Last spring I mentioned there was going to be a tutorial on avant-garde sleeves. Well, here it is! A little collection of sculptural sleeves.

I studied different kinds of sculptural patterns and prepared these examples for you.

There are different ways to create cool shapes that work with sleeves and I hope these will inspire you to continue experimenting and maybe even coming up with new patterns.

There’s a half-scale sleeve pattern you can download from the side-panel! Hint: Experimenting in small scale is an excellent way to use those fabric scraps you have laying around.

Sculptural Panel Sleeves

I have dedicated a couple of posts on the panel construction. It’s great for sleeves, too.

The basic idea is that first you divide the pattern into sections (=panels) and then add whatever shape you want on both sides of them.

The pattern becomes quite a mess and you need to be careful when copying the various pieces. Check that the sections that will be sewn together match in length.

Here are some examples, starting with an oldie I posted on Instagram long time ago. It has triangular shapes.

Sculptural panel sleeve pattern: triangle

It’s easier to first draw the shapes on one side of each panel, and then on the other. I colored pattern piece number 6 to illustrate how to copy it.

As you can see there’s a lining underneath. I just used the basic sleeve pattern without panels for it.

What about a rectangle? It creates kind of interesting sleeve.

Sculptural panel sleeve pattern: rectangle

The sleeve doesn’t have to be short. Here’s a long version with the panels shaping the sleeve profile starting from above the elbow. First I made the panels slightly more narrow and ended with this large oval shape.

Long sculptural panel sleeve

Balloon Sleeve

Or is it..? Well, it does have a balloon shape.

This is an easy one. Decide the starting point for the balloon. In this example it’s just below the elbow.

Separate the upper part and cut the lower part into slices. Add 10cm / 3,9in between each slice (or whichever amount you want). This extra volume will then be gathered to create the balloon shape.

Notice that the sleeve will become a bit shorter, so you might want to add some extra length, too.

Triple Lantern Sleeve

I’m just inventing the names here!

Maybe you are already familiar with the lantern sleeve? How about drafting several lantern shapes one after the other?

Choose the amount of lanterns and divide your basic sleeve pattern accordingly. Mine has 3 lanterns, so I divided the sleeve into 6 pieces horizontally.

Btw, it’s also convenient to draw the vertical lines before cutting the pieces.

Lantern sleeve pattern

Each lantern consists of 2 pattern pieces so the 6 pieces form 3 pairs.

Number the pieces and then you can cut them. Keep the pieces in order.

Add volume to each piece with the slash and spread -method as in the picture. The pairs must match. In my example I added 5cm / 2in to each slot. Except the first pair that has fewer slashes.

This is what came out of the pattern. Drumroll please!

Triple lantern sleeve

Pointy Sleeves

I prepared two examples of this type of sleeve. Both can be made either with or without a sleeve cap. And of course you can choose another shape as well.

This first example has a normal sleeve cap that’s attached to a facing.

And this one doesn’t have a sleeve cap, so you’ll see an open shoulder. It’s attached to the bodice only at the underarm area. You can either add a facing or just double the whole sleeve.

It goes without saying that these sleeves require a stiff fabric and/or interfacing or they will collapse.

Pointy Shoulder

Speaking of pointy sleeves. Here’s another way to create a pointy shape. This time placed at the shoulder tip. You’ll need the bodice pieces, too, to complete the pattern.

The triangle should extend outwards from the shoulderline and the sleeve cap should be rather wide so that your arm will have enough space.

Notice the X and Y -bits at the armscye and sleeve? They need to have the same length. And also all the triangle sides that will be sewn together.

In case you’re wondering: yes, the neckline is wider than normally.

You can try altering the angle of the triangle to get a different kind of silhouette.

Sculptural Accordion Sleeve

I got the idea for this sleeve from Pattern Magic.

The pattern is made of 3 circles. The smallest circle is the circumference of your armscye.

Before measuring, move the armscye line a couple of cm inwards from the shoulder tip, because the sleeve will look better if it starts on top of the shoulder. Also, check that the underarm line of your bodice isn’t too low.

Calculate the circle radius: divide the armscye measurement by 3,14 and the result by 2. Then draw the circle with the help of a compass.

Draw a straight line that passes through the first circle (=A).

Then decide the size of your accordion sleeve at the upper- and lower edge. The underarm area will remain small. Mark the measurements along the line you drew earlier and find the centre for the biggest circle (=C).

Then do the same for the medium sized circle (=B).

I cut 2 pairs of the larger circle and 1 pair of the medium to make this sleeve.

sculptural accordion sleeve

Pattern Magic has you open the circle, too. I have some doubts on how the circle will work when attaching it to the bodice as the armscye is more oval than round. So you might have to fiddle with the shape.

