How To Take in Side Seams and Facings

This short jacket needs to be altered at the sides:

Because I needed to take up quite a bit, I also needed to take it up in the sleeves as well:

Can you see the yellow headed pins and how I’ve pinned into the upper sleever area as well?

It may be easier to see in this diagram:

(The other option in taking in the side seams, is to leave the sleeve alone and just taper your stitches back to the underarm seam as the diagram below shows. The new seamline would be the blue dotted line:


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This is the method to use if the customer doesn’t want any excess fabric taken out of the sleeve as it sometimes  hinders the mobility of her arm.)

Ok, now for the jacket.

I tapered back to the original seamline before I came to the wrist area because the wrist (or cuff ) area was just fine.

If the sleeve is too wide in the cuff or sleeve area, you can take it in there as well.

That may mean having to take in the facing, if you have one, at the wrist area as well.

In this case, there was a facing on the inside of the jacket at the hemline:

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So, I will show you how to alter that.

Once you understand that process, you can alter the facing at the wrist with the same method.

To begin, I looked for understitching .

This is usually found on the inside edge of the facing at the hem:

(I needed to take the jacket in about a total of two inches on the side.)

So, with a seam ripper, I took out about four inches of understitching.

Next, take out the stitching that holds the facing to the garment.

If you peel back that facing, this is typically what you’ll see:

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Then, I took out the lowest horozontal seam along the bottom of the jacket:

Once you get that opened up, you’ll see that we can alter that facing:

In this case, I took in about an inch (which translates to two inches if you count the front and the back).

Whatever amount you are going to take in at the lower side seam is the amount you will take in the facing because you want them to be the same so they’ll match up when you go to put it all back together again.

Next, trim off the excess fabric and press the seam open.

If you can’t press the seam open because the original seamline stitches are in the way, take out the old stitches and then press the seam open.

Leave that hem area for a moment and travel up to the underarm seam.

If your underarm seam is continuous all the way from the hem to the wrist, you won’t have to do the next step.

But, most jackets have the side seam interupted by the underarm seam.

In other words, the side seam was sewn first and then the sleeve was sewn on.

If that is the case, you’ll most likely have a serged edge on that underarm seam, which the manufacturer did to keep the seam edges from fraying.

Remove more stitches than you need to so you have ample room to work in that area without having to come back and take out more:

I like using my little stork scissors for this type of work, but a seam ripper does the job too.

Once those stitches are taken out, pull the seam apart so you can work on it.

Now, take in the side seams of the jacket the amount you needed to alter it by:

Trim off the excess fabric and finish the raw edge.

Take in the sleeve seam and taper back to the original seamline just above the wrist area.

(Refer to that diagram above if you need to.)

If you held the sleeve seam next to the side seam, they should match up.

Now,  match the sleeve seam to the side seam and restitch the underarm seam along the original seamline:

Finish the raw edge with your serger or a zig zag stitch.

Now let’s go back to the lower edge of the jacket again.

At the lower hem edge, match the facing seam to the jacket side seam and stitch along the original seamline:

Understitch this area.

To understitch, pull all the seam allowances toward the facing and stitch along the original stitching line.

This helps keep the facing turned under.

That’s all there is to it!

You can use this technique on any garment that has facings.

If the garment has lining, it’s basically the same idea, only you would need to stitch up the lining when you are finished.

Any questions?

If so, send me an e-mail and a photo, if possible, and we’ll figure it out together.


10 Responses

  1. OMG’sh – thank you! Perfect timing. I have someone coming in next week w/a dashiki she wants taken WAY in. I told her I would attempt it, but w/that much being taken in, it might distort the dress a bit. But if she’s up for it, so am I. And bingo, your email showed up on that very subject. I’ll be studying it before she get’s here and hopefully, all will turn out well!

    • I love when stuff like that happens. So glad it helped and the timing was perfect.

      I learned something from you too…I had to look up what a dashiki is. I didn’t know those shirts had a name….thanks!

  2. I have been lurking around your blog for awhile and I just want to thank you so much for your excellent advice. I would have taken a much harder way to do the side alteration than you showed. Thank you so much!!!

  3. How much would you charge to take in a dress for someone that you work with. Its a princess cut dress; nothing too difficult at all.

    • Hi Yvonne,
      That’s a question that I can’t answer! There’s so many factors involved, so just ask yourself what you would want to pay them if they were doing the work for you. Hope that helps!

  4. you did a wonderful job explaining I’m trying to do alterations but this is still over my head thanks for a wonderful demonstration!

  5. hi Linda
    I recently had a problem with a side taper on a corset back wedding gown.
    After taking ing the sides to spread the back as she was loop to loop,(a little too big bust to hip) and wanted a prettier corset look.
    I got some slight diagonal pulls radiating from the corset base to the side right; about the hip area. any thoughts on how to correct this issue. thanks Lauren

    • Pulls always point to the problem, but I don’t know if you have any extra room in the corset area or the hip area, but you need more room in one of those spots. It may mean you need a wider corset in that area. I just don’t know if it’s possible without seeing it.

  6. I have a terrible time with underarm seams angling to the back of a shirt or jacket. I have tried a number of alterations and can’t get it to look right. I thought of angling the back pattern piece from underarm to bottom of piece out to amount needed to get seam straight. Everything I have tried has changed the front to not hang straight. Any suggestions??

    • Hi Pat, I’m having a bit of a time picturing what you’re explaining. Could you email me a photo or two please? That would be very helpful. Thank you.

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