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Sew a Free Butterfly Sleeve Top or Dress

Its been awhile between sewing hack tutorials so I thought I would do another one this time using the free Brindille and Twig Ringer Tee as a base for a Girls A-Line dress with flutter or Butterfly sleeves. This method to draft your own sleeves, create an A-Line dress etc from a simple set-sleeves t-shirt pattern can be used no matter what size you make. You don't have to stick to the size or pattern I have chosen. If you have a women's nice basic straight fit t-shirt with set in sleeves rather than raglan shape you should be able to use the same techniques to create the flutter sleeves or to extend the pattern into a dress. I just chose to use the B&T Ringer Tee for my example as I had it to hand. I chose to sew a size 3-4 years (104cm tall) as it fits nicely on my mannequin for testing. I also chose to use some retail OTY Fabrics cotton spandex in a pretty vintage daisy print. But this pattern can be used with any knit you have to hand, I would recommend a flowing, draped weight of knit, so I would advise against using a 100% cotton knit or a French Terry as they are quite heavy and unlikely to drape nicely on the sleeves. You could also adapt the tshirt to have an A-Line hem rather than extend it out and down as I have done for a dress. This tutorial will give you a nice simple dress with all the fun up on the sleeves, making it a suitable design for a nightie or just your average day dress. Right without more chatter lets get onto the tutorial.

What You Will Need:

  • Paper and pen or pencil,

  • Clear Ruler, measuring tape (flexible one is best), Plate or round drafters curve

  • Pattern of your choosing (I use the B&T Ringer Tee for my example)

  • Fabric (this pattern assumes you are using 4-way stretch knit but 2-way would be fine as long as it has some drape. I have used 220gsm Cotton Spandex in Victorian Daisies Print available at OTY Fabrics)

  • Rib knit or similar for the neckband

  • Sewing Machine, Overlocker (recommended) and coverstitch (optional)

  • Thread, Scissors, Wonderclips or Pins

  • A measurement chart with measurements for Children or Adults that shows the Back neck to waist measurements (optional as you can measure yourself or child if needed)

  • A basic skirt length measurement from waist to length you would like (if you are doing the dress version of this tutorial - I used this flexible waistband skirt pattern from Delia Creates which has an excellent table for lengths etc)

Lets Hack the Pattern for the Dress:

1. Trace out your Front and Back tshirt pattern pieces in the size of your choosing (you only need a half pattern piece for this so on the fold is fine). Cut out your Tshirt Front pattern piece and lay it onto another piece of paper sellotaping it at the hem.

2. With your ruler draw a straight line that meets the tip of the shoulder/neck of the pattern piece as shown in my photo. Find the measurement for Back Waist Length on your optional Chart (Click on my link for an Ottobre Magazine Chart for kids that has this measurement if needed). Measure down from the straight line you've just drawn to the waist measurement (I am doing a size 3-4 years (104cm) so my measurement was 25cm). Place markers along the Front pattern piece and join the line to mark the waistline. You'll need this marker later.

3. If you have a skirt pattern measure the length from waist seam to hem to give you your dress length. I used a basic gathered skirt pattern I had which had a table of lengths based on size. In my case I am doing a size 104cm/3-4y so the length was 31cm from the waist. I placed my ruler at 0 on the waist marker from the previous step and measured down placing a few markers and drawing a line for the dress hemline. If you are doing the tshirt version of this tutorial you can omit this step.