How to Make a Ruffle Sleeve

Updated February 21, 2017

Little girls' outfits appear more feminine when decorated with ruffles. Ruffles may be found around necklines, waistlines or on the edge of sleeves. Adding a ruffle sleeve to any shirt, dress or baby outfit with make it more interesting and fashionable. With just a few basic sewing skills, it is possible to sew ruffles that will look professionally made. These ruffled sleeves can be added to garments that are sleeveless with armholes, like an undershirt, or to garments that have a straight-across neckline without shoulder straps.

Cut the square fabric into two pieces, each 8 inches by 16 inches. Fold each piece in half lengthwise, with the wrong side facing out, and press along the fold. Measure 2 inches from each end along the fold and place pins to mark. Use the tailor's chalk to draw a curve from the bottom edge to the pins on both ends. Cut along this chalked line.

Place pins all around the top edge and then stitch a narrow, 1/4-inch seam along the edge. Use the scissors to clip the seam along the curve to make it easier to turn these rounded corners inside out. Turn the fabric inside so the right side of the fabric is facing out. Press. Top-stitch close to the edge, around the outer edge, along the curve.

Fold up 1/4 inch along the straight edge of the fabric and press into place. Fold again, slightly more than 1/2 inch to form a casing for the elastic. Stitch into place.

Use the tape measure to take the measurement of the child's upper arm, from the armpit up and over the shoulder and back down the other side to the armpit. Cut a length of elastic to this measurement plus 1 inch.

Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread it through the casing formed in Step 3. Stitch the ends of the elastic to the ends of the casing, leaving 1/2 of elastic past the ends of the casing. Trim the excess elastic and cut all threads.

Attach the ruffle sleeve to the garment by sewing a seam in the front and the back if the garment has no sleeves or shoulders. If the garment does have an armhole, attach the ruffled sleeve to the armhole of the garment with a narrow 1/4-inch seam. Clip all threads.


A ruffle can be added to the bottom cuff of a long sleeve. Follow the directions above but omit cutting curves into the ruffle. Before threading the elastic, stitch the short ends together to form a ring. After threading the elastic, attach the gathered edge to the bottom edge of the sleeve of the garment. Adjust the size of the ruffle for adult sizes.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric square, 16 inches by 16 inches
  • 1/2-inch wide elastic
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Safety pin
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
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About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.