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How to Cut a Bell Sleeve

Updated June 13, 2017

A bell sleeve is named for its bell-like shape -- tight at the shoulder and loose at the wrist. The cut of a sleeve can help define an outfit. A bell sleeve can make a dress flirty and romantic or it can create the perfect finish to a Renaissance-era costume. Whether the sleeve is open or cuffed, slightly flared or wide, the process of cutting a bell sleeve is basically the same. You will need just a few materials to create a bell sleeve for a blouse, dress or costume.

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  1. Decide what sort of bell sleeve you want. A bell sleeve can be very wide or narrow. Some bell sleeves have an asymmetrical end, meaning that the fabric on one side of the sleeve will be longer than the other, and may end in a point. In contrast, the hem of your bell sleeve can be a perfectly even circle.

  2. Measure around the shoulder, at the point your sleeve will begin, with the tape measure. Add 2 inches for the hem. This will be the measurement for the top of your sleeve.

  3. Measure from shoulder to the point you want the sleeve to end. Add 1 inch; this will be the measurement for the length of your sleeve.

  4. Cut the fabric to the measurement you took for your shoulder.

  5. Cut from each end of the shoulder measurement downward for the length of your sleeve. These cuts should angle outward as you go, so that you create a tall trapezoid of fabric.

  6. Fold the fabric at the top and bottom of the sleeve to create a hem. Pin the folded fabric into place.

  7. Gather, pleat and pin the fabric at the end of the sleeve, if you prefer a cuff to a loose sleeve.

  8. Attach the sleeve to the blouse or dress.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Needle
  • Thread

About the Author

Stephanie Parker holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and a Master's of Education in library science. She currently works as a school librarian and spent six years teaching Prekindergarten and Head Start.

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