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Who doesn’t love a unique sleeve design? Whether it’s a formal dress or everyday top, a fun sleeve can steal the show in any garment. WARNING: adding different sleeves to your favorite patterns can get addicting!

Arm movement can give way to so many flowy options—which is why a beautiful handkerchief sleeve is a perfect choice to amp up volume. Adding a few ruffles to the hem will draw the eye and turn any top into a stunner! Prepare to get creative and learn how to add this dramatic look!

The best part of this tutorial is: You can choose any pattern you would like! The best type of design to add this sleeve to requires a lightweight woven fabric, such as rayon challis. This fabric will provide the beautiful light drape needed for a flowing effect. Today I’m using the George + Ginger Tether Top. 



2-3 hours




  1. First, you will need to adjust the sleeve piece on the pattern. Time to do a little drafting! Using the same curve for the armscye (the armhole opening in a garment) as the original, you will extend the side edges out at an angle and square off the design as shown in the photo. The dimensions are approximate—it doesn’t have to be exactly those numbers—as long as they are close and it has the same basic shape.

  2. Cut the sleeve and ruffles as shown in the diagram below. You will need two (mirrored) sleeve pieces, two long ruffle pieces cut at 4” by the width of fabric (WOF) and four short ruffle pieces cut at 4” by half of the width of fabric. 

  3. Next, hem the ruffles for each sleeve. Place all of the ruffle fabric right sides up. You will hem one long edge of the long ruffles, one long edge of the short ruffles and opposite short ends on the short ruffles. To hem, fold the raw edge back 1/4" and press. Fold back 1/4" again, press and sew 1/8” away from the inner folded edge. 

  4. Gather the ruffles. There are multiple ways to do this! Some like to run two basting stitches and pull the bobbin thread to ruffle the fabric, some like to use a serger. I gather using my sewing machine set at a high tension on the longest stitch length—it ruffles the fabric automatically. You will gather all of the ruffles on the long, unhemmed sides.

  5. Now lay one of the sleeve pieces right sides up. 

  6. Line up the gathered edge of one of the long ruffles along the long edge of the sleeve, right sides together, and pin or clip into place. Sew along the gathered edge, sewing just above the gathering stitch. Finish this seam. 

  7. Press the seam with seam allowance up. You may choose to topstitch 1/8” away from the ruffles. 

  8. Lay the sleeve right sides up again with the long ruffle flipped down. Now place the short ruffles along the side edges and long ruffle, right sides together. Make sure the hemmed short edge on the short ruffles are placed at the bottom of the long ruffle. Pin or clip into place and sew along the gathered edge, just like you did with the long ruffle. Press the seam and topstitch.

  9. This is what your finished sleeve will look like. Repeat these steps on the other sleeve. 

  10. Finally, finish adding the sleeve as directed in your pattern by attaching to the armscye and sewing up the sleeve and side seam.  



This tutorial was created by George + Ginger
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