Tulip Sleeves on Tulips Tutorial

Birdmommy guessed correctly- tulip print fabric inspired me to make tulip sleeves.  I don’t usually lavish much attention to details on Lila’s clothing, but it’s fun and only a little more effort than regular sleeves.

Heather left a great comment in the Riddle Me This post:

“Okay, I keep thinking about this riddle, and it’s distracting me from my thesis. (Actually, I’ll look for any excuse to distract me from the thesis, so it’s really not your fault :D)

I’m starting to think it’s not a specific technique so much as a method. I learned recently on a documentary on shoe making that ‘bespoke’ means custom made or made to an individuals measurements. Wikipedia tells me that the word is derived from the verb to bespeak, to “speak for something”, in the specialized meaning “to give order for it to be made”. They go on to talk about how bespoke in fashion is when a garment is made from scratch or from a block pattern to an individual’s specific measurements, and that some set the standards for bespoke as work that is entirely done by hand.

So my guess for the answer is that little Lila asked for spring flowers (tulips in particular?), and you filled that order in true bespoke manner by self-drafting a tulip-themed top, and possibly doing all the work by hand, hand-stitching possibly included. Maybe this is why the ‘prize’ for the winner is a seam-ripper?

I considered making up something that rhymes, but my brain is far to stretched out to do it. :)

Whether I’m right or not, this was a fun riddle to think about! Now I’m off to work on my own riddle, aka M.Sc. thesis.

Yours was much more entertaining.”

She’s right, except I didn’t hand-stitch.  It is bespoke in the tradition of customization and whimsy.     I wish I could sincerely apologize for distracting your from your thesis, Heather.  It’s a shame we don’t use “bespeak” as a verb anymore.

I started with the regular sleeve from the Oliver + S Hopscotch Top.  I’ve made it several times this summer, so thought I’d play with the design.

With the green marker, I squared off the underarm seam.

I drew a straight line from the center of the sleeve head to the hem.  I drew a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way down the underarm seam, but that’s not a rocket science line placement.  Anywhere on the underarm seam will do.

I drew a gently curving line from just below the front notch, through the intersection of my two lines, flattening out to join the back underarm seam.

I drew another curved line from just below the back notches to the front underarm seam.

I used a new scrap of polytrace and traced one half of the sleeve.

Then I moved the polytrace along and matched up the underarm seam, which became seamless, and traced the other half of the sleeve.

Finished pattern piece, with hem allowance sketched in.

To insert the sleeve, first make the hem.  Then wrap the sleeve, matching up the notches on the sleeve head.  Baste.  Then insert the sleeve as for a set-in sleeve.

The matched-up seams was some lucky accident.  I also made a big inverted box pleat in the CF rather than gathering.

Finally, I finished the front of Moderne’s bodice.  I want to knock out the bodice construction tomorrow, perhaps get the sleeves made this week.


  1. Beautiful tutorial! While the princess is still small, very soon she will realize that mom is so talented and she is very lucky.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed my musings! As I said, I'm always far more willing to think about sewing (and actually sewing) than to work on my thesis. Anyways, thanks for the great tutorial on how to make tulip sleeves! I was hoping you'd do one since it was such a cute touch on that lovely top!

  3. Yay! I love it when I'm right! The tutorial was great – thanks for including it.I'm not going to ask you to send me the seam ripper – if I remember correctly postage from there to here (mid-Canada) is hideously expensive. If you could find a charity that would include it in a raffle basket (our office sometimes does craft-themed baskets with tape measures, snips, etc), that would make my day!

  4. I love this top that you made for Lila – and especially those sleeves! I have been meaning to put your tutorial into practice and I’m happy to say your instructions were very straightforward to follow. My results are not as nice as yours but I’ll definitely be making more of these cute sleeves now I know how. Thank you!

  5. Pingback: Houndstooth, Micro Houndstooth « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  6. Thank you! You are so generous to share this.
    I am hoping to make a First Communion dress for my granddaughters — empire waist, tea length, tulip sleeves — using the fabric from my 45-year-old wedding dress. Had not been able to find a pattern. These tutorials so kindly shared by you seasoned seamstresses are most helpful. I believe you are part of God’s help that I can accomplish this goal.

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