Everyone enjoying a nice long holiday weekend? I’ve been doing some sewing for clients while running some movies in the background where I appreciate the costume design. It almost feels like getting new ideas and inspiration by osmosis, and I’m really excited to try out a few new things with this block.

If you missed the first couple entries in the series, check out Part 1- Design and Part 2- Drafting, which help cover the basics about starting to draft your own T shirt block pattern.  Today, we’re talking all about sleeves! I wanted to get a pattern that had a basic sleeve already, just because it’s easier to work with an existing sleeve pattern than it is to try and draft a new one making sure it fits correctly into the drafted armsceye you have. Sleeve drafting is just plain more challenging than almost anything else, making sure it fits into the existing puzzle pieces, fits your arm well, and also lets you move how you want. I have a preference for a shorter wider cap than standard, which allows for my bicep and a bit more movement, and is also easier to set in with a touch less ease.

I could tell by looking at this pattern that it’s suited to my personal preference, and honestly I’m just assuming it’ll fit fine if I ever wanted to use it as is. But what I want for this shirt is a puff. My favorite shirt right now adds just a bit of femininity by having a small puff sleeve, so I’m going to manipulate this pattern to do that. First I traced off my size.

The sleeve I’m attempting to emulate.

Next you need to understand a bit of geometry as it applies to fullness. A puff is not just extra fabric width wise, which creates the gathers. If you look at the sleeve above in silhouette, it’s also taller. Puffed sleeves can have puff at the cap, creating a lifted line, and sometimes can also billow a bit below (thinking of the rounded shape of a 1980’s style puff for example). This particular sleeve has mostly lift from the top, gathers top and bottom edges, and not a ton of puff at the lower edge. To mimic this shape, I needed to add height mostly at the cap, a bit of length to stand away from the arm, and width at both the upper and lower edges.

First I added the height by rounding the cap height higher by 1.5″, and adding .5″ to the lower edge.

Puff sleeve pattern.jpg
To add width, you utilize the slash and spread method. I wanted about double fullness, so I measured slash lines 1″ apart, keeping the grainline parallel.

Slash and spread lines.jpg
I numbered them to keep track of which was which, and marked a crossgrain line to be able to have a fixed point to relate to each other.

puff sleeve drafting.jpg
Once cut apart, I spread them onto new paper putting a 1″ space between the pieces.

slash and spread sleeve.jpg
Then I drew my new lines. The back of a cap should always be a little fuller than the front, so I followed the upper pattern lines for the back, and the lower lines in the front.

Add a grainline, cut along the new pattern lines, and done! You can fold in half if you’d like to check that the lower edge and side seams are the same, and that your cap has the slight difference front to back.

Since I’m just going to turn under the lower edge and use .25″ elastic, I left a normal .5″ for seam allowance. You could draft a straight plain bicep band if you wanted, or even use the original sleeve piece as an inner stay sleeve to hold the gathers in place. I love how the elastic edge works on my original shirt, so that’s what I’m going to try first. Next time I’ll walk through how I made my first shirt from this pattern and show you the finished first shirt from the block!  For now, here’s a sneak peek at how the sleeve turned out.

puff sleeve
Have a happy and safe 4th!  And if you have a chance, just pop in 1776 and watch William Daniels sing “Is Anybody There.”  Gets me every time.

Love from Wisconsin,