Sewing 101: Basic Alterations You Can Do Yourself

The way your clothes fit on your body affects your overall presentation. When something is ill-fitting, it becomes the first thing people see, and it influences their impression of you.

It’s rare for clothing off the rack to fit you perfectly. But this doesn’t mean that you should settle. Making minor alterations can significantly change how clothes fit on you, instantly polishing your look.

Rather than pay for professional tailoring services, you can learn basic sewing techniques to make alterations yourself. It will help you save money, allowing you to splurge on signature fashion pieces, like a real leather jacket or jewelry.

What You Need:

Before you start your alterations, you should gather the necessary tools. Although there’s nothing wrong with using a pair of kitchen or dog shears, you’ll get better results with the equipment designed and made specifically for sewing. Gather the following to build your sewing kit:

  • tape measure;
  • pins and a pincushion;
  • hand-sewing needles;
  • seam reaper;
  • sewing scissors and pinking shears;
  • sewing chalk;
  • sewing machine; and
  • pressing tools (e.g., iron).


Basic Alterations for Beginners

Once you have your sewing kit prepared, you can start with your alterations. Choose something minor and has a wide margin for error. Doing this allows you to build up your confidence, making it easier to take on more challenging alterations in the future.

Change Buttons

If you like buying clothes from thrift shops, you’ve probably encountered missing or damaged buttons. When this happens, you have two options: (1) sew on a similar-looking button or (2) replace all the buttons with new ones. For the latter, consider the following steps:

  1. Use the seam reaper and sewing scissors to remove the old buttons carefully.
  2. Mark the area with sewing chalk to prevent misplaced buttons.
  3. Sew on the new buttons using a thread of the same color as the original or complementary to the fabric.
  4. Make sure the new buttons fit the existing buttonholes to prevent problems.

Hem Bottoms

It isn’t easy to find pants or skirts that have the exact length you want. But this doesn’t mean you can’t buy bottoms that are too long. Learning how to hem bottoms will give you more options when you’re shopping.

  1. Take your measurements, precisely where you want the pants or skirt to stop.
  2. Use the tape measure and sewing chalk to mark your preferred length on the fabric.
  3. Leave half an inch of cloth after your preferred length.
  4. Once you’re satisfied, cut off the excess fabric and pin the half-inch to make the new hem.
  5. Run the garment through the sewing machine to finalize the alteration.

Take in Tops

A top that is too large will make you look frumpy. Even if you prefer shirts and blouses a size too big, taking them in will make them look nicer on you.

  1. Take your measurements while wearing the undergarments you’ll wear with the top.
  2. Wear the top and mark the areas you will alter. Use pins and mark them with chalk after you take it off.
  3. Use your tape measure to double-check the areas you’ve marked and make the necessary changes to suit the fit you want.
  4. Once you’ve finalized your intended alterations, pin them down to guide you as you sew.
  5. Run the top through the sewing machine, following your guide.

Clothes are an investment. By learning basic alteration techniques, you can make them fit better and look nicer. If you’re worried about making mistakes, consider practicing on items you no longer want to wear or those you only wear at home. It will help you hone your sewing skills and develop habits that will make the entire process easier.

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