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Craft Tutorial - Ribbed Ruffle Sleeves

Today we'll be learning to make ribbed sleeves for addition to any outfit which requires better warmth for the arms. If you're like me, you're scared of putting sleeves on things, or maybe your waist/bust size is not proportional (according to the fashion industry) to your arm size and you have to do body coverings and arm coverings separately.

I got this technique from a wonderful girl at a potluck, and with her blessing I may start selling these garments soon. However, in the interests of open source crafting and for the general edutainment of all, here is my latest project:

What to keep in mind

  • Stretchy fabric is pretty much necessary to ensure a decent fit.
  • It's okay to mess up sewing - stretchy fabric is forgiving, which is good because I'm incapable of sewing perfectly straight lines.
  • It's not okay to mess up too much cutting, but the cutting part is easy.
  • Be extremely anal about sewing backwards a bit at the start and beginning of each seam so the whole thing doesn't try to unravel on you at the end.
  • Be extremely anal about clipping the threads at the beginning and end of each seam because going back to do it later is annoying.
  • Be at least somewhat careful to keep your margins about the same, for reasons that become clear soon. Here is a tutorial on how to sew nice 1/4" seams.
  • Use a not-very-short stitch length so you can rip out if you need to, but not so long as to fall apart when put under a bit of strain. I put mine between 2 and 3.
  • Change your needle and put a new stretch needle in. It makes all the difference. Also, wind a new bobbin.

Phase I: Cutting
Sorry, no pics for this part. Measure the length of your arm, and also the circumference of the top of your forearm, which should be somewhere between the circumference of your wrist and above your bicep. We're going to pretend that this is about halfway between the two, for the purposes of making a sleeve that will more or less fit overall.

Now we account for the ribs on the sleeve - I wanted four, but you may want more. You can have as many ribs as you want, but keep in mind they'll be distributed symmetrically in twos - so it'll be hard to get three evenly spaced, but easy to get two on opposite sides and one between. If you're math inclined, what I just said was: it'll be hard to get one at 0*, one at 120*, and one at 240*, but easy to get one at 0*, one at 90*, and one at 180*. If you prefer radians, you're out of luck.

So, if you're me, your forearm is 8" around, and you want four ribs. Add half an inch for the joining seam. Each rib takes half an inch of space, so here's the formula for the total circumference of the sleeve:

8(arm) + 4(ribs) * 0.5(for each rib) + .5(the joining seam) = 10.5 inches

There's the width of your rectangle.

Now take the length of your arm and add a few inches (let's say three) for a ruffle at the end. That's the length of your rectangle. If you're me, that's 20".

So now cut a couple rectangles out of the stretchy cloth (remember to lay it nicely on a carpet so it doesn't go slipping around while you cut). Easiest way to do this is to cut out a 20"x10.5" rectangle of card stock or something and lay it on the fabric, mark, and cut. Your method may vary.

Still with me?

Phase II: Make a Tube

Fold your fabric the long way inside out, laying the long edges against each other. Sew a scant 1/4" seam along this edge, making a tube. Here's a picture of mine at that stage:

I cut mine from a sweater and used the bottom hem as one of the short edges on both so I wouldn't have to hem. You have the option of using fabric that won't need hemming, or finishing with a zigzag stitch edge, which adds more ruffle. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Phase III: Make First Ribs

Turn your tube right side out.

Grasp the tube as shown, with the seam about half an inch away from where you're folding it.

Now stick it like that under the sewing machine, as shown below (my presser foot is 1/4" wide from the center, so I line up the edge of the fabric with the edge of the presser foot).

And grab the other end at the bottom as shown, making sure it's folded at the same amount at the bottom.

Now, sew a quarter inch seam until you're a few inches from the end. Since my fabric had that hem, I just stopped where it started (since the hem was a few inches deep). You may want to mark around the bottom of the tube for where to stop. Alternatively, you could go all the way to the end, and skip the ruffles.