You can find more info on the Accordion-technique here.

Scale sleeve

This is another technique you’ve seen me use. I learned it during one of Shingo Sato’s Masters’ Challenges. Now I created this sleeve putting the scales in an orderly queue.

First you draw the outer edge of each scale (1), and then draft the facing under the tip of each (2).

As these are straight lines, there’s no need to sew the facing. You can simply fold it under. So to copy the pattern pieces, mirror each half of the facing at the edge of the scale tips. See the colored pattern piece number 1.

The following pattern piece starts at the base of the previous facing. I colored pattern piece number 4 to illustrate this.

Here’s the finished sleeve.

To be honest, I enjoy experimenting with these kinds of patterns the most, so who knows, I might do another tutorial with a new set of sculptural sleeves. 😉

Now I must mention my Pinterest-board on sleeves, which has grown quite a bit! For your inspiration.


  1. I really love these sleeves. Can’t wait to see more. Great job!!!! ❤

  2. Aji Happiness Reply

    You are indeed a talented designer and I look forward in learning more from you.

    • Yes inspire me! Great design’s,your creativity is top notch. I have been trying to do the 3D vortex,when I tried joining them,there’s a space at the middle of the fabric,like it’s not enough,I think I’m missing something. Please can you do a tutorial on it.thank you in anticipation.

      • shapesoffabric Reply

        That’s so awesome! Thank you. 🙂 Which 3D vortex do you mean? Are you referring to the trcutting -technique? Could you please email me a picture to info(a)theshapesoffabric.com on the technique and the part you are having problems with? so I can try to find a solution.

  3. These designs are so amazing. I’m new to fashion designing so your articles are really inspiring.

  4. Wow! Wow! Wow!!!
    You’re amazing.
    These are wonderful designs with top notch creativity.
    I love them and I’m going to try them.
    Thank you.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re very welcome. 🙂 And thank you for your kind comment. I’m flattered.

  5. You are amazing 🤗
    I am 73 years old and I just want to fill my days learning how to make exciting new things .

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thank you! You too. 🙂 That’s an awesome way to fill your days.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thank you! You too. 🙂 That’s an awesome way to fill your days.

  6. Oluchi Iwu Reply

    Great job..please ma I would really appreciate it if there could be a video on how to achieve these sleeves

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thanks! I’ll try to find a way to make videos, too, in the future. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Here's how you can create a pointy shoulder by modifying the shoulder line and s... - Sih Patrones

  8. This is really helpful. Thanks for not being stingy with your knowledge.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      No problem. 🙂 Sleeves are one of my favorite subjects.

  9. Sabine Zigelstein Reply

    Hi there! Did you make a lining pattern for the sculptural panel long sleeve? If so, did you use the same panel layout for the lining? or did you use a straight sleeve pattern for the lining?

  10. What a great website and such a brilliant post. Thank you so much for these instructions. I’m just beginning my costume making journey and these sleeves are a wonderful place to start. Really clear instructions too!

  11. Thank you so much I have been searching for something like this.. ❤️

  12. Rafael Orozco Reply

    Wow Minna, eres increíble, gracias por compartir tus conocimientos e ideas. Estoy iniciando una pequeña escuela on line de Diseño de Modas para personas de escasos recursos, en el cual recibiré donaciones solo para sobrevivir pues tengo 73 años de vida y 60 años de Experiencia. mi pregunta es, me autorizas usar algunos de tus estilos durante mis clases?

    • Muchas gracias! 🙂 Sure, you can use them to teach. Just mention where they came from and you’re all set. What a great project.

  13. Really an awesome experience from my point of view to be be honest although I don’t understand everything thing but was able to pick a few….was going to ask how one can reach you need to learn more and really would love to understand the other sleeves

    • Thanks! 🙂 If you struggle with the patterns, you can email me at info(a)theshapesoffabric.com Usually it’s a good idea to include a picture of your pattern so I can see where the problem is.

  14. All your tutorials are so inspiring, but the sculptural fabric manipulation stuff just blows me away. I haven’t seen yet if you have a post where you talk more about what kind of fabrics hold the shapes best? Do you use any stiffening of any kind, or is the fabric and the seaming giving it enough support to stay poofy?
    Thank you so much for the fabulous blog!

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 Yes, I should make one. Inserting sleeve heads made in tulle, netting, or organza is a great way to support puff sleeves. Check out a post I wrote about Tauko Magazine. There’s a tulle sleeve head. The organza ones can be gathered.

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