Here’s a brand new sleeve pattern tutorial. I thought it would be fun to do something different this time, and instead of just presenting the patterns, I’ll explain how I came up with the pattern designs. Maybe that will give you a spark to do some experiments yourself, too!

As you probably know, I have published a sleeve guide called Mad About Sleeves. While I was looking at the sleeve sample pictures the other day, I started to get ideas for new sleeve pattern designs. In my mind I was imagining ways to modify the patterns to create new shapes.

Accordion Cuff Sleeve

I got this idea from the balloon cuff sleeve, which looks like this:

I wanted to see what it would look like if I created a more angular shape for the cuff and the accordion pleats seemed to fit the bill.

My cuff starts 3cm below the elbow line, so I shortened the sleeve pattern accordingly.

To prepare the accordion pleat pattern, I measured the new sleeve hemline (26cm), and the length of the part that was cut off. Then I evaluated what the cuff’s hemline circumference should be by measuring around the wrist (21cm). Notice that there’s no slit, which means that the hand has to pass though the hemline. The measurements I’m using here are for a size S, so check your measurements.

With these measurements, I was then able to draft the accordion pleat pattern piece.

Each accordion pleat consists of two pieces. I calculated that there should be 13 pleats to cover the hemline. Each pair is 2cm wide, so the pattern piece will be 1cm wide at the top. The same measurement for the cuff hemline brings the bottom measurement to 0.8cm.

The height of the accordion pleats’ tip depends on how wide you want the cuff to be. In my sample it’s 13cm, and the depth of pleat is 6cm. Here’s how to draft the pattern:

I have a tutorial on accordion pleats, too, so check it out if you need more help.

When sewing, first you unite all the pieces together at their outer edge to form the pairs. And then unite the pairs by sewing them together at their inner edge. You might need to slash the inner corner seam allowances. Finally you stitch the cuff to the sleeve. It’s easier if you have one seam open at that point.

And here’s the new sleeve pattern design, developed from the balloon cuff. There was definitely more work, but it looks quite cool!

Sleeve pattern design idea: accordion cuff

Triple Puff Sleeve with Ribbons

This cute sleeve in itself derives from the basic puff sleeve. But I wanted to add ribbons and leave the sleeve open in the center.

The pattern modification in this case was as simple as cutting it in half along the center, but let’s see how the original sleeve pattern was made.

So first you add volume lengthwise with the slash and spread method, and re-draw the sleeve cap 4cm higher.

Then you add volume horizontally so that the different puffs have enough “building material”.

Finally, you separate the two sides. Add a notch about 4cm below the sleeve cap (you sew this part), and mark where the casings will be sewn.

Here’s a picture I took while I was sewing this sleeve. You can see the two pieces stitched together under the arm and hems all around sewn. There are also the three casings pinned in place.

After this I closed the tiny seam at the top, gathered the sleeve cap, and finally threaded the ribbons through.

Here’s the sleeve.

And now I’m already thinking about replacing the puffs with accordion pleats.. Hmmm.. ๐Ÿ˜€

Basket Weave Sleeve

The previous sleeve got me thinking about slit sleeves and then somehow I reduced the idea into a basket weave. You don’t really need to draft a pattern for this, but rather take measurements from your basic sleeve pattern.

I’ve marked the areas to measure in the above picture. You can add more ribbon or tape to your sleeve design. The measurements will tell you how much ribbon you need.

Once you know the width of the ribbon you’ll be using, measure the distance of each horizontal ribbon along the vertical central ribbon. This will get you started when sewing the ribbons together: If you sew them correctly along the central ribbon, you’ll be able to attach the rest of the ribbons without measuring.

I didn’t add many ribbons, but I think it would look pretty amazing if you’d use many different types of ribbons weaved together, different colors, materials, and widths. Like a ribbon stash buster project!

Paneled Lantern Sleeve

The basic lantern sleeve has a smooth surface and I was curious to see how that could be changed.

Basic Lantern Sleeve sample

I often have a tendency to go for adding extra seams, because where there’s a seam, there’s a chance to alter the shape. But also, seams create surface designs. The idea for this shape came from actual lanterns.

