cut off sleeve from long sleeved shirt

For the chop: altering men’s long sleeve shirt to short sleeves

I’m happy and relieved that I successfully completed my first ever alteration today. At my boyfriend’s sister’s birthday meal (happy birthday again Emily) I showed his family the tote bag I had made and they asked whether I could do alterations? Callum’s grandpa (G’and) had a shirt whose sleeves were too short.

I worried that he wanted the sleeves extending (!) but he wanted the shirt converted to a short sleeves. Mentally I calculated that must simply be a case of cutting off the end of the sleeve and hemming it so I said I could do it and could he lend me a short sleeve one he liked for reference.

Challenge accepted

I watched the following YouTube tutorial from KenAndrewDaily for some guidance:

This was helpful but I thought a 2″ hem allowance was too much and reduced it to 1 1/2″

In the short sleeve shirt that G’and had lent me for reference the hem was on the outside and was thin. I could tell that the inner folded edge did not extend far beyond the line of top stitching. Would this be a ‘mock cuff’?

mock cuff hem on short sleeved shirt | one small stitch for man
The short-sleeved shirt for reference with external ‘mock cuff’ hem

I laid out the shirt and measured down the top edge of the sleeve. The reference shirt was 10 1/2″ from shoulder to end of sleeve (including the hem). I worked in inches as that was a convenient length to measure. I added 1 1/2″ for the hem to make 12″ total.


cut off sleeve from long sleeved shirt
I always have my heart in my mouth when I first slice through new fabric – especially when it’s someone else’s shirt.

There was nothing else I could do at this stage apart from cut through the fabric. I used my rotary cutter as I want to keep practising with it. I did cut along the ruler though, not freehand like they do on the Sewing Bee.


pressing hem on short sleeved shirt
The seam gauge is my new favourite gadget

I never do ironing in real life (this may change as I start to make my own clothes and pay more attention to what I wear) but I love pressing when sewing. Pressing makes such a difference to the fabric when you sew it and there is something about doing it that just gets me really in the mindset and feel of sewing properly.

I checked the length of both sleeves against each other and they looked good to me.

shirt folded in half
Honestly, they are one on top of the other here.

Sleeve circumference and armsyce are different

I pinned the hems together as well in order to nail down the pattern matching. As the hems were on the outside of this project the pattern matching needs to be correct otherwise the hems will be very jarring to the eye.

As I pinned it dawned on me that I had excess fabric going into the hem because (and with hindsight very obviously) the armscye (which is the name of the arm hole of a garment – which I learnt thanks to this useful sewing glossary at ) is bigger than the circumference of where the cuff is.

The original shirt had a pleat half way round from the placket to handle this excess fabric. As the cuff is a separate piece of fabric to the sleeve it is easy to combine it this way.

On the first sleeve I sewed up I tried to distribute the excess near the arm seam and towards the back of the garment where I hoped it would be less noticeable. I did try to put a neater pleat in but it wasn’t coming together for me.

On the second sleeve for some reason I managed to manipulate in a pleat. I think it was because I had referred to the chopped off sleeves and had seen how big and deliberate the original pleat was so I was bolder with it.

dart to deal with excess fabric
This photo makes it look more dramatic than it does in real life. The pattern matching goes out here but it comes back in neatly (runs and checks….)

I had the walking foot on my machine anyway and I think it helped me keep the top-stitching neat. That and I went very slowly.

Transformed – from long to short sleeves

short sleeve to long sleeve shirt alteration
Foolishly I didn’t take a before photo to truly show the transformation – next time.

Waste not want not

In the spirit of reducing waste I turned the chopped off sleeves into a plastic bag (for life) holder for my kitchen. I’ve been meaning to make one of these for a while.

long sleeve shirt altered to short sleeves
I hope he likes it.