How to sew sleeves. Easy clothes upcycling ideas and sewing tutorials.

how to sew sleeves

Easy sleeve sewing tutorials.

In this easy sewing tutorial, I’ll show you three ways to alter the sleeves of dresses, tops, jackets and jumpers. You can transform your wardrobe with these easy clothes upcycling ideas. Learn how to make sleeves shorter, sew a puffy sleeve and elastic sleeve hem. All projects can be done without a sewing machine using iron-on hemming tape or hand sewing.

Watch how to sew sleeves tutorial video

How to sew sleeves #1

Using shirring elastic to create a puffy sleeve.

One of my favourite sleeve transformations is to create a puffy sleeve by using shirring elastic.

This blouse started off with long sleeves and was a bit too big and not really my style. I wanted to make it more feminine and shirring elastic was perfect for the project.

Tips for sewing with shirring elastic

If you’ve never used shirring elastic before, next time you’re at the haberdashery store buy some because you’ll never look back. It comes just like cotton reel but it’s thin elastic instead of thread.

You then wind the elastic onto your bobbin by hand.

It’s important however that you don’t wind it on too tightly or use the automatic bobbin winder on your sewing machine as it will be too tight.

Then normal cotton is threaded at the top of the machine and you sew as you normally would.

The end result is an elasticated band where you sew. It couldn’t be easier.

One tip I would recommend is to sew a few test runs on a scrap of similar fabric as you usually have to adjust the bobbin and thread tension to get the combination right. If the fabric you’re sewing doesn’t have a line in the print you can follow, just draw a faint line in chalk so you don’t get all wobbly.

how to sew sleeves
ABOVE – Create a puffy sleeve with shirring elastic.

How to sew sleeves #2

Adding elastic to create a bell sleeve.

Another of my favourite sleeve alteration methods is to use elastic as you would to create an elastic waist on pants or a skirt.

First, I measure how far I want the elastic from the sleeve hem.

For this project, to make the job easy, I used the width of a ruler as my guide. Then, measure and cut two lengths of elastic – one for each arm.

Then, as you would when creating an elastic waist for pants or a skirt, mark the half and quarter segments on the sleeve.

And the half and quarter segments on the elastic. Pin these segments in place. And it’s over to the sewing machine.

This is a simple way to transform tops you buy hrifting or upcycle old tops in your wardrobe.

how to sew sleeves
ABOVE – Create bell sleeves by sewing elastic.

How to sew sleeves #3

Create an elastic sleeve hem.

I’ve saved the easiest until last – a simple elasticated sleeve hem. I use this method on long and short sleeves and it’s handy if you like to be able to push long sleeves up and want them to stay in place.

The first step is to create a new sleeve hem that’s wide enough to thread the elastic through, remembering to leave an opening where you’ll start and end threading through the elastic.

At the beginning, I add a safety pin so it glides through the new hem “tunnel” and I safety pin the end in place so it doesn’t follow it through.

Once finished, you sew the two ends of the elastic together and then sew up the opening.

how to sew sleeves
ABOVE – Sew elastic into the sleeve hem to create an elasticised puffy sleeve.

And that’s it. I have done this so often that I can complete an elastic sleeve hem in about 20 minutes. And there you have it, three very easy ways to alter sleeve hems on tops, dresses, jackets and even jumpers.

Thanks for visiting. If you would like to see more upcycling tutorials like this, please let me know in the comments below.  I upload upcycling, sewing and thrifting videos weekly so subscribe so you don’t miss an update.

See you next time,

benefits of learning to sew

The benefits of sewing, mending and making your own clothes.

In an era of environmental consciousness, learning to sew and make your own clothes is more relevant and beneficial than ever.

Sewing skills not only mean saving money (more important in times of high cost of living) but play a significant role in reducing your environmental footprint.

Below are how learning to sew and utilising your existing sewing skills can make a positive impact on your life and the planet.

Learning to sew can be cost effective

Learning to sew and mend your clothes can lead to substantial savings now and in the long term.

Instead of discarding garments due to minor damages you can easily repair them yourself. Upcycling clothes gives them a new life, keeping then in the circular economy rather than going to landfill.

Making your own clothes means you can create custom pieces tailored to your style and fit.  Best of all, you’ll have the satisfaction of wearing something unique, knowing you made it yourself.

Sewing reduces your environmental impact

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions and environmental polluters. By learning to sew, mend, and upcycle, you actively participate in reducing this impact through waste reduction, resource conservation, and by reducing your carbon footprint.

Evolve your personal style and expression

Homemade and upcycled clothes offer a unique opportunity for personal expression where you can tailor clothes to your preference, size and design.

Sewing means you can enjoy a more meaningful wardrobe that’s filled with items that you love and cherish.

Sewing enhances creativity

Sewing fosters creativity and skill development.

Upcycling encouraging you to think creatively about how to repurpose and rejuvenate old items. Sewing your own clothes allows you to experiment with different fabrics, patterns, and designs. There are no rules!

Making something with your own hands or bringing a beloved items back to life cultivates a sense resourcefulness.

Making ethical fashion choices

By making and mending your own clothes, you align with ethical fashion principles.

Fast fashion often involves exploitative labour practices and poor working conditions. By creating your own garments or repurposing second hand clothing, you know exactly where and how they were made, promoting fair labour practices and ethical production.

Sewing is less wasteful

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, millions of tons of textile waste are generated each year.

Repairing and upcycling clothes keeps them out of landfills and often being shipped overseas and burned.

By extending the life of your garments, you contribute to lowering the environmental impact of clothing waste across the world.