When you first try out a new pattern, there are almost always things you want to adjust to suit your own preferences or your own body. That’s why we recommend making a muslin, right? With our Liesl + Co. patterns, we try to help you with some of these alterations by offering multiple cup sizes, but there are other changes you can make to personalize a pattern as well.
Here’s a relatively common alteration. If a sleeve is a little too tight–for your arms or for your fit preferences–it’s easy to alter the pattern piece to add extra room. In this little tutorial, I’ll walk you through the alteration, which is simple and quick to do.
1. First, draw in the seam lines for the pattern piece you are going to modify so that you can alter the pattern piece without changing the length of the seams themselves. (You’ll see what I mean shortly.) On our Liesl + Co. patterns, the seam allowances are 1/2″, so I’ve illustrated the seamline drawn onto the pattern in red below. Once you’ve drawn the seam lines, add a horizontal line that intersects the seam lines at the underarm. Then add a perpendicular line that intersects the center of the sleeve cap. (This might not be exactly the center of the sleeve since the back of the sleeve is usually longer than the front. Make your best guess and it will be fine.)
2. Once you’ve drawn these lines, you can cut the sleeve into four sections along the two lines you drew, but leaving the pattern un-cut at the point where the lines intersect the seam lines. I’ve drawn a little circle for you to show you where you should leave the pattern un-cut. These are like little paper hinges that keep the entire pattern piece intact and allow you to alter the shape a bit.
3. Now spread the sleeve to add extra width. As you open the center of the sleeve to add extra room for the arm, the vertical cut will spread open while the horizontal line will overlap the top and bottom sections a bit This is perfectly fine because the alterations are happening inside the seamlines, so it won’t affect the overall length of the seamlines, while subtly changing the shape of the sleeve to give you extra space in the width of the sleeve.
4. Once you’ve added enough extra room for your preferences or needs, tape the altered pattern piece down to another sheet of paper to fill in the gap and stabilize the pattern. You’ll probably want to re-draw the cap of the sleeve to give it a rounded curve again, too, since the alteration will have caused a bit of a corner to develop. And finally, to find the new grainline, fold the sleeve pattern piece in half. And then you’re ready to go!
5. For those of you with very slim arms, you can make the sleeve narrower by overlapping the pieces, as shown.
I hope that helps!
P.S. If you like altering patterns and want to learn of the design possibilities this offers, you might be interested in my Building Block Dress book, which can help you to alter patterns to develop styles all your own or to simply change an existing sleeve or a neckline to suit your preferences.