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How to Alter Sleeves for a Better Fit

Threads magazine - 155 – June/July 2011
The author models her own jacket with a sleeve alteration to fit and flatter full biceps.

Author Denise Severson has developed techniques to alter sleeve patterns or sleeve construction to fit larger biceps. Her basic method starts with a simple pattern alteration. From there, she uses techniques that rely on fabrics’ natural characteristics to create more “give” in the upper arm, such as cutting or piecing a sleeve on the bias. Adding ease into the biceps improves wearing comfort, and it can be a stylish design feature, too. These easy-to-follow techniques show the way to beautiful sleeves that fit your biceps.


Frustrated by sewing anything with a fitted sleeve? I feel your pain! I’ve learned to turn upper-arm angst into an asset, however.

I developed techniques to alter sleeve patterns or sleeve construction to fit larger biceps. My basic method starts with a simple pattern alteration. From there, I use techniques that rely on fabrics’ natural characteristics to create more “give” in the upper arm, such as cutting or piecing a sleeve on the bias.

Adding ease into the biceps improves wearing comfort, and it can be a stylish design feature, too. These easy-to-follow techniques show the way to beautiful sleeves that fit your biceps.

Measure to plan a perfect fit

For the most comfortable sleeves, it’s necessary to determine your biceps’ greatest circumference. The biceps change in size as you move your upper arm and flex the muscles. Put each arm through a range of positions. These measuring and planning steps are prerequisites to all biceps sleeve alterations.

Denise Severson
Based on the out-of-print Vogue 8507, this dress features straightcut piecing positioned on the bias.

1. Determine each biceps’ greatest circumference. With your fist clenched to flex the muscles, measure around each biceps’ widest point. Measure with your fist held up, then with your fist on your hip. Measure each arm separately—it is not unusual for…

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