How to Add Sleeves to a Sleeveless Pattern

How to add sleeveless to a sleeveless garment. From a Vogue Patterns Magazine article

Have you ever fallen in love with a dress or top pattern, but then decided against it because it didn’t have sleeves (and you really wanted it to)? For whatever reason—chilly offices, modesty, less-than-toned upper arms—sometimes you want a sleeve.

Fortunately, adding a sleeve is something you can do on your own without too much hassle. It boils down to matching armscye shapes with sleeved patterns you already own. We wrote a step-by-step tutorial on adding sleeves in a 2011 Vogue Patterns Magazine article, and you can download it here:

How-to-Add-Sleeves-to-a-Sleeveless-Garment.pdf

Let me know in the comments if there are other pattern how-tos you’d like us to blog about. Thanks, and we hope this helps!

Adding sleeves to a sleeveless garment pattern is easier than you think. Step-by-step directions in this free PDF tutorial by Vogue Patterns Magazine.

 

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29 comments
  1. As women age, their neck often gets thicker and appears shorter. A wide high neckline is less flattering than a V-neck neckline or lower round neckline accompanied by wider shoulder seams. Any hints about altering patterns this way? It would also be great if there were more patters with this feature.

    1. I would suggest drawing a line on the pattern…to make make the shoulder narrower, extend the top shoulder line out an inch or two toward the center… the line should still be straight and extend up a tad.) If you want a v neck, decide how many inches down you want it (typically the front will be a place on fold, so it is centered) connect the shoulder to the end of the v with a straight line. A scoop neck would need to stay rounded, so I would start at the center and curve to the shoulder. You can hold the pattern on you and look in the mirror, or try it on cheap fabric. I make facings by outlining the new edge just made and about 3 inches wide. Sew lines and fold lines on the facing need to match the altered pattern.

  2. Hello,

    This is great thank you!

    Can you also give us a how-to on lowering necklines/creating scoop ‘U’ necks with patterns which have high or v neck lines.

    Would be gratefully appreciated.

    Thanks

  3. How to alter armholes including the sleeves. Mine are always to small.

  4. It’s also important to take note of the armhole depth. Depending on the fit of the bodice (ease) there may be a difference in the armhole depth which relates to height of the sleeve cap and hence the amount of ease in the sleeve cap. If the sleeve cap is too shallow for the target bodice you will see drag lines in the muslin.

    1. Great point! I have a full
      Bust and large upper arms together they make
      For some Very unflattering sleeve and shoulder areas!

  5. Years ago vogue/ Mccalls published a pattern for sleeves. It would be nice to have that today. All sleeves in one place!!

  6. Thank you very much!! Now I can make Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter version of my favs.

  7. Hi Meg, I’d love a ‘how to’ on drafting a cap sleeve onto a sleeveless pattern. I know I should raise the cap, but by how much? Where should I turn back toward the armscye.
    Many thanks, enjoying your patternmaking tips.

    Lesley

  8. Hi Meg. Thanks for the timely post! I’ve been looking for an article like this for awhile. I would love tips on how to modify the neckline of a beloved pattern, specifically how to take a round neckline and change it to a V? Thanks!

  9. Thanks for the very informative article.

  10. Sadly, I was unable to open the pdf from my Samsung Mobile phone.

    1. Sorry about that! Were you able to download it later, or shall I email you a copy?

  11. I’d like a tutorial on taking the puff out of sleeves. I prefer my sleeves to be as simple as possible, with no extra ease or gathering. I’ve seen tutorials on adding the puff but I’m a little unsure how to go about reversing the process and making it come out right.

  12. I would love to see an accurate description on how to achieve the perfect pencil skirt shape – I know this is supposed to be really easy, but I just can’t seem to master it!

    1. Hi Lee! Question: Do you make a muslin first before you sew your pencil skirt out of your fashion fabric? The overall pencil shape is the same from pattern to pattern; it’s how it fits YOU is what’s different. It should be close-fitting but still with enough ease to sit.

  13. I’d like a tutorial going the opposite direction (i.e., making a top with sleeves into a sleeveless top or dress).

  14. Me encantaría entrar a esta pagina pero veo que esta en Ingles y si es posible traducirlo en Castellano. gracias.

  15. Often, as we age, our necks not only get wider/fuller, our heads tip forward as well (for postural as well as bone-deterioration reasons). Sometimes what is needed is to move the shoulder line forward. The easiest way to accomplish this — not necessarily the best way! — is to cut the bodice back a size larger/longer at the shoulder, and the bodice front a size smaller/shorter at the shoulder. This should also raise the back neck, and lower the front neck. Often this is enough of a “scooping out” to accommodate an aging neck. You may still need to scoop lower/wider for your neck front, and you may need to add a bit of width at the center back neck for a rounded back. Remember to also adjust your sleeve head to reflect the longer back and shorter front!

  16. I’d love something on transforming the shoulder shape of 80’s big shoulder garments to a modern, more natural shoulder line. I have some coats and jackets in beautiful fabrics which are unwearable with their big shoulders

  17. I too like the idea of changing some of the 80’s and early 90’s patterns that had beautiful shapes until the shoulder and sleeves and I’d love to update these.

  18. hi.i cant open the pdf.can you send me an email to.thanx

  19. I am making a prom dress for my granddaughter using McCall’s 6838, and was hoping to use McCall’s 7320 in order to add long sleeves. However, the arm holes do not match up. Are all McCall’s pattern pieces interchangeable? What would be the easiest way to add a sleeve to pattern M6838? I would appreciate any help as I am under a deadline to complete this project. Many kind thanks!

    1. Hi Phyllis! That’s so nice of you to make a prom dress for your granddaughter. For assistance with your pattern and sleeves, you can either send an email to consumerservice@mccallpattern.com, or call 1-800-782-0323. Our help hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm ET. Thanks!

      And no, pattern pieces are not as a rule interchangeable, though often pieces like sleeves can be swapped out if they are the same type of sleeve. You can’t swap a sleeve with a dropped shoulder for one without a dropped shoulder, for example.

      Good luck!

      1. Hi Meg: Thank you so much!

        Best,
        Phyllis

  20. Hi
    I like the dresses on the pic, are they from one of your patterns? If so, what number

    Very useful article!

    Alter for a big (or small) bust could be useful to read about
    Yours sincerely
    Lena

  21. thank you..
    I don’t go sleeveless , so this is something I need to know.

  22. I’d like to learn to alter a sleeveless arm hole to raise it up to cover sleeve-age.

  23. Honestly, that wasn’t very helpful: “Find another pattern in your collection that already has sleeves that will fit”? Great. Never would have thought of that on my own. Right.

    How about a tutorial on altering a sleeve pattern that doesn’t fit, so that it does? THAT would be useful. Not all patterns will have a ready counterpart from which just the right sleeve can be easily borrowed.

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