How to Draft a Simple Bell Sleeve

The bell sleeve is so simple, but it s a lovely addition to a dress, top, or blouse.  It's gentle flare is feminine without being "fluffy".

This page shows you how to create a sleeve using your blouse block. Don't forget to finish with hems and seam allowances!

blouse with bell sleeve

A bell sleeve can actually take many forms, from the slight flare at the wrist shown at left, to a much more extreme bell shape on a fitted bicep (think of a '60's bell-bottom pant leg, but worn on your arm!).

The sleeves can be wide and flowy, or have an asymmetrical hem.  Costumes often use a bell sleeve, in fantasy characters (a fairy princess or Snow White's Evil Queen) or in historical (mostly Medieval) costumes.

We'll be drafting a simple bell - where you want to take it from there is up to you!

Drafting the Bell Sleeve

Start with your blouse sleeve block (not the fitted sleeve from the original block).

Draw vertical lines along the grainline (from shoulder point to hem), and again on each side of the grainline, dividing the sleeve into four relatively even sections.

Cut along those lines (we'll be using a "slash and spread" technique).

bell sleeve pattern draft

bell sleeve pattern draft

Spread the pieces apart with about 1" between each section (this can be easily adapted for more or less flare when you make your muslin).

Then add about 1" on each side seam for a bit more flare. Mark a point roughly half way between the underam and the hem (this is the elbow area) and draw a line flaring away from the side seam 1" at the hem. (The red dashed line is the original side seam of the blouse sleeve).

This is part of what makes the sleeve a bell rather than just a wide sleeve.

The pattern now tapers to the elbow (although it also has just a bit more room through the bicep than the blouse sleeve), then flares gently to the hem.

This sleeve is so simple yet so beautiful.  It makes the most basic blouse or dress a bit more special, and, depending on the amount of flare you choose, can also add quite a lot of drama!

final pattern for bell sleeve

Learn to design dozens of new sleeve styles in the in-depth tutorial, A Beginner's Guide to Sleeves and Cuffs Kimono sleeves and Dolmans, raglan sleeves, leg 'o mutton and cowl sleeves, a pretty little petal sleeve - and variations of all of these! - are demonstrated in the tutorial. 

Check out the Beginner's Guide to Sleeves and Cuffs now!

What's the Next Step?

You can add this sleeve to almost any blouse or top.  Then choose your neckline or collar and you'll have a stunning new addition to your closet. 

The bell works so well with almost any body style or neck treatment - it's one of my favorites and I use it often!

Remember to add seam allowances and a hem to your final pattern, and you're ready to go!

More Sleeve Styles

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