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How to Lengthen Any Dolman Sleeve!

2016 May 22

I’ve spent the last few weeks slowly getting into gear and planning the next few months of blog posts. So many things to share! I think I could schedule posts until November if I wanted to. I’ve also been cleaning house here – literally – and donating/organizing and re-organizing our spaces.

I’ve been taking stock of things here on the blog as well and doing my best to make good on long-promised tutorials. Today I’ve written a tutorial on how to transition a summer short-sleeved dolman top pattern for spring/fall.

This tutorial will show you how to draft a longer sleeve addition for any dolman top. I LOVE 3/4 length sleeves in the spring and fall – and this tutorial works great for those and for adding length for long sleeves. I’ve seen sleeve additions like this showing up in ready-to-wear dolman sleeve clothing a lot as well. It’s great alternative to cutting long sleeves directly with the bodice of a dolman top, since you can save fabric by cutting the longer sleeve piece separately.

I wear the first Seafarer Top I made with longer sleeves (above) all the time. It is my most-worn handmade top by a long shot. I think the reason is it’s versatile colour (gray!) and also that the fabric is really easy to wash and wear. The silver and cream striped top I made for this post (below) is not likely to get the same treatment. Unfortunately the fabric I purchased washed up scratchy and clingy – not sure it will last long in my closet. I did widen the neckline by cutting two front pieces (on purpose!) instead of a front and a back to make a super comfy larger neck opening. I’m excited to find some better quality fabric and repeat that in my next version.

You can use any dolman sleeve pattern as a base for drafting this sleeve addition. I have used the kid size dolman Skipper Top from Sew Much Ado because the pattern pieces are smaller and easier to photograph. (Find the women’s Seafarer here.) You can also easily draft and sew your own Dolman Sleeve Top using a well fitting tee.

Draft the Dolman Sleeve Length Addition Pattern Piece

  • paper
  • ruler
  • marker
  • pattern weights (or heart shaped rocks!)
  • any dolman sleeve pattern

This tutorial is written for pattern pieces with seam allowances included. The new sleeve addition will have added seam allowances as well, except where noted. Mark and fold back the seam allowance along the sleeve opening of your pattern. Note the seam allowance for your particular pattern and use this throughout this tutorial.

Step 1: Measure the wearer’s arm or an existing tee to find your desired sleeve length. Keep in mind that this method adds to the length of your pre-existing dolman sleeve. The lengthening starts AFTER the sleeve, not at the shoulder where a normal sleeve would start. Also, if your pattern calls for sleeve bands instead of hemming, make sure to shorten your desired additional length accordingly, leaving a seam allowance on end of sleeve where the band will be sewn.

Step 2: Draw a line 90 degrees from top of shoulder/sleeve to your desired length. (A)

Step 3: Decide how wide the end of the sleeve needs to be to fit around your arm. Divide this measurement by 2 and add your seam allowance. Draw this measurement as a line 90 degrees down. (A) to (B).

Step 4: Draw line (C) connecting (B) to the bottom of the original pattern’s sleeve opening.

Step 5:Add the sleeve opening seam allowance.

  • Unfold the seam allowance on your original pattern piece.
  • Mark seam allowances at top and bottom as ((D) and (E)
  • Mark the edges of your drafted sleeve addition as (F) and (G)
  • Place the original pattern right side down on the new sleeve addition matching pints (D) and (F) and points (E) and (G).
  • Trace the bottom seam allowance – from points E and G to the edge – and then trace the sleeve opening as line (H).
  • Remove the pattern piece and connect line A to line H with a 90 degree corner.

Step 6: Label your pattern piece with all the necessary information and mark the “Cut on fold” line.

Determining new sleeve band size (if applicable): Sleeve band width is the same as the hem band width. Measure double the final width of the new sleeve opening (A) to (B). Double this measurement to determine the final width. Remove about 1/4″ of this width to get the new width for the sleeve band. Since all knits stretch differently, this is only a guide. Use your judgement as to how tight you want the final sleeve band to be.

Example : Sleeve Opening = 9″ (includes seam allowance), remove 1″ (1/2″ seam allowance on each side) = 8″ final width. Remove 1/4 of 8 = 6″ width. Add the seam allowances back in 6+ 1″ (1/2″ seam allowance on each side) to get a 7″ final width.

How to Sew the Dolman Sleeve Length Addition 


  • sleeve length addition pattern piece, drafted above
  • dolman tee pattern
  • fabric (you may need extra to account for the longer sleeve)
  • general sewing things

Step 1: Follow your pattern to the step where both shoulders are sewn together.

Step 2: Line up the long sleeve addition right sides together with the original sleeve, matching the sleeve openings.

Step 3: Sew the seam  with the original pattern’s seam allowance. Serge/finish the edges and press the seam allowance towards the new sleeve.

Step 4:Finish your tee as indicated in your pattern.

I hope you enjoy your tee! Check out more tutorials like this on the tutorials tab above, or follow along to keep track of new projects!


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8 Responses leave one →
  1. May 22, 2016

    Oh, I love this! Perfect for seasonal wear – I also love 3/4 sleeves and can think of a couple of fave t-shirt patterns to adapt now.

    • May 24, 2016

      Thanks so much Melwyk! I’m super excited that you can use it! (and so mice to hear from you – so fun to meet at Creativ!)

  2. May 24, 2016

    Great tutorial! I was thinking of lengthening the sort of cut-on sleeves on the Colette Myrtle dress and I think this tutorial is exactly what I need to do that!!

  3. May 24, 2016

    When I first started sewing I used to buy ALL THE COLORS AND PRINTS of fabric. Eventually I realized I was only truly wearing the basic styles like stripes and solid colors….funny how we think making a grey shirt is ‘boring’, but it ends up being the shirt we wear over, and over, and over again :) :) :) .

    • May 24, 2016

      So true Jess. I have to many colours in my stash that I’m trying to use before I buy more, I might just give up and make my kids a ton of crazy maxi skirts for summer :) Then I can go buy me more “fun” boring fabric!

  4. Cricket permalink
    October 15, 2017

    I love this pattern but I am a long sleeve wearer! Any chance this would be made into a pattern? I suck at drafting. Uggg. I absolutely love what you have done with this!!!!!!!!! Love!!!!

    • October 16, 2017

      Hi Cricket, thank so much! I unfortunately can’t make a pattern because the tutorial is based on matching a dolman top pattern that you already have. Sorry :( Hope you give the drafting a shot – it’s fairly straightforward :)

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