How To Sew Sleeves

So you want to know how to sew sleeves? Some people can become quite hesitant when it comes to creating their own clothing. Often they think that unless they can draft patterns or sew together a master piece, that there is no point in trying. However you don’t always have to be a fashion major to make your own threads. You can sew sleeves by hand using very basic materials that are easily obtainable at a local fabric, craft or general merchandise store. Don’t worry about getting technical if you don’t own a sewing machine. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sew sleeves.

Supplies needed to sew sleeves:

  • Two matching shirts
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Cutting Shears
  • Color matching thread
  • Sewing Pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Washable Marker or Fabric ink pen
  • (Optional) Lace, Beads or Appliqués
  • Flat surface


  1. Turn one of the shirts inside out. This will be the one you are going to attach sleeves too. Note: Whenever you are sewing a garment make sure to turn it inside out. If you forget to turn it inside out you may end up sewing your garment together incorrectly.
  2. Now take your second shirt and lay it flat on a smooth surface. Be sure to smooth it out so that there are no creases showing.
  3. Place the armhole of the inside out shirt over the flattened shirt. To make it easier for your new sleeves we are going to use the already sewn hem of the flattened shirt. Depending on how long you want your sleeves, place the armhole at the distance of your choice away from the bottom shirt hem. *Note: To cut down on sewing place fabric near the fold so you only have one less side to sew.
  4. Now take your marker or fabric pen and draw an outline of the armholes onto the flattened shirt. Be careful not to get ink on the shirt you plan to sew sleeves onto.
  5. Measure the circumference and length of your arm. Depending on how big you want the sleeves will determine this. Mark half the circumference of your arm at the hem. From the end of the armhole outline drawn a line down to the mark on the hem.
  6. Using your sewing pins pin the fabric in place so that it won’t move when you cut out your sleeve. Once you are done pinning, carefully cut out your sleeves. If your cutting is a little jagged, don’t worry, just trim the pieces.
  7. Thread your needle and tie a double knot at the end. This will ensure that when you pull the needle through, the thread won’t pull through the fabric.
  8. For fast stitching use the backstitch. This consists of stitching a dash-like design. Note: Do not sew close to the edge. Always leave a half inch of space. This helps secures your stitching so that if you were to stretch your shirt the fabric will not pull away from the thread.
  9. Using the sides that aren’t weren’t on the fold; start to sew sleeves to the shirt's armhole. When you are done stitching the armhole together, try putting your arm through it to make sure it isn’t too tight. Remember that when you sew sleeves you want to be able to move in them.
  10. Now stitch the length of the sleeve together. Once you have completed both sides you are now free to try on your new shirt!
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