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

Sew Much Love Mary
by Sew Much Love Mary
1 Material
1 Hour

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!

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! :)

Step 1.

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

Step 2.

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

Step 3.

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

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

Step 4.

Cut out your sleeves and sew them closed. 

Step 5.

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

Step 6.

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

Here is a closer look.

Step 7.

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

Step 8.

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

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. 

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.

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.

Suggested materials:
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Sew Much Love Mary
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2 of 31 comments
  • Shirley Foster Shirley Foster on Jun 27, 2021

    I am going to use this idea. But I will make a paper pattern first to make sure I have enough of my scrap material for two s!eeves. 😮

  • Candy Candy on Aug 25, 2021

    I’m always added to the length of my shirt tops (to cover aging arms) and many times to the hems to make longer (I’m tall). But I didn’t think about starting with a sleeveless top and making the full sleeve. Thank you so much for the idea and great steps.