Salvage a Long Sleeve by Turning it Into a Short Sleeve

turn a long sleeve into a short sleeve

My boyfriend’s wardrobe consists almost entirely of slim-cut button-down shirts, which look great but don’t last forever. A few of the older ones have started fraying and two of them have developed the dreaded elbow hole. Since it’s summer (THANK GOD) and elbow patches don’t sound too appealing right now, I decided to chop off the sleeves and hem them so the shirt’s still wearable.

I found this simple tutorial from The Mother Huddle, and the process is nearly as straightforward as it seems.

sewing a long sleeve into short sleeve

First, find an existing short-sleeve shirt to act as your guide.

use a rotary cutter

Using a rotary cutter, cut parallel to the line of the short sleeve, leaving an extra 1.5″ for hemming purposes.

cut the sleeves

You should be left with something like this. (Sorry for the clashing floral carpet/plaid. My eyes!)

Fold the raw edge of each sleeve up 3/4″. Give this fold a quick press so it stays uniform and doesn’t unfurl.

ironing a sleeve hem

Fold the sleeve edge up again another 3/4″ and press thoroughly. You might want to try the shirt on at this point to make sure the sleeves are even.

And now for the slightly tricky, but manageable part: stitching around the cuff without having the seam pucker. For whatever reason, there was a little extra fabric leftover the first time I hemmed the sleeve, causing it to pucker where the stitches ended. After ripping those suckers out, I tried again. I avoided the seam pucker the second time by starting the stitch about 1/4″ past the underarm side seam. That way, the small amount of leftover fabric can be folded directly under the side seam, hidden from view.

Keeping that in mind, back to The Mother Huddle’s directions:

On the right side of the sleeve (from the starting position mentioned above), sew a row of stitches at 5/8″ from the bottom of the cuff. Take your time with this, keeping the stitches uniform all the way around. Sew another row at 3/4″ from the bottom. Don’t forget to backstitch! Press the finished double-row stitching. Repeat for the other arm.

short sleeve into long sleeve

The hem should look something like this.

upcycled short sleeve shirt

And it’s really that simple. No more throwing away holey shirts or using them as expensive dish rags. Happy upcycling!