loose beneath the button. Check that all threads are out.
FLIP THE COAT LINER SIDE OUT.
You will see two seams on a coat sleeve. Start by cutting two holes in both seams, careful not to go all the way toward the cuff. Also, take note that when you start cutting the liner of the sleeve, use whatever tool you feel most comfortable with. Be mindful that the seams may have been sewn twice, meaning with a straight stitch and then serged, which closes a seam. If you’re advanced like me and are using something other than a seam ripper, you may find a seam ripper to be a little more challenging. Using a tool with a sharp, flat edge is most beneficial and increases efficiency.
Once your holes in the liner are cut, you may need to detach the cuff from the seams. Don’t forget this step, too, at the end of the alteration. It’s a form of tacking that keeps the material in place and the fabric and liner from shifting after the alteration is complete. All you have to do are five or ten handsewn stitches, being careful not to sew on the outside of the fabric.
Now that the cuff is unhooked from the seams, examine how the fabric and liner of the cuff are sewed right sides together. You will need to rip those stitches out (don’t just go into the cutting of the liner or fabric yet, do this first). Thoroughly clean up all of the threads so they don’t get lost in your machine or trip you up. Then, you will detach the liner from the fabric of the cuff and separate them.
After separating the liner from the fabric, first cut the liner double what you’ll cut the fabric. So, if you have to take off 2 inches from the fabric of the coat, take off under (leave 1/4 or 1/2 inch for seam allowance) four inches from the liner. For this coat, the liner was much longer and needed to be cut down to align with the shortening of the fabric.
When the liner is cut, then move on to the fabric of the coat. Look at the mark you drew at the beginning of the alteration, which is your new cuff edge. Fold the fabric of the coat back and outward, wrong side out, until the mark becomes the new edge. Once you’ve made that your new edge, create a new crease. Iron that down and pull it outward again. You will notice an interfacing around the cuff giving it that nice, crisp stiffness. Measure and cut an interfacing and sew it around the sleeve. I happened to already have similar interfacing and simply resewed it to the rough edge of the cuff on the wrong side of the fabric, and then I ironed it all down, ensuring my new seam is as crisp as ever.
Now that you have a new, beautiful, crisp edge, re-tack the cuff of the sleeve to the two seams wrong side out. Then, reach your hand inside one of the holes you first cut into the liner and pinch the edges of the cuff, pulling the liner and fabric edges through the hole up and out, right sides together. This technique is called pinch, tuck and flip. Flip the un-sewn seam outward, exposing the wrong sides of both the liner and fabric. Sew all around the edge of the cuff using a straight stitch first, then serge to close the seam. After that, the sleeve should look like the third photo below.
Now, the sleeve should almost be complete. Your cuffs should be re-tacked to the seams on the wrong sides of the fabric. Everything should feel stable and strong. And for the second to last step, you need to close the holes you created in the liner. Sew the seams very, very close to the edge. This alteration will not be seen, as it is on the liner and hidden. Still, you should sew as beautifully and perfecttly as you can.
And for your final step, resew the buttons onto the cuff. You can do this with a basic sewing needle, just tack those buttons down tightly for extra security. (I really didn't think you guys needed photos of me sewing a button on. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to tack on buttons). You got this!
Now, you guys know one of my quick alterations secrets. Take note that every single coat is very different. However, a lot of the same rules still apply: you must do a lot of tacking around the cuff and seams for extra stability and use various inter-facings to achieve that nice, sharp looking edge on the cuff.
I do the alteration using this method when I’m slammed with customers or on a lot of deadlines. Do the same thing to the other sleeve and write down these steps if that helps. If you’re a home sewer and just want to learn some alterations tricks to do for yourself, family or friends, check back here at tessakoller.com/blog/ for more of my sewing techniques. If you're a seamstress wanting to learn some extra time-saving tricks, this is the blog to be! Overtime, this blog will be the destination for art, fashion and Chicago living. Thank you for stopping by and checking out the post.