Have you ever made a blouse or top and the sleeves ended up being shorted than you would have liked? C’mon, you know you have; it has happened to all of us who sew.
I like to view these situations as “design opportunities” rather than disasters, and one of my favorite ways to add a little snap to an outfit with too-short sleeves is to add a vented cuff. It looks all designer-y-and-fancy, but it really is super simple. You can use the same fabric as the garment, or a contrast fabric can really add some pizazz. You can apply exactly the same technique to too-short-pants. This tutorial is a two-fer!
- Sleeves to be lengthened
- Extra fabric to create a sleeve band
- Matching thread
- Marking tool (tailor’s chalk, Frixion pen, Chakoner, etc)
- Sewing machine + basic sewing supplies
Let’s get this party started.
1. First, decide on the desired WIDTH of your sleeve band. To determine this, you need to start with the amount of LENGTH you want to add to your sleeves. You will be cutting a strip 2 x the number of inches you want to add, + 2 seam allowances. For my sleeve, I wanted to add 2 inches, so I cut 2 strips of fabric 4.5 inches wide ((2 * 2 inches) + (2 * 1/4 inch seam allowance).
2. Now let’s figure out how long the sleeve band strips need to be. Start by measuring the circumference of your sleeve, and again you will need to add 2 seam allowances to this measurement. My sleeve measured about 11 inches, so I cut my strips 11.5 inches (11 inches + (2 * 1/4 SA)
3. Fold your sleeve band strips in half the long way, right sides together.
4. Using your marking tool, draw a line from the seam allowance at the short end of the band to the fold. I like to angle this line inwards a little as it gets closer to the fold because it creates a nice “V” on the finished band. Your choice—draw a straight line just marking the seam allowance you used in # 2, or start at the seam allowance and angle the line a bit toward the middle as you get to the fold edge. I angled my line about 1/2 inch at the fold edge. It is hard to see in the image above because of my fabric, but squint your eyes and you will see yellow lines at the short ends, and the lines angle toward the middle of the sleeve band.
5. Stitch the short ends of the sleeve band. Trim seam allowances to 1/4”, turn and press. In the image above, the fold edges are at the bottom of the picture, and the top band has been trimmed,and the bottom band has only been stitched.
- Right sides together, place the sleeve band on top of the sleeve.
- Make sure that the two “vent” edges of the sleeve band meet at the “center” pin you marked on the sleeve, and the “center” pin marked on the sleeve band is at the at the sleeve seam.
- The raw (cut) edges of the sleeve band are on top of the raw edge of the sleeve. This means the fold of the sleeve band should be oriented towards the shoulder seam.
- Pin all around the sleeve circumference.
- Make sure you do not place the vent edges of the band at the sleeve seam, or your designer detail will be under your arm and no one will see it!
8. Stitch the sleeve band to the sleeve, using the seam allowance you determined in step #1.
9. Trim and press the seam allowance toward the sleeve, and topstitch on the sleeve side. Be sure to catch the seam allowance in the stitching so they do not poke down toward the sleeve band while wearing.
You are done, and you have a snazzy looking sleeve that is actually the length you want for the garment. Win-win!