How to Sew Gathered Sleeves

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For those of you who have read more of my posts or my own blog, it won’t be a surprise that I like basic patterns and projects, I guess it’s my Northern European style. However, though I love clean lines and uni fabrics, a little girly touch can add just a bit of extra cuteness to a simple sew. So today I have a tutorial for you on how to modify a regular sleeve pattern to create a gathered sleeve.

I started out with the lovely Gloria Party Dress pattern, a basic knit dress with several sleeve length and bodice options. I picked the simple playdress option, with an unlined bodice and long sleeve. How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 19

First things first: trace the existing sleeve pattern onto a piece of paper. This pattern piece is half of a sleeve, which makes it easier to make your modifications symmetrical.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 1

Draw a line across the sleeve at the widest point. This is the orange line in the pic above. Cut the pattern piece out of the paper and cut it apart along the orange line.

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Take a new piece of paper and draw a vertical line on it. Place your sleeve pieces along the line. Then, pivot the top piece, keeping the small point at the right side touching the point of the sleeve, just tilting the piece. The more you pivot your sleeve cap, the more gathered and pouffy the sleeve cap will be.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 4

Now trace along the outside of your new shape, as pictured above. Make sure you touch the vertical line where the fold of your fabric will be in a pretty much right angle, to avoid the center becoming pointy or otherwise weird. How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 5

The pic above shows the extra room you now created in the existing sleeve pattern, the red outline is the new pattern piece, the blue lines were the original sleeve piece.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 6

To be able to use this new sleeve pattern in the existing bodice, you have to gather the sleeve cap along the curve, until it has approximately the same length as the original sleeve curve.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 7

Before starting to gather, mark the center of the sleeve cap. Then, stitch along the edge of the curve with a long straight stitch. Make sure you leave some thread hanging at beginning and end and do NOT secure your stitching by backstitching. It is recommended to do a second row of gathering stitches at 1/8″ distance of the first, however, make sure you are still working within the seam allowance of your pattern.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 8

After stitching, gently pull on either the two top threads, or the two bobbin threads, to pull the fabric together. When you have gathered your sleeve to the desired width, distribute the gathers evenly. I prefer to just have the gathers at the top.

How to make gathered sleeves - Tutorial for Peek-a-Boo Pages by Pienkel 10

Continue sewing your pattern as usual, however do make sure that you pin the center of the sleeve to the shoulder seam first, then the corners of the sleeve to the corners of the bodice and if necessary redistribute the gathers before stitching the sleeve to the bodice.

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Finish the dress or top as usual and enjoy a gentle girly twist to your basic pattern! And of course, the sky is the limit with these kinds of sleeve modifications…

 

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Mother of three cute little monsters (1, 4 & 6), married to one, living on a tiny island in the Netherlands, enjoying home, sewing machine and creating! I blog about my creations and the rest of my life at www.pienkel.com, you’re very welcome to visit me there!

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