Create a Custom Sleeve Pattern - Threads

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Create a Custom Sleeve Pattern

Measure your sloper.
Measure your arm as shown.
Start drafting your sleeve pattern on the fold.
Measure your sloper.

Measure your sloper.

Photo: Scott Phillips

In the SewStylish Fall 2008 issue, we show you how to create a basic shift pattern to fit your body in a weekend (for a downloadable version of the guide, click here).

Want to know more? Here, we show how to draft a sleeve pattern to match your perfectly fitted shift dress.

Adapted from Threads #131 "Add a Sleeve to Your Bodice" by Kathleen Cheetham

sleeves More on sleeves:

• How to Fit Sleeves
• How to Draft a Square Sleeve Cap
• A Forgiving Bias-Cut Sleeve
• Add a Fluttery Sleeve to a Sleeveless Garment
• Add a Quilted, Zippered Cuff


a. To get started, you'll need your draped shift pattern a few arm measurements. Follow the illustration to take the correct arm measurements needed for the sleeve.

  Measure your arm as shown.

Bicep circumference: Measure around the arm, but don't pull the tape too tightly. Measure around the fullest part of your arm, about 4 inches below the shoulder.

Arm length: Bend your arm slightly at the elbow and measure from your shoulder bone to the wrist bone, passing over the elbow.

Length to elbow: Measure from the shoulder to the point of the elbow

Elbow circumference: Bend your arm again. Measure around circumference of the elbow.

Wrist circumference: Measure your wrist circumference.

b. Next, you'll need to add a bit of ease to a couple of your measurements to ensure a nice fit and make sure your sleeve won't be right up against your arm. Add 2 to 3 inches to your bicep circumference, 1 to 2 inches to your elbow width, and 1 inch to the wrist.


a. Take the armhole depth measurement from your bodice pattern. Square a line on both the front and back bodice pattern pieces from the grainline to the underarm at the side seam as shown. Next, measure from the shoulder point straight down to the underarm.

b. Add the front and back measurements together and divide the sum by two.

  Measure your sloper.


a. Fold your pattern paper in half lengthwise as shown; you'll be drafting on the fold so that your pattern is symmetrical.

b. Along the foldline, mark points indicating the length of your arm from the shoulder point (top) to the wrist (bottom).

c. Square a line at the top point

d. From the top, measure down and mark your armhole depth (the number you figured out in step 2).

e. Square a bicep line out from the armhole depth that is half your adjusted bicep circumference.

f. Measure down the foldline and mark your elbow point. Draw a line half your adjusted elbow circumference.

g. Square a line at the wrist point from the fold. Draw a line that is half the adjusted wrist circumference.

h. Draw the underarm seam by connecting the bicep and elbow marks in a straight line that connects to the wrist line as shown.

  Start drafting your sleeve pattern on the fold.


Turn the folded edge of the paper to the underarm seam. Crease the paper to create a one-quarter marking line and then open it back up again.

  Fold your pattern in half to create one-quarter marking lines.


a. Now that you've made the basic shape of the sleeve, you'll draw the top edge of the sleeve, which is called the "sleeve-cap." To start, place marks 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side of the center line at the top of the sleeve and 1 inch inward from the underarm seam on the bicep line.

b. From the bicep line, measure up from the center line one-half the armhole depth plus 3/4 inch and mark a point.

c. Square a guideline through the marks across the sleeve and then mark line intersections.

  Draw a guideline through the marks.

d. Connect the various points with straight lines as shown to form the sleeve-cap guidelines.

  Connect the dots to form the sleeve-cap.

e. Mark a halfway point on each of the sleeve-cap guidelines.

  Measure and mark halfway points.

f. Measure in and out at each of the halfway points as shown. Using a French curve, connect the dots with a smooth, continuous curve. The dots are merely guides, you don't have to touch each one with your curve. Just try to not make any sharp points in the cap.

  Measure in at each halfway point and use a French curve to create the cap.


a. When you're stitching up a pattern, notches help as reference points when you're pinning two pieces together. Putting notches on both the sleeve and your sloper's armhole will help you fit them together when you are sewing your own designs. To notch the cap, first fold the shoulder point to the bicep line along the center line and crease the fold.

b. Draw a double notch on the back sleeve and a single notch on the front sleeve at the foldline.

  Use a double-notch for the sleeve back and a single notch for the sleeve front.

c. Next, you need to notch your bodice pattern pieces. To do this, use a process called "walking." Beginning at the side seam, align the sleeve back edge to the bodice back armhole edge. Keep the edges flush and carefully inch the sleeve-cap along the armhole edge. Use a pin as a pivot to align the edges as you walk the curve.

  "Walk" the sleeve pattern along the armhole seam.

d. When the double notch reaches the armhole, mark the armhole edge with a corresponding double notch.

  Mark the bodice armhole with matching notches.

e. Continue walking the sleeve pattern until you get to the shoulder. Mark on the sleeve cap a temporary shoulder placement with a single notch.

f. Repeat to walk the sleeve along the front bodice piece and notch the front bodice armhole. Walk the sleeve to the armhole again and place another temporary shoulder placement notch.

  Walk the sleeve to the shoulder point on the bodice and mark onto the sleeve.

g. Measure between your two shoulder placement notches. Mark your new shoulder placement centered between the temporary points.

  Measure the halfway point between the two temporary shoulder marks.

That's it! You've now made a sleeve pattern to match your sloper. Be sure and make a draft version out of muslin or other inexpensive material to test the fit before you cut into your favorite fabrics. Once you work out any fitting kinks, you're free to create your own sleeve designs that fit every time.

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