Turning a Sweatshirt into a Jacket

I don’t really care for pullover sweatshirts. To me they are not that comfortable as they are mostly made for people taller than I am, and tend to bunch up on my shorter torso. I much prefer a cardigan style, and wear sweaters like that most of the time. But when I wanted to have something with our MINI club logo to wear on outings, the only choice (other than a thin t-shirt) was a sweatshirt. These were ordered for our group before lockdown, and I got mine at a dinner last February. It has sat in my closet ever since, as there was no motivation to do anything with it. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel for maybe getting to do some drives soon, I decided it was time to get it out and turn it into a jacket so I could wear it. All you need to do one is a sweatshirt and a separating zipper. Measure the front of your sweatshirt to find the zipper length you need.

The hardest part of this project is getting the cutting line right. Begin by laying the sweatshirt flat on the cutting table, and put a pin in both sides at the bottom to mark the left and right points. There aren’t seams to go by, so be sure your shirt is flat and straight.

Look inside the neck and find your shoulder seams. Meet those together and pin.

Lay the sweatshirt back down, smooth the neckline to find the exact center between the pins in the front. Place a pin at that point.

Meet the side pins at the bottom, and again put a pin at the exact center in the front.

Lay the sweatshirt flat again and smooth it. Place a long ruler on the pins, and mark a cutting line with chalk.

Check to be sure you are happy with the line, that it is centered well and straight.

Take a deep breath, and carefully cut on that line with a pair of shears or good scissors.

Lay the zipper on top of the cut in the orientation that is correct, teeth together, and separating the bottom.

Now, on each side, flip the zipper over to meet the raw edge of the sweatshirt to the edge of the zipper tape. Pin in place

Put a zipper foot on the machine. Sew the tape to the sweatshirt just inside the raw edge, about 1/4-inch.

When you get near the bottom on the side with the slider, pause with needle down.

Lift the presser foot and move the slider to the other side of the foot. Lower the presser foot and continue sewing to the end. Sew the tape to the other raw edge in the same manner.

Now, turn the zipper to the inside, tucking the raw edge under as tight as you can. Pin.

Sew in the ditch to enclose the raw edge. Repeat for the other side.

And that is it! The advantage to this method is when you aren’t using the zipper, it naturally folds to the inside creating a tailored edge on the jacket.

It is hard to see, but at the bottom, there is a nice corner and a smooth edge all the way up the center.

One more photo with a flash so you can see the finished project.

Now I have club attire I’ll actually wear and enjoy. Maybe the next one will have some patchwork on it too. Have you ever made a sweatshirt jacket?

Sharing Vintage Charm.

34 thoughts on “Turning a Sweatshirt into a Jacket

  1. Claire Warner

    Good Morning ☀️🌞😃 Carole – thanks soooo much for those Sweatshirt Conversion instructions. Mac and I both appreciate the warmth of said sweatshirts, but not the confinement. So as soon as I get home to the sweatshirts, I plan to fix them.
    At the moment we are enjoying some getaway family time here on HHI. Mac’s 2 sisters have joined us. We are enjoying Long Beach walks. Today will see what some of the Thrift Shops have to offer.
    Have a blessed day – Claire

  2. Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts

    I feel the same way about sweatshirts Carole – they just never fit me right. That’s a great idea to turn it into a jacket. Thanks for the great pictures. I feel like I could do this. Your jacket turned out great. I hope you can get back to your drives again soon!

  3. Charlotte Smith

    I follow the same steps but add a quilt fabric placket. I use fusible interfacing and then sew to raw edge of each side. I use my embroidery machine to decorate the sweat shirt. Twenty years ago I added patchwork to decorate the sweat shirts. If shirt is slightly small, this makes it wearable.

  4. Sue Hoover

    Thank you for the tutorial on putting the zipper on a sweatshirt. One question: Did you do anything special to finish the ends, both top & bottom? I’m a dolt when it comes to attire sewing. Hope you can get out on the road soon! It’ll be a new-found freedom once again!

  5. Susan Salo

    I am going to do this to one of my favorite sweatshirts that was a gift. I just don’t look good in the pullovers, and I would mostly wear them open anyway. Thanks!

  6. Barbara G.

    Several years ago it was very popular to make a patchwork jacket from a sweatshirt. I actually made one. I still have patterns somewhere for them! Yours looks great!

  7. This is a great solution to an aggravating problem. Most times sweatshirts make me look and feel “lumpy”, and with my internal furnace raging at will these days, I like some thing I can change out of quickly. The vertical line of the zipper is more stylish, too, imho. I just love it that you think of solutions to what bothers you about something and not just quit on a problem. 🙂

  8. Kim J LeMere

    I used to do this for my MIL as she was short and did not care for the way they would bunch up on her. She lived in Wisconsin and there are many days when a sweatshirt was needed to stay warm. Our Ben Franklin store held a class on how to do this and it was very much what you showed. They always turned out great and sometimes we would add a little applique to hers to spruce up the plain colors. Yours looks great and I know you will enjoy being to zip or unzip it depending on the weather.

