Puff sleeves (3 ways to sew them)

Puffy sleeves are always adorable and very feminine. They can make even the most austere of dresses look cute and pretty. It is usually frequently used on kids’ dresses but that is not to say that we do not have options. Many of the currently fashionable clothes  sports variations of the puffy sleeves. Basically the puff sleeves are of 3 styles :

  1. Puff sleeves with fullness at the top and bottom
  2. Puff sleeves with fullness at the bottom only
  3. Puff sleeves with fullness at the top only 

puffy sleeves on a top

If you absolutely love a puffed sleeves and want to incorporate it into your wardrobe there are many ways to it – add it to your shrug pattern or a fitting bodice top pattern. 

Different ways to design Puff sleeves 

The puff sleeves with fullness at the top and bottom – Pattern


puff sleeves pattern - add 1 1/2 inches at the top and at the fold

How to sew the puffed sleeves

Step 1

Get a normal sleeve pattern according to your measurements. If you haven’t made a normal sleeve make a normal sleeve following the directions here for sewing different sleeves

normal sleeve diy pattern

Step 2

Fold the normal sleeve by the center. Keep it on another slightly bigger  pattern drafting paper folded by half like the normal sleeve pattern. Even a newspaper would do. Add the necessary inches ( you can add inches keeping in mind the gathers you want.) I have added 1″ for a slight puff. You can add even upto 6 inches for a good puff sleeves. 

to make puffy sleeves sewing pattern add extra at the top and along the middle fold

Step 3

After you have added the inches and marked one side of the pattern open up the papers, both the normal sleeve and the pattern paper. Mark the other side of the sleeves too.


open up the puffy sleeves

You have extra fabric at the top of the sleeve which has to fit into the armsyce.

The wide sleeve area has to be gathered to the armsyce

It is that part that has to be gathered and then fitted to the armsyce.

Step  4

Fold the hem at the wrong side of the sleeve, twice inside ; this is for an elastic casing. Keep in mind the width of the elastic.

If you want a bottom hem frill you will have to add a strip of fabric some 1″ from the hem after finishing the hem. Stitch a 1.5″ piece of strip to the back of the sleeve 1″ from the finished hem – this will form the casing for the elastic. When you insert the elastic the hem will gather like a frill

Sew the sleeve hem of the puffy sleeve

Step 5

Make two rows of gathering stitches ( basting titches with a long stitch length) leaving long trails of thread on both ends. 

Checkout the post on how to gather fabric 

2 rows of gathering stttches made at the sleeve head

You can also pin after pleating the top as in the picture below, instead of gathering.

Pleat the sleeves to fit the sleeve head

Step 6

Insert the elastic with a pin onto the elastic casing you have made at the hem.

elastic threaded through the casing at the sleeve hem
For a gathered hem for the puffy sleeves, make casing at the hem and thread ealstic

Step 7

Stitch the ends of the elastic to the side seam allowance with 2-3 back stitches with your sewing machine ( to keep them in place)

 Sew the edges of the elastic together

Step 7.

Gather the top of the sleeve by pulling the thread tails gently, distributing the gathers evenly

Tighten the gathering stitches at the sleeve head to make the puffy sleeve fit the armsyce

You have the sleeve ready to be joined to the bodice.

puff-sleeves after gathering is done

If you are adding the sleeve to an old sleeveless bodice, remove the side seam stitches under the armhole, some 3-4 inches. Keep the sleeves wrong side up on the armhole of the right side up bodice.

Stitch the sleeves at the armhole with a 1/4 inch allowance. Make double stitches. . Now join the side seam and the sleeve side seam in one stretch.

