Adding Sleeves to a T-Shirt Tutorial

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For some reason Harry has an entire drawer crammed full of short sleeve T-shirts, but only four or five long sleeve tees. Since we are going into winter on this side of the world (bottom really!) I think a few more long sleeves will come in handy.  So I had a light bulb moment and thought why not add sleeves!  Harry has a couple long sleeve tees that look like short sleeve tees with long sleeves underneath, but are in fact only one layer.  So why not add sleeves myself?  With a tutorial for you all of course!

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My kids seem to be forever growing out of their clothes. Sure plenty get worn out too, and it’s not all bad there are plenty of grateful nieces and nephews to hand them down to!  Hannah is very lucky and gets plenty of hand-me-downs from friends and family. Harry on the other hand not quite as much, it’s not that there aren’t as many bigger boys but I think they must just ruin their clothes more often! So I love a little upcycle that can get a little more wear out of something we already have.

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I like ticking things off my to do list permanently so I did six T-shirts all at once.  A little tedious yes but at least that is a job completely finished! I wish I had some pictures of Harry wearing these but alas school has started back today.  The kids and I have had a great two weeks of holidays, and I didn’t want to keep you waiting till he was home after school today.  Keep an eye on my Instagram I am sure he will pop up there wearing one of them soon!

What you will need

  • Short Sleeve T-Shirts to add the sleeves on too
  • Fabric for the sleeves
  • Matching/contrast thread
  • Sewing machine, pins, scissors
  • Overlocker (optional)
  • Pencil and paper to make your pattern – full instructions below!

Step 1 – Making Your Sleeve Pattern

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Take a long sleeve tee your already have that is the right size, and lay it flat on a table. Lay the t-shirt you are wanting to add sleeves to on top of it, lining it up at the shoulder and under arm.

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Draw around the sleeve to create your pattern, use a ruler it will make it much easier and ensure the folded edge is straight.  I added an inch (2.54cm) at the top seam and at the cuff, this is quite a small cuff if you want a larger one add a little more.  The top will be on the fold so you don’t need to leave a seam allowance there. For the under arm seam (the long side) I added a 3/8” (1cm) seam allowance as I will just be overlocking this seam.  It is better for the sleeve to be slightly smaller than the opening, as they are both stretch fabrics there is quite a bit of give so don’t panic!

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Once you have drawn your pattern you can cut it out and cut your fabric!  Your fabric will need to be a stretch fabric, the grainline will run parallel to the folded side and the stretch in the other direction (see arrows in the photo above).

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You will need to cut two pattern pieces per T-shirt, both sides are exactly the same.

Step 2 – Sew Sleeves

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This is a nice and simple step!  Just fold your sleeve with the right sides facing each other (inside out) and sew the long side together.  I have overlocked mine for speed, but since we are using stretch fabric is shouldn’t fray so can just use a regular straight stitch, or a zigzag to sew this seam too.  That’s it the sleeve is sewn together…told you it was easy!

Step 3 –Attaching Sleeves

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I am going to show you two ways to attach the sleeves.  This first one will only work if the sleeve is big enough to fit around your machine (you are not using a flatbed sewing machine!).

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Tuck the sleeve into position both with the right sides facing out.  Make sure you line up the under arm seam!

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Pin in place, I used the stitch line on the t-shirt to make sure it stayed even and that I would catch it when I sew.  I lined mine up with the second stitch line and will sew close to the first.

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Feed the sleeve onto your machine taking care that the sleeve doesn’t roll up on the underside.

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Zigzag or straight stitch right the way around.  This is the only one I zigzagged, the others are all straight stitch but either works fine.  Now repeat on the other sleeve!

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Sleeve didn’t fit?  Don’t worry there is another way! Turn your T-shirt inside our and feed it inside the sleeve.  Your sleeve needs to be right side facing out.  You want to end up with the sleeve and the upper sleeve opening lining up.

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Again use the stitching as a guide and pin your sleeve in place (remember to line up the under arm seam).  You want your short sleeve to stick out a little from the sleeve.

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Sew in place using a straight stitch and follow the stitching line on the sleeve.

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It should look like this once it is finished.

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And here it is turned around the right way.  The short sleeve may want to curl up depending on your fabric types.  You can press this with your iron to hold it down or you may like to hand stitch it in place.

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Since mine fits around my machine I sewed around mine again, following the second line of stitching to hold it flat.

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If you are a bit of a neat freak or perfectionist (I’m working on it!) this method does give a lovely neat finish on the inside too!

Step 4 – Finishing Cuffs

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I went very basic with mine and just folded them over by 1/2 an inch and zigzagged them in place. I only pinned the one to show you, the others I just held in place as I sewed.  A very quick way to do finish it…especially when you decide to sew six at once!

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You could use any stretch stitch you like or even add cuffs, like on these baby leggings.

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Enjoy getting some more use out of those short sleeve tees!

4 thoughts on “Adding Sleeves to a T-Shirt Tutorial

  1. That's a great idea! We seem to be having the opposite problem (and opposite seasons!!) but I can't bring myself to get the scissors and lop off the arms just yet!

  2. I bet you are! Our forecast is for mid 20's celcius for the rest of the week lucky we have more s/s tees. I've not cut long sleeves off before but plenty of pants into shorts 🙂 If they won't fit next season I would cut them!

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