Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

You Want Two Sleeves?


Most of us have two arms and therefore our shirts generally require two sleeves. When Vogue 9162 asks for 2.4m and you only buy 2m and then use some of it for pocket linings or a waistband facing or some such then you’re left with 1.7m or thereabouts, fitting the pattern onto the fabric can be a bit of an issue. Added to which this Kathryn Brenne pattern is for an oversized shirt – and I mean oversized! The model in the Vogue picture has clothes pegs used for fitting the shirt and jacket at the back! Def sure of that as I used to work in advertising. Anyway, back to real life…….with a pattern that is too big for your fabric.

So you start to edit the pattern to get the pieces to fit onto the meagre amount of fabric – maybe lose the front pocket, perhaps shorten it a bit, maybe narrow the width, instead of concealed button closing just make it normal – and so on until it doesn’t resemble the original pattern at all. Ultimately, I managed to fit the fronts and back on without any editing, the pocket hardly took any fabric at all and the concealed button closing was part of the front anyway. The real problem lay with the sleeves. It never fails to amaze me how much fabric sleeves need – quick guess at 1m?

So, here’s what I did to get two sleeves for both my arms – and you can do it too even if you need to or not…..

Fit the top of the sleeve pattern onto the remaining fabric and cut to suit the available length. We now have the shoulder seam and armscye and when sewing sleeves they are the Very Important Things and demand capitalisation.


I folded the pattern up for the first cut, then unfolded and repositioned on the crossgrain  scraps for the lower (and generally less important) half. Remember to allow for 1-1.5cm seam allowance. There are no cuffs in this pattern so one less thing to worry about. Join these two pieces together and lo and behold – a whole sleeve! With added design features!

To keep the inside sleeve neat and tidy I actually sewed these two halves wrong sides together! Then I cut a bias strip from more scraps, which is always impressive in a striped fabric, pressed the raw edges under and edge-stitched this onto the right side to hide the wrong side seam. Still with me?

And now it looks like a deliberate and well thought out design element that hides all raw edges.

Recently I’ve been following some French sewing blogs – I say following but I really just look at the pictures as French is not my first language – and they have this wonderful thing called De-Stocking! Nothing to do with bedroom antics but in English (specifically North American) it means de-stashing and the pledge is to sew at least one thing a month from your stock / stash / hoard / treasure / investment or whatever euphemism you choose to describe the metres and metres of fabric you own. I haven’t pledged anything primarily because I don’t know what my school-girl French might be translated into by Google but this grey and white striped poly-cotton was delivered over a year ago and I’m only getting round to sewing it now. So I count this as a positive de-stocking!

I’ve already made the Vogue 9162 trousers and this is the matching shirt.


Told you it was oversized although I might have made a bigger size than I needed. Anyway, I added a few ‘patches’ around the shirt either to compliment or disguise the hacked together sleeves and balance out the rather large breast pocket. My sleeves in the end product are longer than necessary and are usually worn pushed up or folded back.


My label was sewn in and I only do that on things I really like or that I am inordinately proud of.

The neck buttoning is stylish with a loop and not a bog-standard hole. I have worn this shirt open-necked and it is just as wearable.

Personal style opinion: such a large shirt looks better with narrow trousers or skinny jeans.

And as the camera was running out of battery, and we all know that feeling, I snapped a few out of focus pics that at least illustrate the overall look.

The remaining garment to be sewn from this single pattern is the jacket and yes, I do have a de-stocking fabric that is most suitable – a raspberry boiled wool – yum. I know it’s officially spring and the sun may break through the clouds on occasion but our temperatures are low and I might just get a few wearable weeks during May.

Talking of which – Me-Made-May launches this weekend. It is an online celebration of hand-made and home-sewn clothes. Personally, about 90% of my wardrobe is now home-made so I don’t have a choice for May or any other month for that matter but you can pledge and promise to wear your unique and beautifully crafted wardrobe every day of May, or every other day, or once a week – whatever suits you. Isn’t that the whole point of making our own clothes – suit yourself!

46 thoughts on “You Want Two Sleeves?

  1. I love this shirt and made it 6 times already. You’ve done a beautiful job and it looks terrific.

  2. I think your patching looks so much more interesting than a plain sleeve that it really turned out to be a blessing in a disguise that you didn’t have enough fabric! Great job!

