How to Add Sleeves to a Sleeveless Top (or Dress!)

When I first started to refashion garments in my closet, I would add sleeves to my sleeveless tops and dresses. This and lengthening dresses is what I first did when I began to refashion. Even though I've shown the tutorial throughout various posts, I decided to make an "official" tutorial post. 

While I do wear sleeveless tops on occasion, I prefer sleeves, so learning how to make and add sleeves was a must for me!

striped t-shirt with floral sleeves in floral background

Sleeves can be sort of tricky to draft, but this is a simple and easy way to make and sew your own sleeves. This isn't an official sleeve pattern drafting tutorial, but rather a method anyone can easily apply and use. While I was in school, I took pattern drafting classes and I realized I did not like pattern drafting at all, lol! To this day, everything that has to do with patterns is my least favorite part of sewing, such as tracing and cutting out patterns. 

I've used this quick and easy method since 2015, and it's worked for all my tops! :)


1. Fold your fabric in half and place your sleeveless shirt on top of the fabric, at a slight angle.

sleeveless t-shirt on top of fabric

2. Trace your new sleeve along the armhole (the purple dots). I use pins or tailor's chalk to trace.

sleeveless t-shirt placed on top of fabric

 3. When you're about to reach the end of the armhole, move back the armpit corner a bit and keep tracing. 

tracing new sleeve

Then, keep tracing down until you have your desired sleeve length. 

4. Cut out your sleeves and sew them closed. 

new sleeves cut out

5. Turn your sleeveless top inside out and turn your sleeve right side out.

sleeveless top and sleeve

6. Place your sleeve inside your top, as shown below. 
The blue dots show the sleeve laying inside the top.
The pink dots show where the sleeve is pinned and sewed to the top.

sleeve pinned to the sleeveless top

Here is a closer look:

close up of sleeveless top and sleeve

7. Turn your top right side out and admire those new sleeves.

top with new sleeves sewn on

8. The last step is to hem your sleeves.
For hemming, I like to use a double needle.

close up of sleeve hem

New sleeves!
Not only is this an easy way to add sleeves to a sleeveless top, but now you can also switch up sleeves on other tops you may have in your closet. 
grey tee with striped sleeves
I refashioned this old striped tee with floral sleeves and a matching ruffle to tie it all together.
My absolute favorite pattern combo is stripes and florals.

striped t-shirt with floral sleeves

striped tee with floral sleeves modest refashion

This is another plain tee, that I refashioned using this sleeves to sleeveless tutorial. 
For this design, I added a matching pocket to tie the floral pattern of the sleeves and the coral color of the shirt together.

blush tee with white floral sleeve

sew much love mary blog signature


  1. Hi Mary. Thanks for this, I've been looking for a tutorial on sleeves forever. Just wondering how this might change for long sleeves. And what fabrics do you suggest for sleeves? Sorry I'm a complete sewing newbie!

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog. For long sleeves, I would use the method above to make the top part of the sleeves (the part that's attached to the armhole), and I would use a similar top to trace the rest of the sleeves (the length). In this older blog post from 2016, I traced new sleeves from the old ones. (http://www.sewmuchlovemary.com/2016/01/cutie-ruffle-sweater-top-sweater.html) As for fabrics, I've used pretty much a wide variety of them, except heavier fabrics such as denim/canvas. I hope that helps! :)

  2. Thank you for this sleeve tip, Mary. Very helpful. Lindy.

  3. Thank you definitely try this ,

  4. Oh, what a good idea! Thanks! Do you trim off the armhole's finished edge before sewing in the sleeve?


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