Category Archives: Sleevefest

Sleevefest 2017: we have a winner!

It hardly seems any time at all since I sat down to write a blog post for the launch of the Sleevefest summer sewing challenge… and now here we are at the start of Autumn, after more than 200 entries to the challenge, 6 prizewinners drawn at random, 10 sleeves shortlisted for the final prize, nearly 500 votes cast, and many new sewing friendships made!

The ten finalists

I’m going to talk about all ten finalists in just a moment, but first let me give you the big announcement: the champion of sleeves is… Ersan! He made this sublime bustier with deconstructed sleeves for his beautiful niece:

Diane and I were particularly impressed with the fit (Ersan self-drafted this pattern based on his niece’s measurements) and the creativity of the make, and you all were too! So Ersan wins a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, and a bespoke Angelina pattern from us here at Valentine & Stitch, tailored to the measurements of a person of his choice.

Ersan’s sewing in progress

So now onto the selection process and the other nine finalists. We didn’t know how on earth we were going to choose only ten sleeves with all the amazing creations that Sleevefest had generated (check out the #sleevefest2017 hashtag for some wonderful inspiration!), but Diane’s original idea for the challenge had been to do something creative with sleeve design, so we decided to focus on sleeves that had some kind of hack, self-drafting, or original design. Then we each whittled it down to ten favourites, and had some discussion back and forth about the final shortlist. And without further ado, here are those lovely sleeves!

Melissa wowed us with her take on the Sew Over It Ultimate shift dress: she did a three-quarter sleeve, but added a pleated picot-edged trim to both the sleeves and the hem. The result is both classic and original: the perfect little black dress!


Sarah made this gorgeous shirt with a ruffled cuff detail that goes all around the sleeve placket and sleeve hem. She said in her Instagram post that she had been inspired by a picture posted by someone she follows on Instagram, and she had recreated the look on New Look 6599. As always, Sarah’s sewing and attention to detail is meticulous, and the finished result is just beautiful.


Michelle made this stunning red coat: it’s based on the Named Patterns Isla trench coat, but she added these fabulous ruffle sleeves to create a unique piece that we all want to borrow! You can find out more about Michelle’s sewing adventures here, but in the meantime swoon over her coat:


Next up is Kelly, who designed this dreamy sleeve. A friend of hers had a RTW top with a similar cuff detail and so she self-drafted the sleeve based on the RTW garment, and attached it to the Simplicity-New Look 6378 kimono pattern – you can read more about her process here, and see more photos of her beautiful floaty kimono!


Pauline loves to recreate designer styles in her sewing, and this entry was no exception. She had seen an Anthropologie dress with grommets and a ribbon tie on the sleeves, and she made her own version using the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern. Also, look at her perfect stripe matching, and check out her blog post on how she made this dress!


Barbara’s top is not only beautiful to look at, but has a lovely story behind it too. She was given a beautiful nightgown as family heirloom, and she refashioned it to make something new. She wanted to honour the original garment with its delicate crochet detail and micropleats, but make something she could wear in everyday life, and she came up with this fabulous bell-sleeved top. Wearing this must be like wearing a little piece of family history.


Arianwen stunned all of us with her original take on the “sleeve”: when she hears “sleeves” she always thinks of tattoos, and so she hand-embroidered the bodice of her Butterick 6412 dress with tattoos – anchors, mermaids, “Hello Sailor”, you name it, she embroidered it! Inspired and one of a kind.


Suzy made some beautiful garments for Sleevefest, including an amazing sheer sleeve for herself and a bridal kimono for a friend of hers, but the one we chose was this fabulous lace insert. Suzy took a tried and true pattern (Simplicity-New Look 6179) and deconstructed the sleeve to add these inserts with bell cuffs, which make the whole top look so pretty and stand-out.


And finally, Carolyn is wonderful at refashioning garments to make something unique to her. She created some wonderful sleeves for Sleevefest by using oversized men’s shirts and tailoring them with different details such as peplum, puff sleeves, and mixing and matching designs. The one that really stood out for us was this gorgeous blue checked one, which manages to be both casual and smart at the same time!


We loved all the finalists’ entries so much, so Rich and I have decided to offer each of the nine runners-up a Valentine & Stitch pattern of their choice. Congratulations to all of our finalists, and thank you to everyone who supported Sleevefest: our sponsors, our entrants, and all of our fellow sewists who made this so much fun.

Diane and I are hoping to bring you another fest next summer, so stay tuned!

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in Sleevefest, and keep up the sleeve love 😉

Dune meets Sleevefest! Free bonus sleeve hack pattern piece

To celebrate both #sleevefest2017 and the release of Dune, we have created a basic sleeve piece for Dune, that you can hack and adapt however you choose!

First read Rich’s note on the basic sleeve:

It’s important to mention that this sleeve is not meant to be added to Dune without any alterations! It is a basic straight sleeve designed to fit into the armscye of Dune, but then you can get creative with the rest of it! It is a block – a basic version of a garment (or here, a part of a garment), which you then alter. It’s important to remember that a block is not a sloper – this is a very close-fitting version of a garment, to which then you need to add ease (space so that you can move freely) and make any alterations you want to make.

Important points to think about in designing your sleeve are length, fit (along the arm and at the wrist) and shape. It’s also important to make the sleeve fit the armscye correctly, but we’ve taken care of that for you J. We’d also like to point out a few more things about the pattern piece so you can get the most out of it. Notice that the sleeve is quite loose at the wrist, and so think about the fit you want there. Also, it is a straight line from the bottom of the armscye to the wrist, meaning that it will be quite loose fitting along the length of the arm too, so you could think about bringing that line in. It is completely fine to do this as a curve – if you are doing this, bear in mind that you will probably want a tighter curve at the armscye, to bring the line in to your arm quite quickly.

