Gathered sleeves

Before following this tutorial, it will help to read our notes on the sleeve block here first.

Gathered sleeves

Gathered sleeves are basically drafted in the opposite way to flared sleeves! They too are based on the “slash and spread” principle. This tutorial is for knit fabrics, but if you wanted to do it with a woven sleeve, the principle is the same (you would just set in the modified sleeve according to the instructions on your pattern). First, trace off your sleeve pattern at the desired length. Then draw a horizontal line at the point where you want your volume to stop (I’d suggest somewhere around the shoulder/ top of the arm so that the rest of your sleeves don’t end up too baggy).

Cut along this line. Leave the bottom piece, and work with the sleeve cap piece. Draw two diagonal lines from the corner where you’ll place the sleeve on the fold of the fabric, creating three triangular shapes of roughly equal sizes.

Cut along the lines you have drawn, cutting right through the pattern piece.

Now place the piece you’d set aside on top of a piece of pattern tracing paper, leaving enough room at the top of the piece of tracing paper to join your sleeve cap onto it. Then take the piece you’ve cut into strips, spread the strips a small distance from each other for a slightly gathered sleeve (like this one), and a wider distance from each other for a very gathered sleeve (if you want a more statement look). Make sure that the distance between each piece is the same.

Place this spread-out sleeve piece back against the piece you’ve put on the pattern tracing paper, and pin or tape the spread-out piece. You can spread the pieces further apart for more of a gathered look – in the example here there will only be a small gathered sleeve head, as the distance between the pieces along the sleeve cap is not too significant.

Draw around the edge of the sleeve shape you have just created, and cut out your new sleeve piece.

Cut out your new gathered sleeves, and attach to your dress! Once you have sewn the shoulder seams, sew 2 or 3 rows of gathering stitches (the longest straight stitch length on your machine) at the head of the sleeve piece, leaving long thread tails at each end. Pin the sleeve to the armhole at the centre (matching the shoulder seam) and at each end. Pin the centre point of the sleeve to the shoulder seam, and the edges of the sleeve to the armhole edges. Pull on the bobbin threads to gather the head until it fits the armhole of your dress, then pin the sleeves to the armholes. every inch or so, easing the two pieces together where necessary.

Attach the sleeve to the dress with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press towards the bodice.

Sew the side seams and sleeves of your dress in one continuous seam from bottom to top. Press and hem the sleeve as desired.