How to Shorten Your Tops Without a Sewing Machine


How to shorten your tops without a sewing machineOne of the common issues with many tops is that they are too long and end on an unflattering point, or just are not proportionally great for you.  I talked about ruching up the sides in this blog post where you can sew or use shirring elastic to do so.  Today I want to share a different option that can be done easily even without a sewing machine.

Brought to you by Ms MakeItOver Bernadette

This is for who needs a way to ruche their shirt sides to shorten the hemline a little and/or has minimal sewing skills and/or no sewing machine. It can be done by hand or machine.
Cut some soft and preferably sheer (mesh spandex is fab) strips (the softer and sheerer, the better). You can use masking tape to measure out and cut the strips instead of trying to mark and cut evenly. Just dampen the fabric to remove the tape when you’re done cutting so it doesn’t get pulled out of shape.
On the wrong side of your shirt, mark an inch up from the hem (or just use the top of the hem as your mark for the bottom of the strip). Your strip length should be from about your waist to the top of the hem and just cut two same length strips now so they are even on both sides of the shirt.
You will be sewing three vertical rows over the sheer strip on both side seams. One up the middle over the original seam and a row on each side of that. See the picture where the red stitching is.

how to ruche a top with little sewing

Leave the top and bottom edges of the sheer strip open! Get a cord, yarn piece, string (I like soft ) that is about four times longer than the sheer strip and tie it to a small safety pin. Thread the cord down one little tube your stitching formed, across the bottom, and up the other side leaving long “tails” for tying. Pull both ends of the cord and tie where you want! This is infinitely adjustable and if you leave the tails long enough, you can even wear it without any ruching or as much ruching as you want. This also has the advantage since you may not know beforehand how much ruching you want in it.

how to ruche a top with little sewing


More tips on Where to end your tops


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    • I did try to make photos but could not get my camera to give you a close enough view to see how to do this. Video equipment was the same, sorry Jennifer!

  • In theory this sounds like a great idea. However, as a non-sewer, I need a few more visual references to figure out what exactly what my top looked like to begin with and what the final result will be.

    • MJ, the reason this method is great is that it is infinitely adjustable even after it is finished just by how much you draw up the string ends. It is much more difficult to judge a more permanent solution. You can pull up as much or as little as you like and then just tie the ends. You can always adjust it when this is done or even just change your mind!

  • This is brilliant because I could now shorten tops to wear with skirts and lengthen them again to wear with trousers!!! I love it.
    For non-sewers – I suggest just try it with two strips (one for each side seam of a top) measured about 3 or 4 cm by about 18 cm long using non-fraying fabric. Sew three lines vertically as per the last diagram (so you have two “channels”) and then thread the cord/string/elastic as per the last diagram. (Hope that helps.)

  • Recently, I realized that most of my tees are too long. Not long enough for tunics but really too long to wear untucked. Unfortunately, I am too short waisted to tuck in my tops.

    I do own a sewing machine, and sew quite a lot. The idea of hemming all my tees is discouraging, not to mention that I would need to buy matching thread (usually I only buy matching thread if I am top stitching, for inside seams I go with more generic colors in cones). Your ruching idea will work for some of my tops.

    What I decided to do to the tops that only need a little shortening, was to use steam-a-seam fusible webbing.I tried on the top, inside out, folded up the hem until it hit the right place and pinned. Then I cut off the excess leaving about 1/2 an inch for the hem. Works great and you can use the width of the tape as a guide when you turn up the hem.


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