Bell Sleeve Tutorial

March 6, 2021By Emily ThompsonApparel, Fashion No Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

~Emily Thompson, Brother Sews Ambassador

 

Mixing up patterns to create new looks is one of my favorite things about sewing. Today, I’m going to show you how to create a full bell sleeve from a fitted sleeve shirt pattern. This is a fun way to create a more formal or flirty look from your fitted tee patterns. So cute, right?

 

I also flared out the t-shirt a bit as well when changing up the sleeves on this sewing project. You can see here the comparison to the original fitted tee and my new tee with the fuller sleeves. I tried to use the same fabric to really highlight the style difference.

before and after bell sleeve

 

The sleeve is both fuller on the top and the bottom, with the middle part left essentially the same. Ready to recreate this look? You can use any t-shirt pattern already in your sewing pattern library.


Bell Sleeve Supply List:

 

Begin by tracing the sleeve on to tissue paper. This pattern has a front and a back to the sleeve, but if your sleeve pattern is on the fold, trace it twice until it resembles this below.

trace sleeve pattern

 

Now we will use the slash and spread technique to make the top and bottom of this pattern more full. Cut three slashes at the top of the sleeve pattern. The slices should be about 6” long. I added the black lines so that you can see where I cut.

slash and spread technique

 

You will also cut from the bottom of the sleeve as well. I cut six slashes here on the bottom. They should each be 5/6 inches long.

cut six slashes on bottom of sleeve

 

You can do this next part with a magnetic cutting board or tape. Grab another piece of tissue paper and place it under your cut up pattern.

add another tissue paper under first

 

Tape one side of the sleeve and then pull the rest to spread open the top of the sleeve. Spread each cut around 1”.

spread open top of sleeve

 

Repeat with the bottom of the sleeve. Since you have more cuts, each one will only spread about ½ inch.

open bottom of sleeve

 

Trace around your new sleeve pattern shape.

trace new sleeve pattern

 

Because my sleeve shape did not end up symmetrical I folded it in half and then cut the fabric on the fold to create a more perfect shape.

cut out on fold

 

I also added about an inch to the bottom to account for length lost in the spread.

add inch to bottom

 

Now cut the cuffs to gather in the bottom of the sleeve. Measure the bottom of your sleeve and then cut a cuff 70-80% of that width. My cuffs are 3” high. You can create a narrow or wide cuff.

cut cuffs

 

My sleeve bottom is ten inches wide and my cuff is almost eight inches wide.

cuff and sleeve comparison

 

Stretch and either pin or clip the cuff to the bottom of the sleeve. {note: you can also sew the sleeve first and then add the cuff in the round, but I prefer to do it this way.}

clip cuff on sleeve

 

Stretch and sew the cuff to the sleeve end. Use your serger or a stretch stitch on a sewing machine.

sew cuff to sleeve

stitch cuff to sleeve

 

Now you have a pretty gathered sleeve end.

finished sleeve end

 

Next up is to gather the sleeve so it fits the shoulder cap.

shoulder cap

 

Run a gathering stitch around the curve of the sleeve top. I started and stopped about two inches from either end. A gathering stitch is just a long straight stitch, I have my stitch length set at five.

stitch length at 5

sew shoulder cap

 

Pull the bobbin thread to gather the sleeve until it matches the shoulder.

pull bobbin thread

 

Pin or clip the sleeve to the shoulder. Matching the middle and ends and easing the rest to fit.

clip sleeve to shoulder

 

Stitch with a serger or zig-zag stitch to sew the sleeve in place.

sew sleeve to shoulder

 

Now you have a beautiful sleeve top. I love this gathered full sleeve look.

finished shirt

 

Finish sewing the rest of your shirt (Side seam, hem, etc…). Now you or your little one can enjoy this beautiful bell sleeve with your favorite shirt pattern.

completed shirt

 

 

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