Full Bicep Pattern Alteration Tutorial (Two Part Sleeve)

I like to think of this as the “I have enough protein in my diet because the year isn’t actually 1935″ sleeve alteration. Any Depression-era (and some Wartime) patterns I’ve made up have needed this. I suppose a fuller sleeve like the Nanette wouldn’t require it. Some of this is Palmer-Pletsch derived, most of it is my own playing around. This is the sleeve for the Bordello Lampshade Blouse, View A above. (VFL)

Advice about FBiA’s are rather scarce, it’s hard to find exactly what I’m after, so here’s what I did.

This is a two-piece sleeve FBiA, and a rather oddly shaped one at that. My FFRP bids me to pin or baste the two parts together and treat them as one. Their two-piece sleeve is much better behaved than mine. I could only pin it together for a few inches, and I just guessed which side would work better.

I like to use flat pins when I do pattern alteration because they don’t interfere with my ruler. 3/8″ seam allowance.

When I flipped it so the seam was towards the back, this is what I got. The ruler is there to keep it flat and tidy. I couldn’t pin further down because it wouldn’t have laid flat. I decided it didn’t matter at which seam I made the join because the bulk of the alteration happens on the upper sleeve, the under sleeve just needs to be altered so the seams match up.

My own inclination would be to draw a line from the shoulder seam to the cuff paralell to the grain-line. My book told me to draw a line perpendicular to the cuff that ends at the shoulder seam. Then I should draw an intersecting line perpendicular to the first line, beginning at the underarm seam line. You can see the line starts at the underarm on the upper sleeve piece, but ends rather far from the same line on the under sleeve. Once again, I decided to let the upper sleeve hold precedence.

Now cut on all the lines you drew.

Caveat: leave yourself hinges. Cut right up to the seam allowance on either side of the seam, but don’t cut through the seam.

For the under sleeve, I cut through the seam line on the edge that was formerly attached to the upper sleeve. I left a hinge at the seam allowance on the other side. That would allow me to take out a little wedge.

FFRP tells me that sleeve ease is about 1″ for a fitted sleeve. Trial and error has taught me that I like more, maybe around 1.25″ or 1.5″. With this pattern, I compared the printed bicep measure (which is a part of the size chart, apparently) to the flat pattern bicep measure and found out they allowed 1.5″ of ease. I then compared (my own bicep measure + 1.5″ ease) to (flat pattern bicep measure) and came up with 1.25″ that I needed to add in order to feel comfortable and to preserve the original style.

When I need to spread pattern pieces, I use a scrap of poly trace that will more than fit behind the cuts I made in the pattern. I drew two parallel lines 1.25″ apart from each other. Much easier than trying to handle polytrace and measuring and keeping things smooth.

You can see I drew a dashed line to mark the center of my 1.25″. I found that was helpful for keeping everything neat. You can also see I allowed it to go a little skewed at the bottom, but I think that will be fine.

I spread the poly trace along the vertical cuts, allowing the horizontal cuts to overlap each other. I made sure that at the point where my cuts intersect that I spread it according to the lines I had drawn on the scrap of poly trace. I numbered the pins in the photograph to show the order in which I pin. Usually it is easier to pin a quarter at a time, smoothing and re-aligning and double checking the measurements before moving on to the next quadrant.

I overlapped the edges of my cut on the under sleeve, making sure that I spread it the same amount as the upper sleeve at the same place. The only reason I detached them after I drew the line is because I found it frustrating to handle the two pieces together.

Then sew along the cuts. I use a triple stitch zig-zag because it holds it permanently and securely. I have a little puckering there, but nothing major that won’t straighten out under a cool iron. Trim away the excess poly trace.


  1. That's an interesting sleeve shape. And a tricky alteration on funky pattern pieces. I'm looking forward to seeing how this works out. The alteration seems to be book-perfect!

  2. I can't wait to see how the blouse turns out! Funny – I've never noticed that vintage sleeve patterns don't fit me. Do I have skinny biceps….hmmm…something to consider!

  3. I think this top will mysteriously become white rather than black. May keep the looped trim, though. Hah, maybe my biceps are massive, but I sincerely doubt it.

  4. Pingback: Finished Object: Annelise Blouse « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  5. Pingback: Pattern Alterations: Weight/Muscle Distribution « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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