Adding Sleeves Tutorial

I posed the question the other day, on my FB page,

“What sewing project do you want to learn?”.

One of my lovely readers wanted to know how to add sleeves to a garment.

So I put together this little tutorial for her and for those of you who want to learn the same.

First up… I will go over some of the terms I will be using. There is a RIGHT SIDE to the fabric and a WRONG SIDE. The RIGHT SIDE is referring to the outer side of the fabric. What you will look at when the garment is done. The WRONG SIDE is the part that will be inside of the garment.

OK, now gather your materials!

I am assuming you are working with a pattern, so cut out all the pieces. You should have (at the very least):


I did not do this tutorial with a lining. There are several methods of doing one with a bodice lining, but for today, I am concentrating on making the bodice unlined. Once you have this down, you can decide how you want to add a lining in future garments.

There are two ways I will show you to insert sleeves.

First Way


Lay Bodice with the RIGHT SIDE FACING UP, and the back pieces on top, with RIGHT SIDES DOWN.

They should have right sides facing each other.


Sew the shoulder seam.


Turn it over once they are both sewn, and finger press your seams open. This helps make it neater inside your garment and it also makes everything lay flatter.


Flip it over, again.


Get your sleeve piece and lay it out.


Lay sleeve right side down, on top of the bodice piece. Find the center of each piece.


Starting with the center, pin the edges together all the way to the side. This part is a little fiddly. Just keep curving around and pinning. It will not lay flat at this point, but that is OK, as long as the edges are lined up.


Once all pinned down, sew the seam, removing pins as you go. Do this part slowly and carefully. Always making sure you have the top and bottom layers together.


It should look like this.


When you turn it over, it should look like this so far.


Now turn it right sides together (inside out) and line up the sleeves and the bodice pieces. Sew the seams. It will look like an upside down “L”.


You should have this. Finish seams the way you would like (Pinking shears, or serge, or just trim them).


And you have inserted one sleeve! Repeat for other side.

Now onto the:



You start the same as before. Lay back pieces on top of front bodice piece, RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. Sew should seam.


For this method, you will sew the side seam on the bodice, as well.

Put the whole thing aside, and grab your sleeve piece.


Right Sides together, sew the edge seam.


When you turn it right sides out, it will look like a tube.


Pick up the bodice and make sure that it is wrong side out.


Insert the sleeve inside the bodice RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER (so the sleeve is right side out and the bodice is wrong side out). I always match up the seams. The sleeve should have a seam at the armpit, and I match that where the armpit will be on the bodice. Pin along edge.


After sewing around the perimeter, you should have this. Trim or finish edges the way you want.


Turn right side out and you have your sleeves attached!

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know by leaving a comment on this post!

I hope you are all the better for reading my tutorial.

4 thoughts on “Adding Sleeves Tutorial

  1. Thank you SO much! This made my day!!! You’re the best!

    Ok, I think I prefer the first version for myself (it looks easier). I always have a hard time sewing around openings unless they are large. One question: (using first version)

    While sewing straight lines in the underarm area of the sleeve does this create a bit of bulk in the armpit?

    ps: never used a pattern before


    1. Well, I guess my diagram is a little off. You follow the natural curve of the seams there. There still is a bit of an angle, but trimming usually takes care of it.
      It is not such a severe right angle, but gradual. Let me know how you do!

  2. I usually use the first method… that’s my favorite and the one my 92 year old grandma gave me as a tip so many years ago as the “easy way” to set in a sleeve! :)

    1. Wow! I have, for years, used the second method, but when I learned how to put a lining in, I learned the first. I do like it. Occasionally, when I forget to sew in the sleeves before sewing up the bodice (it happens) I still use the second method!

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