Not too long ago, I was fortunate enough to win the blogiversary giveaway from the lovely Vintage Gal! As if designed for the vintage-obsessed seamstress that I am, Cate was offering up a custom-drafted pattern for her 1930s Kick-Pleat Skirt. I was all too thrilled to work with Cate’s pattern and to be able to soon boast a fresh new summer skirt.
I am so excited to share my first tutorial! Long ago I found an amazing article about upcycling regular cardigans into fabulous, vintage appropriate sweaters. When I couldn’t find it again, I thought I should give y’all my own version.
I’ve been frustrated by cute sweaters in my wardrobe that were just too long to look nice with the high-waisted vintage fashions I wear. These three cardigans all hit the hip or lower originally. They are unintentionally red, white, and blue! The red was given to me by my mother and has some lovely chiffon rose decoration around the neckline. The white was from an Ann Taylor Loft sale, while the navy sweater features my college sorority’s crest.
I took some before pics but they ended up looking TERRIBLE so.. sorry :3 My after pics aren’t so great either. Let’s just agree that I never claim to be a professional photographer 😉 All my sweaters were hip length or slightly longer to start. You can see the length of the white sweater in the first photo below.
Find a sweater that needs updating. Shop your wardrobe, thrift stores, sales – the sky is the limit! Look for a color you need with maybe some fun beading for an extra vintage touch.
Put on your cardigan and mark where you want the finished sweater to hit. For this style, I recommend that it hits 2-3 inches below your natural waist. This part can be tricky because you need to plan around the buttons and buttonholes on your sweater – I pick the button/buttonhole pair that is closest to my natural waist, because adding the waistband later will make it longer. Mark (with pins, or count up the buttons from the bottom).
Measure from the bottom of your sweater up to these pins. Mine were around 5.5″. Add in a seam allowance of 1/2″-5/8″- making your cutting point 5″ up from the hem, if you use a 1/2″ allowance like me. Mark that distance all along your sweater on the INSIDE with chalk. The pins can be removed at this point.
Cut along this line.
Then, on the part you just cut off from the main body of the sweater, find the hem band of the sweater. Sometimes this is sewn on (in the case of my blue sweater), sometimes it is woven in (on my red and white sweaters both). Add the same seam allowance amount that you used in the previous step. Mark, and cut along this line.
Now you have two pieces: your main body and the hem edge. Pin them together at the cut edges, right side to right side. You may have to remove a button to make the cutting and sewing easier and sew it back on afterward.
At any places that must be matched up, like the side seams or the button facings: hold the two pieces together and gently pull back the top layer so you can see the seam. Make sure they lay precisely on top of one another and use extra pins! Do NOT remove these pins as you’re sewing before they’re under the presser foot. I usually just sew over them to make sure my seams will not shift and they will match up perfectly.
Sew a 1/2″ from the edge (or 5/8″ if that’s your chosen allowance), being sure to stretch the sweater as you sew. Often you need to stretch anyway to because the band section you’ve cut will be a bit shorter than the body section. Stretching the fabric will allow your sweater to maintain its stretch. A slightly longer stitch length helps as well. (Practice on the piece you cut off and discarded if you’re nervous.)
Admire your new cropped sweater! To complete, press the new seam towards the hem well and then trim the seam. If you’d like, you may zig zag over the cut seam, but I only did that for one sweater.
You can also use this same process for sleeves to create cute bracelet-length sleeves! I chose not to at this point, because I like options to pull it long since I get cold easily.
The sky is the limit for your customized sweaters! I also replaced the boring plastic buttons with some vintage buttons from my stash. In the future, I’d like to add ribbon facings along the button facings, like you see in some vintage cardigans.
With only a couple of hours’ work, I now have three “new” cardigans to put into my wardrobe rotation that previously sat gathering dust!
What cardigans will you upcycle to make them more vintage appropriate?