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I was inspired to do a makeover on a perfectly good sweater that I knitted years ago but had never worn, Emmeline by Sarah Dallas.

Pay no attention to the running-stitch embroidery on this sweater. That is another story.

I had laid down a decent first coat of running stitch, but my enthusiasm for embellishment was dampened by the sweater’s boxy, oversized, poorly conceived fit. The Rowan model didn’t look like she was wearing a boxy, oversized, poorly conceived cardigan. She looked svelte, soigné, sans souci. Her cardigan didn’t look anything like this.

“Roomy.” “Comfy.” “Generous.” “Cavernous.” “Waste of perfectly good yarn.”

In hopes of achieving a Nip & Tuck new sweater, I performed plastic surgery.

I started out by pinning the seams, trying to get the fit set before I started stitching. It was the moment when the plastic surgeon draws on your butt with a Sharpie and says, “Here’s what won’t be here anymore when you wake up.”

However, I wasn’t in the mood for waiting, and the pins kept poking me, so I pulled out the pins and started what I guess you could call a folkloric and freehanded style of backstitch.

I backstitched until the sweater looked smaller, or at least different. Isn’t that what plastic surgeons do? Two inches off each side seam (four inches gone!) and four inches off the underarmular areas.

Transformation! You don’t look like you had a facelift—you just look rested! 

The question now: how to excise the excess yarn flab?

It is not comfortable to have a wad of excess knitting stuck up under your arm.

When all else fails, ask yourself, “What would Alice Starmore do?”

Alice Starmore is all about cross-stitching to bind up a raw edge. It’s a traditional part of her patterns where steeking is involved. I did this on the Donegal sweater a while back, and it really worked. So that’s what I did with the deflabbed seams of my old sweater.

Here’s how it went.

My plan was to cut it all back to a half inch wide, then do the Alice Starmore cross stitch over the edges, aka serging it old school style.

I left a half inch beyond the backstitching, even thought at this gauge it was only a couple of stitches wide. I figured I’d just bind the heck out of the edges and all would be OK. Or not.


These Fiskars scissors are terrifically sharp. Highly recommended.

I whacked away. Ms. Starmore instructs to whipstitch all the way across the seam in one direction, then come back to double it.

Cheerful chaos was the result. When this is done using Shetland wool, not cotton floss, the seam quickly felts upon wearing and turns into a very solid thing. I went with a dense cross stitch here because the floss is never going to bond with the fabric underneath it. MOAR STITCHING. I’m not so sure this will hold up as sturdily, but it feels pretty stout at the moment.

With my cardigan now leaner and sassier, I went back to cutting lengths of embroidery floss and piling on more running stitch.

I have two of these available, should anybody be needing some leftover yarnflab.

Once you start nipping and tucking, you get kind of addicted to it.


  • Bold, very bold.

  • Can you post a photo of the finished modified sweater? Was it successful?

  • Please post a picture of you wearing it.

  • What they say: we need pictures, preferably before and after shots. You could just sit like the Rowan model, so we can’t really see the acres of fabric.

  • I’ve done this with a few oversized sweaters I knit in the 1990s, except that I left the yarn flab in place. I may get bold now and remove it for better fitting sweaters!

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