Greetings, weekend parrots! I missed the blog boat yesterday, as I had a sick basset on my hands (she’s fine, but now hates me for ramming antibiotics down her throat.) I still think we need to wrap up Flop Fixin’ week with a good, old fashioned tips post, though – don’t you agree? Here’s how this will work. I’ll share what I know (and think I know). Then YOU will fill in the gaps with that YOU know and correct what I got wrong… But first, here’s a recap of my week’s activities.

Flop Fixing Week

Day One: Beignet
Day Two: Revived knit shirt
Day Three: Fine-tuned thrift find
Day Four: Leg Sleeves!

So, as we’ve reviewed, it wasn’t REALLY all flops this week, there was a fair amount of restyles of thrifted garments going on as well. My thought is that it really is the same skill set, whether you were the author of the monstrosity in question, or you purchased the ill-fitting item in a fit of compulsive shopping at a vintage popup sale. Let’s talk knits, shall we?

Working With Knits

I know a lot of you alternative lifestyle penguins and killer macaws tend to be a little scaredy cats when it comes to knits. I don’t think there really is a reason to be scared of them at all! Among the fine attributes of knits, they are comfy and cozy for the winter and if you can tolerate a ‘tight’ garment, you can get around a whole heap of fitting issues, as the more snug a knit is, the less attention you have to pay to getting the fit just right. Stretching over your little bird-bods will smooth out any wrinkles! In addition, if you get used to restyling knits you have a whole new source for material, since a good sweater knit on the bolt is hard to find, especially if you don’t have easy access to THE garment district. I think Minneapolis has a decent selection of fabric shops, and I probably have about 20 sweater knits that I am aware of being sold by the bolt right now. Most of them are goofy, spinster aunt knits.

I’m in a bullet list mood today. We’ll start out with tools’n’techniques…

Tools and Techniques

  • Cutting: if you have the space and tools, cutting knits flat with a rotary cutter is very helpful. They wiggle around a lot, so it helps to keep ’em flat and under control.
  • Stitches: I think actual seams need to be sewn on a machine, hand sewing just isn’t strong enough. Use a zig zag stitch, as that has some stretch built in (thinking about a zig zag and how if you stretched it out it would make a straight line. That’s the stretch part.) I normally don’t use the ‘stretch’ version of stitches on my machine. They usually are the same stitches (straight, zig zag) sewn three times. Extra strong, but extra annoying if I have to pick them out. If the stitching is going to be visible (like top stitching a hem) using a narrow zig zag (like 1.0mm) will actually look MORE straight than using a straight stitch! Weird, right? I use the widest zig zag I can without it looking crazy. Thicker knits can take wider zigs, because the stitches disappear in the fabric.
  • Sewing-needles: If you can get your hands on ’em, use the stretch/jersey needles. They have points that are rounded and will be less damaging to your fabric.
  • Finishing: Knits don’t really ravel when you cut them, so you can usually ignore seam finishing. Really. Sergers are nice, but not necessary. Look inside your RTW knits. I bet a lot of them have unfinished seams that are just trimmed quite close.
  • Stabilizing: The biggest problem I have with knits is their tendency to stretch and get wavy along the edges. If you’re going to work on some restyle projects, stock up on some fusible tricot interfacing. This stuff has a bit of stretch and can be used to stabilize edges (or more!) and keep things from getting too wavy.

Plotting out a flop or thrift restyle…

The biggest consideration (for me) when plotting a restyle is yardage. Is there enough there to get something done? When looking for that perfect raspberry cashmere sweater at Salvation Army, I always start in the largest size section and work my way down. I can FOR SURE make something usable starting with a women’s size large on up. There’s potential in the smaller sizes.

Of course, clean basic lines are the best starting point. I once went crazy and bought this men’s cashmere sweater with a V-neck and a little insignia thing in the upper left chest area. The fabric was lovely, but the funky neck and insignia rendered the whole top of the front bodice basically useless. I ended up using it to make a mock up.

If you have a garment that you’d like to restyle, take a look at it and try to see the shortest route to a happy ending. Will just changing the sleeve length or neckline make it work? Those are relatively easy. Is it too short? Could be easy to fix, but where will you get the additional material? Is it too big in the shoulders? That’s a bit harder to fix, you’ll have to be creative!


