How to Sew Flutter Sleeves 101 | Sewing DIY Flutter Sleeves

I hope you’re ready to learn how to make flutter sleeves. Over the years we’ve had a few different contributors share with us their methods of making DIY flutter sleeves so we’ll share those various tutorials with you here today.

Sewing Flutter Sleeves

How to Sew Flutter Sleeves Tutorial 1 | Add Flutter Sleeves 

If your girl is anything like mine, she’s got a thing for flutter sleeves. This kid will pick out a shirt with flutter sleeves without even looking at the rest of it. And last winter, she started asking me to add them when I was sewing up long sleeve shirts and dresses for her, too. So the DIY Flutter Sleeves were born.

As the fall clothing catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox, I’m seeing these little sleeves EVERYWHERE in ready-to-wear (RTW) styles. It’s high time for a sleeve tutorial about how to add these sweet little embellishments, don’t you think?!

how to sew flutter sleeves

Flutter Sleeve Pattern Instructions

Let’s start with the easiest option – attaching a flutter sleeve ONTO the bodice of your shirt. While I was working on this tutorial, I sewed up 4 shirts for Miss P and I used the Alex and Anna Summer and Winter PJs patterns for all of them. Since the top runs really slim (in keeping with pajama regulations in the US), I sized up one size for a daywear look.

I might even go up another size next time; these tops were still a little more slim than she usually wears her shirts. For the version above, I “borrowed” the sleeve from the Sugar and Spice dress pattern. It’s a great oversized flutter that was perfect for this look – I found an inspiration pic in the latest Hanna Andersson catalog and went from there:

Inspiration pic

For my look, I used the tank version of the Alex and Anna pjs, and bound the neckline and armholes using a binding method rather than the bands/cuffs from the pattern. I used the same measurements that were indicated by the pattern, but applied the strips this way:

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In this example. I sewed the front and back bodices together at the shoulders and left the side seams open. I attached the arm bindings flat (as shown in the images above), and sewed the neck binding piece together at the short ends to make a loop so I could attach that in the round. Next. I gathered up my flutter sleeves like this:

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And pinned them to my tank, making sure the center the flutter over the shoulder seam.

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I sewed the flutter sleeves right onto the bodice, sewing along my gathering stitches and making sure to backstitch well at the beginning and end of each flutter. Then, I sewed up the side seams.

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To deal with my serger tails, I used a tapestry needle to thread the tail back into the stitching about an inch, and then trimmed the remaining tail. I used a bartack stitch right at the underarm to press the seam to the back of the shirt so it doesn’t bother Miss P under her arms.

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This version was super simple, and would be easy to modify to make the flutter larger or smaller, wider or more narrow. The next flutter I wanted to tackle was one sewn into the armscye (armhole) along with a long sleeve for a layered look. To do this, I needed to draft a smaller flutter that would nestle nicely into place atop Miss P’s shoulders.

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To assemble this shirt, I sewed the front and back together at the shoulders, and attached the neckline binding. Then, I gathered my sleeves and basted them RST to the armscye, again centering the flutter perpendicular to the shoulder seam.

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I used my serger to attach the sleeve, sandwiching the flutter in between the long sleeve and the bodice. (I’m using the Alex and Anna pjs again here, this time the winter version with the long sleeves.)

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This version was a huge hit – despite the fact that temps are in the 90s here and long sleeves are a ways off (I hope!), Miss P was excited to start putting together a “back-to-school” pile of new clothes.

"You know you want to try this, too!"
“You know you want to try this, too!”

To add the same sleeves to a sleeveless top, I followed the same process for drafting and basting my flutters into place on the bodice. For this shirt, I hemmed the curved edge of my sleeves with a narrow coverstitch. It makes the sleeves stand up a little more, and they’ll hold their shape without curling in the wash. (Rolled hems are also super cute for flutter sleeves, if you enjoy doing those on a sewing machine or serger.)

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Then, I needed to make sure to finish the rest of the raw edges along the armscye/armhole, since the sleeve only gets sewn part of the way around (in this example, that is – you can make your sleeve any size you want, and it can fill any percentage of the armhole that you would like it to fill). In the striped tank above, I used the bands that are included in the original pattern.

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To do a bound finish, like in the first (floral) tank I showed above, you can serge a facing strip to the armhole with the flutter sleeve sandwiched in between. Flip the facing over to the wrong side of the tank, press well to make sure the seam allowance is facing down, toward the tank, and topstitch in place.

You can trim the excess facing since the raw edge won’t fray (that’s how I did it in the images up above), or tuck the raw edges under before you topstitch. For my rainbow hearts tank, I also tried a simple finish that I’ve seen in some RTW tops, and it worked well for this application.

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Press serged edge toward the wrong side of the tank, and topstitch in place. You can see my topstitching in the photo below. Please note, this will make the armhole a little wider since you’re not using armbands. When I sewed my side seams, I used a slightly larger seam allowance at the underarm in order to reduce the size of the armhole back to the intended size.

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Since I was using up smaller pieces of fabric, I had to piece together the back. If you want a quick refresher on how to color block a pattern, you can read up about it here.

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I love the sweet simplicity of these tops, and I especially love that while I used the same pattern for each of them, each shirt has a unique look. Miss P’s next request is for a new dress with flutter sleeves, so I’m planning to add the sleeves to the Gloria dress. SO cute and perfect for back-to-school. What will you add flutter sleeves to??

