How To Add Butterfly Sleeves To A Top Or Dress

butterfly sleevesToday I'll show you the easiest way to add butterfly sleeves to a top or dress.  We all have one top or dress that we always wished had sleeves. In this tutorial I am using the Tina top I shared with you two weeks ago.  I have to admit I prefer the top sleeveless but that is just me.  If you read the comments below the majority of you wished the top had sleeves.

Normally flutter sleeves are seen on a V-neck or wide round necklines since the shape of the sleeves tends to make the upper chest area wider.

butterfly sleevesI am an hourglass (but lately hmmm… the hourglass is becoming rather a peanut in shell kind of shape…) wide shoulders and a bust that is the same width as my hips, the waist was 10″ smaller, now it is 7? Technically I am a square shape unless I lose a couple of inches of my waist.  If I keep going I will end up as an apple.  Having described my body, I can honestly tell you the sleeveless version of the top will look fine on me.  The one with the flutter sleeves will not unless I defined my waist a little better without making the top tight around my waist.  For that, I have a little secret I will share with you in another tutorial.  I guess what I am trying to tell you is that there are ways to make things look better on you even if they do not have hanger appeal.

butterfly sleeves

Having said all that, who can benefit from a flutter sleeves summer top? An inverted triangle would be at the top of the list because flutter sleeves will balance the silhouette in this type of body.  If you would like to know how to find your body shape please follow the tutorial below.  Anyone else will have to find the right length/fabric combination for their type of body.  The rule is the thicker the fabric, the smaller the sleeves — but rules are to be broken and as long as you are happy and feel comfortable anything goes.

Body Shape: Tips to Make Your Style Match Your Figure

For this tutorial, I am using the summer blouse, Tina. As you can see, it is sleeveless and a few of you including my mother wished it has sleeves.

Summer Top Pattern, An Easy Two Hour Project Named Tina


  • Curve ruler or French ruler
  • Straight ruler
  • Pencil
  • Pattern making paper (manila and dotted is best if you are a beginner)
  • Tape measure
  • Compass
  • 1/2″ yard of fabric
  • Top or dress pattern

How To Draft Your Butterfly Sleeves Pattern

  1. Draw a line that will represent the length of the sleeve.  From the shoulder to the hem of the sleeve.
  2. Draw a circle with the radius equal to the length of the sleeve plus the seam allowance( 1/4″)
  3. Divide the circle into four parts.Butterfly sleeves
  4.  Label the lines a and b.
  5. Measure the armhole less the seam allowance.Butterfly sleevesButterfly sleeves
  6. Divide by 2π (2 X 3.14)  to find the circumference of the circle.  Example: Length of armhole Divided by 6.28 = circumference of the circle minus 3/8″.   19″/6.28″=3″ – 3/8″=2 5/8″
  7. Measure using a compass 2 5/8″
  8. Draw the circle starting at pointtowards point b.Butterfly sleeves
  9. Cut the circle away and you have a circle within a circle. This is your pattern.  Cut the fabric following the grain line.Butterfly sleeves

Make two notches. When sewing the sleeve, match these notches to the shoulder seam (wide part) and the side seam. Butterfly sleeves


For Flowy Fabric In Solid Colors follow The Extra Steps Below

If you are using silk crepe, rayon or satin in solid colors you will notice the lower part of the sleeves showing under.  If this is an issue for you. Take the following steps:

  1. Mark the middle of the circle.
  2. Fold the Upper part of the circle towards the center.
  3. Trace the fold line.4. And trace the center line.5. Finally, trace the circle that represents the circumference of the armhole, making sure the center of the circle is placed where the two lines cross.


Notice the difference in the placement of the armhole.


Math did not work out?

Don't worry, chances are you forgot to minus the 3/8″ at the end and your circle and the circle ended larger than you needed. What to do? Make a pleat or gather at the shoulder seam and no one will notice your mistake.  This happens to the best of us, and like my designing teacher used to say, there are no mistakes in fashion, just change the drawing.  Still, with or without gathers butterfly sleeves add a touch of feminity to any top and distract attention from the upper arm area while giving a bit of coverage.

