3 types of Puff sleeves and How 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 

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

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

puffed 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. 

puffy sleeves sewing pattern

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.


puffy sleeves

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


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 

puffed sleeves pattern

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

puff sleeves

Step 6

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

puffy sleeves

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)


Step 7.

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

puff sleeves sewing

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


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

The puff sleeves with gathers at the top only – Pattern

 puff sleeves

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 ruched sleeve diy

Gather or pleat the top edge


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

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 – 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.


10 thoughts on “3 types of Puff sleeves and How to sew them”

  1. Mary Tunnicliffe

    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?

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

    1. 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

      1. bernadette england

        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.

  4. Emmanuel Odhiambo Wao

    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

    _so my questions is just how can I get this full copy of SEWGUIDE
    _please I need it right now, waiting to communicate

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