  3. This sleeve idea is timely as I was just working out a similar problem last weekend with fabric in need of de-stocking (last year’s birthday fabric, and as I have already purchased this year’s birthday fabric a certain urgency has set in…) In my case I am now debating going sleeveless but this is useful information nevertheless.

    I love oversized shirts and think they look very chic with skinny pants. Love the stripes.

  4. I agree with you about sleeves always seeming to need more fabric than they deserve. Anyway with your clever piecing you did well to get this voluminous shirt out of less than 2m. I hardly ever start with enough fabric – getting it out off too little always appeals to me.

  5. You are a genius – no two ways about it . (Pardon the pun )

  6. Clever piecing! I like the inventive use of additional stripey details to fuse the sleeve arrangement to the rest of the design.

  7. Incredibly well done fitting that on such a limited amount of fabric. Your details really elevate the styling. Well done Ruth!

  8. I love the shirt, and the whole outfit, and I think they work well together. You’ve raised the same issue I’ve been facing — how big is too big for ‘oversize’? It’s personal taste, I think, and what you can pull off. Do you remember “one size fits all” clothing from the ’70s? Sometimes I would drown in those.

    • Thanks Felicia. I think if the sleeves are the right length then it looks like it fits – mine are too long so I’ll fix that on the next one.

  9. Love how you got that shirt out of less fabric with such panache! It’s a great outfit, Ruth!

  10. Where there is a will, there is a way. You are just so clever! Sometimes being short on fabric makes us come up with some very unique ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Keep up the good work!

  11. I recognise that; ‘ARGH! I’ve run out of fabric’ moment, followed by the thought; “wait, one way or another I’m gonna make this work’!

    Stripy cotton shirting fabric makes wonderful garments and yours has the look of crisp luxury!

  12. You have done a fantastic job making this shirt work. Those extra design details make it extra special. I thinks it looks good with your wide legged pants too.

  13. Really enjoyed your amusing take on the 2 sleeves problem. I’m always wanting patterns with sleeves because, Northern England, but like to buy fabric like I live in Barbados! It’s a case of fabric first then pattern later so your tips are really useful. It’s great that you’re trying different silhouettes too – the shirt looks fab on you and you’ve done a lovely job.

    • Thank you. I rarely sew anything that doesn’t have sleeves and always keep a cardi handy too. Northern England and Northern Ireland have the same climate!

  14. Very nice! I love it, so in style now. The pendulum is swinging from tight to loose. Loose top with loose bottoms. But tight bottoms would be great with this top too. It looks comfy on you.
    I love what you did with the sleeves.
    I have this pattern and seeing what you’ve done, now I can’t wait to lock myself away and get started.

  15. Brilliant- all those all-over-the-place stripes look so sumptuous! It is ginormous, but you have the height, slimness, and endless coolth to carry it off as ever. Fab job missus, award yourself a guiness [not Sir Alec]

  16. Holey Moley…be careful on a windy day or you might just lift off the ground, Ruth! Love your sleeve treatment…even when you do have enough fabric, that bias treatment would be killer! Certainly a great blouse for vacationing in a hot climate wearing shorts or a swimsuit!

  17. Your shirt solution is wonderful!

  18. This was a better outcome! I always think that when we have to be resourceful, magic happens 😊

  19. Lovely stripes! and as everyone else has said, your necessary creativity actually improved the shirt. It looks great and very modern on you. I wish I had your height to pull off loose styles too.Strut your stuff, girl!

  20. Love your use of the stripes and it looks great on you. Not sure about oversized anything for me as I probably overfit! I’ve added six fabrics in 2 weeks to my stash, oh dear!

  21. You saved it! And it looks great! I have spent hours staring at pattern and fabric trying to make it “fit”! Nice work! I’m in Me Made May this year too!

  22. Absolutely love it – and the jacket sounds fabulous. It reminds me of the ‘anti suit’ ( And the sleeves, I’m definitely copying that! I’m with you and Me Made May. I couldn’t avoid it if I tried 😎

  23. What a clever solution! and looks so much more interesting than if you’d cut the sleeves in one piece like normal. I love your creativity. And the top turned out quite fabulous, very chic and will be gorgeous in summer. I love it 🙂

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