Can a Wool Sweater Dress Be Altered?

Knit stitches form the basis for most sweater dresses.

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Wool sweater dresses are a chic and cozy winter wear option, but fit is critical if you want a sweater dress to flatter your figure. Simple alterations can take a sloppy oversized sweater dress up a notch. You can take in seams, shorten sleeves, bring the hemline up or even reshape an outdated dress into a more modern style. Altering sweater knits requires special care to keep the fabric from raveling and fraying, but can give you a dress you'll wear all winter long.


Sweater knits are composed of interlocking threads. If you look closely you will see lines of V-shapes or horizontal ridges formed by the individual stitches in the sweater dress. Unlike woven fabrics, sweater knits are not stable if you cut them. Once cut, the threads or yarn will separate. Wool sweater dresses may be slightly less prone to raveling, particularly if the yarn is rather rough or sticky. If you're nervous, try this first on that too-scratchy sweater in your drawer.


Put your sweater dress on inside out. Wear leggings and a tight fitted tee underneath to reduce the risk of pin pricks. Pin the dress to create the shape you want. Nip in the waist, shorten a hem or make other changes. You can even opt to create an empire waistline or reshape the neckline. Mark all of your changes with pins on the inside of the dress, then remove it with care. Follow along all of your pins, removing them as you go, with a disappearing fabric marker to create smooth lines.


Unlike most fabrics, you'll want to take your dress to the sewing machine before you take the scissors to it. Sew along each line, working with a single layer of the dress at a time, with a straight stitch and normal tension. Sew a second line 1/2 inch from the first, moving toward the exterior of the garment. Cut just inside the second line of stitching. The stitching will secure the knit stitches in your sweater dress and keep the fabric intact as you cut and sew.


Once you've cut away the excess fabric, put your dress back together. Sew the seams with a straight stitch along the marked lined. Trim seam allowances to even them. Serge the seam allowances with a serger or stitch a line of zigzag stitching near the edge of each seam allowance. If you're shortening a sweater dress, finish the cut edge with a serger or zigzag stitch before you turn it up and sew into place with a straight stitch.

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