Drafting a Knit Sleeve

When I posted my Upton dress in a few places I received a lot of messages asking me how to draft sleeves for it. You may have noticed I add sleeves to a lot of my makes. I added sleeves to the Cashmerette Upton, Simplicity 8379, and to my sort of unfortunate Collette Sorbetto. When I buy RTW the sleeves are most often the part of the top that does not fit me.


Knit sleeve added onto my Simplicity 8379 dress.

My biceps measure 19″ around so you can imagine it is difficult to even grade up as most plus-size sleeves are 13″-15″ around including the seam allowance. I have tried the slash and spread method, but if you are adding more than 1-2″ it gets really messy. I have found that drafting sleeves from the bodice I am working on works out much better for me.


Woven lined sleeves from my Cashmerette Upton.

I learned how to draft my first knit sleeve from Kyla Hislop’s tumblr. I continually refer to her illustration of June J. Hislop’s Easy Sleeve Tutorial. Her illustration just makes it very easy to understand. The other fantastic tutorial that I used for the Cashmerette Upton lined sleeves is Professor Pincushion’s How to Line a Sleeve YouTube tutorial. Professor Pincushion has been a really great source of learning. Since I have not been able to take any more classes in person, I think of her videos as online courses.

So here is how I have been doing it!

First I lay out the bodice flat on top of a piece of tracing paper. I have bought a couple of 50 yard rolls of it from Amazon. So far all of the shoulder seams have been right on top of my shoulders, so it makes things pretty easy and keep the sleeve curve symmetrical. If the armscye, or arm hole, is wider on one side, I fold back the excess the other side of the armscye so I am making the widest sleeve curve possible. I can always trim that excess down later, but I can’t add back on!

This example is made with a lightweight knit for another Simplicity 8379.


Then I trace the armscye. I have yet to find an armscye that my arms don’t fit through, so I have not altered any for that reason. After I remove my bodice I lay my ruler down at the shoulder and draw the straight top of the sleeve line. I want 3/4 sleeves so I made my shoulder about 14″ long. Don’t worry if the curve around the arm looks weird, you will redraw a bit later anyways.


Draw the hem of the sleeve in with a 90° angle from the top of the sleeve line.

3 Then I take my arm circumference (19″) and divide it in half (9.5″). If you are like me, your half arm circumference will take you below the armpit of your bodice. That’s OK. Also, you can be a little loose with the measurements if you are working with knits. I think my knit sleeve is 17″ in circumference and  8.5″ in half.


Then draw your line up from the armpit. I tapered it so it will be smaller at my elbow. You can use measurements, but I just drew it. I can always take it in more later, if needed.


Here is the part that takes a little eyeballing. That shoulder seam shape doesn’t look right., does it? In the past I have cut out this exact pattern piece (plus seam allowance) and sewed it to a bodice. It just leaves a long uneven seam allowance. It works, you just have to trim…a lot. To reduce that trimming I redraw the curve of the shoulder. You can lay out another sleeve from a RTW piece and trace or use another sleeve pattern piece to trace the should seam.I just eyeballed it. Then add the seam allowance (in yellow), I used 5/8″ in this example, around the shoulder and underside of the sleeve piece.


Now you can either cut this on a fold on that top seam or you can make this a full pattern piece. I like to cut on a fold myself!

When I cut the sleeve piece out in my fabric, I always sew some ease stitches along the top curve and I may pull the sleeve shoulder curve out of the bodice past the seam a bit, so the top of the sleeve is hanging out, to get a better fit and trim the excess later.


And that is how I have been doing it. If you have any suggestions for me, I am all ears. There are all sorts of great references online, but this is what has been working for me. I hope it helps someone else!


4 thoughts on “Drafting a Knit Sleeve

  1. BeccaG says:

    Cool! thanks for the quick tutorial on sleeves & the Professor Pincushion utube reminder I’ve watch a couple of the videos on there too & have learned a lot from them.

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