Yes, you're putting the seams on the outside of the sleeve. This is what makes the ribs.

Hold the tube like you did again - it'll be folded flat, with one end sewn. Stick the fabric under the presser foot again. Make sure you're starting at the top, and not in your ruffled wrist allowance! Sew down, again with a 1/4" allowance. You should have a flattened tube now with both ends sewed.

Phase IV: Make More Ribs

Hold the tube as shown below. You are now flattening it perpendicular to the way you flattened it before, and the two ribs you have just sewn should be directly across from each other.

Yeah, I know it's blurry. I needed a snack.

Now grasp the right hand side and stick it under the foot. If you pinch the fabric like that near the bottom, you can feel if the ribs line up down there too - line them up, and then grasp the right hand edge at the bottom. You should have a fold parallel with the ribs you just made.

Sew down again, but not through your wrist allowance! Keep the fabric pinched in your left hand with your fingers and thumb next to the ribs so that you can keep them lined up. The fabric may try to slip, so keeping aware of the location of these ribs in relation to each other will help prevent messed up seams.

Oops! See how I let the margin get a little too big, so it's sticking out from the right of my foot? That's okay. My wrist is narrow, and it's stretchy fabric, so it's barely noticeable. See, even your mod can suck at sewing (and how!).

So flip your tube over and sew the other side. Now you have four seams, and it should look a bit like this:

Slide it on your arm and see if it fits. If it's too tight, undo a seam. If it's still too loose, you can continue adding seams by re-folding the tube with the already made ribs as a reference. You may find that pinching the fabric with your right hand to feel the evenness of the ribs is easier when you start putting in the in-between ones.

Keep in mind that if you've added 2 inches for ribs (and a half inch for the joining seam), you shouldn't need any more ribs in there. If it fits at the wrist but not at the bicep, you can add ribs just at the top to tighten things up there.

Whew. I'm done!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
I meant to do one, but I ran out of time in my so-called sewing day. (it was mostly a schoolwork day after all).

I'll probably post one later. Once you get to eight tucks, you'll probably start running out of room =)
Apr. 18th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
Personally, I prefer multiple layers of pfoofy sleeves (no, that wasn't a typo, "pfoofy") but this is useful information nonetheless. thank you for the efforts. ^_^
Apr. 18th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
How are you securing the sleeve at the top of the arm? (How do you keep it from sliding down?)
Apr. 18th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
"Keep in mind that if you've added 2 inches for ribs (and a half inch for the joining seam), you shouldn't need any more ribs in there. If it fits at the wrist but not at the bicep, you can add ribs just at the top to tighten things up there."

It's stretchy fabric, so at some point it'll be snug enough to fit. I'm also looking into those double-ended-clippy-garter-things to clip them and go across my back.
Apr. 19th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
ok for the record... that is just awesome... I am gonna have to try it...

Now the double sided clipys you can make...
get the length of elastic you need minus 1/2 for streatchy
Make a cover for it... just like you would make a draw string casing just not in a circle...
local craft stores carry the clips... add them all together and Viola!

great idea for that too
Apr. 19th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
if you make long enough sleeves, mitten holders for kids (they have clips at each end), garter clips, or even sock garters [example] are good for holding them up. =)
Apr. 19th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Excellent. I'll be posting a nicer pair when I have time to go to the fabric store. I think I might try crocheting some lace sleeves next though.
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
awesome. i envy you the ability to crochet. i am completely sewing impaired, so i usually wind up making mine out of old heavy cotton tights or interesting knee high socks. i also like the feeling of sleeves being over my hands, so a few pairs i rigged have thumb holes cut in, to keep them there.

the pair i'm most proud of are from a ribbed cotton shirt--i flipped the sleeve, so the tapered wrist clings to my upper arm, and the part that's attached to the shoulder, i cut it to a slight point, so now i have bell sleeves. those do need the mitten holder sleeve garters tho, because they will creep after awhile. =)
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
I'm really love to see the pics that go along with this tutorial.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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