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How to Draft a Square Sleeve Cap

The strong shoulder is a silhouette that seems to be here for a while. This classic sleeve is stylish and easy to draft.
We start this sleeve by using the basic shirt-sleeve draft.
The strong shoulder is a silhouette that seems to be here for a while. This classic sleeve is stylish and easy to draft.

The strong shoulder is a silhouette that seems to be here for a while. This classic sleeve is stylish and easy to draft.

The square sleeve cap is one of those Forties styles that makes appearances every now and then. It introduces design into the cap of the sleeve.

Its mitered, box-like appearance extends the shoulder line into the sleeve cap and adds to the sleeve bicep, which makes it a good candidate for fitting a jacket, where a small armhole is desired but the wearer has a developed bicep, and needs more room in that area of the sleeve. The miter helps finesse any extra cap ease that would be added to accommodate the fuller bicep.


A design advantage to this sleeve for those who have developed biceps:  When the bicep is full, generally there is a full bust as well, which makes the shoulders appear narrow in comparison. This draws the eyes to bust level, making the eyes track horizontally.

Having a square sleeve cap adds width higher up on the body. They draw the eyes upward to the shoulder, so the observer's attention goes to the face, which is what we want.



Start developing this sleeve pattern by using the basic shirt-sleeve draft.


At the sleeve cap point E, extend a straight line up about 2 inches and mark point F. This line is variable, but 2 inches (5 cm) is a safe length.



Draft a line perpendicular to line EF, through point F. This line is also 2 inches (5 cm), and is line GH.



Extend lines from points G and H, parallel to line EF. These lines will end on the sleeve cap, at points B and C respectively.


Also note that I have narrowed the sleeve to give a slimmer line (gray lines being the original lines). Do this equally on both sides, starting about 1-1/2 inches (3.6 cm) inside the cuff edge and tapering to the underarm.



Take a tracing of the armhole curve from L to B. Call the point B on the tracing, by the term B' in the subequent illustrations.  The tracing is shown in red.

You will use this tracing to make the new armhole curve in the next step.



Measure the length of line GB.

Attach the tracing you just made at point L, using point L as a compass point.

Swing point B' on the tracing away from the armhole curve, making the distance from B to B' equal the measure of line GB.

This creates a dart.



Do the same for the sleeve front by making the tracing of the curve L'C.



Create the dart HCC'.

At this point, you have a pattern for a set-in sleeve that has two mitered corners, which you can construct by sewing the dart closed to the endpoint, or you can sew it partially closed, creating a pleat.

Both are attractive.

Shoulder pads:

These sleeves require a square pad, which you will have to custom make.


Using the sleeve pattern, draw a curved line, roughly 2 inches (5 cm) down from points C', C, B, and B'. (I eyeball this.)

The pattern you generate is the foundation for the shoulder pad.



Trace out this portion of the pattern onto fresh paper. This is the foundation pattern for your pad.

Make the pad from heavy pellon, felt, or other stiff nonwoven fabric, and fill with cotton wadding to pad it.

As with any other handmade shoulder pad, use needle and thread, and large running stitches to quilt the entire unit together, padding and foundation.


There you have it! Will you try this method?

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Comments (21)

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: To user-1146366: You don't have to modify the armscye on the bodice for this sleeve, unless you want it to sit further up the shoulder. The point of the darts in the cap, is to reduce the armhole of the sleeve to match the bodice.
Posted: 9:02 am on May 1st

user-1146366 user-1146366 writes: Kenneth-

I would like to make this sleeve; in fact, I have the Style ARc pattern which incorporates such a sleeve. It appears that the bodice should have some adjustment for this sleeve, too. It does not appear to sit in the same armscye as a 'regular' sleeve. Help!

If I'm wrong, how do I modify my bodice's armscye so my sleeve sits in farther?