So, get to know your sleeve, and then let your imagination run free! 

To give you some ideas, we are offering a series of tutorials using the Dune top and the new sleeve piece, and we start off with floaty flared sleeves! Just go to the ‘Patterns’ tab in the menu bar, then click on ‘Tutorials’, and then on ‘sleeve hack tutorials’. All of the tutorials will work for almost any sleeve, but I’ll be working with Dune to show you how to do the hacks. Hope they’ll kick-start some new ideas for Sleevefest!

You can also check out my blog posts on Sleevefest and on Dune for more inspiration!

Have fun with your sleeves!



One Friday night at the start of June, I was making a massive batch of chocolate macarons when a message popped up for me on Instagram. It was my lovely IG friend Diane, aka, mentioning that she’d had an idea for a photo challenge to tie in with the Year of the Sleeve, and asking whether I’d be interested in co-hosting. I was up to my elbows in ground almonds and icing sugar, had three birthday cakes to make for the following week, a pattern launching the week after that, and a busy schedule at work… so of course I said “YES” immediately! And here’s why I said yes:
Firstly, Sleevefest! What a brilliant idea to bring together a community of sewists on Instagram in a creative and fun way. I love the idea of the Year of the Sleeve, promoted by Sewing and Design School, who hosted the #sewapril2017 challenge that I participated in during my first month on Instagram (and who are one of our sponsors for Sleevefest!) I’ll talk more about the details of Sleevefest in a moment, but first I just want to tell you my second reason for saying yes:
Diane. She’s an amazing sewist and a truly lovely lady. I only joined Instagram a few months ago, and Diane was kind enough to follow me on day 1, when my following was in single figures. She didn’t need to, she was already established in the IG sewing community, and it wasn’t a cynical ‘follow-for-follow’ thing – I’d already started following her. In those first days I almost shut down my account many times. Do you know the main reason I didn’t? Diane. She had faith in me on the first day. And I read her blog that weekend, and was blown away by her talent (which, by the way, is always understated and never showy-offy, and yes that’s a word 😉 ). So much of what she wrote and photographed resonated with me: being taught to sew by her mum, never being satisfied with a ‘that’ll do’ kind of a job, attention to detail, personalisation of patterns… not to mention coming to the social media community long after coming to sewing, and long after it had already been established. If she could do it, I could too.
So we spent a week or so emailing to work out the details, and who to approach as sponsors. The second week of planning we approached all our sponsors, while Rich, the unsung hero of Valentine & Stitch, started working up a graphic image for us based on a sketch I made. By week 3 we had our sponsors, our signature image, and our ‘rules of play’, and then everything came together! We’ve had so much fun planning it and releasing our ‘teasers’ on Instagram, and the most fun is yet to come – seeing all the sleeves!

So, how does Sleevefest work? Well, to join in, the first thing you need is a public Instagram account. Then you follow Diane and me on Instagram ( and @valentine.and.stitch) and re-post our announcement (which you can find on both our Instagram pages), tagging us both so we know you’re participating. Then comes the fun part: make, pattern-hack or decorate any sleeve on any garment in any fabric, and then at any time between now and 31 August post a photo of your handmade sleeve, tagging us both again and using the hashtag #sleevefest2017. You can enter as many times as you like, as long as you follow the rules for each separate entry:
1. You must post pics of a new make that you’re working on for sleevefest.
2. You may enter as many times as you like, just make sure you put all the tags on each entry.
3. Winners will be selected from all the entries after the end date of 31 August 2017.
Please feel free to post work-in-progress photos too! There are lots of great prizes up for grabs: after the closing date, 5 winners will be selected at random, and each will receive one of the following:
From Sewing and Design School, experts in sewing instruction, and the brains behind both SewApril and Year of the Sleeve: e-book of Jan Minott’s Total Pattern Fit
From EmmaOneSock, a fantastic resource for designer fashion fabrics: $35 gift card
From Dragonfly Fabrics, a family-run sewing store selling beautiful quality fabrics and a wide range of independent sewing patterns: Two paper patterns (with fun sleeves!), the Azaire dress and top by Gather and the Primrose Peplum by Sew Caroline
From Ditto Fabrics, a treasure trove of fabulous fabrics: £25 gift card
From Suzy Magazine, the new magazine for the fashion-forward sewist: Two issues of the magazine

PLUS, there will be an additional prize that you can vote for! Diane and I will choose our ten favourite sleeves, and then it’s over to you to vote for the one you like best. Rich and I have teamed up with Sew Essential to offer a fabulous prize! The winner will get a bespoke pattern of our Angelina dress and top (we’ll contact you to ask for your body measurements so that we can tailor the pattern to you), and a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, so you can buy the fabric to make it with, or indeed something else from their amazing collection of fabrics, patterns (indie and big 4) and haberdashery! They have everything you need for your sewing projects, and are a business of sewing enthusiasts always willing to help and answer your questions. So you can get a bespoke pattern from us AND a chance to buy some pretty things from Sew Essential to go with it, or to kickstart a new project. Pretty great, right?

You can read more about Sleevefest on our dedicated page, and more about our sponsors on Diane’s blog post.

So what are you waiting for? Start making your sleeves! We can’t wait to see what you come up with 😀