Learn How to Make a Sweet Tulip Sleeve

Ready for another sleeve variation? The tulip sleeve is as pretty as its namesake flower! This variation doesn’t change the sleeve shape, so it sews beautifully into your garment.

tulip sleeve example on blouse

The tulip sleeve is ideal for a short sleeve, but can be lengthened a bit if you want. It works in garments for kids or adults and can be used with a smooth or gathered (puff) style sleeve cap.

Want to make your own tulip sleeve? Follow along with these steps.

Step 1: Trace your sleeve pattern piece

Turn a simple sleeve into a flirty tulip sleeve.

Trace your short sleeve pattern piece onto paper or tissue. We will be designing the new pattern pieces using this template, so copying it retains your original pattern piece for future use. Be sure to include all the markings, including notches, dots and grain line.

Step 2: Draw your new sleeve pieces

draw curved lines on sleeve piece

The tulip sleeve is actually the original sleeve made into two overlapping pieces that form the flower petals or “tulip” look.

Place a curved ruler so it touches the seam allowance notch to the dot on the opposite side of the sleeve, as shown above. Draw this curved line in another color. Repeat for the other side of the sleeve. Most patterns have these dots which are used to indicate how to distribute the ease in the sleeve cap. If your pattern doesn’t have dots then you can mark some as shown in the example, usually about 2.5 – 3 inches down on either side of the dot marking the shoulder point.

These lines will be at the finished hem of the sleeve. We will add a hem or seam allowance later. 

add grain lines

Using the original grain line on your pattern piece, mark the grain line on the two new pattern pieces.

Step 3: Trace the new pattern pieces

trace pattern piece

Trace the two new pattern pieces for the front and back portion of the sleeve on tissue or tracing paper. Note that the tissue paper extends past the front dot, to allow some additional seam or hem allowance there. It is important to retain the dots for a later step. Be sure to add the hem allowance.

Label the sleeve pattern piece as front or back, and include the grain lines and other markings on the front and back sleeve pattern pieces.

Step 4: Cut and sew the sleeve pieces

sew sleeve seam

Now that you have your pattern pieces, cut out the sleeves and sew the front and back sleeve together at the sleeve seam, just as you would for a regular sleeve. Then hem the sleeve. You can turn it under and stitch, or use a bias strip to create a facing, or even do a binding. The sleeve does need to be hemmed before you proceed, so don’t skip this step.

Step 5: Fold front sleeve over toward center

fold sleeve front over

Time to turn it into something resembling a sleeve! With the sleeve placed wrong-side up, turn the sleeve front toward the center as shown. The pins here show the location of the dot marking the top shoulder point. 

Step 6: Fold the back sleeve piece over the front sleeve piece

fold back of sleeve over

Now fold the back sleeve over top of the front sleeve, matching the shoulder seam dots at the top. Pin and baste the two layers together. Now it is ready to go!

Repeat the same process for the other sleeve, making sure to fold the front sleeve under the back, so that you will have two mirror image sleeves. Once the sleeves are basted together, you can sew them into the garment as you would any other sleeve. 

Tulip Sleeve with Piping
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