Introduction: Leave Me Alone Sweater

About: engineer and cargo bike mom who loves to sew

Don't want to DIY? Thanks to the incredible support I've gotten, Betabrand is sold out of Leave Me Alone Sweaters! I'm working on getting them set up for manufacture myself. Subscribe at for exclusive pre-order deals! And join our Facebook community to stay updated on my progress.

-- Ruth Grace Wong

This sweater is convertible! You can wear it three ways: cowl neck, off-the-shoulder, and leave me alone. The leave me alone mode is more of a statement than a functional piece of clothing - I can't see anything through my sweater. If you find yourself using the leave me alone mode a lot, you could add eye holes.


- Sweater that fits you (to use for sizing)

- 2 yards of fabric: I have a thick warm knit (regular price $20 but I got it for $12 at my local fabric store)

- Zipper: I used a 22 inch zipper and cut it down to 14 inches. Use a longer zipper if you want your sweater to be able to go more off the shoulder. I got thick YYK brand zipper because I wanted it to be prominent. (~$3)

- Thread ($2)


- Sewing machine

- Zipper foot

- Hand sewing needle

If you like this, you might also like Becky Stern's Compubody Sock: . I'm a fan!

Step 1: Measure and Cut Sweater Body

You'll need to decide on four measurements here (the measurements I used when cutting are in brackets):

- width of sweater body (40cm)

- length of sweater (88cm)

- width of cowl neck (26cm)

- length of cowl neck (50cm)

I cut both the front and the back sweater body pieces at the same time by placing two pieces of folded fabric so that the fold was on the left side. Note that the cowl neck and the sweater body are a connected piece of fabric. The total length of mine was 138cm (cowl). When you are cutting a side with the fold be sure to half the dimension.

I used a sweater that I have that fits me to get the width of the sweater body. I took a measuring tape and using a mirror decided what measurement I wanted for the length of the sweater, from my shoulder to above my knees (I wanted the sweater long enough to be pants-optional).

For the width of the cowl neck, I measured on my shoulders how wide I wanted the neckline to open up. For the length of the cowl neck, I wanted the zipper of the sweater hang in the middle of my face, so I measured from the nape of my neck over the back of my head to my nose.

Note that you will be cutting a shoulder where the cowl meets the sweater body. My cowl width is 26cm and my sweater body width is 40cm, so my shoulder width is 7cm on each shoulder. I gave my shoulders a slight slope to match the sweater I had that fit me.

Step 2: Measure and Cut Sweater Sleeves

If you want to cut both sleeves at the same time, place two pieces of fabric folded in half such that the fold is on the top edge. Use your sweater as a template to decide what size to cut the sleeves. Cut your sleeves a couple inches longer than you want the final length to be, so you have enough fabric for the hem, and leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance. If your fabric has a pattern or print (for example mine is ribbed), make sure that the direction of the pattern on the sleeves matches the direction of the pattern on the body when you are wearing the sweater and your arms are down.

I cut my sleeves 73cm long, and the wrist edge measured 12cm (so the diameter would be 24cm). The shoulder edge measured 27cm (diameter 54cm).

Step 3: Sew Neck

We are attaching the front and the back pieces above where your arms would be. Pin and sew from the top of the neck down to the edge of the shoulder on the right and the left side. I used the widest zig zag stitch on my machine (7mm wide) and a 1.5 or 2mm stitch length.

Sometimes I'm super lazy and don't pin my fabric before sewing it, but that's a terrible idea with stretchy fabric like this. You may find that sometimes you have to be careful to make sure that the top piece of fabric is feeding into the sewing machine as fast as your bottom piece. I was able to do this by stretching my fabric a little when I was feeding it into the machine. If you have a lot of trouble, the internet recommends a walking foot attachment for your machine.

Step 4: Attach Sleeves

Pin and sew to attach the shoulder part of the sleeve to the shoulder part of the sweater, leaving the under arm part open.

Step 5: Sew Sides

I used to sew the bottom of my sleeves and the sides of my clothing separately, but I learned from withwendy on Youtube ( that it's much easier to get the armpit seams to line up nicely if you sew it all in one go. On each side I pinned and sewed from the wrist to the armpit to the bottom of the side.

Step 6: Sew Sleeves and Bottom Edges

This will prevent the knit fabric from fraying. I used a zig zag stitch, the widest my machine could do (7mm), and 1.5 or 2mm stitch length.

Step 7: Hem Sleeves and Bottom Edges

I handsewed this part using a blind stitch:

I wish that I had sewn the bottom hem with a stitch that was stretchy - you can see the hem line through the sweater on the bottom of mine. If I were to do this again I would try this stretchy hand stitch on the bottom hem instead:

Step 8: Sew Zipper

The zipper will determine how large the neckhole is. If you want your sweater to be able to go more off the shoulder, you will want your zipper to be longer. Hold the zipper against yourself to decide how long you want it.

Tack the end of the zipper just past your desired length.

Pin the edge of the neckhole onto the zipper. You want to be pinning the outside side of the sweater to the outside side of the zipper, so that when the sweater is right-side-out the seam is inside. Use a straight stitch and a zipper foot to sew the fabric onto each side of the zipper. I put my zipper pull half way down the zipper, and then when I sew up to the zipper pull, I pause sewing to pull it up past the sewing machine foot.

To sew the ends of the zipper to the fabric, I put the foot of my sewing machine up, and used the hand wheel to slowly make stitches. I sewed around the top and bottom edges, tacking over the actual zipper teeth themselves several times when I got to them.

Trim the zipper to length. I used the instructions here:

Step 9: Congratulations!

Your sweater is complete! If you want to get fancy you can add eyeholes. Now, if you ever want anyone to leave you alone, you can zip up the sweater and no one will talk to you.