Adding Flirty Sleeves to a T-Shirt

Change the Look of a T-Shirt with Cute Sleeves!

I have a t-shirt from one of my favorite bands and I don’t like the way it fits… In all honesty, the reason it doesn’t fit correctly is because I lift weights and my arms are too big for the sleeves so it looks funny! I decided that cutting the sleeves off and adding flirty sleeves to the t-shirt would make for a better fit, plus I’d wear it more often!

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt

By “flirty sleeves”, I mean that I used drapey georgette fabric and added a ruffled cap instead of a traditional sleeve to the armhole. The sleeves came out great and the shirt is so cute! Redesigning t-shirts is one of my favorite things to do, and changing the sleeves on a tshirt is so easy!

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt new sleeve

Draft the New Sleeve

Using a fabric that you like and that will contrast with the t-shirt, create a pattern for the sleeve. A sleeve from a favorite existing sewing pattern would work well, too!  I chose a ruffled cap that is gathered and stitched to the armhole. I cut two sleeves from the fabric.

So to start, cut the old sleeves away from the shirt, including the seam.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt pattern

Hem the New Sleeves

I found it was easier to hem the sleeves before sewing them to the shirt. I sewed a wider handkerchief hem by stitching 5/8″ away from the raw edge at the hemline, then folded the raw edge inside to meet the stitching line, then folded again and pinned in place. I sewed the hem but left the stitching line for the hem because it doesn’t show.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt stitching for hem

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt folded hem

Sew a Basting Stitch for Gathers

Fold the sleeve in half to mark the center, and insert a pin at the center of the raw edge opposite the hem. On the same side of the sleeves, use a long stitch (3.5 – 4 in length) and sew a line 3/8″ from the raw edge.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt basting stitches

Gather the Sleeve and Baste

Align the sleeve with the armhole, right sides together and match the pin in the center of the sleeve with the shoulder seam. Place a pin on either side of the armhole on the shirt to mark where the armhole curve starts. Pin the ends of the sleeves in the spot of the armhole where you just marked the curve on either side, and pull the basting thread to make the gathers. Pin the gathers to the sleeve, then baste the sleeve in place.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt gathers

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt sewing to shirt

Sew the Sleeve in Place

Use a serger or zig-zag stitch to sew the sleeve in place and cover the raw edges. I like to use a stretch thread (<– affiliate link!) in my serger for soft seams! Remove the basting stitches, if desired. Make a hem at the underarm by folding the fabric of the t-shirt over and stitching in place.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt serging seam

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt hemming underarm

A Pressing Finish!

Using an iron set at an appropriate temperature, press the hem on the sleeve as well as the new sleeve seam and the hem at the underarm.

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt pressing sleeve

adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt for a new look

Any sleeve style can be drafted and added to a t-shirt – it just depends on the look you’re going for! Have questions about adding flirty sleeves to a t-shirt? Leave a comment below!

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