As you can see the sleeve with 2 inch additional added to the fold line and sleeve head makes a small puff only. You can add between 3 – 6 inches for a big puff sleeves 


sew puff sleeves

The puff sleeves with gathers at the bottom only – Pattern

 puff sleeves with gathers only at the bottom

The puff sleeves with gathers at the top only – Pattern

 puff sleeve with gathers only at the top

Another way to get the look of puff pattern with gathers at the top alone, is to give darts at the bottom hem, by using the first pattern given here. One or two darts at the edge will ease the fullness the bottom

ruching sleeves - add as much as 6 inch on the top of the sleeve

ruched sleeve diy - tall sleeve drafted

Gather or pleat the top edge

Gather or pleat the top edge of the sleeve

Butterfly sleeve is another variation which is a puffed sleeves with fullness at the top and a straight down or wide bottom edge ( unlike the tapered bottom edge of a normal sleeve).

puffed sleeves made of net fabric

Checkout the tutorial to make a butterfly sleeve. Still another variation is the peasant style ( gathered ragalan sleeves) Checkout the tutorial for the peasant dress pattern

A variation of the puff sleeve with tucks

puffy sleeves with tucks

Puffy sleeves – Would it suit you? 

I know many girls on whom the Puffed sleeves look beautiful, but alas they are not for me. I have an inverted triangle body shape and puff sleeves would kill it . But I sew it regularly. The ones I sew have the perfect body shape for a puffed sleeve- my kids. 

The puffed sleeves  (Puffy sleeves, puff sleeves all one and the same) have an old world charm (a Victorian era reminder?) which is great, but only if you have the body for it. If you have a narrow top body (a pear body shape) or a slim figure go for the charming puffed sleeves.  This sleeve will bring a balance to a body shape with broad hips.

Charlize Theron is sporting the puff sleeves in a long sleeved sheer version.

Dare to make it in Leather.


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Puff sleeves (3 ways to sew them)”

  1. Thank you so much for this detailed tutorial on adding sleeves and diff types of sleeves, with illustrations but without all the extra “story-telling” in between. Super concise, and extremely helpful!

  2. Hi, I have jersy short puff sleeve top but the puff does not stay puffed and just drops. I want to know what I can used or insert to keep it in shape but not too ridget when using a jacket?

  3. Hello, thank you so much for you clear and concise info w/o all of the cat pictures and stories of your cousins daughter ha ha. I have been sewing since I was 4 and can usually just freehand patterns I need but I am really stuck on an sleeve for a jacket I am making for myself right now and wondered if you could help me out?
    I am trying to work out like a knee length, high collar jacket out of a heavier weight unsized denim, no lapel, pretty simple construction throughout the rest. I’m wanting a dolman sleeve that has volume at the top but is somewhat fitted at the bottom. I want to create a sihlloutte of it being very heavy at the shoulders and slim and fitted throughout the rest of the garment. Kind of very vaguely carrying like almost slight “football player” connotations but not like on the nose. I’m not sure how to cut the shoulder? (Raglan, kimono, traditional?) And I’m not sure how to achieve the volume with that denim while maintaining the simplicity of design? I dont want to do a bunch of like issey miyake folds or pattern cuts (I dont mind but I dont think it fits the aesthetic) and I DO NOT want a bunch of like crinoline in there….inter facing I suppose I could live with….just wondering of you had some good ideas?

    Your piece on sleeves is the best one I found on the internet by the way. Kudos!

  4. Thanks for this! I’m trying to recreate the Pennywise costume and can’t seem to find anything I like. have you any thoughts on how to do the double puff like on his costume?

    • Hi Jennifer
      That is a fun costume to make – so many ruffles. I have not made anything like that but can give you my opinion. The sleeves seems to be made the regular way of the puff sleeves – leave a lot of extra fabric at the bottom edge ( wide hem) and also increase the height of the sleeve cap – this will give the gathers needed for the puff sleeves. and leave a lot extra to turn under at the hem – and gather with elastic some 2 inch or more above the hem edge. Hope what I said is helpful.
      Best wishes

    • I am also making pennywhistle costume. I believe the sleeve type is called ‘leg of mutton’. I am trying a few different things and hopefully will get the style.

  5. thanks you very much I like this book and have becomes surprised just because have been looking a book which can guide me but never found. fortunate here it’s is thanks a lot and a lot once more

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