How to adapt a sleeve to your arm size

This modification allows the width of a sleeve to be adapted to the arm circumference as well as to the wrist.
The technique can be used to add ease if the arm is strong, or to remove it if the arm is small.
It is mainly used for sleeves cut in a woven fabric and having a tight fit. For knitted sleeves, the more stretchy the fabric, the more the missing ease will be compensated.

Basic material for making a transformation
To transform a pattern, it is advisable to have :

  • Adhesive tape

  • A parrot rule

  • A square

  • A graduated ruler

  • A support sheet

  • A pair of paper scissors

  • A fine point criterion/pencil


Definition of the measure to be added/removed

In the arm circumference - long and short sleeves

Define the new sleeve width taking into account the strongest part of the arm. Normally this is located towards the biceps. There are several options for defining the measurement.

Option 1

  • Using a tape measure, measure the biceps and add the desired amount of looseness by loosening the tape measure. Slide the tape along the length of the biceps to make sure that the entire biceps has enough looseness.

  • Measure the sleeve width on the pattern, between the two underarm points (from left to right) and compare with the value defined when measuring.

Option 2

  • Measure the width of the sleeve on the pattern, between the two underarm points (from left to right).

  • Place the tape measure around the arm, transferring the value found previously.

  • Check that the whole arm has enough ease.

  • Gently release the tape measure to add ease or tighten the tape measure to remove ease.

Option 3

  • Compare the measurement of your arm circumference at the strongest point and without adding ease, with the measurement table proposed with the pattern.

In all cases, the difference in measurement found between the arm and the pattern is the minimum value to be added/subtracted on the sleeve pattern.

At the wrist - long sleeves only

The techniques are the same as for the arm measurement. Compare the wrist measurement with the sleeve measurement.
Be careful to check that the hand fits correctly in the sleeve. If it does not, you will have to add more ease.

Changes to the route

To adjust the armscye
The proposed transformation allows you to keep the existing layout of the sleeve head and the back and front armholes on the bodice.

  • Transfer the sleeve pattern to a piece of paper, preferably thick enough. It will be easier to handle for the next steps.

  • Cut all around the sleeve, flush with the line.

  • Place the pattern on a large sheet of paper and trace its outline.

  • Locate the highest point on the headstock. If there is not already a mark, make one with a pencil.

  • Divide the value to be added/subtracted in 2 and transfer this measurement on both sides of the sleeve at the underarm points.

  • Starting from these points, draw a vertical line, parallel to the straight line, on the background paper.

  • Prick a pin at the sleeve head mark on the pattern.

  • Tilt the sleeve to the left, keeping the reference point fixed. Stop when the underarm point meets the vertical line drawn on the paper support. Transfer the line of the sleeve head along the tilted part.

  • Do the same thing on the right, i.e. on the other side of the fixed point.

  • Normally, the underarm stitches are no longer at the same level. If the sleeve has been reduced, the underarm stitch is lowered. If the sleeve has been widened, the underarm stitch is raised.

  • If necessary, retract the top of the head of the sleeve if an angle is formed. 

  • Trace the sides from the new underarm stitches to the bottom.


Case of a sleeve with a cut-out

Join the 2 parts of the sleeve before making the transformations.


To adjust the wrist

  • On the basic sleeve pattern, mark the hem line on the bottom.

  • Divide the value to be added/subtracted in 2 and transfer this measurement to the bottom of the sleeve on both sides. If the measurement must be added, extend the bottom line on both sides.

  • Trace the sides, from under the arms to the bottom.

If the sleeve has a border or cuff attached to the bottom, the transformation must be applied to the bottom of the sleeve as well as to the border/cuff.

To adjust the arm and wrist size

The modifications are the same as before. Start by modifying the head of the sleeve, then retrace the bottom.


I need to adjust a sleeve by enlarging especially near the elbow.
I don't need to enlarge the wrist or the arm circumference.
Would you please make a sketch for me.

Thank you for the advice, Noëlla

Noëlla Laflamme February 01, 2023


How do I make the same adjustment for two-piece jacket sleeves? Thank you.

Myriam October 17, 2022

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