How to Make a Sweater Smaller Without Sewing

How to Make a Sweater Smaller Without Sewing?

A sweater tends to get bigger over time. This might be because you have either lost weight since the last time you had worn it or constantly wearing it has made it stretched. It’s normal for a sweater to become bigger over time. Constant pulling of the sleeves will make the sweater bigger. This is because of the elastic used in sweaters to give them a snug fit. You could fix it by cutting it and sewing it to make it smaller, but not everyone is good at sewing!

So how do you make a sweater smaller without sewing? There are 5 easy ways for you to shrink your sweater without going through the trouble of a tailor or a seamstress. These are some of the best do-it-yourself tricks you can use to make your sweater smaller without sewing!

Key Takeaways

  • Washing and drying could be both hand and machine-washed, depending on whether you want to use hot water or cold water.
  • Ironing can help you make the stretched parts of the sweater smaller.
  • Cutting the sweater could be messy, but you both make it smaller and design it in the process of cutting it.
  • Fabric adhesives like fabric glue are temporary ways to make a sweater smaller without sewing. For a more permanent adhesive, use hem tape.
  • Different sweater fabrics shrink in different ways. Learn about the fabric and what is best to shrink it.

5 Ways to Shrink Your Sweater

From weight loss to stretching of the sweater, there are many reasons why a sweater might become bigger. Nonetheless, I shall point out 5 ways you can shrink your sweater all in the comfort of your home!

1.Washing and Drying

You have probably heard that clothes shrink after washing them. This is also true when it comes to sweaters, where the water temperature determines how much the sweater can shrink over time. For washing and drying, you can either wash it in hot or cold water and air dry it or put it in the dryer.

I shall highlight the steps on how to do so for both methods.

Washing and drying
Washing and drying

Method 1: Washing machine and dryer

  • Step 1: Put the sweater in the washing machine with a bit of non-bleaching detergent. Turn the sweater inside out to prevent it from fading in color. Check the sweater every few minutes to make sure it has not shrunk too much.
  • Step 2: After about 10 minutes of washing it, then place it in the dryer on low heat. Take the sweater out every 5 to 6 minutes to get the desired size. Don’t dry it for more than 30 minutes.

I’ll advise against washing it in warm water by hand because you will get a very uneven shrinking of the sweater. If you want to wash it by hand, then cold water and air drying is better.

Method 2: Cold water and air drying

  • Step 1: Fill a bucket or a sink with cold water and add 1 tablespoon of bleach-free, mild detergent.
  • Step 2: Turn the sweater inside out and soak the sweater in the cold water for 10 minutes, swirling the water every 2 minutes or so. Don’t grab the sweater while doing this or else it will make the fabric absorb too much water and damage the sweater.
  • Step 3: Remove any excess water by pressing on a towel and leaving it to dry on a flat surface. Don’t wring the fabric of the sweater or else it will get ruined.


You might have noticed the ends of the sweater are stretched. This is because the elastic in the sleeve end become loose over time, especially if you like rolling up the sleeves. Constantly pulling your sweater down will also cause the bottom end to become stretched. To help shrink the ends, ironing is probably the best way to do it!


Step 1: Put the sweater out in a sink or bucket of hot water

To help shrink the sweater evenly, you first soak it in hot water for about 10 minutes. Add white vinegar to your hot water to prevent the color from fading. After that, take out the sweater and press it dry with a towel. Do not squeeze or wring the sweater or you risk damaging it.

Step 2: Ironing the ends

Lay the sweater out on a flat surface. Then take the iron on high heat and slowly iron out the ends of your sweater. Make sure you are not stretching the sweater while doing this. Use a cloth over the sweater to iron it so you are not directly heating the sweater and ruining the fabric.

If you have a steam iron, then you can skip step 1 and use the steam iron directly on the sweater. 

3.Cutting the Sweater

This might not be the cleanest way to make a sweater smaller but it does the trick! You can even cut it in a way to make the sweater look like a crop top or a shoulder-cut sweater.

Cutting the sweater
Cutting the sweater

Step 1: Take out the seams of the sweater where you want to make a cut

Use a seam ripper to help you get rid of the stitches so your cutting is easier. For the edges, make sure the inner seams are also ripped before cutting the sweater. Cut with scissors appropriate for the fabric of the sweater.

