draft a sleeve pattern

Now that you have (hopefully) had an introduction to pattern drafting with my ‘Draft a basic bodice’ tutorial, it is time to move on to a standard set in sleeve to fit your bodice. Once you have drafted your sleeve, you will be ready to experiment with drafting tops, shirts, dress and (depending on how brave you are) even jackets and coats. You will also be able to move onto various sleeve types, such as the raglan sleeve and kimono sleeve.

To create your sleeve pattern, you will need the following measurements:

1.    Overarm measurement (i.e shoulder to wrist)

2.    Underarm length (i.e. bicep to wrist)

You will also need a piece of pattern making paper (approximately 80cm x 50cm), and some basic pattern making tools: a ruler, a Patternmaster or French curve, a pacer and a tape measure.

draft a sleeve pattern

a ruler, a Patternmaster or French curve, a pacer and a tape measure.

To start, draw a vertical line (roughly in the middle of your sheet of paper), the length of your shoulder to wrist measurement. Label as AB. 

STEP 1.jpg

This line is the centre line of your sleeve as well as your grainline.

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Draw a line perpendicular to your grain wither side of A (shoulder line) and point B (wrist line) – about 20cm either side of the grain line will be enough. Label lines.

Next we move on to the sleeve cap. The sleeve cap is the curved part at the top of a sleeve pattern. Different sleeves require different cap lengths and cap heights.

drafting a sleeve cap

The sleeve cap length is the length of the top edge of your sleeve pattern that fits into your armhole. The ‘cap height’ is the distance between the top of the sleeve (at shoulder line) down to the bicep line, or the distance between the top of the sleeve and the bottom of the armhole.

To find the cap height for the sleeve, subtract your underarm length from your overarm length. 

draft a sleeve cap

Now mark this distance on your grainline (measuring down from A) as C.

Point C indicates the fullest point of your arm (your bicep). 

draft a sleeve cap

Take your bicep measurement and add ease. As this is a sleeve block I chose to add a minimum amount of ease (as you will often make changes to the pattern) – 5cm. You can increase this by 2-3cm if you prefer a looser fitting sleeve block. 

Draw another line perpendicular to the grain either side of C, distributing this measurement evenly either side (divide measurement by 2 and mark either side of C). Mark end points of this line as D and E and label line as BICEP.

draft a sleeve pattern

Now let’s move to the elbow. Take your shoulder to elbow measurement and mark this length measuring down from your shoulder point (point A). Mark point as F. 

Add ease to your elbow circumference measurement (I chose to add 3cm – you could increase this to 4-5cm if you would prefer a looser fitting block) and then distribute evenly either side of F with a perpendicular line. Mark end points as G and H and label line as ELBOW.

draft a sleeve pattern

To create the underarm seam of your sleeve use a ruler and draw a straight line that passes through points D and G. Extend the line past G so that it passes through the WRIST LINE. 

Repeat for other side (passing through E and H).

draft a sleeve pattern

To prepare for drafting the sleeve cap, mark the midpoints (halfway between the points) of D and C, C and E, G and F, F and H, and B and each seam line at the wrist.

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Draw a straight line that passes through the midpoints of the left hand side at wrist, midpoint of G and F, midpoint of D and C and continue line so it passes through SHOULDER LINE.

Repeat on right hand side (passing through right side at wrist, midpoint of F and H, midpoint of C and E and continuing on so it passes through SHOULDER LINE)

draft a sleeve pattern

Take the CAP HEIGHT measurement (length of line AC) and divide by 2, then add 2cm to this measurement. Mark a point this far above point C on the grain line. Extend this point horizontally either side of the grain line.

Label where this line intersects with the two lines you drew in STEP 8 as I (left side) and J (right side).

draft a sleeve cap

On the shoulder line, mark a point 1.5cm either side of A. Label as K and L. 

On the BICEP LINE, mark a point 1.5cm towards the grainline from D as M and 1.5cm towards the grainline from E as N.

draft a sleeve cap

With a broken line, draw a straight line that joins K to I and then I to M. Also join L to J and then J to N.

draft a sleeve cap

Find the midpoint of KI and mark as O. Find the midpoint of IM and mark as P. Find the midpoint of LJ and mark as Q. Find the midpoint of JN and mark as R.

draft a sleeve cap

From O and Q draw perpendicular lines outwards – each 1.5cm long.

Draw a 1cm perpendicular line inwards from point P, and a 1.5cm perpendicular line inwards from R.

draft a sleeve cap

Focus on the left hand side of your sleeve (the back section of the sleeve). Draw in your cap line by using a French curve (or a plate) to join points K and I with a smooth curved line (passing through the end of the perpendicular line drawn from O). 

From I, the curve turns the other way. Draw a curved line from I to D – passing through the perpendicular from P and also passing as close as you can get to M. 

Repeat process on right hand side of sleeve (front).

draft a sleeve block

Notches on your sleeve cap are very important for when you are sewing the sleeve into the armhole – it is nearly impossible without them. They help you to know which way is front and which way is back, as well as indicate how much ease is in the sleeve cap.

To notch your sleeve cap, find the point halfway between A and C and draw a perpendicular line (perpendicular to grain) that cuts through both sides of the sleeve cap. Where this line intersects the sleeve cap is where you need to notch (a double notch - i.e. two to indicate the back, and one on the front).

We then need to transfer these notches onto our bodice patterns and transfer the shoulder point from the bodice onto the sleeve.

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Before you add seam allowance it is important that you check that the sleeve fits nicely into the armhole and work out how much ease is in the sleeve cap, and whether or not you need to adjust this figure for your particular design.

What next?