Sew Flutter Sleeves with an Dress Sewing Pattern Tutorial 2 | Pienkel

Hi, it’s Nienke again with a tutorial on sewing flutter sleeves. I’m sending a post to you from my tiny Dutch island! I realised I love to work along a theme, so after my series of pocket tutorials, including how to add a patch pocket, how to add inseam pockets and how to add hip pockets to pants or skirts, I am now on a sleeve modification craze… So, after my tutorial on how to create gathered sleeves, today I made a tutorial on sewing flutter sleeves by modifying an existing basic sleeve pattern.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sewing Flutter Sleeves: Instructions

Just like in my previous sleeve modification tutorial, I used the Gloria Party Dress pattern. It’s a great basic pattern block for a knit bodice. Instead of making a dress with it, I used just the bodice this time around and added some extra length to it to create a top. My eldest girl is 8 years old now and though she loves to wear a dress every now and then, it’s jeans and shirts she grabs for on a day-to-day basis… So a shirt it is! To start the modification, trace the existing sleeve pattern piece onto a piece of paper. As you can see above, I picked a length between the short and the long sleeve, but you can choose whichever length you prefer.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 1: The pattern has a 1/2″ seam allowance included. To make sure you work precise, I recommend removing this seam allowance from the piece. Just measure 1/2″ off the sleeve head and side seam by marking that distance on a few places and then smoothly connecting the dots. Thus the green line is the pattern piece without seam allowance.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 2: Then, divide the pattern piece into four vertical pieces as pictured above.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 3: Cut them all loose. Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 4: Place the pieces on a new sheet of paper, keeping the top of the pieces neatly connected but spreading the bottom equally. Spreading the bottoms more will create more room and thus more flare in the bottom of the sleeve. Spreading the bottoms only slightly will create just a slight flare.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 5: Trace along the outside of your new shape, the red line in the picture above.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Sleeves Step 6: Add seam allowance back to your new piece, 1/2″ to the sleeve head and side seam (the blue line in the picture above).Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Now you have created a new and flared sleeve pattern piece, a lot bigger than the original piece as you can see in the photo above!Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

Continue sewing your pattern as usual.Flutter Sleeve Tutorial by Pienkel for Peek-a-Boo Pages

And enjoy your girly flutter sleeves!

How to Sew a Simple Flutter Sleeve Pattern Tutorial 3 | Amy from Peek-a-Boo Pages

Need a few more items to round out the back-to-school wardrobe? This flutter sleeve tee is quick, simple, and oh so cute! Makes a girl pretty happy! And I was pretty happy with the sleeve too because it was so easy to put together! And since it’s knit it’s super comfy and perfect for everyday wear.

Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 1: Use a tee (or tank) that fits well to cut out a front and back piece. Remember you need room for a seam allowance at the shoulders and sides and a hem along the bottom (I did 1/2″ seam allowances and a 3/4″ hem). The sleeves are two elongated half circles. I cut the front and back out exactly the same and then scooped the neck a bit lower in the front. 

 

Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 2: With right sides together sew the front and back together at the shoulder seams. Now is a good time to make sure it will fit over your kid’s head

 

Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 3: Measure the neck opening on your tee and cut a piece of rib knit to about 80% of that measurement and about 1.5″ wide. Sew the 2 short ends together to form a loop

 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 4:Now fold the neckline ribbing so the long edges are together and your seam from step 3 is hidden. Line up the raw edges with the raw edge of your neckline on the right side of the shirt. You will need to stretch the ribbing to fit so pin carefully and make sure it’s evenly distributed and then sew in place.
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 5: Flip the seam allowance inside the shirt and press flat. To help the neckline lay flat I like to then stitch around the entire neckline just below the seam line. Make sure you use a double needle or a zig zag stitch so the shirt can still fit over your kid’s head.
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 6: Turn the outside edge of your sleeve (the curved edge) in towards the wrong side of the sleeve and topstitch down. I used my double needle.
 
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 7: With the right sides together sew the unfinished edge of the sleeve to your armhole making sure the sleeve is centered.
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 8: Flip the seam allowance inside the shirt and press flat. Press the remaining armhole edge under and then topstitch across the entire armhole. I used my double needle for this step as well.
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 9: With the right sides together sew up the shirt side seams.
 
Simple Flutter Sleeves Step 10: Turn the bottom edge of the shirt up 3/4″ towards the wrong side of the shirt and press flat. Topstitch in place using a double needle or zig-zag stitch. I love using the double needle for this because it gives a nice professional finish.
 
 

Alright – with 3 separate tutorials you should be well on your way to learning how to sew flutter sleeves now! Make sure to join us on Facebook in the Peekaboo Patterns group and share your creations over there!

Other Sewing Tutorials

We sure hope you enjoyed learning how to sew flutter sleeves. You might also be interested in some of these other tutorials:

4 Responses

  1. Your flutter sleeve presentation brought a smile to my face. Lovely, thanks.

    I may even add it to a knitted sweater for myself. 🙂

    1. Cccould you tell me what pattern for t shirt you used and how would you recommend doing a double flutter sleeve ruffle. Thank you in advance. You were exactly what I’ve been souring there internet for. Keep it coming. Sincerely, Elyse.

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