Step 2: Cut according to your need

Here, it is up to you how you want to design the sweater after cutting. By cutting the sweater, you are making it smaller. So why not make the cut sweater as fashionable as possible!

The problem with this is that cutting a sweater might not be the cleanest, and sewing it might be needed. However, if you use adhesive or hem tape, you might be able to design it in a way without sewing.

4.Making Slits and Bonding with Adhesive

A popular way of making a sweater smaller is cutting slits on the sides of the sweater and then re-stitching it to make them smaller. Instead of the sewing part, an alternative to this is to use fabric adhesive!

Making slits and bonding with adhesive
Making slits and bonding with adhesive

Step 1: Make the slit on the sides of the sweater

If your sweater has any stitches on the side, then take them out using a seam ripper. This makes the job easier as it will form a natural slit. Otherwise, use fabric scissors to cut a slit along the side until you reach the base of the arm. Don’t cut the sweater all the way!

Step 2: Use the adhesive to bond the two slits

Take the two ends of the slit and use the adhesive that you prefer. You could use adhesive glue to put them together. However, this is a temporary solution. I would suggest using double-sided adhesive hem tape for a stronger and more permanent bond. Regardless, make sure that you leave about ¼ inch of space between the adhesive and the end of the slits. Then iron over a cloth to seal the adhesive together.

5.Folding and Hem Tape

Speaking of hem tape, another interesting method you can use is folding the ends of the sweater and hem tape them together. This creates a nice fold for the sweater at either the bottom or the sleeve ends.

Folding and hem tape
Folding and hem tape

Step 1: Fold the appropriate amount of fabric

This is totally up to you. Just make sure that the ends are folded in such a way as to match the thickness of the hem tape you are using. That way you don’t have to resize the width of the tape and easily add it.

Step 2: Add the hem tape and iron it

Add the hemp tape on the inside of the fold and then iron over it. Make sure to leave about an ⅛th inch of space between the end of the fabric and hem tape before ironing it. Take a dry iron on medium to medium-high heat and iron over the cloth to make sure the heat is not directly applied.  

There you have it! Simple DIY steps you can take to make your sweater smaller right at home. However, there is a case for how different materials might react to the shrinking so you would have to know how to shrink sweaters of different fabrics.

Tips to Shrink Different Types of Sweater Fabrics

Tips to Shrink Different Types of Sweater Fabrics
Tips to Shrink Different Types of Sweater Fabrics

Because sweaters can be made from different materials, they will have differences in how much they shrink.

Here are some tips on shrinking different types of sweater fabrics:

  • 100% wool sweater: You can use the washing machine and dryer for this. Make sure that the sweater is 100% first!
  • Cotton sweater: Due to being a natural fiber, cotton would not shrink much and too much heat would cause it to fade in color. For this, a dryer works fine for a little shrinking. Turn it inside out so the outside color does not fade as much.
  • Acrylic sweater: Acrylic sweaters are harder to shrink! That is why you might have to repeat the process a few times to get the desired amount of shrinking.
  • Polyester sweater: With a blend of polyester, it might make shrinking the sweater tougher. Put it on the highest heat in a dryer. Turn the sweater inside out to make sure the color doesn’t fade.
  • Alpaca sweater: Alpaca is a very delicate material so it might not shrink after it becomes stretched. Hot water might not be enough so you might have to sew it to make it smaller.
  • Cashmere sweater: For cashmere, I advise a cold wash because of the delicate nature of the fabric. You could also iron on low heat over a cloth.


What causes sweaters to become stretched?

Sweaters can stretch due to washing and drying. Wearing the sweater regularly can also cause it to stretch due to the elastic losing its elasticity.

Can I make my sweater smaller?

You can make it smaller, but it will depend on the material the sweater is made from. Natural fabric like cashmere won’t shrink after it has been stretched.

Which sweater will shrink the least?

Sweaters made from synthetic fabric will shrink the least, like acrylic and polyester.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it is pretty easy to shrink a sweater without sewing it! You won’t be needing to have it altered at a seamstress or buy a new one if you know how to shrink it properly. Hopefully, the tips and methods above will help you make your sweater smaller without sewing.


Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

Leave a Reply