I have chosen the bell sleeve style because it is very easy to make and it's going to be trendy this spring.
We're going to look at two options of the bell sleeve design today. The first is the classic, long bell sleeve which is shown in the blue print fabric and the second is a shorter bell sleeve with gathers which is shown in black with white stripes.
(There's another bell sleeve top style with ruffles or flounce which I will show you in a future tutorial. You can see this style in a pattern we released a while ago called the Faviola Summer Dress.)
A bit of history about the bell sleeve top:
The bell sleeve was made famous when it was adopted by the European monarchs for example: (Queen Mary of England , Ann of Cleves) in the 1530-40's. The sleeves were made with extraordinary length and tied back to the upper arm by sashes revealing underneath a false sleeve which was then embroidered with jewels and fine silks.
As with all things in fashion, the trend comes back every 20 to 50 years, as shown here on this 1920's exquisite design. You can clearly see the sash around the wrists, a lovely interpretation of the fashion of the 1500's.
Tools for today's tutorial
- sewing scissors. (I recently got a pair of these titanium stainless steel professional shears which are the best I've ever owned.)
- grading ruler
- tailor's chalk or erasable pen. (See our detailed review of Frixion heat erasable pens.)
- tape measure
- French ruler
- pattern paper
Option One: making the classic, long bell sleeve
Finally, add back the seam allowance, if using the Hi/Low T-shirt it is 3/8″. For the hem, I will add the same (3/8″) since I am planning to have a very small hem.
If you want an even more dramatic appearance you may want to taper the side seams of the bell sleeves. Just sew in about 1/2 inch at the elbow.
Option Two: Making the short bell sleeve with gathers
Print the sleeve pattern and trace a copy on the pattern paper.
Using the tape measure, measure from your shoulder to two inches above the elbow (1) as indicated by the red arrow below.
Mark this measurement on the pattern using a ruler and cut.
Measure the circumference of your arm and compare this measurement with the pattern. If your arm is larger than the size you have chosen, add the difference divided by 2 on both sides of the sleeve plus the ease (3/4″ to 2″ ease). This is measurement number two (2) below.
Create a new piece B that is the same width as piece A, and 7″ in length. We will be working only with A and B pieces, so you can discard piece C. Remember we are shortening these sleeves.
Take piece B, which is the same width as piece A and divided into four equal parts.
Trace the pattern piece on a new sheet of pattern paper and extend the horizontal lines both top and bottom.
Trace the new pattern piece for the ruffle around the pinned pieces. Add 3/8″ seam allowance on the top and 3/8, at the bottom for a very narrow hem.
You are now ready to make two different tops with only one pattern. The first is a fantastic High-Low T-Shirt with classic, long bell sleeves which would be perfect for going out to dinner or a movie. The second is a fun top for the summer days or even wearing to work.
And, before you ask I will take you step by step on how to alter the neckline of the Hi-Low T-Shirt to turn it into a fun summer top as shown in the image below. Please stay tuned!