Here’s how I created the geometric panels:

Lantern sleeve pattern

The pattern is similar to the basic lantern sleeve, but I added slightly more volume, because I wanted to press creases for a pleated look and that requires some extra volume.

After having added volume, I divided the pattern pieces into panels, as shown. Each panel has a straight edge, which creates that angular look.

You sew the panels together and then if you want, you can press a crease in the center of each. That creates extra lines to the lantern, but I think it would look nice even without the creases.

In the search for sleeve pattern designs: a paneled lantern sleeve

Sculptural Sleeve

Here’s the starting point for this sleeve. It’s from Mad About Sleeves and only slightly sculptural. Looking at this picture I got an idea to add another insert to the sleeve cap to create a V-shape in the center. And while I was at it, I decided to exaggerate the shapes.

The pattern is all about slash and spread. I maintained the elbow length, but added two more horizontal seams. Before separating the pieces, it’s a good idea to draw the 3 vertical lines in the center. This way you slash and spread the sections at identical points.

Slash and spread the 4 pieces in pairs and add same amount of volume to both sides.

Creating sculptural sleeve pattern design

Then add a triangular shape to the edge of each. The pairs need to have the same seam length, as they will be sewn together. The two lower pattern pieces have slightly different shapes, so the triangles will have different heights, too.

Here’s the weird sleeve that came out of this experiment. The original look changed completely! To further develop this idea, one could add panels.

Power Shoulder Sleeve Makeover

The final idea is about this power shoulder sleeve. While I was thinking how to modify the design, I decided to add 2 more points to see what it would look like.

power sleeve

First, I drafted the pattern with the central pointed shape, as in the original.

Then I drafted two additional pointed shapes on both sides of the one that was already there. My idea was that the two lateral points would hug the bodice without laying completely flat. The solution for this was to add a little facing under the tips.

Then I added seams that would divide the sleeve cap into 3 pieces.

The final step was to measure where the facing was to be attached to the bodice on both front and back. (You can measure the distance from the armhole notch.) And draft the shape of the facing’s inner edge along the armscye line. Here’s the resulting pattern:

In this picture you can see how the facing is sewn underneath the pointed shapes before attaching the sleeve.

And here’s the sleeve. I think I’d mirror the extra seams to the lower section of the sleeve, too.


So how do you brainstorm new sleeve pattern designs then?

For me it’s all about looking at pictures of existing sleeves and patterns. Then I think about how I could change the shape or the surface pattern by adding more seams or other design elements, such as pleats or layers.

I like to multiply sections or elements that are already there and add volume with the slash and spread method to different areas to see what happens. Another way is to exaggerate the shapes.

I hope this will encourage you to start experimenting to come up with new interesting designs. Don’t feel defeated if the first experiment doesn’t work out. It might give you new ideas to develop further. ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. Cynthia Beatty Reply

    Thank you for your inspiration! I’ve been sewing since 1965. My first sewing project was an apron, then a wrap around skirt, then a dress at age 10. Sewing has been a lifelong enjoyment as I’ve learned to sew just about everything imaginable: drapery, quilts, baby & children’s clothing, wedding dresses, men’s suits, costumes, etc. I had the privilege to learn pattern drafting as an adult while living overseas. I really appreciate your blog and am looking forward to your magazine coming out soon! Keep up the good work.

    • You’re welcome! Wow, that’s quite an impressive amount of years you’ve been sewing. ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s always something new to try for sure. There are so many possibilities with this craft. Thanks so much. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was happy to participate in the first issue of the Tauko magazine and now it’s been published.

  2. These designs are amazing and you demonstrate them so concise. Fabulous.

  3. thank you for breaking these sleeve designs down with such detail!!!! you are teaching me more than you know!!!

  4. Even though I love sleeves I fid them to be the bain of my life. Even though I have fairly good results, I myself am my worse enemy, I always see faults. Thank you for you tutorial.

    • You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess it’s all about making more sleeves, practice and experiment. The more simple sleeves are actually more difficult, as you can see the faults more easily.

  5. These designs are amazing and feel so fresh and new. I would love if you did video tutorials on them be such a interesting video series.

    • Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ To be honest, I’ve started experimenting with YouTube shorts recently, so we’ll see if I get carried away. ๐Ÿ˜€

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