Wide-Bicep Sleeve Adjustment Tutorial

In my Farrow Dress post I mentioned an adjustment I use to make a sleeve piece wider without altering the length of the sleeve cap seamline OR altering the bodice pieces.

The normal sleeve adjustment tutorials I’ve seen widen the bicep area but also lengthen the sleeve cap seamline which means you either have to ease in the extra length into the armhole (which can be difficult) or adjust the bodice pieces one of two ways:

By widening the bodice at the underarm point:

This can disrupt the fit of the bodice, however, not good.

Or, by lowering the armhole to add more overall length to match the sleeve seamline.

This can actually reduce your range of motion – also not good.


Instead, I use a different method that works on SOME pattern styles.

This method widens the bicep area, widens the upper arm area of the sleeve cap, and lowers the top of the sleeve cap.

Lowering a sleeve cap has the added benefit of giving your arm more range of motion BUT there’s a caveat – if you lower it too much you’ll start getting fabric bunching under your arms. You need to find a balance that works for you!

Because of this, this method works best on a sleeve piece that has a TALL sleeve cap because if your original sleeve cap is short to begin with, you may experience the “bunching” side effect.

(Tall sleeve cap vs short sleeve cap.)

Ikat Bag has an excellent blog post all about sleeves. Cannot recommend this post highly enough! Check out the “box” section for details on how different sleeve cap heights function in real life.

You will need:

  • Your original sleeve piece
  • Tracing paper and pencil
  • Measuring tape and/or a flexible ruler like this one

Step 1: Trace

Trace your original sleeve piece. You may want to trace without seam allowances to make this easier. If you leave the SA on, be sure to include it in your measurement calculations!

Step 2: Measure

Measure the length of the sleeve cap itself. Make note of this number.

Measure your bicep and compare it to the width of the sleeve. You want 1-2″ inches of ease depending on the type of fabric.

For example, on my Farrow Dress, my bicep measurement was the exact same as the sleeve measurement. I knew that would be too tight so I decided to add 1.25″ in total width.

Whatever width you choose to add, divide that measurement in half. So if it’s 1″ – divide by half to equal 0.5″.

Step 3: Widen the sleeve

Widen both sides of the bicep area (right below the sleeve cap) by your half-measurement from Step 2. You can widen all the way to the hem or grade to the original hem.

Step 4: Lower the sleeve cap

Measure down from the shoulder point about a half inch (or more or less depending on the height of the sleeve cap, this is more of an art than an exact science) and re-draw the very top of the sleeve cap curve.

Step 4: Re-draw the cap curve

Here’s where the measuring tape/flexible ruler comes into play. You want to maintain the original length of the sleeve cap seamline. Widening the bicep made it longer but lowering the shoulder point made it shorter. This should even out the differences in length adjustments.

Use the tape/ruler to draw a new sleeve cap seamline by connecting the underarm points to the shoulder point. You’ll notice the sides of the cap itself will end up wider than on the original sleeve. This will also give you a little extra width in your upper arm area. Bonus points!

Step 5: Cut new sleeve piece

Transfer markings (and add back seam allowance if you removed it earlier) and cut out the new sleeve piece. Don’t forget to label your new piece with all your adjustments!

Let’s review the changes to the pattern:

If you measured correctly, your sleeve cap seamline length should be the same as the original but the shape will be different.

The sleeve cap is lower and wider than the original. The overall width of the sleeve is increased.

You now have more space for your arms as well as slightly increased range of motion.

All without any adjustments to the bodice!

This method may not be the best choice for all sleeve patterns but it’s one option you can use to get a better fit.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2.0

Grainline Farrow Dress v2

This is my second Grainline Farrow Dress and it might be my favorite make so far this year!

I sewed View B this time, except I shortened the sleeves.Grainline Farrow Dress v2

I bought this gorgeous Japanese double-gauze from The Cloth Pocket (it’s sadly sold out now).
Grainline Farrow Dress v2

To best utilize this fantastic print I had to fussy cut all the pieces which meant I didn’t have enough room for the full-length sleeves.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2That’s fine because the shorter sleeves make this dress more versatile for Texas weather.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2

I didn’t make any changes to the body of the dress (I even kept the original hem length. In my previous version, I shortened the hem). But I did alter the sleeve.Grainline Farrow Dress v2

I could tell by holding the paper sleeve piece to my arm that it would be way too small. So I drafted an alteration that widens the bicep while lowering the sleeve cap a bit at the same time.
Grainline Farrow Dress v2

This method adds slightly more range of movement in the arm while also keeping the original length of the sleeve cap intact so you don’t have to alter the armhole on the dress. Maybe I’ll do a quick tutorial on that technique in the future.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2I hemmed everything by hand which was easy with double gauze since I only had to stitch through one layer of the fabric. That makes for a perfectly invisible hem.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2

I love how soft and flowy this dress is – as you can tell from these pics taken on a windy day.

Grainline Farrow Dress v2
Happy sewing, y’all!

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt Version 2

Grainline Linden

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

It’s already getting too hot to wear long sleeves in Austin but I loved this chunky, coral, rib knit fabric from Joann so much that I decided to try sewing a “summer sweater.” That’s not a real term but I’m claiming it now.

