If you are here, hopefully you have an interest in sewing and cosplay. Well, that’s something we have in common! When I started making cosplay sewing patterns, I knew they had to be different from regular sewing patterns. They need to be easy to sew, and easy to hack. Obviously if you are going to invest your time and effort into making a costume, you want to be original. Which means your pattern needs to be one of a kind too. One of the most requested pattern hacks I get is for puffed sleeves.
In this blog I will hack the A-line Dress pattern to make two different styles of puffed sleeves. After you have the basic method down, you can apply the same techniques to skirts as well. And I will finish the tutorial by sharing a link to some amazing sleeve inspiration designs. No matter who you plan to cosplay, you will be able to create amazing, unique sleeve designs!
Get the A-Line Dress Pattern Here:
- Sleeve pattern (I used the A-line Dress)
- Ruler and Pencil
- Fabric, Fabric Scissors, pins
Introduction to “Slash and Spread” Pattern Techniques
Traditional pattern design starts with a basic pattern shape, with no style or details added. Just a front and back torso “block” and a sleeve.
Patternmaking is the process of manipulating those basic blocks to design actual garments with details like zippers, fancy necklines, or different shapes. If you want to add extra fullness to a pattern piece, you will need to cut it (slash) and add space between the pieces (spread). It’s that easy!
Changing the Sleeve Style
Print your sleeve pattern and cut it out. The first step is to decide WHERE to make the cut lines. Wherever you cut, that’s where you will be adding fullness.
In this design, I want to have all over puffiness in the sleeve, mainly in the shoulder area. I will need to slash and spread on vertical and horizontal lines. So draw a line across the top of the sleeve, about level with the front and back notches. Don’t worry about being super precise.
Next draw in your vertical cut lines. Using the ruler, make a line straight down from the top centre notch (1). Make two more vertical lines down from the side notches (2). The last two lines should be evenly spaced between your side and centre slash lines (3). **There are no cut lines below the front and back notches because you don’t want gathers under the arm. It’s unnecessary bulk and won’t be comfortable.
Cutting Your Pattern Pieces
IMPORTANT! Before you cut your pattern pieces apart, label them clearly. I labeled the bottom row A-E, and the top pieces B1, B2, etc.
Spreading Out Your Pattern Pieces
Ok. Now for the good part. If you want to keep a finished copy of your pattern, lay it out on paper so you can trace it out. I laid my pieces directly on fabric because this was a one-off experiment, and because the pieces show up better on contrasting fabric. So yeah. Don’t be me. Or do.
Lay out your pieces on fabric or paper, assembled as the original sleeve pattern. We will experiment with three different style sizes of “slash and spread” on the sleeve pattern: one with the original cuff width and extra pouf in the shoulder, one with a small pleat in the sleeve cuff and extra pouf in the shoulder, and finally one with extra pouf in the shoulder, and extra fullness in the cuff, gathered with elastic.
Puffed Sleeves with No Gathers at Cuff
To sew the sleeve, change your stitch length to a longer stitch. Sew along the top of the sleeve, from front notch to back. Pull gently on the bottom (bobbin) thread to gather up the sleeve. Switch your stitch length back to normal. Sew the sleeve seam and finish the hem.
Puffed Sleeves with Pleated Cuff
For the second attempt, I kept the same volume at the top of the sleeve but I added a gap at the bottom of the centre cut. This makes the sleeve edge less curvy.
i gathered the sleeve the same way, and sewed the side seam. This time I sewed the hem with bias tape so I wouldn’t have to turn as much fabric under. Smaller hem = smoother edge, I made a pleat at the bottom to close the extra space we made at the centre split of the pattern. Much cleaner finish!
Puffed Sleeves with Elastic Cuff
For a more traditional puffed sleeve, you can add gathers at the shoulder AND at the cuff. This time, spread your pieces out with equal space at the top and bottom. Gather the top and bottom as before. Turn the hem under 1/4″ and again 3/4″. Stitch close to the inside fold, leaving a small gap in your stitching to insert elastic.
Different fabrics cut from the same pattern will give different results. Here is the same sleeve cut in medium weight satin, and soft sheer fabric:
Try it Yourself!
So, where are you going to add puffed sleeve magic? What cosplays do you have planned?
By the way, the “slash and spread” technique works for more than just sleeves! Try hacking a skirt pattern the exact same way. Make cuts where you want to add fullness (just the back or front, or all over) and spread evenly to add gathers or pleats at the waist, or only spread at the bottom and leave the top edges connected for a beautiful flared style.
If you would like more sleeve inspiration, check out this Pinterest board, full of different sleeve styles and characters with puffed sleeves in their costumes. Maybe you will find your next project here!
I hope that this tutorial has been helpful! I would love to see your puffed sleeve designs. If you use this tutorial in a cosplay, please tag #sandraveecosplay on Instagram so I can see your great work!