-a cutsew or t-shirt that fits you the way you want your reconstucted one to fit, with a similar amount of stretch as the next sweater
-a sweater, knit shirt to reconstruct. For this tutorial, it works best with something that has a collar in the right shape, and set in sleeves.
-a sewing machine (or hand needles if you prefer to hand stitch
-lace, larger than 1'' wide
-elastic (I prefer 1/4-1/2 inch)
-seam ripper (very important!)
-optional: a serger works wonders with knits, but if you don't have one you can use a zig zag stitch or an overlock stitch if your machine has one.
1. Determine the basic shape that you want
I wanted something similar to this, but more subdued. I wanted it to have puffy sleeves, a sailor collar and a tie. I found this sweater at Salvation Army for $5, and saw its potential. It has front pockets, 3/4 sleeves, a ribbed band on the bottom, and little to no shape.
2. Remove the things you don't want on it
The first thing I did was remove the front patch pockets. I was lucky that this shirt wasn't worn very often outside, since there was no fading around the pocket patch at all.
3. Refit the torso of the shirt
Here is where your other t-shirt comes in handy.
Turn the reconstructed sweater inside out. Lay the sweater as flat as possible, with the sleeves out on the side and the side seams flat. Try to get it as wrinkle free as possible. The more accurate this is, the better its going to fit. Secondly, lay the shirt that fits you on top of it, inside out. Try to match up sleeve cap seam lines as close as possible in a way that makes sense.
Here you can see I picked my Woodstock shirt
After you've lined everything up, use the chalk to follow the shape of the smaller t-shirt. If the sweater is large, you should be making the armhole smaller, so follow the line of the smaller t-shirt to the armhole. Place a series of pins carefully on the line, trying not to leave any sharp points sticking into the armholes. You don't want to bleed all over it!
Now try the shirt on, pins still in, so make sure you like the fit of it.
4. Turn the long fitted sleeves into short, puff sleeves
The first thing you need to do is remove the old sleeves. So get out that seam ripper and find a good movie to watch, because this may take a while. I was unlucky and had a serged seam with a serged flatlock over it, so I was ripping the seam out for a long time. When you're done you'll have something like this on both sides:
Next, take one sleeve and put it on your arm, determine how long you want your new sleeve to be, and add 1.5 inches. Mark this with a pen or piece of chalk. Now, lay the sleeve flat, with the seam facing you. Take a ruler and draw a line across the width of the sleeve. Place the marked sleeve on top of the unmarked sleeve, matching all the edges. Now cut on the line you drew through all the layers. You'll have something like this:
The next step is optional, depending on how large the sleeve is. I took the remainder of the sleeve that I didn't need and sewed an extension to the under arm of the sleeve to make it a little larger. If you're starting with a very big sweater, you probably don't need to do this. However, I was starting with something with semi-fitted sleeves, and I wouldn't get the right gathering effect when I put the sleeve back in.
After that is done, you need to finish the lower edge of the sleeve. I wanted a line of lace and elastic. You can also do this with buttonholes and a casing for ribbon, or beading lace.
You can finish the edge in a few ways
1. zig zag the edge
2- turn it under and stitch it down
I chose to overlock it
Once you have the edge finished, turn under the edge enough to fit the elastic. Pin this down. Next, take your lace and place it aligned with the edge of the finished edge, like this:
The reason for this is to allow you to sew the edge and lace down in one stitch, while allowing room for the elastic to be slid through. The lace I used worked out well because I really only like the edge of it, so I didn't mind the rest of it being hidden.
Once you have this pinned down, you can use a straight stitch to sew it down. Leave a 1'' space to be able to thread your elastic through the case.
Next, cut a piece of elastic large enough to fit your arm comfortably, yet still tight enough to stay up. Use two safety pins, one to anchor the elastic to the sleeve, and another attached to the other end to thread through the casing. For clarification, look at the "Folded Down waistband" section of this: http://www.sewing.org/files/guidelines/12_150_easy_waistband_casings.pdf
When you have your elastic through, overlap the two ends and do a series of tight zig zag stitches to keep them together. Then pull the elastic taught and sew up the 1'' gap you left.
Repeat this process on the second sleeve. When you're done, it'll look like this:
Now sew two rows of gathering stitches on the sleeve cap, stopping 3 inches before the underarm seam on each side. Loosely gather the cap.
Set the sleeves aside, we have a few other steps to do before we can put them in.
5. Fitting the body of the sweater and armholes
Now, using either a zig zag stitch, a stretch stitch, or an overlock, sew down the side seam line of pins and chalk you marked on the body of the sweater.
Do not sew across the bottom, backstitch when you reach the corner of the hem. Cut off the access fabric to 1/4'' next to the stitching.
You should now have a smaller armhole and a fitted body.
6. Set in the sleeves
With right sides together, matching up the underarm seam lines, sew the sleeve in, keeping the gathered portion on the upper half of the armhole.
For clarification on setting in sleeves, see this.
Once the sleeves are in, try it on!
7. Hemming the bottom
There are a couple of options for hemming.
1. Turning it under and stitching it, leaving a plain bottom
2. Adding lace (what I will show)
3. Making a ruffle of matching fabric (this is a great option if you start with a large, long sweater, that you end up chopping most of it off)
4. If your fabric is stretchy enough, you can do a lettuce hem
I decided to add some of the same lace as I did on the sleeves. I sewed it similarly to the sleeve hems, but didn't add the elastic in. I used a cover hem. If your machine doesn't have that attachment, you can simulate it using two rows of straight stitching. Keep in mind that if you don't use stretchy lace on the bottom, the shirt isn't going to stretch to its maximum, so be sure you can fit into it.
Before you hem it, cut it an inch outside the line where you traced it inside. Hem it appropriately from there.
This is probably the best part. From here you can do anything you'd like. I decided to add a tight row of stitching in white on the collar, as well as a line of lace along the edge of the collar. I also added a decorative tie with ribbon to match the skirt I was wearing. In the future I may also add a patch on th front if I can find one I like.
Well, thanks for reading, and I hope this inspires others to go crazy with fun finds!