Design Inspiration: Cut-On and Kimono Sleeves In Vintage Patterns

McCall’s 8894

I found this beauty while sifting through the Vintage Pattern Wiki.  If you’d like to visit a pattern’s wiki page, click the image.  At the moment, I’m working out the details for a simple knit top with kimono sleeves pattern.  I may trot out several “test subjects” as I play with this idea over the next couple of weeks, and I’m open to ideas.

I’m amazed at the variations on a simple extended sleeve treatment.  It’s one of my favorites, and it’s quick to sew.

Yum.  The angles on the drawing are a little harsh, but I know I like a deep shoulder dart.  I have something like this in mind for a white Japanese cotton that’s lying around here.

it seems many vintage casual or “utility” type garments feature this type of sleeve.  You can reach and bend without binding your arms, and underwear remains private.  Women without air conditioners perspire, at times freely.  I hate the feeling of fabric sticking to my underarms in the summer.  Yuck.

To me, this top looks graceful.  Easy to wear, comfortable, simple.  Goes with everything.

I always get distracted wondering how to render a vintage woven pattern in a knit fabric.  Omit the front closure, shape the side seams further and remove the darts.  It would have comfy cut-on sleeves and a pretty scarf.  Or it might turn out dreadful.  Who knows until you try?

I actually have a Burda top like this made from bamboo knit.  This would be so quick to throw together, perhaps 5 pattern pieces for the top.  Would 4 work?

I love the use of plaid, stripes and trim on these dresses.  “Smart” dresses with these sleeves seem to ride in on a cool breeze.

Polka dots!  I think this cut would flatter both curvy and straight figure types.  Dresses with midriff sections often do (though not always…).

I giggled at first, but the longer I pick out the details the more I want to stitch it.  In a quiet, cool fabric for summer?

I’m not so sure about the white version, but I do like the cut.

I can’t possibly find every great kimono sleeve out there, have a look through the 280-odd pages in the Kimono Sleeve section of the Wiki.

Once I fine-tune a basic knit pattern for this type of shirt, I want to try out more of these ideas… I spent all day yesterday cutting up pieces of t-shirt fabric and stitching them together.  4 shirts later (the fabric was meant for rags anyway) I think I might be on to something!  If so, I’d love to share the final pattern through the blog.

Before I can do that, I need a little help from you.  Let me know what you look for in a “go-to” knit top pattern- a TNT.  I’d also be interested to hear what kind of fit issues you routinely deal with (or don’t and they drive you nuts).


  1. I adore the look of cut on sleeves and I have a couple vintage dresses made that way, but I do find that the underarm rips eventually if they don’t have a gusset. I drafted and made a similar knit shirt last spring. It’s really comfy, but does need a bit more ease.

    That polka dot Vogue dress is great, and it looks like the midriff piece might morph into an underarm gusset.

    • What a great guide to “dipping your toe” into drafting, thanks for the link. You have a sharp eye, I think that may be exactly the case. I wish I could see the back of the pattern envelope.

  2. I have come to realize through sewing that I love cut on sleeves too. I like the short sleeve versions for work because of the reasons you list. I get some air flow, I don’t have to worry about bra straps, it’s a nice silouette on me.

    I don’t have a TNT for myself yet, so I can’t help with that process.

  3. I agree with Sigrid: Kimono sleeves offer ample opportunities to tweak a pattern, esp. for those of us with large upper arms. I disagree that cut-on sleeves offer a wider range of motion. It is perhaps counterintuitive that a high, close armsceye actually gives you a much larger range of motion. That’s why shirts for working men evolved away from a smock to current-day shirt styles. So, my TNT knit shirt pattern is a simple, crew-neck tee, made with a Stretch-and-Sew basic pattern. (Don’t remember the number.) It has, most importantly, waist shaping. Love it.

  4. A couple of years ago I downloaded the Lydia pattern from BurdaStyle and it basically became my TNT. It’s turned into a tank, a bateau-neck dress, and a dolman-sleeved top (my favorite, because it leaves my underarms free!) It seems to be a pretty good basic template to start from and I haven’t had any fit issues. Seems like when you get into kimono/dolman type sleeves you have extra ease around the bust so there’s less fitting. The main thing that frustrates me about knits is that they all fit so differently. As far as I’ve been able to learn, the lighter weight or more spandex the knit the more it drapes/shows its folds and the more I seem to need to take in the pattern for a fitted look. I’d love to hear from others on this, with more experience in sewing knits.

  5. I made Lydia into my TNT, too, but it was a long and bumpy road involving several outright failures. I love the look of cut-on sleeves but I’ve mostly been rather puzzled trying to draft them (despite reading various instructions…)

  6. I also really love the cut-on sleeve (and have to say just adore the white version on the last pattern!), but am confused for how to fit for petites. Has anyone had any experience on this? When sewing a normal bodice, I always remove excess length between the shoulders and bust (otherwise there is baggyness and sometimes extreme cleavage!) but when the sleeve is cut on, it doesn’t seem possible to do so without altering the shape of the sleeves. Does anyone with more experience know how to get around this?

    • Basically, you can cut off the “sleeve” part, shorten the body, and put the sleeve back on. If it is a somewhat less shaped pattern piece, I would suggest simply raising the neckline, and perhaps tweaking in the side seams. I promise to go more in depth on this next week, I have a pattern I’m working on for a free download. Then there will be the “hacks.” :)

  7. Wow, that first top is adorable! I actually own at least 3 of those patterns, but have never used them because I feel that cut-on sleeves aren’t flattering on me. I’m really interested to see what you do. Maybe it will inspire me to find a version that looks good on me!

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  9. Just this morning I did not purchase a 1950s patterns because it had cut-on sleeves. I avoid this type of design because I think it’s extremely unflattering to those of us with full busts and very little space between our bust and our hips. The cut-on sleeve just adds more fabric folds around the side of the bust. I want a design that is “clean” around the bust and moves smoothly into a fitted waist. Sorry.

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