DIY Hack Your Pattern sewing tutorial

DIY: Puff Top Sleeve

Heyyyy friends! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ways to create more regular content here for you all, and I think I have finally found the solution! I am currently enrolled in a community college in one of their fashion design programs, and in just my first 8 weeks of class I have learned so much. Though some of the concepts, I was applying before I knew the technical way, I still enjoy utilizing them in my own sewing projects. I’m willing to bet you all will too. This is where the idea for a “Hack Your Pattern” series came from. In posts from this series, I will focus on some aspect of pattern hacking…that is, showing you how to take any knit pattern you’ve already got in your stash and modify something about it to make it different. I’ll explore sleeves, necklines, added fullness in different ways to start out, and maybe one day I’ll get comfy enough to expand to woven hacks. As I learn more, I’ll share more. Deal? I’ve already done a few of these types of posts, like my raglan bishop sleeve post and , so like I said, I’d already been doing these types of things before. In the top I’m sharing toady, I actually modified three things about it from one pattern. Today’s all about that Puff Top Sleeve though….let’s hop in!

For this hack, I am using the short sleeve from the Staycation Tiered Peplum and Dress from Ellie and Mac*, but you can start with any set-in sleeve. If your sleeve is cut on the fold like mine, trace the other half so you start with a full sleeve. After tracing the sleeve, I drew a horizontal line from one end of the sleeve to the other to create the capline, which will be used as a static position for determining sleeve length. Once the capline is established, draw a another horizontal line that is 2-3″ below that for the full length of your sleeve. Everything beneath with the slash marks was from the original sleeve length, which will be cut off. I drew 3 but ended up subtracting 1″ from the finished sleeve because it was longer than I wanted after I added the sleeve band.

Now’s the time to add in the slash marks, which will become pivot points. Draw a vertical line for the center of your sleeve, then in 1″ increments from each side, draw more until you get to the point where the sleeve cap starts to curve deeply. Cut out this pattern piece and put some more paper behind it. We are going to begin the slash and spread, which will require filler paper for the space created. From the top of the sleeve, cut down each line, almost all the way to the bottom. Leave a tiny hinge of paper so that you can spread open the paper for the fullness we will be adding.

Spread the two centermost pieces 1″ apart and tape them in place. Make sure you position it on your paper to where you will have enough space for all the spreading and curving that will happen. You can spread them out a bit just to see what the paper wants to do while deciding. Only tape the first two pieces when you’re ready. Afterwards, continue to spread the remaining pieces 1″ apart, as well, taping each piece in place.. This will create a very lovely fan, and the bottom of the sleeve will curve.

Measure about 1.5″ above the center piece of the sleeve, then make dots or lines the same distance around the entire sleeve cap, as shown, and connect back to the ends where you did not spread. Use a French curve, or carefully freehand a curved line, connecting them all. Cut this new pattern piece and label the grainline, gather marks (along the entire sleeve cap, until it begins to curve on each side), and label it so you know which pattern you created this for. You can also fold the sleeve in half to make sure you have drawn the curved shape identically on each side (true). A little note on the grainline: Technically, you should draw in a new capline like you did in the beginning, then establish your grainline from that in order to make sure it’s perfectly perpendicular. If this were woven, I would have done that, but I was less particular in this knit version.

Now go ahead and cut two of your new sleeve from fabric. Transfer your center sleeve and gathering marks to the fabric, then sew two rows of basting stitches between the marks on each sleeve. Fold the sleeve right sides together and sew the side seam. When you’re ready to attach to your bodice, turn the bodice wrong side out and the sleeve right side out. Pin or clip the center mark of the sleeve to the shoulder seam of the bodice and the seam of the sleeve to the side seam of the bodice. You will notice there is a lot of excess sleeve.

Pull on the bobbin threads of each side of the center mark the gather the sleeve to fit into the armscye. Evenly distribute your gathers and pin or clip to hold them in place. Sew the sleeve to the bodice, with the sleeve touching the feed dogs and the gathers facing up. This prevents the feed dogs from pulling them and allows you to straighten them out, as needed, while sewing.

We are almost done! Now’s time to add a band. For mine, I cut 87% of the sleeve opening 1.25″ tall because I wanted finished bands on the more narrow side. The choice is yours, here 🙂 One they’re cut, fold the right sides together and sew the short ends, then fold them in half wrong sides together, with the raw edges all aligned. Divide the band and sleeve opening into equal parts, if it’ll make it easier. Insert the sleeve band into the sleeve and sew!

Finish constructing the rest of your top, give it all a final press….then rock it! Use the hashtag #HeyShantelle on IG if you modify sleeves using this tutorial. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Things to Note:

  • This hack was done with a very lightweight fabric (double brushed poly) to allow for the extra gathers I wanted. If you’d like your puff to stand up a little more, choose a fabric that has a little more structure to it, but keep in mind a lot of gathers will create bulk there within the seam.
  • Test this hack out on a similar weight fabric to make sure you’re getting the desired result before cutting into your good stuff.

Links within this post containing asterisks are affiliate links. What that means is when you shop from them, I earn a tiny commission, but there is no additional cost to you! I appreciate your support much more than I can express!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Half Zip Neckline Hack – Sincerely, Shantelle
    May 9, 2022 at 10:41 am

    […] I used a regular puff top short sleeve I drafted for the Staycation Dress, which I blogged about here. It has the 7.75″ zipper used in this tutorial. I hope you all love this much anticipated […]

  • Reply
    Scoop Neck to Lined V-Neck – Sincerely, Shantelle
    June 4, 2022 at 8:19 am

    […] Here’s the last one I made using this same lined V-neck mod 🙂 I haven’t taken photos in the one in this tutorial yet. You can see how I created these sleeves in my Puff Top Sleeve Tutorial! […]

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