Oops! How to lengthen or shorten a sweater

Interweave Knits editor Eunny Jang demonstrates how to make a sweater longer or shorter.

I am notorious for knitting my sweaters too short. I don't know what comes over me; no matter how many times I measure myself and vow to knit the body (to armholes) 17 to 19 inches, I continue to ignore myself and stop at about 16 inches.

I think I get too excited to start a new part of the pattern and I stretch the sweater when I'm measuring. Slap my hand, will ya?

I've tried to make my sweaters longer by stretching the heck out of them during blocking, which works okay if I wet block something but not so great if I steam block. I've had to make my sweaters longer several times, and it's not fun.

The first time I did this I picked up stitches and knitted downwards to the desired length. This sort of worked, but there was a ridge where I picked up stitches.

The second time, I tried to unravel the cast-on edge and pick up stitches so I wouldn't have that ridge. Here's some news from me: you can't unravel a cast-on edge. And it's agony to pick it out. I ended up cutting it off and making a big mess. I had to take out several rows, adding to the amount I had to knit to make the sweater the right length.

I've since learned how to correctly lengthen (or shorten, if necessary) a knitted sweater. Here's Interweave Knits editor and Knitting Daily TV host Eunny Jang to show you how, too.

As you can see, the key is picking up the stitches before you cut the cast-on edge. And if you've knit from the top down, easy-peasy—just unravel the cast-off, pick up the stitches, and start knitting.

Even though the fix is pretty easy, I think I've finally learned my lesson. At least I hope so.

I've also learned so much from Eunny and Interweave Knits over the years. Knits is just full of knitting techniques and tutorials, including the feature "Beyond the Basics." I've learned how to make better buttonholes, how to follow a lace chart, how to set in sleeves correctly, and much more.

Now you can stock up for the holidays with our Interweave Knits CD Collections!


P.S. Do you have a favorite knitting technique or tip? Share it with us in the comments!


Fixing Mistakes, Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

25 thoughts on “Oops! How to lengthen or shorten a sweater

  1. Kathleen, Many years ago my mother would knit jumpers and dresses for my girls. Of course, after a year these outfits were too short. I did unravel the cast of or on stitches successfully for her and she would add the necessary length. It really did work.

  2. I recently had to lengthen the sleeves of a sweater, despite trying it on while knitting it top-down. The sleeves are straight (no shaping) stockinette in the round until the last 6″ or so – a cable. I snipped a stitch about an inch above the cable and separated the cuffs from the sweater’s sleeves. I put the sweater’s sleeves on waste yarn and put the cuffs on one long circular needle and knit the 3″ I needed to add, then methodically kitchnered the cuffs back on the sweater’s sleeves. It took a while, but I didn’t want to rip out the cables. Looking back, it would have probably been easier, though!

  3. Hi, I have altered the llength of a knitted sweater from time to time by unpicking the seam if I have already stitched it up and then pulling a thread tight and cutting it close to the garment. You will find that you have a row of stitches ready to be picked up. You can then lengthen it by knitting the required extra rows or shorten it by pulling the thread at the length you require and then knitting on your rib or border. Something like you describe today but slightly different method! Regards, Tess

  4. Sorry I don’t have a tip or a comment, but trying to find someone who can send me with a video of how to make an e wrap stitch. I have tried several places with knitting sites, but no one will even answer me. Hope you can help me. Thanks in advance. arb

  5. That was a very helpful tip.

    If I’m not sure how long/short to make a sweater/sleeve, or if I’m not sure I have enough yarn, here’s something else I’ve done:
    *For a sweater, I will cast on provisionally and start to work the sweater body (ie, above where the ribbing or edging would be). When the body of the sweater is done (or all of the sweater except the edging, if I’m worried about yarn amounts), I will add the ribbing/edging. If I have lots of yarn, or the right amount of yarn, my rib/edge will be the same length as the pattern contemplated. If I have less, I may either make a shorter rib or choose a decorative edging that doesn’t “take in”. The latter is, of course, the “why, of course I decided to knit a cropped sweater”.
    * For sleeves, if I’m not working them from the armhole down, I provisionally cast on, and start working the non-ribbed stitch. If it looks like I’ll be short of yarn, then the provisional edge is unraveled and I use the unraveled yarn to finish the sleeve cap (this is the “yes, I intended to make a short-sleeved sweater!”). If the amount of yarn is no issue, I work the ribbing last, after sewing the sleeve cap into the sweater.

