Poofy Sleeves

I am a big fan of large, poofy sleeves, and so are most animes and cartoons! But most pattern companies don’t sell outfits with large sleeves.

Not to worry! Most shirts with in-set sleeves (the type that gets sewn in after the side and shoulder seems get sewn) can have poofy sleeves added to them.

Most people say that editing the sleeve that comes with the packaging is easiest. I am of the belief that it doesn’t really matter, and if you draft it from scratch you are more likely to get what you want.

Remember! Always draft and create your patterns in muslin first. I will admit I have a bad habit of not following my own advice, and that has cost me quite a bit in expensive fabric. Muslin is around $2-$5/ yard and is usually fairly wide so you can make multiple things from a single yard.

Step 1. Measurements

You need a few measurements to begin.

  1. The length of the sleeve from underneath your armpit/ where it connects to the side seam of your body base to where you want it to end
  2. The length of the sleeve from where it connects at your shoulder to where you want the sleeve to end
  3. The measurement of your arms at the point where you want the sleeve to sit
  4. The measurement of the armhole in the shirt pattern

Step 2. Deciding How Much Poof

The reason you took the measurement for the armhole is because the top of the sleeve is gathered. You want the length of the top of your sleeve (the bell like shape) to be the length of your armhole + the length of your gather.

A good rule of thumb is 1.5 times the length is a cute little poof, almost not even noticeable, whereas 3 times the length is quite a bit of poof. So if the measurement is 10 inches and you want a 3x gather, your measurement for the top of your sleeve is 30 inches!

My Black Cat D.Va costume has sleeves that are about 3 times the length. They look a little squished because I had just been leaning on a wall, but they stick out about two inches above my shoulder and away from my arms when properly fluffed!

My nurse joy sleeve on the other hand is around a 1.5 times gather. As you can see, the poof is very minimal.

Step 3. Draw Out Your Pattern

The drawing at the top of this tutorial shows you the basic shape of the pattern. You can either draw it out as one big piece of half a piece that gets cut on the fold line. Personally, I always draft a half piece and cut it on the fold.

Your bottom line should be the length of your arm plus your seam allowance. Seam allowance should usually be about 1/2″ but some people prefer more and others less. This line should have a gentle curve in it.

Your lines coming up the sides should be the length of your sleeve as measured under your arms plus whatever else you need for hemming or adding a cuff. The distance between these two points should be a little larger than the measurement of you arm where the sleeve starts (so right under your armpit). They should fan out just a little bit, unless your arms are close to the same length, then they may not fan out at all!

The height of your bell (the line going down the middle) should be your shoulder to sleeve end length plus however far you want the sleeve to stick away from your arm. In general if you are making a sleeve that has a 3 times gather, then you will probably want to add about 3 inches to this measurement.

Now comes the tricky part. Draw a bell shape connecting your top point to the point that connects under your arm. You want this line to be half the size of your total sleeve measurement (from step 2) plus your seam allowance. The longer this length the wider your bell is going to be. So if you want your sleeve to be 10 inches with a 3x gather, then half of the bell needs to measure at 15 inches plus seam allowance.

Step 4. Finishing the Sleeve

Fold your sleeve in half and sew the side seams then add two lines of gather stitches around the bell (denoted by the blue line). Leave a few inches between the seam and where you start and end your gather. Gather stitches should be nice and loose and have really long tails that you do not back stitch. Turn your body piece inside out and then match the top of your bell to your shoulder seam and the inside sleeve seam to your side seam. (Remember right side together!) Now you will pull the gather stitches until it fits an sew around the sleeve.

Happy Crafting!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! As always, if you have any questions you can contact me at liz@mariellisdesign.com

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