Pleated cowl sleeve tutorial | The Phoenix t-shirt

Pleated cowl sleeve tutorial | The Phoenix t-shirt

This t-shirt was never supposed to happen. It was supposed to be a quick Freya top to start off the year but I somehow managed to pick up the wrong pattern pieces and cut a different bodice pattern out. As I wasn’t sure what pattern the bodice was from it was it wasn’t as simple as just cutting out the matching sleeve. But instead of giving up on it and throwing it in the UFO pile part of my New Years ReSEWlution was to take more time over projects so I decided I would make it work.

And from the ashes of sewing despair the Phoenix t-shirt was born.

This sleeve hack will work on any jersey or woven pattern so buckle up and you too can make your own Phoenix t-shirt using your favourite t-shirt pattern. The sleeve this uses is the Tilly and the Buttons Freya top which is a slim-fitting 3/4 length sleeve.

The first step is to trace your pattern onto pattern paper and remove the seam allowances! This is so you don’t distort your pattern. I will remind you at the end but in case you don’t get that far don’t forget to add seam allowances back on when you finish hacking the pattern!

Measure from your shoulder point down to above your elbow (if you have a short-sleeved t-shirt this measurement may be shorter but you want at least 1cm above from the hem so you can pivot) and draw line A straight across your pattern.

Draw line B from the centre shoulder point down to line A.

On each seam edge of the pattern measure the distance from line A to the bottom of the armsyce and divide that by 4. That number is X. Mark 3 notches on the pattern along the seam lines each X distance up from the last. e.g. if the distance is 8cm it would be 2cm, 4cm and 6cm above the line.

Divide the length of line A by 4. That number is Y. Mark 4 notches on the pattern along line A each Y distance up from the last.

Connect the notches on line A to the notches on the seams to make 3 arrow shapes. Your pattern piece will look like this. (Note that I worked out the maths for mine after doing this so mine doesn’t have quite the same measurements.

Next you want to fan out the sleeve head. The amount shown below gives a pleated effect rather than a cowl but if you fan it out even further you will get more of a drape effect.

Cut out your sleeves.

Measure on yourself where you want the bottom pleat to go and make a notch on your piece, remembering to allow for seam allowance.. I chose 8.5cm up from the seamline + 1.5cm seam allowance so I measured 10cm.

Make pleats in the fabric above this notch. I chose to do 4 pleast each 1cm big.

Repeat the pleats until your sleeve sits in the armhole comfortably. This isn’t an exact science as it depends how much you spread the pattern out so just wing it.

Baste the pleats in place.

Sew up the arm seam and attach the sleeve to your bodice as per your pattern instructions.

Ta-da! You’re all done. It’s time to pour yourself your chosen beverage and bask in your Phoenix glory.


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