Drafting a Cap Sleeve Pattern

A cap sleeve is more of a decorative detail than a true sleeve. It does not cover the arm as a sleeve would, but it's a great-looking addition to what would otherwise be a simple, sleeveless,  arm-baring top.

The instructions on this page are for the most basic cap sleeve.  With some imagination, and using a combination of techniques (think "slash-and-spread" for fullness), you can create cap sleeves in a variety of styles to add drama or whimsy to your garment. 

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

casual top with cap sleeve

Like its name implies, this sleeve consists of little more than the cap itself, and generally doesn't go all the way around the armhole.

As a shoulder detail, it adds a bit of interest and coverage when you want something just a bit more than sleeveless, but less than a typical short sleeve.

And it's easy to draft and to sew!

Drafting the Cap Sleeve

cap sleeve pattern draft

You'll start with your blouse sleeve block (the sketch shows only the upper part of the block, since we're making a very short item).

Start by shortening the cap itself by about 1/2".  This reduces (or almost eliminates) the ease at the cap; it's not needed in this case.

Then mark a point on the grainline about 1 1/2" to 2" above the bicep line.  From there, draw a gentle curve to each side of the cap, below the notches (the ends will be about 3/4" above the bicep line).  This is your hemline.

final pattern of cap sleeve

The end result is a very short sleeve, which does not surround the arm. Be sure to mark where the sleeve ends on the front and back blouse piece.

For a very casual top, you could turn and stitch the hem, but this sleeve looks best with a hem facing. The facing should be applied before setting the sleeve into the armhole.

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?

Decide on a blouse or dress style and a neckline or collar - soon you'll have a cute new summer style!

And don't forget to finish your pattern with seam allowances, hem allowance, facings - or whatever is required of your style.

Explore More Sleeve Styles

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