How to Change A Hem into a Cuff

November 9, 2020By Emily ThompsonAccessories, Apparel, DIY, Fashion, Garment, Projects, Sewing, Tutorial 3 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

I’m a huge fan of cuffs over hems. I know this doesn’t work for every pattern, but this is a hack I often add to my sewing. I sew a lot of kids’ clothing, and hemming those tiny sleeves is not my favorite. Adding cuffs before the seams are sewn is easy and simple, and today I’m going to show you how to do it.

Cuff Supplies:

  • Shirt pattern of your choice
  • Fabric for shirt
  • Fabric for cuffs (if different)
  • Serger sewing machine (best for knit fabric)

Grab your favorite pattern and let’s sew. (You can also do this with shirt bottom hems, but I’m going to show the tutorial on a sleeve hem) Take the sleeve pattern piece and fold the bottom over 1.5-2”. You can adjust the height of your cuff depending on your preference.

This tutorial will show two ways to attach the cuffs. 1. Open side seam method 2. Cuff as a circle.


Cut out the fabric using this adjusted pattern piece. To create the cuff piece grab some knit fabric. It can be the same at the shirt you are sewing, or a different fabric. Ribbed knit works great for cuffs if the shirt fabric isn’t very stretchy (sweatshirts, etc). Fold a piece of fabric in half with the stretch going side to side of the sleeve. The width of this folded piece should be about 1” less than the width of the sleeve. You can make it about .5” shorter of the folded sleeve as shown here.

Fabric Piece

You can decide how tall you want the cuff by folding the fabric over again as shown. This should be the same amount as you folded over the original pattern. You do not need to add seam allowance as the original pattern included a hem allowance. Once you have determined both the height and the width of your cuff as shown, cut the fabric.

Fold Fabric

Use the first cuff as a guide to cut the second one.

two fabric pieces

We will start with the open side seam assembly method because this is my favorite for small clothes. Fold the cuff in half with the greatest stretch going side to side and pin/clip it to one end of the sleeve. Stretch across and pin/clip to the other side. I usually stretch and place at least one more pin/clip in the center.

pin cuff to sleeve

Use a serger or a knit stitch on your regular sewing machine to sew the cuff to the sleeve. I use a standard ⅜” seam allowance. You are sewing through three layers of fabric, make sure to catch all of them.

Serge fabric

After you have attached the cuff, sew the side seams and finish the raw serger thread ends on the cuff. Finish the rest of the shirt as directed in the pattern.

Serged sleeve

Now, let’s take a look at method two. This may be a more traditional method of cuff sewing, but it is more difficult. First find the direction of greatest stretch side to side. Then fold those ends over and sew together.

cuff fabric

After you sew, fold the cuff over again. You should also sew the side seam of your shirt at this point as well.

fold cuff in half

Place this folding cuff on the right side of the side of the sleeve fabric. Pin or clip, stretching in place.

cuff inside of sleeve

Open up the cuff and sew with the cuff fabric facing up. Use a serger or a stretch stitch and a ⅜” seam allowance. Sew slowly, turning the cuff as you go. Turn right side out and check when you are finished to make sure you sewed through all three layers.

sew cuff

There you go! Two perfect cuffs, each sewn a different way. If you’ve never tried one of these methods I encourage you to try cuffs a new way and see what you like better, or which is easier for you to sew. I hope you will enjoy cuff sewing as much as I do! I really love not having to hem sleeves.

Final sleeves


  • Hi,
    I totally agree that your first method is the easiest by far and used it recently and I wasn’t as pleased as your second method as far as the look. In the first method you could see the inside seem and I was also thinking of picky kids complaining of the seam. Do you have any suggestions. Much appreciated.

    • My kids haven’t complained about the seam and you are right.. you can see it. For me the trade off is the ease of sewing, so I put up with the seam. If it really isn’t your style I would suggest just practicing the sewing in the round more times. With practice it should look great and you wont have to deal with the seam.

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