Bishop Sleeves: how to convert any sleeve pattern to a Bishop sleeve

This is such an easy way to personalize any sewing pattern and take it from cute to WOW! I used the Hinterland dress pattern from Sew Liberated, made with long sleeves and no placket for this tutorial.

Materials Needed:

Take your sleeve pattern… I traced mine onto medical paper so that I didn’t have to alter my original as you will be cutting into this… and measure the length of the hem of the sleeve. In my case I got 10″.

Divide your hem length by 6. I got 10″ / 6 = 1 2/3″ . Mark every section off so you end up with 6 equal sections and 5 vertical lines. I use the grid on my cutting mat to make sure these lines are square to my pattern piece.

Cut up the lines, starting at the hem line and stopping about 1/4″ from the top of the bell of the sleeve. You don’t want them to completely separate.

Pull out another piece of medical paper and place your cut pattern piece on top. Start separating the ends. How much you want to separate them depends on the fullness of the sleeve you wish to create. For my sleeve, I wanted to double the fullness, so I wanted the end measurement to be 20″. Divide the difference by 5, since you have 5 gaps between your sections. Mine looks like this:

(ending sleeve width) – (starting sleeve width) = X or 20″ – 10″ = 10″

X / 5 = amount you will add to each gap or 10″/5 = 2″

Add 2″ to each gap and tape as you go.

Connect the bottom lines into a smooth curve and cut out your pattern piece. You could trace around and remove the cut up top layer, but I was too lazy.

You now have your finished Bishop sleeve pattern piece.

Notice how you are basically flattening out the bell for your new sleeve pattern piece. The distance is the same, so it will still fit perfectly into your bodice, it is just flatter at the top and fuller at the bottom.

You can now construct your bodice just as you normally would, up to the point of hemming the sleeve.

I opted to add a cuff to my sleeve. It is common to add a small cuff, with a button closure, but I hate having things tight on my wrist in any way, so I just went for a normal cuff the size of the original sleeve opening. My original sleeve width was 10″ so I cut my cuff 10″ x 3″. This will fold in half the long ways and give me a 1″ long cuff with 1/2″ seam allowance.

I added some of my favorite fusible interfacing to bulk up my cuff, Pellon SF – 101. I didnt want it to be too bulky in the seams so I cut my interfacing 9″ x 2″ and ironed it on.

Sew the cuff along the shorter side. Turn right side out and fold in half so the interfacing is completely enclosed.

Using a basting stitch, sew around the hem of the sleeve, about 1/4″ in from the edge. I usually move my stitch length up to 5.0 for basting. Make sure to not go over the seam and to leave long tails of your threads for gathering.

Turn your dress sleeve inside out and start by pinning your cuff inside the sleeve so right sides are together. I match up the seam of the sleeve with the seam on the cuff and then pin half way across. I mark the half way point of the cuff and the sleeve separately and line them up.

Start pulling the threads of the basting stitches and gather the sleeve to match the cuff.

I choose to serge the cuff on, but you can certainly use a regular sewing machine as well. In order to sew around such a small space, I removed this section of the serger, which removes for just this purpose.

Sew carefully, making sure the gathered sleeve is staying as flat as possible and YOU ARE DONE! Beautiful new sleeve! I have not tried this method on knit fabrics yet, but the concepts are the same.

This dress was made from Rifle Paper Co rayon from The collection is called Menagerie and the print is called Tapestry. It was released in Spring 2017.

This is one of my besties Cecilia in her killer Bishop sleeve dress.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s