Tutorial on how to make a sleeve pattern

Updated April 17, 2017

Creating a sleeve pattern is not an extremely difficult task, but it does require a bit of measuring savvy. Sleeve variations range from puffy rounded sleeves to drop sleeves that hang off the shoulder; each of these require additional variations in the sleeve pattern. For any style sleeve, proper measurements are the key to success. Unsuccessful sleeve patterns are typically the result of improper measurement and matching of the sleeve to armhole, so careful measurements are essential to ensure a stylish and comfortable fit.

Collect measurements of the arm with a tape measure. Obtain the following: length from shoulder bone to elbow, bicep circumference (approximately 4 inches below the shoulder), elbow circumference, wrist circumference and arm length.

Add ease to your measurements for a comfortable fit. To the bicep circumference add 2 to 3 inches. Add 1 to 2 inches to the elbow width and 1 inch to the wrist.

Measure the armhole depth of the front and back of the bodice pattern. Begin with the front bodice. Line two rulers square, one vertically from the shoulder point down and one horizontally from the underarm point across. Add these measurements together. Repeat the same process using the back bodice. Add the front and back measurements together and divide by two for the appropriate depth measurement.

Fold your pattern paper in half vertically. You will be drawing the sleeve at the fold to ensure a symmetrical pattern.

Mark a point at the top of the pattern indicating your shoulder point (A), approximately ½ inch from the edge. Measure the arm length from the shoulder point (A) down, making a mark at the wrist line (B). Draw a straight horizontal line from the shoulder point (A) across from the fold.

Measure from the shoulder point (A) down using the calculation for armhole depth (C) from Step 3.

Starting at the armhole depth mark (C) square a line horizontally across from the fold. Make a mark the length of half of your bicep circumference (D).

Measure the length from the shoulder point (A) down to elbow length (E), making a mark on the fold line. Draw a line from elbow length mark (E) horizontally across from the fold. Make a mark the length of half the wrist circumference on the elbow line (F).

Draw a line vertically from the bicep line mark (D) to the horizontal elbow line mark (F).

Draw a line from the wrist point mark (B) horizontally from the fold across, making a mark at half the length of the adjusted wrist circumference (G).

Draw a vertical line from the elbow line mark (F) to the wrist point mark (G) creating the rest of the underarm seam.

Fold the pattern over from the fold line to the underarm seam and crease. This creates a one-quarter division line to be used for the sleeve cap. Open the pattern.

Connect the markings up and around the pattern with straight lines. For each line in the sleeve cap, mark halfway between each point. Use a French curve to create the cap.


The easiest way to create a sleeve pattern is to disassemble a bodice similar to the sleeve type you require and use the sleeve piece as a guide.

Things You'll Need

  • Pattern paper
  • Tape measure
  • Rulers
  • Soft pencil or pattern marker
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About the Author

Roxanne Weber has been writing since 1991. She currently works as a Web consultant and freelance writer, covering topics related to business, the Internet, computers and art. Weber holds a Master of Public Administration from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Science from Northern State University.