Shorten a Jacket Sleeve

by Elise
1 Hour

Shortening the sleeves on a jacket is one of the rare times I do an alteration by hand. It is possible to do this by machine – I once worked with someone who would do this, but it involves opening up the jacket lining in the body, and I’d rather leave parts of a jacket that don’t have to be altered alone.

Pin your shortened sleeve length
Pin sleeve at desired length

Try the jacket or coat on and place one horizontal pin at the new sleeve length. I usually go with just below the wrist for outerwear. For a suit jacket or blazer, the standard “rule” is to have it end about 1/4″ up from the wrist so that the shirt cuff can stick out just a little bit underneath. (But I’m not one who follows arbitrary rules for rules’ sake – make your sleeve end where you like!)

I usually just mark hems for jackets and pants on one side and then transfer the measurement over, but an exception would be if someone has a longer arm/leg than the other, or perhaps a higher shoulder. (This is more common than you may think).

Open sleeve lining
Use a stitch ripper to open the seam that attaches the lining to the sleeve
Opened sleeve ready to cut extra.

Open the lining then measure and cut excess.

Now it’s time to undo the stitching that attaches the lining to the jacket in the sleeve opening. I like to do both sleeves at the same time. Press the crease where the sleeve previously ended, use steam.

Cut your sleeve 1″ below your pin marking your new length. DO NOT CUT YOUR LINING YET. I like to shove the lining high up in the sleeve at this point to get it out of the way.

Stitch the sleeve inside the jacket by hand
You may have to open the side seam up a little if the sleeve is tapered here
Cross stitch in place using matching thread.

Hand stitch the sleeve opening.

Pin your sleeve up 1″, this should be where your pin that marked your desired length is. Take it out now. If your sleeve is narrower where the cut line is than where it sits when it is turned up. it won’t lay flat. You will have to open the sleeve a bit in the seam allowance of the arm to give it a bit of extra room to lay flat. You can see this in the photo above. After you open the seam just enough for it to lay flat, do a few stitches by hand here so the seam won’t continue to come undone.

Using a cross stitch, sew around the sleeve opening. Be careful not to pull the thread too tight/have too much tension between the stitches or else it will pucker on the outside. You can check this as you go. Press when you are done this step, with the iron on the inside of your sleeve to avoid any shiny marks on the outside.

Cut and sew the sleeve lining
Sleeve lining sticking outside hemmed sleeve.
Pin a double turned hem after you cut the lining.
Hem the lining by machine.

Cut and sew the sleeve lining.

With the main sleeve fabric hemmed, it’s time to look at the lining. You have to be careful with sleeve linings – if it is too short, it will cause the whole sleeve to pucker.

Cut the lining about 1″ longer than the finished sleeve. Do a double turned hem, 1/4″ each turn. Sew the hem on the sewing machine, or if you have to do it by hand you could use a backstitch. Press the hem to make it lay smooth.

Pin the hemmed lining inside the coat sleeve about 1/2″ up from the edge, or so the lining is inside the sleeve and doesn’t show below the finished sleeve edge. Make sure to match any sleeve seams , and make sure that the lining is not twisted.

Slipstitch the lining to the coat sleeve hem allowance. Use fairly small stitches to make it more secure. I like to tack it in a few extra spots after stitching just to make it a bit more secure.

Finished shortened sleeve.

Your hemmed sleeve is complete!

For more tips on making your own alterations, you can grab my free PDF full of fitting tips by signing up for my newsletter here.

If you liked this tutorial, might also like How to Sew a Cuffed Hem on Sleeves or Pants

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Join the conversation
  • Maxine Maxine on Jun 27, 2021

    Thank you. I need to adjust the length of a new outer jacket.

    The jacket is well made. This version will keep the look.

    • Elise Elise on Jun 27, 2021

      I'm glad this is helpful to you Maxine!