Posted: 4:53 pm on April 29th

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: It will indeed work on narrow shoulders--you want to make a custom shoulder pad, but yes you can!
Posted: 6:51 am on March 17th

Jeanne27 Jeanne27 writes: I love the idea of expanding the shoulder. Will this work for narrow shoulders and thin arms or will it collapse on itself?
Posted: 1:24 pm on March 5th

GmaCma GmaCma writes: I always read Kenneth's tutorials, even if I think I might not use it. I love to learn and love his teaching format. Clear, concise instructions but I love the comments like "I just eyeball this". Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge!
Posted: 12:07 pm on February 14th

Mamato8 Mamato8 writes: Thank you for sharing! I can see how it works. As someone with broad shoulders already, I'm not likely to use this for myself. It's good though to have a few tricks up my sleeve...
Posted: 12:44 am on February 14th

phoebe1beloved phoebe1beloved writes: Enjoyed the lesson very much. You make everything so clear. I have not drafted any garments lately but this makes me want to jump back in.
Posted: 6:41 pm on February 12th

Samuela Samuela writes: I love this idea. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I'm thinking of many ways that I can use this sleeve. Also, using it for a modified ladder back sleeve opening.
Posted: 11:19 am on February 12th

thaliapatterson thaliapatterson writes: Great tutorial!
Posted: 6:00 am on February 12th

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: Thanks for the kind words, folks!

To Rit: You do in deed want to add seam allowances to the draft--I always show a drafting process with just finished stitching lines for clarity.

This sleeve will fit exactly into the same armhole, as you don't change the circumference of the sleeve armhole in the draft.
Posted: 8:13 pm on February 11th

JennyEbner JennyEbner writes: Love it. Thanks. Will use it soon. Jenny
Posted: 7:58 pm on February 11th

SewingSadie SewingSadie writes: Great Tutorial! I really appreciate your "objective view" tip, ie: WHY you want to bring the eyes up from the bust area to the face, and HOW to do so. FYI: I would love to see a picture of a finished cap sleeve on a dress.........!
Most Sincerely, SewingSadie
Posted: 6:55 pm on February 11th

416 416 writes: I will certainly try this square cap sleeve on the dress I am making for Spring. It looks simple enough for me since I am a seasoned dressmaker. I have two or three of Kenneth's books and his directions are quite simple.
Posted: 4:15 pm on February 11th

user-1116680 user-1116680 writes: BRILLIANT...Thank you again. In my mind almost has a 40's retro appeal, love it.
Posted: 1:50 pm on February 11th

NancyKSews NancyKSews writes: I've been wanting to know how to draft this kind of sleeve as well and I have a dress project planned that it will be perfect for. Great, easy instructions.
Posted: 1:43 pm on February 11th

user-2873816 user-2873816 writes: Oh my gosh! I've been wanting this type of sleeve pattern. Thanks so much for sharing!
Posted: 12:33 pm on February 11th

SaunWhee SaunWhee writes: I love this kind of sleeve...cooler and edgy than a gathered one, I 've been waiting for someone to do a good demo of this. I will been make sleeve asap!
Posted: 10:23 am on February 11th

vivienz vivienz writes: Great tutorial. I have a jacket pattern that has slightly puffed/pleated sleeve heads that are above the shoulder line, and I don't really care for them so I may well substitute these. As a pear shape, the extra shoulder width will help with overall balance of my silhouette.
Posted: 9:33 am on February 11th

SewingLady42 SewingLady42 writes: Yes, I'm going to try this. Thank you!
Posted: 9:24 am on February 11th

Sewknitcro Sewknitcro writes: I like the look of this sleeve. You did not mention anything about Seam Allowances on the extension for the dart/pleats in the tutorial. Also, will this sleeve fit into the original armhole or does an adjustment need to be made to it as well?

Thank you
Posted: 9:20 am on February 11th

catstexas catstexas writes: Thank you, Kenneth, for another excellent tutorial. I have ALL your written and video publications and have learned so much. Your use of geometry to create masterpieces inspires me. I'll definitely use this sleeve.
Posted: 1:37 pm on February 10th

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