Here’s a completely incomplete list of ideas for a knit restyle along, with techniques that may (or may not) work…

  • Shortening a sweater: chop it off, stabilize with interfacing or steam a seam, turn and hem.
  • Shortening a sweater #2: carefully cut off the ribbed shaping at the bottom of the sweater. Trim the sweater to the new length, reattach the ribbing. Top stitch to help it lie flat.
  • Make the sweater smaller: just sew from arm to hem in one continuous line.
  • Shoulders too big? Quick option is to tighten from the back. If the whole shebang is too big, then try on, pin out the excess from neckline to hem at center back and stitch along that line. If just the shoulders are too big, try using darts in the back of the sweater to tighten up the shoulders. A longer option is to remove the sleeves, recut the armscye and reattach the sleeves. Depending on how much you are removing, this may DRAMATICALLY increase the size of the armscye. That should still work if you are also resizing the sides. First recut the armscye so the shoulder is in the right place, then restitch the sides with a deeper seam, this will also remove length from the armscye. Reattach sleeve – you will probably have to also make the sleeve smaller – it’s OK to gather the sleeve to get it to fit, not OK to have to gather the armscye. I mean, it’s FINE if that’s what you want to do, it just might look strange!
  • Necklines: one of my favorite changes is turtleneck to scoop neck.  You can turn and topstitch the new neckline or make a neckband. It’s best to copy the neckline/neckband from a pattern you like to get a neckband that’s the right length, but if you’re winging it, cut the neckband on the cross grain or on the bias and cut it shorter than your neckline. A ratio of 34″ neckline to 28″ neckband seem to work well for me.
  • Sleeves: If you need to shorten the sleeves there are a lot of options for finishing. First, leave them unfinished. It will work fine. You can also serge, turn and stitch, use your serger to make a ‘lettuce edge’, fashion new cuffs from scraps…
  • Start from scratch. If you can swing it, take apart the sweater completely and use a commercial pattern to cut new pieces. You’d need to have a fairly large sweater to start with, but if you’ve got enough fabric, this would give you the best finished product.
  • If you didn’t already catch it, check out this guest post from Tasha of By Gum By Golly – originally from Elegant Musings. It shows a technique to add a grosgrain ribbon to a handknitted cardigan, but the concept also works well for restyles!
  • Creative shaping… I totally did some guerrilla picture taking at Anthropologie today – this would be an excellent way to add some shaping to a flop or a thrift!



    A quick rundown of what to do when you are expecting a better knit than the one sitting in front of you…

  • From crewneck to cardigan: this is a fairly easy change. Just cut up the center front, stabilize with interfacing, turn and stitch. Use the buttonhole function on your machine  to stitch up new buttonholes
  • Contrasty: If you have scraps, use them to add cuffs, waistbands, neckbands in fun, contrasty colors!
  • Tighten it up: In my opinion, large knits are sort of sloppy looking. Tightening up the size will often be enough to switch from frumpy to funky. A quick tightening can be done be restitching the side and arm seams a bit deeper and adding a center back seam if necessary.
  • Sleeve city: There are so many fun things to do with sleeves… boot cuffs like I did, guantlets with thumbholes, cozies for coffee cups… and if you don’t want to use the sleeves as is (all tubelike), don’t forget how much FABRIC is in a traditional sleeve – you can do a lot with that!  Check out the kids section for knits as well. Those sleeves are the PERFECT coffee cup size.
  • Sewing for rover: repurpose a sweater for your dog! Lucy is also accepting gifts. She shivers when it’s under 40 degrees out. Wimp.
  • Accessory coats: Make cases for laptops, kindles… The sweater material is a perfect lining, nice and soft.
  • Ralph Lauren quilt: I’ve been OBSESSED with making a simple quilt from Fishermen’s sweaters – you know, just 8″ squares. I think it would be AWESOME!
  • Go artsy: restyling knits BEGS for the unfinished edge and/or exposed seam look. You know the look – I call it Edina Art fair (Edina is a wealthyish inner ring suburb of Minneapolis. They have an art fair.) The look of a woman with a great collection of silver and turquoise jewelry and lots of funky clothes. And an extensive art collection. Expensive, practical shoes with odd details.
  • Pillows: I have a few pillows I made from thrifted fishermen’s sweaters (OK, have you guys picked up on the fact that I LOVE white cableknit anything?) The pillows are great – one is even made from a CARDIGAN and I kept the buttons on it!
  • Crewneck to miniskirt? If you’ve got the body for it, a size large men’s sweater should provide enough unfettered length to get a cute mini – just cut straight down from the arms and add an elastic/drawstring waist. Use the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater as the hem of the skirt. I would SO wear that if I could carry off a knit miniskirt!
  • Embellish, embellish, embellish. Play like every day is Anthropologie day and go crazy embellishing your knits. Here’s some inspiration… (I love days 14, 17 and 21…)
  • Make fun details – I loved how my cable neckband came out – use what you have in an unexpected way.

    More tutorials

    In closing, I went back to collect links from semi-relevant previous projects I’ve done…

    Alright – now it’s your turn. Tips? Inspiration? Is anybody out there on a Saturday evening?? 



Get Your VIP Pass

Get in on behind-the-scenes stories, member-only access to special offers and stories from the road. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!