Lengthening Sleevessew modest clothing

Pattern calls for short sleeves and you want long sleeves? No Problem.

girls long sleeved dress

Lengthening Sleeves on a Pattern

A reader noticed my comment that I have trouble with adjusting patterns for longer sleeves, and wrote it this great page of tips! Thank you, Karen!


As I was surfing around for dress patterns and whatever else I could find, I lucked into your site. Although modest, strictly speaking, is not the way I dress, I'm still much more covered up than current ready-to-wear styles would have me, with much more ease in the fitting--I'm a creature of comfort and I sew a lot.

I loved, just loved, the spiral skirt and will shortly go to its website to order a pattern. But I also noted your statement that you have problems in lengthening sleeves. Problems no more! Let me explain the easy way to do it. Remember that directions always seem more complicated than the actual activity is.

There are two things you need to do--add length and, unless the sleeve is very full, ease at the elbow. (well,maybe three if you also need width, but let's address length). DO NOT add the length at the bottom of the sleeve. Cut the pattern all the way across above the elbow and below the elbow. You now have three pieces. Let's say you want to add 4 inches total. You will add two above and two below. This way, the drape and proportion of the sleeve are preserved. Just pin in a couple of pieces of pattern tissue or newspaper, measuring between the cut edges of the pattern to make sure you have two inches and that the cut edges are parallel. Bingo! Sleeve lengthened in a full sleeve.

But suppose the pattern was for a short sleeve, not so full. In lengthening the pattern, you will cover the elbow, but the sleeve will have a more fitted, slimmer profile. The situation is, you need to allow "elbow room" so that the sleeve is not too tight when you bend your elbow. NO PROBLEM.

In this case, you will not cut the sleeve pattern at all. Measure from your shoulder seam to your wrist, or wherever you want the sleeve to end. That's the basic length of the sleeve. Add a nice length of tissue or newspaper (I really do recycle things in interesting ways), pinned to the bottom of the sleeve pattern. Draw a line from the center shoulder on the pattern straight down as the center of the sleeve. Make an X where you want the sleeve length to end, and draw a right angle line across that center line at the x.. Measure around your arm at the desired sleeve length and add to that measurement the amount of ease you want at the bottom of the sleeve. Add the two numbers and divide the total in half and mark the half measurement on the right angle line on either side of the center line.

NOW...with a straight edge (yardstick or 18 inch ruler) draw a line connecting the bottom edge of the sleeve pattern to that mark indicating the width of the bottom of the sleeve. Do this on both sides of the sleeve pattern. Almost there.

Measure from your shoulder to your elbow. Make a mark on the pattern extension indicating that distance--on the BACK edge of the sleeve pattern. Cut straight across the pattern extension from that mark to within 2 inches of the front edge of the pattern extension. SPREAD THE BACK EDGE AN INCH, AND PIN AN EXTENSION OF TISSUE THERE.

Trim the entire sleeve extension to manageable size and don't forget seam allowances, most of which are automatically there. Voila! new, cool sleeve pattern!

Now, when you sew the underarm sleeve seam, the back seam edge is longer than the front by one inch. Ease it in,or make a tuck or a dart there. Finish the bottom edge of the seam as you wish and set the sleeve into the armhole.

All of this is much easier than reading these instructions, but you should have no more problems with sleeves.

Great fashion on your site! It's nice to meet others who believe in modest apparel.

Karen B


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