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

This is my second version of Grainline Linden Sweatshirt pattern.

This time I went with View B – slightly cropped without the hem band, shorter sleeves and no cuffs. The boxy shape of this design makes it less restricting in the heat and the shorter length works well for mid-rise shorts.

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

I didn’t look closely at the bolt when I bought this fabric but it clearly has some poly in it. My favorite part is the color, though, gotta love that coral pink!

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

I’ve actually taught the Linden several times as a class at The Cloth Pocket so I know the pattern well, even though I’ve only sewn it twice. The entire thing is stitched with a serger and a zig-zag for the hems.

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

This shirt is already in heavy rotation in my wardrobe. I think we have a winner!

Grainline Linden Sweatshirt

Mid-1300s Kirtle and Veil

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

There’s nothing like a strict deadline to motivate you to finish a project. That’s what I gave myself for this newest historical costume. To celebrate my birthday I decided to visit the Medieval Faire near Austin and of course, I needed clothes to wear.

The Faire I went to is themed more toward the European middle ages than the Renaissance so I went with something in the middle – the 14th century. Plague times, yeah! Woohoo! What, no cheering for the bubonic plague? Ok, whatever…

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

The distinctive features of this era of dress are full-length gowns (called a “kirtle”) with gores in the skirt to add fullness, no waist seam, with a broad neckline, and a bodice that is tightly laced to the body.

This time period was a transition between the looser garments of the early middle ages and the highly supported bodices of the Renaissance period (and what we like to think of as early corsets).

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

This fabric sat in my stash for years(!!!) with the intention of becoming a kirtle but never got around to it because the idea of drafting a kirtle pattern from scratch seemed so daunting. You have to get the fit just right so that the tight lacing supports the bust but also doesn’t gape.

I’ve seen people use this tutorial in which a helper squeezes and pins fabric around your torso to make a bodice pattern. But I don’t have any costuming friends nearby who could do this for me.

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

Instead, I went with what I knew – flat pattern drafting. I took measurements. A ton of measurements! Both vertical (shoulder to bust, underarm to waist, shoulder to wrist, etc) and horizontal (high bust, full bust, underbust, shoulder to shoulder, etc) and using those, I drew a “curved-front-seam” bodice pattern.

The bodice section is lined with white linen, same fabric as the veil. I didn’t line the sleeves or the length of the kirtle to save fabric and reduce layers.

All of the structural seams were machine sewn with finishing done by hand. All hems are hand sewn.

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

The 3 dozen or so lacing eyelets are all sewn by hand (and if you’re wondering how long it takes to sew 3 dozen eyelets by hand… it’s about a season and a half of “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

The lacing opening and neckline are faced with red twill tape for strength and durability.

Kirtle insides close up

I finished the skirt gores’ seam allowances by flat felling by hand. I haven’t yet finished the other seams because of time.

Underneath my kirtle I’m wearing an 18th-century linen shift (minus the sleeves, I ripped them off because I didn’t like the way they fit).

I’m wearing some simple brown leather flats which are the closest thing I own to appropriate medieval shoes I own.

As for the hairstyle, I followed the basic idea of this tutorial with twin braids at the top front of my head that are pinned behind and under the veil.

The veil is a big linen circle with a hand-rolled hem all around. It is folded over my head twice – once at my forehead, bobby pinned behind my ears – then folded again around the top of my head and pinned to the braids and crown with little straight sewing pins.

The “correct” way of doing this would actually be to wrap my head in a white linen cap, then layer the veil on top and pin the veil to the cap (easier to pin fabric to fabric than fabric to hair). But I didn’t have enough time to make a cap and the veil stayed on well enough on its own.

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

This was my first costume from this period and I wasn’t expecting perfect historical accuracy. It served more as an experiment to see if it could be done. I’d say it was successful for the most part.

One major anachronism – my fabric. I used a linen blend, which, while blends weren’t a thing in the 1300s, linen was used for kirtles although it was a lot less common than wool. But I live in Texas where wool is hard to come by and I’d rather wear cool linen over wool.

But the other problem is color. Firstly, linen didn’t take dye as well as wool back when only natural dyes were available. I doubt that this deep red could have been achieved on linen. Also, dark reds colors were more expensive as they required rarer dyes or longer dye time. I’m not dressed as a princess but I’m not a poor peasant farmer either. I’m not sure a middle-class, 14th-century lady would be wearing bold red.Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil

Things I would change if I made another 1300s costume:

  • Make a cap to go underneath the veil. And make a wimple, which is like another veil that goes under the chin, pins to the back of the head, and tucks into the kirtle neckline.
  • Use 100% linen fabric rather than a blend, in a more muted color.
  • Inset the gores higher up, nearer to my waist. I inserted my skirt gores at hip level because that’s where my lacing eyelets ended, but now I realize it would probably be more accurate to have the gores higher, and it would also likely make the skirt seem fuller.
  • Make the sleeves a little longer. As I was wearing the dress the sleeves felt short on my arms.

I made this kirtle purposefully unfussy with front lacing rather than fancy buttons so that, in the future, I could wear an overdress on top. I hope to make/buy some accessories to go with it like a belt and maybe a pouch or two.

Mid 14th Century Kirtle and Veil