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how to redraft flutter sleeve pattern?

Jessica K | Posted in Fitting on

I have a pattern for a flutter sleeve that has a completely flat sleeve cap (obviously it was made by the old slash-and-spread technique). This puts the entire cap on the straight grain, which made it very frustrating to ease the sleeve into the armscye. (I gave up eventually.) I don’t want to cut the whole sleeve on the bias.

I would like to convert it to a normal bell-shaped sleeve cap so that the areas which need to be eased into the armscye are on the bias. How can I do this without fancy CAD software?

If anybody has a flutter sleeve pattern with a normal-looking sleeve cap, a photograph of the pattern piece would be really helpful, as I’m not even sure what the general shape should be.

I think flutter sleeves are also known as butterfly sleeves.

Thanks for your help!


  1. Palady | | #1

    A thought as I read your post >> ... entire cap on the straight grain, which made it very frustrating to ease the sleeve into the armscye. ... << .  Did you shrink the cap?

    My sewing goes back to the days when virtually all sleeves cut on grain and were full at the cap.  It was vital to shrink the cap before trying to set the sleeve.  

    How to shrink a cap has 2 approaches to my knowing.  But you may have already done this and the doing may need another solution.




    1. Jessica K | | #3

      Thanks for your comment. I tried my usual methods of reducing the sleeve cap length to fit the armscye length: 1. Basting stitches between notches to gather the cap - got tucks and puckers I couldn't smooth out.2. "Seams Great" binding cut to length of armscye between notches, then stretched to fit sleeve cap and stitched in seam allowance - too wimpy to snap back to original length after being sewn to sleeve fabric.3. Heat-shrinkable thread in bobbin - same as #1.The fabric itself won't shrink with steam and heat because it's polyester, and prewashed anyway. I ended up putting all the ease into one big pleat at the shoulder, and it looks kind of weird-but-nice but I'd like a more conventional look for the next version.

      1. Palady | | #5

        An approach that might work for you to fit those sleeves.

        This has to be done in one sewing session.  The "gathering" will relax and the effort will be for naught.

        Find a flat tool in your stash.  Perhaps a ruler, a 6" wooden perhaps , or closed scissors that have flat blades.  I use the latter. They're a pair I acquired years ago and guard them lest they be misplaced.

        Working between the notches, within the seam line/cut edge, as you start slowly stitching hold the tool firmly flat against the back of the presser foot.  You want to avoid getting the tool under the foot.   Stitch from notch to notches.  When you take the cap out from under the foot, immediately set it into the waist and carfeully pin the two in place.

        Now set the joined pieces under your foot and stitch slowly on the seam line.  To avoid catching a gather, you might need to use a stiletto or a like tool to separate.  If you must stop, do so needle down.

        The doing does take practice because you seem to need more than 2 hands.  but please consider tyring this on "sample".  You might need several go's to get it to work for you. 

        I understand your thought of "shrinking" because of pre washing and the fabric composition.  My experience in this doing is the threads of the fabric are now cut.  whereas when they were prewashed they were in their length & cross grain form.

        MO, I have elarned cut fabric threads respond a bit differently than those intact.  One point novice sewists sometimes fall short in realizing is the possiblility of over handling cut pieces.  This includes in the cutting out of the pattern.

        Having a length of fabric hanging over an edge as cutting is done can misalign grain threads more than is often realized.   On some fabric more than others.  Likewise in the actual construction.  A portable machine that rests atop atable has a drop.  Short to be sure, but a notable drop.  A console machine offers a much more flat surface to keep fabric moving to & under presser foot more consistently.   So how the fabric is moved can be critical.

        Please keep us updated on your sleeve setting.





  2. sewelegant | | #2

    check out this site.  It looks like the sleeve is spread, but the cap is left the same so it might be what you are looking for and you can download a copy for free!


    1. Jessica K | | #4

      That site looks very helpful - thanks! I'll have to spend some time looking at their other stuff too!

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