It’s back to basics! This post is all about sleeve pattern alterations. And I have a feeling this is going to become a series of blog-posts, as there are so many different sleeve-styles I want to show you.

Here’s a group of sleeve-styles that all have the same starting point. If you want to exercise, all you need is a basic sleeve pattern. Divide it like this into 6 slices. In case you’re using a half-scale pattern or smaller, you could then just take copies of it. This will save you time and you can try all the sleeve alterations here and your own versions, too.

edit: I added a pdf you can download. It’s a half-scale basic sleeve pattern, which should fit quite perfectly on one A4 sized paper.

basic sleeve pattern

General idea

The idea behind all these sleeve patterns is adding volume with the slash and spread -method. The final look of the sleeve depends on where and how much you added the volume. Just cut the lines open and add as little or as much volume as you want. You don’t have to cut open all the lines and you can add different amounts of volume. Just keep it symmetrical.

In case of the sleeves that have extra puff at the shoulder you need to intervene with the armscye of the bodice-pattern as well: take off a couple of cm from the shoulder-line. Otherwise your final garment will have really wide shoulders!

modifying armscye

In case of the gathered sleeves, measure the original width of the sleeve-hem before modifying so that you know how much to gather.

Puffed sleeves

In the first example I added volume only at the top.

puff at the shoulder sleeve pattern

And here is the classic puff-sleeve with volume on both sides to gather.

puffed sleeve pattern

puffed sleeve

In both cases I lifted the sleeve-cap, so I’d have to modify the bodice-pattern, too. Lifting the sleeve-cap creates more volume.

Flared sleeve

Choose the length of the sleeve and then slash and spread. I made a short version.

flared sleeve pattern

flared sleeve

If you want to try a different effect, gather the volume instead of leaving it free.

Bell sleeve

This is kind of the same as the one above, but with much less volume added.

bell sleeve pattern

bell sleeve

Trumpet sleeve

Here’s quite a subtle version of the trumpet sleeve. This has just one vertical cut in the middle. At the elbow-level there are these horizontal cuts that allow you to make the trumpet-shape. Try opening it a bit more, if you want a more pronounced shape.

trumpet sleeve pattern

trumpet sleeve

Bishop sleeves

I made two different versions of this sleeve to illustrate how you can achieve a different result, depending on how much volume you add.

slim bishop sleeve pattern

slim bishop sleeve

bishop sleeve pattern

bishop sleeve

Peasant sleeve

This one is the same as the bishop-sleeve, but it has volume at the sleeve-cap as well. So I took this opportunity to show you how you can also add different amount of volume at the top and at the bottom.

peasant sleeve pattern

peasant sleeve

So there you have 7 different easy to draft sleeve-styles, each with the possibility to modify the look even further just by changing the amount of volume.

Which one is your favorite?

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  1. How come all of the illustrations have cut, but the results I see on your mannequin have no sign of joining or so

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      It’s because you do the cuts only on the paper pattern to alter the shape of the future sleeve. Once the pattern has a desired shape, you cut the fabric directly in that shape. that’s why there are no extra seams on the final sleeve. I hope this makes sense. 🙂

  2. peta Cavanagh Reply

    I’m at Sewtec sewing and pattern making course and the Sleeves there so out there, so many fantastic new,big creations. which is very difficult when looking say bell you get an array of cool sleeves. so my question is there an up dated sleeve name or just a universal naming of the basic starting bock. as its driving me crazy….Cheers Peta

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You can use any basic sleeve pattern to make these transformations. The basic sleeve pattern usually comes with a basic bodice block, so if you see in any patternmaking book where they teach how to draft the bodice block, it’s probably followed by the sleeve pattern that goes with it. Basic just means that it hasn’t been transformed yet.

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