How to Sew a Puff Sleeve Top Out of an Old Tank Top & Sheer Curtains

Alicia Yanson
by Alicia Yanson
9 Materials
2 Hours

I love big poofy sleeves, so I knew I had to make this DIY tutorial. Follow along with me to learn how to sew your own puff sleeve top out of a tank top and old curtains! The bodice is fitted, while the long sleeves are sheer and billowy.

I’ll include the pattern making and the sewing instructions. If you don’t already have the materials you need you can pick them up in a thrift store. Ready? Let’s start!

Tools and materials:

  • Camisole
  • Tank top with thick straps
  • Loose-fitting long-sleeved top
  • Sheer curtain
  • Pattern paper
  • Sewing pins
  • Pencil
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine with zigzag foot
Resizing the tank top to make it more fitted

1. Resize the tank top (if needed)

To make your tank top close-fitting, lay a camisole on top of your tank top and pin down both sides of the camisole to mark your tank top size. Then, sew just outside those pin lines with a zigzag stitch.

Try the top on and if it fits nicely, cut off the excess fabric from the sides leaving a half-inch seam allowance.

Tracing a basic sleeve pattern

2. Make the puff sleeve pattern

Trace the sleeve and shoulder of a loose-fitting long-sleeved top onto pattern paper.

Adding volume to the puff sleeve pattern

To make the sleeve puffy you will need to add volume. So, add 2 inches to the bottom of the sleeve, 1 inch to the armhole, and a half-inch seam allowance to the side.

Spacing out the pattern pieces

Now cut your puff sleeve pattern into three strips of equal width and space them out to get your desired finished sleeve width, which generally means spacing them out 1 to 2 inches apart.

Using wrapping paper instead of tracing paper

Tip: If you don’t have pattern paper, wrapping paper works really well!

Cutting out the puff sleeve pattern

Now trace the complete outline of the puff sleeve on your pattern paper, connecting the top of the sleeve with a continuous curve. Cut out the new puff sleeve pattern.

My final puff sleeve pattern was 31 inches long on the long edge, and 9 inches wide at the bottom.

Folding the sheer curtain fabric and pinning the pattern

3. Cut out your puff sleeves

Fold your sheer curtain fabric in half and pin your puff sleeve pattern on the fabric with the long edge of the pattern on the fold of the fabric.

How to make puff sleeves

Repeat for the second sleeve.

Hemming the bottom of the sleeves

4. Sew the puff sleeves

Finish the bottom of the sleeves by folding the edge in twice, pinning, and sewing, leaving 1 inch open at each end.

Marking the position for the sleeve elastic

Now, mark the position for the puff sleeve elastic. Make a horizontal line on the sleeve 1 inch above the bottom hem, and a second line six inches below the inside top of the sleeve.

The elastic at the bottom will be at your wrist and the second elastic should be right above your elbow.

Pinning the elastic pieces to the sleeves

Measure your elastic according to your wrist and arm circumferences. Pin the elastics in place at both ends and then stretch it along the line to pin it evenly across the sleeve.

Now, stretch and sew the elastics in place.

Sewing a French seam

Fold the sleeve in half lengthwise with the wrong sides together. Pin and sew the inside seam as close as possible to the edge using a French seam.

French seams are very useful on fabrics that fray, like this sheer curtain fabric. But if you don’t know how to make a French seam, don’t worry – I’m about to explain! 

How to sew a French seam

How to do a French seam

Cut off any extra fabric or frayed edges in the sleeve seam. Now turn the sleeve inside out and carefully pin the side you just sewed.

Sew the seam again half an inch from the edge so that the raw edge is now enclosed in the fabric. 

Hemming the bottom of the sleeve

Finish hemming the sleeve by folding the bottom in twice and sewing the hem.

Attaching the puff sleeve to the tank top

5. Attach the puff sleeve to the top

First, sew a basting stitch at the top of the sleeve. Then gently pull on the loose basting threads to gather the top of the sleeve so it fits the armhole of your top. Concentrate the gather at the top of the sleeve to get a good puffy effect.

Pinning the sleeve to the armhole

With the right sides together, pin the sleeve into the armhole of the top. Sew the sleeve in place.

To prevent any fraying, sew the edges inside the seam with a zigzag stitch.

How to sew a puff sleeve top

How to sew a puff sleeve top

Here’s the final transformation of your thrift tank top and sheer curtain into a beautiful puff sleeve top!

Long puff sleeve top

If you tried this long sleeve puff-sleeve tutorial, please leave a comment to let me know how it worked out. Thanks for joining.

Suggested materials:
  • Camisole
  • Tank top with thick straps
  • Loose-fitting long-sleeved top
See all materials

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

Join the conversation