how to alter a sweater

I’ve always loved little jobs that can adapt a piece of clothing or improve it. I’ve adjusted knitwear in the past to narrow it, as well as put darts in shirts, and it’s probably the reason I love polishing shoes so much.

One task I perfected recently was stretching the sleeves of sweaters. Most knitwear is too baggy for me – or anyone in even half-decent shape. I often end up buying a size too small so it’s fits in the waist, and compromise on the sleeve length. This isn’t too bad if you have a shirt underneath it, to take up the last inch or so.

However, it is possible to stretch the sleeves to the perfect length. The key is to start conservatively, so that there is no risk of overstretching or deforming them.

Place the sweater on a table, spray it on both sides with water until moist, then stretch it with your hand and hold for a minute or two before releasing. There are three variables here: saturation, stretch and time, each of which you should take a cautious approach to at the start.

After much experimentation, I found that my mid-weight cashmeres from Loro Piana and Johnston’s lengthened by an inch if I stretched each sleeve by five inches and held them for two minutes. But if you are unsure at all about the material, start more conservatively. Softer, lighter and more open-weave wools will stretch more.

Initially, the sleeve will look as if it has stretched a lot, but it will gradually shrink as it dries. Leave it for a long time – preferably overnight – before trying the length. As with washing a sweater, the best way to dry it is to roll it up in a towel and then place it on a rack, so air can circulate all around it.

The same trick can work with the length of a sweater’s body, but it is very hard to avoid distorting the shape.

Image: Edited from visit to Loro Piana factory, with Andy Barnham. Check out his new site here

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In a comment or an article here a while ago (I forget when and where) you mentioned a few projects that were in the works. One was bespoke casual wear, and your G&H leather jacket is I think what you were talking about there, but another project that you mentioned was bespoke knitwear. Did that ever go anywhere?

I have the same problem as you, most knitwear is far too baggy on me and being small (36.5″ chest) I get few opportunities to size down as you do since that needs a manufacturer that offers XS sizes; they are few and far between in my experience.

– Julian

P.S. Did I see you get on a District line tube train to Richmond last Friday (early afternoon)?

Paul Weide

You made my week with this post. I have gorilla arms, which gave me an advantage in boxing but forced me in the past to purchase oversize XL knitwear. This is superb. Gold star, sir.

Matt Spaiser

I often have the problem of sweaters stretching out. When I get a size medium they usually fit very well, and a small is too small. But after a season or two the sweater stretches out, mostly becoming baggy in the body. Do you every have luck with shrinking sweaters back to their original size?

Matt Spaiser

I don’t wash mine that often. I will try washing the one that has stretched the most out of shape and dry it flat. Thanks!


If they’ve become so baggy as to be unwearable then have you ever tried the “nothing to lose” last resort solution of doing what most people say never to do and tumble drying them to see if that shrinks them back to an acceptable fit? If they’ve got so baggy as to be only good for throwing in the bin or donating to a charity shop then it’s always worth a try.



When and where will satriano cinque be in London this month?


Thx simon. What are their prices currently?



Simon – It has been suggested that I dry clean my Knitwear rather than hand wash / flat dry. Do you have any experience here? Excellent post by the way although I am fortunate that the L fit in Smedley works for me! Have a nice day D


Do you think this might work for a merino top that…um…went through a hotter wash than it should?



2 questions:

1. Is it possible to shrink a cashmere sweater safely and without damaging the yarn?

2. Any advice on altering overcoats? Particularly waterproof coats such as Barbour or Aqauscutum and retaining their waterproofing. Barbour themselves won’t alter the chest size of their jackets claiming its not possible – though there is plenty of evidence online to suggest otherwise. Should one shrink them in the wash instead of being tailored?

On resizing them should they be a size up from your suit coat size? So if one takes a OTR 40R suit then one should buy a 42R overcoat?

Thanking you in advance



Wow, this information was GREAT! Revolutionary for us, dare I say! Finally a little insight on what to do for those pesky, short sleeves on all our knit wear! Thanks for the great posts and the stylespiration! Definitely gonna start following!
check out our marketplace if you get the chance, Thanks.


is possible to stretch a wool sweater? Unfortunately it become to small on the waist and in the sleeves width.

Randolph Calixto

My girlfriend bought me a 100% acrylic cardigan, it’s really nice, it’s the exact same cardigan I ever wanted, but the length is too short, the arms are just fine but it’s way too short, I don’t know wether to stretch it after putting it in conditioner and water, or damp it with water and stretch it



Good tip. Do you think the same approach would work for pique cotton?


danny Smith

I have a 100% acrylic muscle fit jumper that is too tight across my chest. Is there any way of my stretching the chest without doing so to the rest of the jumper.
Thanks in advance