lisette b6168 gathered long sleeve

Shelley is back! She always has such a knack for making micro changes to our most popular patterns. Shelley is a modifier and when you take a glance at our tutorial section you’ll see many fantastic contributions from her. It’s exceptionally rare for her to sew a pattern exactly as published. And we love her for that because she always comes up with these great garments! Here is another example from her today. Take it away Shelley!

Gathered long sleeve on the Lisette B6168 fit-and-flare dress

Hello everyone. I’m yet to get stuck into my Building Block Dress Book which arrived downunder just recently, but I’m as excited about it as you all are. Tinkering with patterns is what I love doing best and now I have a perfect reference book to show me how I should be doing the alterations I want to do!

However, I can’t imagine that every garment I could possibly think up will be covered in the book. I mean I just dressed my kids as a giant Parmigiano cheese and a flask of Chianti, for their school Italian Day, and there are no patterns out there for that kind of thing! Even if there’s no pattern alteration that seems appropriate, what we learn is how to experiment and play with the fabric to get the look we want.

And recently I spotted a look that I really did want:

Nordstrom dress
Pinterest link

Not long after I’d spied that dress on Pinterest and started thinking about how the Lisette for Butterick B6168 would be the perfect basis, Liesl shared an almost identical dress on her Weekend Links post with exactly the same suggestion. I knew I was on a winner.

My real dress planning notebook is full of incomprehensible squiggles, sketches and calculations, but let’s imagine it this way:

Lisette for Butterick B6168 fit-and-flare dress

I made a bodice muslin which is only worth mentioning as a warning not to add too much length to the bodice of this dress as the V plunge may become indecent! No pictures. Enough said.

The sleeve pattern piece was the only part that needed to be redrawn.

The original looks like this:

sleeve pattern

I marked the centre line of the sleeve staying parallel to the grain cutting line and extended it down. The width of the sleeve was widened slightly at the top – the original cap sleeve is fairly narrow and I’ve got big biceps (*cough*), and then tapered. I simply wrapped a loose tape measure around my elbow to get the width of the bottom of the sleeve.

altered sleeve pattern

To allow the outer sleeve to be gathered up I added the curved section giving the outer sleeve about 2 inches extra length. By marking the right side of the fabric at the centre bottom edge and the circle shown above, I could draw a straight line where the gathering would occur.

Now here’s the magic part. The B6168 sleeve is made of a double layer sleeve and so is absolutely perfect for this gathering. The inner and outer sleeve are sewn together at the hem, then understitched.

It’s then simply a matter of cutting two pieces of elastic, say ½” wide and about 2” long and pinning them in-between the sleeve layers of each sleeve, following the vertical line you drew earlier. Sewing with a zig zag stitch from the hemmed edge upwards, while holding the elastic stretched will gather the outer sleeve.

The circle shows the height of the inner sleeve hem and you can then decide whether to go lower, higher or the same height with the gathering of the outer sleeve hem.

Gathered long sleeve on the Lisette for Butterick B6168 fit-and-flare dress

Using a fabric with a really soft drape like rayon changes this dress up quite a bit and I think the longer, gathered sleeves suit the flowing fabric nicely. The bodice pleats end up a lot softer and it might have even been a good idea to gather rather than pleat the bodice.

Gathered long sleeve on the Lisette for Butterick B6168 fit-and-flare dress

And there’s a whole new area to explore – letting the fabric choice influence the pattern design. I can’t even begin to imagine the day when I’ll sew something and know from the start quite how it will turn out!

Have you caught Building Block fever and started seeing patterns as potential starting points?


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  1. Lynda

    What a lovely dress, I’d like one like it but would want to work out how to fill in the triangle 🙂 thanks for the sleeve tutorial, I’ve pinned it for future reference.

  2. I love this idea with the sleeve! I have several RTW tops that came with gathering along the sides and on the sleeves and I love that look. Beautiful dress!

  3. Susan

    Well, this is beautiful and you certainly know how to work with your fabrics. I have not yet had these experiences. you are an artist. Thank you for sharing. I was wondering also which comes first, the fabric or the pattern when I saw some beautiful fabric in my stash which just looked like I needed to make a dress for my granddaughter out of it. Then I had to decide which dress. It was not too difficult because I had just received the Building Block Book. However, I love what I call a “smock” type dropped yoke button front dress and I think the pattern is there so I should be in business soon. I have to figure out the sleeve. thank you for your beautiful work.

  4. Martie

    I love this sleeve modification and am trying to replicate it, but hit a snag. I can’t get the innER and outer sleeve to line up properly for sewing together- too much fabric in the out sleeve. Did you see the two sleeves together before doing elastic? I tried elastic first and have a messy finish. You’reooks so nice! I also added fullness to the sleeve to get more drape and fullness to skirt to get more reverse pleats. Any hints on getting the sleeve to cooperate? Thanks!

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