Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sleeves - Part 1

     I'm going to call this "part 1" because this only addresses how to do a sleeve with a stretchy or knit material. I'm writing this in an effort to help a friend out. There is no way to explain sleeves verbally so hopefully this will help. You would be surprised at the lack of sleeve explanations or tutorials there are online. I've found a good method after much trial and error that works well for me. If you are non-pattern using sewer, this may be right up your ally.
     First off, let me just say this is NOT the professional way to draft a sleeve pattern. If you want to see how to properly draft a sleeve pattern go HERE. That gal does it right and proper! I am too impatient, don't have the time to do all those steps, and really don't care if the method is right as long as the end result looks good. Horrible I know, but I doubt I'll be repenting and changing my ways anytime soon.
     To start, you must first have something to which your sleeve will be attached, so trace a well fitting shirt. Place a piece of paper under the arm hole. (I used wax paper that is why it is clear, sorry if that is confusing) Make a dot at the arm pit and the top neckline. (where the tip of the scissors and the pen are)

     Next place the top corner of the arm hole on the top dot keeping the bottom on its dot and stretch it with your hand. Trace that curve onto your paper.

     Now, draw lines horizontally and vertically until they cross. You will have a triangle with one side having a slight curve.

     To cut out, place your pattern on a fold, curved side pointing away from the fold.

     This is what it will look like cut out. You can either round out the curve as you sew or trim it with scissors.

     This sleeve is a short, almost cap sleeve. If you want to add length to your sleeve draw a straight line from the end of the curve to the length you want. You need to taper the width down to the size of where the sleeve will fall on your arm.

     To sew the sleeve to your shirt, first sew the shoulders of the shirt together. Open the shirt flat, wrong sides out. Pin the middle of the sleeve to the shoulder seem and the ends to the ends of the armholes.

     Your sleeve will be longer than the arm hole. You will have to stretch the shirt as you sew to match the length of the sleeve. It will look like this when you are done.

     Starting at the ends of the sleeves sew down the sides of your shirt. Picture an upside down "L".

      On this particular shirt, I left the edges of the sleeve raw and sewed two rows of smocking along the edges to give it a ruffle. (I also have elastic around the neck so that is why it looks a little rumpled around the front)

     You can add variation by extending the width of your sleeve and making puffed or gathered sleeves. Just place your pattern a few inches away from the fold like this. (just ignore the writing on the pattern, its wrong)

     Use a basting stitch to gather the excess material and it will give a sleeve that looks like this.

    And here are my finished shirts.

     Just as a side note, a super easy way to make a maternity shirt is to make or buy an extra large shirt...ruche the sides with elastic and sew a few rows of smocking around the bottom edges.

     Well, I hope I didn't thoroughly confuse you. Once you get the hang of how sleeves should fit into a shirt they are super easy. To be honest I don't even do the tracing thing half the time...eyeballing it works pretty good too! The next part about sleeves will be on cotton material.

Linking to:
Sew Much Ado: We did it Wednesday
Someday Crafts: Whatever goes Wednesday


  1. Cute! I get so intimidated by sleeves.....love the ruching on that maternity top. I used to ruche my daughter's t-shirts when she was little, she wanted to dress like a "rocket star" so I used to glam up her tees.

  2. I can't believe you put that awesome maternity wear tip as a side-note!! That's a great idea!

    And I really struggle with sleeves so thank you for explaining this so clearly.

    Oh, I'm DEFINITELY your new follower!!


  3. How did I miss this!? I just read it after re-reading your shirt making tutorial. I'm definitely going to be putting this to use. Thanks!

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