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How to find the correct sleeve length

Jan 24, 2011
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The correct sleeve length needs to be adjusted before cutting out a garment. Dropped or extended sleeves can be tricky, since the armscye shoulder seam hits everyone in a slightly different place. You will not be able to just measure from the tip of your shoulder to your wrist.

You might need a sewing buddy to help with this measurement. But, once done, you won’t need to measure it again. It is one measurement that does not change with age!

Place a necklace on to see exactly where the garment neckline should fall. Bend your elbow and place your hand on your high hip with back of your wrist resting at the side of your waist and your fingers pointing straight down over your hip. This creates a true bend in the upper part of your wrist that you can measure to.

Measure from the side of your neck,…

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  1. User avater LLaMona January 24th

    This was a very helpful tip/trick. I will have to give this a try. I understood clearly what was written along with the photos. Thanks for posting and sharing this.

  2. missmargaret January 24th

    This looks like it could be very helpful, but I am a bit confused about the arm measurement. Does the line of measurement follow the outside bend of the arm to the inner flexion of the wrist? Mismeasurement could mean a significant difference.

  3. rr528 January 25th

    Graph paper...never thought of that! Thanks for the tip!

  4. one_who_crops January 25th

    Thanks for such a helpful tip. I will be using it from now on as I have to extend my sleeve lenghts most of the time in patterns.

  5. Katielynne January 25th

    Just what we needed, but didn't know it! A brilliant tip and sparkingly clear demonstration. We can always count on you to provide us with much needed information with an intuitive explanation. Thank you, Louise!

  6. JaneInKC January 25th

    What I would like to know is whether there is a particular place on a pattern where a long sleeve should be shortened (or lengthened). Thanks.

  7. Suzaan January 26th


    On the sleeve pattern you will find a horizontal line (nearly halfway to the pattern) that say "lengthen or shorten here"
    You must fold the pattern on this line and adjust the pattern ( draw a line and maybe fold the pattern so that the pattern line (seam sides) are straight - follow the line of the seam sides.

    Don't just cut the sleeve pattern shorter at the hem line because then the pattern is not correct and the sleeve will not fit properly.

  8. Suzaan January 26th


    If you want to lengthen the sleeve pattern you must cut the pattern on this line and then put a piece of paper in the length that you want to lengthen the sleeve. Once again follow the seam sides of the pattern and draw the sleeve pattern so that the seam sides are straight.

    My husband is tall and I make his long sleeve T-shirts and I must lengthen the patterns.

    I hope my advice helps.

  9. snowowl January 27th

    I agree with missmargaret. I am confused about the measureing. Is it to the inside flexion of the wrist or the longer measurement of the outside extention of the wrist. This would make a large difference.

  10. Puterdame January 28th

    It would have been extremely helpful to have included a picture of someone actually being measured to show where the tape measure was placed, etc.

  11. SewSam January 28th

    I think I must be confused about the measuring. Is your arm is bent to measure it? That's what I understand the instructions say to do so why does the pattern need to be 1 1/2 inches longer than the measurement. In my head, that would make for a very long sleeve.

  12. LOUISE CUTTING January 28th

    You start out with your elbow bent, the inside of your wrist is sitting at the side of your waist with your fingers point straight down to the floor (the inside of your hand is sitting on your high hip...with fingers straight down to the floor). You now have created a sharp bend at your wrist...this is where most people wear the face of their wrist watch...that is where you will be measuring to...Start at the neckline and measure along your shoulder line, put your thumb under the tape measurer at your shoulder bone if you are planning on a shoulder pad, continue to measure along the outside of your arm, over your elbow and continue down to the bend where your hand meets your wrist.

    Adding the extra 1 1/2" is the ease needed so you can bend your arm and the cuffand sleeve won't ride up your arm.

  13. RuthW January 29th

    It is useful, but it makes the assumption that the neckline of the garment does actually start at the base of your neck. Most shirts do this. But quite a lot of women's wear does not start there. Necklines can be much more open than that. If a garment doesn't start at the base of your neck you need to know your measurement from your centre back to your wrist, and use that measurement to adjust your pattern I think.

  14. MarleceLee March 17th

    I read in a Vogue Magazine years ago on Tailoring, where you measure from the mid-neck, the shoulder, and on a bent arm over the albow and to the wrist. I could not figure out why measure at the mid-neck; thank you for making that suggestion. It shows the difference between the neck and shoulder measurement on the pattern. I think, Also with the added extra length of 1 1/2 for ease, does that also apply to the suit coat where the shirt cuff should be exposed about 1/2 inch?

  15. LindaLouise February 9th

    I used scotch tape to hold it in place so I could measure it myself, worked great!

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