How to make a split neck blouse with bell sleeves

Updated April 17, 2017

Transform basic crew neck blouse patterns into trendy split neck silhouettes with bell sleeves. By using premade patterns, beginners can learn pattern-making techniques, while advanced pattern making enthusiasts can save time by making a few pattern adjustments. Designers can create a variety of silhouettes based on the split neck style by shaping the split neckline and changing the bell sleeve length to short, three-quarter finish or extended length. Alter the split neck style by adding complementary trims along the neckline and sleeves, such as lace or beaded fringe.

Making the bell sleeve pattern

Trace a premade sleeve pattern on pattern paper with drafting pencils. Transfer front and back sleeve notches onto the traced copy. Notches refer to markings used to align fabric parts during sewing construction.

Mark the sleeve length for the bell sleeve with a felt pen. For example, if you choose a short sleeve, you can mark the hem 5 cm (2 inches) below each underarm point. You can also choose a three-quarter sleeve, finishing at the elbow or an extended length, finishing 5 cm (2 inches) below the wrist seam.

Draw a flared shape on each side seam with a French-curve ruler by position the ruler vertically along the underarm point. For example, if you selected a short sleeve bell sleeve finishing 7.5 cm (3 inches) below the underarm point, draw a shaped sleeve seam from the underarm to the hem line. The shape resembles a bell shape because of the wide finish at the sleeve hem line. For example, wide flare shapes create significant drape for the bell sleeve.

Draw a horizontal line along the bell sleeve hem with a clear graph ruler. This essential pattern-making ruler includes graph lines divided into inches and millimetres as well as 3 and 1.5 mm (1/8 and 1/16 inch) increments. The sleeve hem line connects the flared sleeve seams made in Step 3, finishing the bell sleeve pattern.

Add 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) seam allowance to the pattern and cut out with scissors. Transfer the notches with a notcher tool.

Pin the sleeve pattern to muslin fabric with pins and cut out with fabric scissors. Muslin is an inexpensive textile used for draping. Although you can skip this step, keep in mind that if you are not satisfied with the fit, you cannot add width to the sleeve drape once you cut the project material.

Making the split neck blouse pattern

Trace the front and back panel of a premade crew neck blouse pattern on pattern paper. Keep the original blouse pattern for future reference.

Transfer armhole notches to the front and back panel pattern.

Draw a vertical slit at the centre front neckline with the clear graph ruler. For a modest split neck, draw a 10 cm (4 inch) slit line. The vertical slit line acts as the split neckline guide for shaping.

Define the vertical slit line to the desired shape using a French-curve ruler. For example, if you want a slightly shaped split neck with self-fabric ties, shape and contour the slit.

Repeat Section 1, Steps 5 and 6. Remember, by skipping Step 6 and cutting the project material for the front and back panel, you cannot increase the side seam width if you are not satisfied with the fit.

Assembling the split neck blouse

Assemble the front and back panels with the sleeves by pinning the muslin parts together.

Fit the pinned muslin top on a dress form. If you are not satisfied with the bell sleeve drape, repeat Section 1, Steps 2, 3, and 4. If you are not satisfied with the split neckline shape, repeat Step 4 in Section 2. You can also draw the neckline shape directly on the muslin with tailor's chalk. If you are working with the project material, avoid drawing with the tailor's chalk and repeat this section, Steps 1 and 2 to fit the garment.

Machine stitch the front and back panels, by first stitching the shoulder seams, followed by the side seams. Stitch the sleeves separately by stitching from the underarm seam to the hem. Align the stitched sleeve notches to the front and back panel armhole and stitch.

Topstitch the split neckline. For example, if your design does not include self-fabric ties, turn back the raw edge, facing the wrong side of the fabric and lightly iron it. Change your straight foot attachment to the edge foot and topstitch along the split neck edge.

Change the straight stitch foot attachment to the blind hem stitch attachment and change the sewing machine stitch selector to the blind hem stitch option. Consider changing the stitch length to 2 or 3. Using this stitch type to finish the bell sleeve hem creates an invisible hemline. The machine stitches on the wrong side of the fabric and then skips over, piercing the right side. Matching the thread colour to the ground colour of the blouse fabric, creates an invisible sleeve hem. Cut away all loose threads prior to wearing the trendy split neck blouse with bell sleeves.


Muslin is available at textile supply shops in different weights. Select the muslin weight similar to your project material weight for accurate draping.

Things You'll Need

  • Premade sleeve pattern
  • Pattern paper
  • Drafting pencils
  • Felt pen
  • French-curve ruler
  • Clear graph ruler
  • Scissors
  • Notcher tool
  • Premade crew neckline pattern
  • Muslin fabric -- 2 metres (2 yards)
  • Pins
  • Fabric scissors
  • Dress form
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Edge foot attachment
  • Blind hem foot attachment
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About the Author

Mercedes Valladares is the founder of M721Organics and has been an independent designer for over 15 years. Her work experience commenced during college with manufacturers based in New York and Hong Kong. Her education includes LIM College, International Fine Arts College and design certification from the Paris Fashion Institute. She produces eco-crafting videos and writes recycling articles online.