Undersleeve showing and you do not like how it looks, but you have already cut the fabric? and don't have extra fabric?

Use pins to mark the amount you would like to take out from under the sleeves.  Using your curve ruler trace the cutting line.  Cut the fabric and use the strip of fabric to mark the other sleeve.

Hem the butterfly sleeves using any of the following techniques listed below.

How to Hem Sheer or Lightweight Fabrics

We are on the way to Italy soon, to spend some time with my family, so I have to concentrate on my wardrobe. I will be sharing with you some new pieces specifically for a cruise or waterside-wear.  There are a couple of dresses coming up that will use the butterfly sleeves, so keep this page bookmarked.

Next week I will be sharing an elegant top that can hide the tummy, that can be both casual or dressy depending on the fabric.  Below is my muslin,  I have draped on the mannequin ready to transfer to paper.

If you have an Instagram account and want to share with me your projects made with So-Sew-Easy patterns use #soseweasyofficial or follow me atsoseweasy to have a peek at my not so perfect life, my disastrous work area after a project, some of my drawings and life in general.

Until next time, happy sewing!

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23 Responses to How To Add Butterfly Sleeves To A Top Or Dress

  1. Whitney Jacobsen says:

    Do you think this method would work for a raglan style arm? I am altering a dress for a friend that has no sleeves and is too revealing for her the collar comes up to the throat but has just bias tape as the strap/sleeve I made a bodice to wear under it but want the sleeve line to match up with the lace of the already existing bodice and would need a raglan style seam for it to look less altered.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hi Whitney, it will depend on what size you are working on 0 to 4 perhaps yes, but on larger sizes, a raglan sleeve with a butterfly might make her look even larger.

  2. Carla says:

    I can’t make sense of it, at all.

  3. Anna Ray says:

    Another great tutorial, thanks very much. You ladies really know your stuff and always present excellent, sensible, do-able blogs.

  4. Rae Shaw says:

    I ‘suck’ at MATH! Don’t understand the actual adding/subtracting. But I do understand that you’re measuring your armhole & shoulder. I’m guessing when you cut out the inner circle that that’s what you sew to the armhole. RIGHT??? I need a re-fresher course on MATH!!!!?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Rae, dont be afraid of the math, sit in a sunny window and relax and do step by step, yes you need to measure the armhole of the blouse. Yes when you cut out the inner circle that is what you sew to the armahole of the top.

  5. Charmelle says:

    I am so confused! The first #2 mentions finding a radius but the drawing seems to indicate a diameter…and in #6 it says you are finding the circumference when the image seems to indicate the radius.
    And does the inner circle get attached to the armhole without a seam in the sleeve?

    Thanks for helping me! I tried making flutter sleeves by increasing perimeter of standard sleeve and it didn’t work so well.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Charmelle, if I give you a radius how would you draw a circle? The second drawing is showing you the finished product, not the beginning.

  6. Chikane says:

    As someone who failed math…im screwed. TwT

  7. MJ Maguire says:

    Math! Eek!
    I really want to master this technique….

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Just follow the equation and you will get there.

    • Rae Shaw says:

      Hi Mayra, I saw a picture of a navy blue top with some kind of striped butterfly sleeve! So very lovely!
      What kind of fabric is it? Is the sleeve & top the same fabric? I want to make that but maybe in a dress!

  8. Cathy Gaubert says:

    Hi Mayra
    Can you show me what dotted paper looks like? It may not be available here in Canada or maybe it is just called something else.
    I am not a major fan of flutter sleeves, can you show us how to make a regular short sleeve pattern some day.

  9. Sarah says:

    Fantastic Thank You

  10. Vicky says:

    Thank you, my grand daughter and I were just talking about how to add a flutter sleeve to a dress pattern we purchased.

  11. mccindy says:

    I bought a tee shirt with sleeves that were too tight. This is exactly what I will do to it in order to wear it! Just what I was looking for since I loved the top print. I plan to put lace on for sleeves like this! Thanks for the great lessons!!!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Sounds like a great idea. I would love to see a picture of your top when you have added the sleeves.

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