How to Sew a Bishop Sleeve from Any Pattern

Maybe you like something a bit more dramatic? Elegant? Wowza?! No matter what your reasons, a bishop sleeve can make any dress stand out in a crowd. I mean, check out the bishop sleeve action going on in the beautiful dress I made for my sister.

And contrary to what you may think, converting any generic on-the-fold sleeve pattern to a bishop sleeve is actually quite easy. So let’s get started. You’re going to start by laying out your sleeve pattern as you normally would.

Next, you’re going to trace up around the armscye of the sleeve (the top) and mark where the bottom of the sleeve ends on the fold:

Now we’re going to pivot the pattern piece away from the fold. You’re going to do this by keeping the point at the end of the armscye curve in place and moving the bottom of the pattern piece up and away from the fold by 4 inches.

You are welcome to move it up more or less than 4″. The greater the distance, the greater the flare of the sleeve.

Once you’ve offset the pattern piece, you’re going to go ahead and trace from the armscye point down to the end of the sleeve. Then connect the end of the new line, down to the end point you drew on the fold at the beginning. It should look something like this:

Then cut that baby out! Get your cuff ready by measuring around your wrist. Take this measurement and add an inch to the length (to account for a 1/2″ seam allowance you will be trimming off of both ends).

The height of your cuff is up to you, I went with 3″ – 1″ will be trimmed of to account for seam allowance, then with the remaining 2″ folded over I would be left with a 1″ tall cuff. With a wrist measurement of 6″ this left me with a 7″ wide by 3″ tall piece for my cuff.

Next, we’re going to gather the end of our sleeve. Start by getting yourself some thread and double knotting it at the end. Then, using a hand needle, run it through the end of the sleeve, like so:

Then scrunch your sleeve together by pulling it down the thread. Scrunch it so that it is the same width as your cuff. Once it is the right width, tie a knot at the end to keep it from coming undone. Finally, you’re going to distribute the ruffles evenly across.

Next you’re going to go ahead and attach the cuff by laying it over top of your sleeve with right sides together, raw edges in line with one another. Use a ton of pins or clips to keep the ruffles from moving around too much.

Then go ahead and either serge or sew them together accounting for your seam allowance.

Now we’re going to go ahead and sew our sleeve together by folding it in half with the right sides together and sewing or serging down to the end.

Now if you sewed your sleeve you will just backstitch at the end, trim off your excess and be done with it. If you serged it, however, you’re going to be left with this annoying tail.

Start by unraveling the tail with the dull edge of your seam ripper.

Then take two tails in each hand and tie a knot at the end.

Thread two tails through a hand needle and run them back up through your serger seam about an inch. Repeat this with the other two tails, running them parallel to the first two.

Then tie a knot with two tail in each hand once again.

Trim off your excess and viola!

You now have yourself a very Romantic-era sleeve!


Editor’s Note: Don’t you just love this Bishop Sleeve? Try it out on the Rosa Tulip Dress!


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Learn How to Draft Your Own Bishop Sleeve from Any Generic Sleeve Pattern

2 thoughts on “How to Sew a Bishop Sleeve from Any Pattern”

    1. Hey Karen! This is actually a self-drafted pattern. A tutorial for the skirt will be published here on the blog sometime this month 🙂 So make sure you subscribe to be a Sewing Insider so you get notified when it’s released. I’m so glad you enjoyed the tutorial <3

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