    You see, I have the opposite problem you do – I’m short, and sweater arms/lengths then to be way too long for me.

  6. I knit all of my bottom up sweaters, sleeves (and I guess just about everything else that’s “bottom up”) with a provisional cast-on……it gives you a couple of advantages…it allows you to lengthen if needed, it allows to add a decorative edge, and even if you just finish with a one-row pattern edge, I find that doing the edge this way (upside down) gives you a cleaner finish without any “edge roll”…it’s a little more work but well worth it…

  7. Thank you for the great insight to lengthening or shortening a knitted garment. I am a notorious knitter for too short or too long so have for years pulled a thread and knitted down, however I was unaware of the great tip on visually treating the stitches so the half stitch offset is not noticeable. Michele from Australia PS: loved your gold cardigan Eunny (my favourite colour and type of garment) so now I am going looking in the website to try to find the garment and yarn type – plus the knitting technique CD as you can always learn things for other knitters no matter how long you have been knitting.!

  8. Your demonstration has been very helpful. I would never have thought of picking up stitches 1-2 inches from the bottom.

    My problem is a sweater I knitted for my son last year. It is too long and there is a ribbing at the bottom. Should I cut this off, un-ravel the stitches and then try to pick back up and knit the ribbing?

    Thank You,
    Barbara Bogle

  9. Hi Barbara,

    That’s what I would do. If you’re really good at Kitchener Stitch you could cut off the ribbing, unravel the extra length, and Kitchener the ribbing back on.

    Good luck,


  10. Thanks so much for the wonderful, precise, clear instructions how to lenghten or shorten a sweater by Eunny Jang. I have been knitting since I am five years old, but never figured out how to do this.

    Love those tips and will look for them more carefully.

    Dorrit Franke

  11. If you consistently have a problem with short sweaters, what about casting on with a provisional cast on? I do that often with cuff down socks when I think I might not have enough yarn.

  12. I made a beautiful cardigan thats to short. How do i make it longer. it has 2 inch ribbing at bottom, and the button band runs opposite way to body of cardi.

  13. I made a beautiful cardigan thats to short. How do i make it longer. it has 2 inch ribbing at bottom, and the button band runs opposite way to body of cardi.

  14. Thank you for this! I knit myself a hat last year and it’s too short! I was going to pick up the stitches to lengthen it but I didn’t know it would leave a ridge; now I know what to do. Very helpful!

  15. The last sweater I made was made to the length of the pattern – but 2 inches too short for the tall person it was made for. It was a lace/cable sweater, so I picked up the stitches, did a row of YO/K2tog, then continued with ribbing. This looked great!

  16. Thank you Eunny! I had some reservations about trying this, but I didn’t wear the sweater because of the sloppy sleeves-what did I have to lose? Worked beautifully. I shortened the sleeve by 1/2″, dec 2 sts. & added a 2×2 rib & now I love the sweater.

  17. This is such a great tip! My question is about picking up the right side of the v. I am a left-handed knitter. Will this have any relevance on which side of the stitch I pick up? (Maybe a stupid question, but I want to be really certain before I cut up my sweater.

  18. I was wondering if anyone could recommend someone who can help me shorten a few pair of handknitted kneesocks which I purchased in Germany. If you know some, please let me know. thanks in advance

  19. I made a sweater way too big. The body is passable but the sleeves are 4 inches (or 8 inches counting both sides of the seam) too much. It hangs under the armpit and is very bulky. I was wondering if I could use a sewing machine and sew up the sleeve then cut the extra off it. Has anyone done this? Would it work? I don’t know what else to do. Thanks for any help.