  9. Helene m Cline

    I have used this idea on several sweatshirts. I find the neckline on pullovers too confining. The zipper will also work for sweatshirts with a hoddie.
    I made patch pockets for most of the sweatshirts as I like to have a place for my keys and credit cards.( I never carry a purse) I used six inch squares mostly from panels for my pockets.
    I’m happy you posted the instructions for others to use.

  10. Barbara Moore

    Back in the day when decorating sweatshirts was the bomb, we made every design known to mankind, and Tulip paint became a real BFF. Once that phase had passed, and it took several years, the beloved sweatshirt was still around and needing a different kind of attention. Along came a booklet by Kansas Troubles, I think, with lots of smaller decorated quilt items. One of those items was a sweatshirt-turned-jacket. Instructions had you cut off all the ribbing, and trim off the squared center neckline to a rounded style. Next you put facing and fusible interfacing along the front for stability, and with a bias binding, finish around the neck and front. The top neckline turned back and was then held in place with cute buttons. The sleeves had a cuff with a buttonhole closure. For the one I made, I chose off white and washed it a couple of times so that it would shrink and also the inside would begin the pilling process that always happens. Only in this case, this is the look I wanted, as I was going to use this now-textured side as my right side, giving it the look of boiled wool. In those days, everything had something on it – some piece of appliqué and such; mine has trees and snowmen and I used homespun bias binding for the trim. It was and still is one of the most appealing styles of sweatshirt redesign I’ve ever seen.

  11. Nicely done Carole. Your instructions are always so clearly written. I think this is something even a novice “garment sewer” like me could tackle. I’ve seen some big chunky colorful zippers being sold on line and that might be fun too in a color that matches your club logo. I spend all winter wearing zip hoodies, fleece jackets and sweaters in our drafty old house.

  12. Cindy

    Thank you Carole for this wonderful way to add a zipper! I am not a sweatshirt girl either but I do appreciate the warmth they provide. I must try this!!!!

  13. Linda B

    Great post, Carole! I hate sweatshirts too, for all the reasons you gave AND taking it off and putting on to moderate the heat does nothing good to my hair either! Very clever of you. And now you have your car club logo garment and bet there will be some discussion at your next event (if held in cooler weather) as to how you did it! When we worked outside, I only ordered zippered hooded sweatshirts, but often they were a bit hard to find. I am looking at my husband’s favorite hooded zippered sweatshirt as he walks past me, with a worn binding along the zipper and wonder if I should redo it with a new zipper…hmmm. I also have a couple sweaters in the same boat…they woud be so much nicer as a cardigan. I wonder… Probably would need to stitch the front before cutting to keep the yarn from unraveling?

  14. Cathie J

    I very rarely buy or wear sweatshirts for the same reason as you. This is a great solution for you to get use out of a nice logo sweatshirt. Thanks for the tutorial.

  15. I’ ve made a sweatshirt jacket…..many yrs ago…..and it was a VERY arduous task! Never again…..now I think I may actually try again. Yours is much simpler and the results are great!!!
    Thank you for sharing!

  16. RENA DAVIS

    Very impressed with the illustrations regarding the conversion of the sweatshirt to a more useful and professional looking jacket. I recall in the 80’s, several ladies were creating similar converted sweatshirt jackets. Some variations included lace trims, sequins, patchwork pockets, etc. but very time consuming to make and some outright gaudy! Your explanation and illustrations of inserting a more tailored zipper is fabulous! I am looking forward to trying your method and add a patchwork pocket.

  17. Irene Cook

    I too am short, 5′ tall… but I have plenty of attitude… I hate sweatshirts. So blucky and heavy. But your idea is great and I shall turn a bunch of them into jackets as you have done. But here in AZ the weather doesn’t get very cold for any lenght of time. But every now and thenthis jacket would be the perfectticket. Thanks a bunch. Cyber hugs for you.

  18. Joan Sheppard

    Yep, made a couple. I do advocate washing it first as sometimes they twist or shrink. Then as the Red Queen said “Off with their cuffs! Off with the horrid bottom binding.” I use swimsuit fabric as bias binding, loosely added on the bottom and sleeves. What fun we had with these! Love the tutorial on the zipper. I have become a devotee of the 2 way zipper. I can open it when I get it the car but still need to be a little bundled. Or when I have to bend over to retrieve the “gifts” my dog leaves at the park. Thanks for sharing. Always great ideas!

  19. Brenda @ Songbird Designs

    This looks great! We had a class one of our guild members taught on how to fancy sweat shirts up by adding fabric to the bottom, sides, and adding patchwork. Fun project!

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