I run, I craft, I write, and I make your favorite clothes.

I have written books about sewing for children and adults and I'm the indie designer’s patternmaking secret weapon. I've taught video and in-person classes to anyone who would listen since 2008. I believe that sewing clothes is a radical act of self-love that increases your sense of self-worth. I'm basically your sewing fairy godmother.

The Goodship Dress a sleeveless pattern, but it’s so easy to include a cap sleeve I thought I’d share the technique with you.  We’ll draft a pattern for the little sleeve from measurements of your partially finished garment. Once you’ve followed along once, it will be really simple for you to add your own sweet cap sleeve on this and any sleeveless pattern you have in your library. My version of a cap sleeve finishes the arm opening, so you’ll end up with a super-comfy, washing-machine-friendly garment that will last.


Here’s a photo of a mod cap-sleeved version of the Goodship:


I made a similar version for the Monaluna booth at Fall Quilt Market to show off Jennifer’s beautiful line Modern Home.  We’ll use that one as our example, since I took photos along the way to share my technique with you, but remember that you can use this method on any sleeveless blouse or dress pattern.

sleeveless_sleeve (39)

1.  Sew your garment up until the step where you finish off the arm opening.

2. Decide where you would like your sleeve to start and end on the armhole.  Mark with pins.sleeveless_sleeve (3)

3.  Measure the distance from pin to pin, over the shoulder, and write down the measurement to use for your pattern piece.

sleeveless_sleeve (6)

4. Draft your pattern piece onto a piece of paper.  (I keep misprinted sheets from my home printer on hand for precisely this purpose!)

– Measure along a straight edge of the paper and mark the length you measured in step 3.

– Fold the paper in half along that edge, and add 1/2” seam allowance to your original measurement.

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– Determine the amount you’d like your sleeve to extend from the finished shoulder. I like 1 1/2”  Measure down this amount, then, add 1/4” seam allowance along the folded edge of your pattern paper as follows:

sleeveless_sleeve (13)

– use a French Curve ruler (or the edge of a plate, or freehand it) to connect the sleeve depth mark  including 1/4” seam allowance to the mark you made in step X:

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Here’s what the pattern piece will look like, once you unfold it and mark your “Place on Fold” line along the straight edge:

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– Cut two of these on a fold to get two sleeves:

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– Baste the raw edges of each sleeve to the raw edge of each armhole, matching the  center of the sleeve to the shoulder seam on each side.

– Measure the entire armhole, then add 1/2”.  Cut two 2” wide bias strips the length you determined for each armhole.  Sew each strips into a circle, using a 1/4” seam allowance.  Press that seam open, then press the entire strip in half, hiding the seam allowances.

– Pin the folded bias circles to the basted armhole and sleeve raw edges, matching the seam in the circle to the underarm seam of each dress armhole.  note: In some areas you will be pinning through 5 layers (2 layers of bias, 2 layers of sleeve and 1 layer of dress) and in some areas, you will be pinning through 3 layers (just the 2 layers of the folded bias and the dress).

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– Sew it together, using 1/4” seam allowance.

– Clip up to, but not through, the seam you just made.

sleeveless_sleeve (28)sleeveless_sleeve (30)

– Once you’ve clipped all the curvy bits, press the bias away from the rest of the sleeve, using a pressing ham if you have one.  (I call mine a Tofurkey…no hams in this house.)

– Understitch the bias facing to the seam allowances, so they will fold neatly inside. Press the bias all the way around to the inside of the dress.

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– Press the sleeve away from the dress (it’s so cute, already!)

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– Edgestitch (right next to the folded edge) in place to enclose all those seam allowances.

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– Here’s what it looks like before you trim away those threads!  (If you want the double-topstitched look pictured below, you can topstitch right next to the arm opening.  sleeveless_sleeve (36)

– All done!

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Leave a Comment

  • Ann June 26, 2013, 2:47 am

    Thank you!

  • Heidi June 26, 2013, 9:47 am

    What a great tutorial, Karen! Thank you for sharing this. Love your reference to Tofurkey…no hams in our house, either! :)

  • Alyse March 24, 2015, 3:09 pm

    I really appreciate how thorough this is. And the pictures to accompany the detailed instructions were very helpful, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this!

  • Malia Oswald June 1, 2016, 11:11 am

    Nice pictures. Really helpful.

  • yati June 28, 2016, 11:56 am

    Thank you….your tutorial is really too good…


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